5 Essentials of Fly Casting

5 Essentials of Fly Casting

5 Essentials of Fly Casting


FFI Expo Crystal River, Florida Fly Casting Peers Pete Greenan, David Lambert, Jon Cave, Mac Brown

The 5 Essentials of Fly Casting were introduced by Bill Gammel in Texas in 1990. The Essentials may assist folks learning to fly cast and it provides instructors with key language when performing a fly cast. It offers some of the first mechanics for describing a straight line cast which is great for teaching accuracy and distance. Fly Fisher’s International use the 5 Essentials of Fly Casting for the certification programs. These programs include certified instructors, master casting instructors, and the two-handed casting instructors. The benefit is that instructors attempt to establish a universal congruent language.

I started down the path of teaching fly casting in 1987 in Western North Carolina. My challenges are the problems I encounter on the water. These tend to be always working around obstacles and water currents for attaining my presentation. Teaching did offer a huge learning curve for conveying thoughts to a student. It was also my inspiration for compiling my book to share what I had learned with others. Three decades later my learning curve is still increasing. Learning to read people, bettering my knowledge of mechanics, and building better word pictures is where I believe the growth continues at this point. It does take practice and time for candidates to really appreciate that less is more!

Here are the 5 essentials of fly casting which will benefit you for teaching fly casting. I highlight them in bold PPSSS. Power must be applied in the proper amount and in the proper place during the stroke. There is a pause at the end of each stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip. The line slack should be kept to a minimum. The rod tip must follow a straight-line path. Casting stroke is increased with the length of the line being cast.

5 Essentials in a Sentence

Begin with the fly line under tension (straight to remove slack) with a smooth acceleration (power) in a straight line (path) through the appropriate (stroke length) to a firm stop and pause. This one sentence sums up the intent of forming nice loops that travel to a target for all skill levels. It is used often in lessons with the simplicity of emphasizing the key points for the intent of hitting a target.


Waving a string is all about the manipulation of tension. All fly casts have varying amounts of tension depending on your intent. The 5 Essentials intent is great for teaching accuracy and distance but there is also more! I teach pause, power, and path for any type of fly cast during a lesson. Power varies as it is either in or out of power. These three things take care of everything else during a casting cycle for all casts! If the student learns to alter power and path for fishing casts, they are well on their way for controlling layout in fishing casts. Remember less is more for students of casting.

If you choose to teach fly casting often and go down this path, it will be essential that you can explain and demonstrate more than simply distance and accuracy. Fishing casts are often not straight, so the intent has changed. Change-of-direction casts and constant-tension casts also fit nicely into this category of fly casts. Go ahead and wiggle the rod tip during the cast! How did that motion vary the layout? When you apply acceleration to the rod it is perfectly fine to have multiple rod tip paths for the overall stroke. For the casting geeks, we are saying many force vectors can be applied as a result. So path tends to work nicely for new and advanced students.

If your intent is to manipulate transverse waves for controlling a layout with curves, you will need to adjust power and path. The easiest thing for teaching a lesson is to convey that the path of the rod tip during the loading move will show up in the fly leg of the unrolling loop. When you alter the rod path after the loading move (power) you influence the rod leg of the loop. How cool is that? Understanding why the fly line reacts to your efforts is all about you the caster. You have to appreciate the good, bad, and the ugly for your practice sessions! They all will give you a deeper understanding of fly casting.


Crystal River, Florida FFI Expo Fly Casting Class


We are in an era that promotes lack of practice of doing without practice. I am not sure why so many are content to remain in mediocrity. It is disturbing since there are some really great instructors globally. Your overall enjoyment of fly fishing will increase with lots of practice in the beginning. Every sport has folks constantly practicing, looking for an incremental improvement over time. Golf pros seek lessons all the time from other pros gifted in diagnostics of their swing by example. Football players hit the gym for training. Most fly fishers try to learn fly casting on the water rather than get the basics on grass first. Fly fishers can all be broken down into those that seek only entertainment value or those on an improvement journey. It is all about you!

Many of the old fly casting mantras produce fly casters who become stagnate, and they lack the skills necessary to jump the next level of presentation. I believe that is the benefit of new fly casters being exposed to a foundation of pause, power, and path in the beginning. This leads to an understanding of loop shape, line speed, and loop plane for all fly casts that exist for down the road used in fishing. The proper foundation enables growth and evolution of greater presentational fly fishers! This empowers them to practice many things on the grass first for matching the conditions at hand.

You can be the greatest distance caster on the planet and not have any game what-so-ever if you cannot present with intent to match surroundings (obstacles) and water currents (layout for drift). Practice for getting better fly casts with many drills. Check out the itinerary at the fly casting training classes to get an idea of what is out there?