About the Angle

Excessive angle of attack

An interesting week with two Spey casting sessions for a family of enthusiastic anglers is over.
As usual I shot some slow motion video clips. And, as it normally happens, slow motion shows again interesting casting aspects that, analysed, help enormously in our understanding of the mechanics and in improving our technique. When editing those clips I have found a good example of a slipping anchor, caused by an error related to the angle of attack of the dead line in the D loop, that deserves some comments.

Let’s start by refreshing a few basic terms:

  • D (or V) Loop: it is the shape of the line in a Spey cast just before the start of the forward delivery. It got its name due to the figure formed by the rod and the line folded on itself, viewed from the side, which looks like a D or V.
  • Anchor: the section of line plus leader and fly touching the water after D loop formation. Its function is to avoid the backwards slipping of the line. A slipping anchor has some bad consequences that I will detail later.
  • Live line: the section of line in the upper part of the D loop. This is the part that we impulse during the forward casting stroke.
  • Dead line: the anchor plus the section of line forming the lower part of the D loop. It is just a passenger taking advantage of the impulse we exert on the live line, stealing some energy from it.
  • Angle of attack: it is the angle between the dead line and the water surface. I have never seen this expression used in relation to Spey casting but I consider it key in understanding some of the Spey phenomena.

Since the function of the anchor is to avoid the backwards skipping of the line, achieving an anchor that holds its position is fundamental. There are good reasons for that:

  • A slipping anchor always wastes energy: we want our fly to leave the water and move forward, towards our target; however, if the anchor doesn’t hold the fly and the line move backwards and then:
  • They go in a direction opposite of that intended and they don’t move by themselves, someone must move them —the angler, obviously—, who wastes part of his energy in sending line and fly in the wrong direction.
  • When the fly changes its course and starts heading towards its target, it is farther away from it than in the case of a holding anchor so more energy is needed to cover that longer distance.
  • If the space behind us is limited, a slipping anchor might hook the fly in the branches at our back ruining the cast.
  • Even if the place is clean and free of trees —like a pebble bank, for instance— we risk breaking the hook point inadvertently.
  • Safety: if due to an error we anchored in front of our position and the anchor slips backwards we risk hooking ourselves.

One of the causes of a slipping anchor is an inappropriate angle of attack. Too big an angle of attack results in an anchor much more prone to slipping. In other words, for the anchor to be effective the dead line must be close to parallel to the water when the forward cast starts.
I particularly like a simile that a friend of mine employed time ago to explain the issue:

It is like having a meter long piece of adhesive tape stuck to a table top. If you hold one end and pull parallel to the table the tape holds in place; however, if you pull upwards the tape peels off easily.

Using that same excellent simile, an excessive angle of attack is like pulling the tape upwards instead of close to parallel to the table top.

The picture opening this article is a classic example of a 7 loop, which in that case lies behind the excessive angle of attack that will end up in a slipping anchor. ¿And the cause of that 7 loop? A sweep with an excessively high slope.
Thinking behind instead of up helps in making a good sweep.

With a proper angle of attack the anchor holds, and the fly gets out of the water in front of the angler: efficiency and safety

The following video shows the influence of the angle of attack in the hold of the anchor:

Not bad for being the first couple of minutes practicing the Snap T

The same problem shown from a different perspective:

Here we see the delivery loop running out of energy

8 comments on “About the Angle

  1. Malik says:

    Excellent post Aitor, thank you !
    Best Regards


  2. Thanks Aitor, a reminder from the session we did in Australia with Juan. Also very timely as I have order my first Spey rod


  3. paracaddis says:

    I love the sticky tape on the table analogy Aitor.. Brilliant.


  4. davidswff says:

    To me the term “angle of attack” is very appropriate to describe the problems that occur if excessive, even if as a term has never been used in relation to Spey casting before you explain it very well in this article. Now I have a clear term to focus an error that I can easily correct by adjusting the dead line’s slope more parallel to the surface. And practicing the “kiss and go” it happens to me many times to slip back (more or less) the anchor and I have always/mostly thought of a too vigorous sweep, but from now on I will think “behind” instead of “up” to form a good sweep! Thanks Aitor, your analyzes are always great contributions!

    P.S. Do you have an idea on how much degrees the angle threshold of the dead line can be from 0° to avoid becoming excessive? (approximately)



    • Aitor says:

      Hi David,
      I know that it is a new term in Spey casting, which sounds strange to me since it is an important one when analyzing casting faults. Another way of looking at it is focusing on the height of the apex of the V loop: high apex = big angle of attack. As you say, the usual approach to slipping anchors is to blame the force applied in the delivery cast, and that makes sense. But even in the case of a well balanced anchor length/forward cast force, a big angle of attack will give problems.
      I can’t give precise numbers for this, as there are other variables at play. Just practice with this in mind (preferably with a slow motion camera at hand) and you’ll find the answer by yourself. What I normally look for is an apex that is below my head when starting the forward cast.

      Thanks for your feedback; glad to be of help.


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