Style is Substance… Sometimes

I perfectly understand why getting deep into casting mechanics is regarded as useless by a majority of fly fishers. But, that sound casting mechanics is equally rejected by such a big percentage of casting instructors is another matter entirely. Calling yourself a master and, at the same time, avoiding getting deep into the nuances of your trade seems rather weird to me.

On the other hand, some of us find casting mechanics not only fascinating, but —and this is key if you are an instructor— an indispensable tool to use in our teaching.

The following clip shows my mate Bernd Ziesche (Master Casting Instructor by the FFI and AAPGAI) when he visited me long ago for some casting courses. The day before our first course together, we were talking about casting mechanics and shot some slow motion videos; like this one:

When, four years ago, I showed this video on a fly casting forum thread to illustrate a point, it immediately prompted replies along these lines —all quotes are verbatim—:

“…terrible cast…”

“…biomechanically very inefficient…”

“…never even seen anybody roll cast like that…”

“…terrible loop creation, very restricted casting arc…”

“…it [probably] tailed…”.

“…inefficient stop too…”

“…does he look balanced or comfortable at any point during that cast? Buggers going to fall in!

What I see is a very long backhand roll cast, that, although I don’t remember exactly, it reached about 20 meters. Not an easy task, and, IMHO, almost impossible to do with what Al Kyte calls elbow forward style (up-down or pulling style depending on the author). Exactly the style those commentators had in mind, and the only one they saw as acceptable.

But what advanced casting mechanics tells us is that, for the same distance:

  • Overhead cast and roll cast strokes are different.
  • That, as explained in the article linked above, the reason for that is that the line layout of a roll cast doesn’t allow us to apply as much force as with the line configuration of an overhead one.
  • That we have to compensate for that by means of increasing stroke length.
  • That styles are interchangeable… but only to some degree, and not in all cases.

At times, style and substance are the same thing. A good grasp of casting mechanics gives you the clues to know when they merge and, consequently, the ability to percibe when changing your student’s style is the sensible thing to do.

Stroke Angle



Photo by Álvaro G. Santillán


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One of my latest adquisitions was Jason Borger’s Single Handed Fly Casting, which Jason himself kindly sent to me. Jason’s work is a refreshing new approach and a brilliant start to a change of paradigm in fly casting. Continue reading

Schematic Approach


At the moment I am preparing a mentoring session for two anglers that are getting ready for two different casting certification tests. Writing is the best way I know of putting my ideas in order, so I have started this succinct list. A work in progress, probably. Comments are welcome. Continue reading

Loop Control Paradox (divertimento for curious casters)

Loop width control is a recurrent topic in casting instruction. Several aspects govern loop width, but “matching casting arc to rod bend” is what instructors use the most; so “if your loops are too wide narrow your casting arc” is the usual fix we offer. Continue reading