Fly Casting Tips: Don't be a Line Ripper!
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
When fly casting, being smoooooooth is the name of the game.
Moving the fly rod back and forth fluidly along with good application of power and the right timing is what it takes to produce a pretty cast. Unfortunately, some folks—especially beginners—can have a tendency to rip the line off the water at the start of a cast. Even someone that has decent mechanics at shorter ranges may suffer from this problem when working with longer lengths of line. Mentally, it may seem like using a ton of power is initially required to move all that line. Just because a cast is reaching out further doesn't mean Popeye-like strength is needed!
It doesn't take a violent initial application of power to get a cast going, unless you're trying to ruin a cast.
I have yet to meet anybody that wants to be a worse fly caster, so muscling the line from the water is something that should be avoided. Being a "line ripper" is not only a bad habit from a casting standpoint, but the fish may not be too keen to it either. Here's some thoughts on the topic:
Scares Fish/Makes Noise: Ripping line from the water is bad no matter what kind of line is being used, but let's talk about what happens when using the most common line type—a floating line. Abruptly pulling a floating line from the surface not only makes a sizable disturbance on the water, but there will often be a loud popping or splashing sound as the line quickly breaks free of the water's surface tension. You can't fly cast without some disturbance of the water, but keeping it to a minimum can pay big dividends!
It Breaks Casting Rules: One of the big rules in fly casting is to smoothly speed up to a stop. By ripping any type of fly line off or from the water, this rule is being broken. How? Because a ton of power is being applied immediately rather than gradually. There should be a linear application of power, with the most speed and power being applied at the very end of the casting stroke—not the beginning.
Too Much Line Out: There's a point where you just have too much line out to pick up cleanly. It really varies depending on rod length, line type, and skill level, but after a while you'll just kind of naturally know where this point is. Someone who's aggressively yanking the line from the water might be working with too much line for either their skill level or just too much, period!
Two tips to avoid being a line ripper:
Lift Smoothly: Smoothly lift the rod to get the line both tight and moving. Keep in mind that doing so too slowly (or stopping the rod) can cause the line between the tip and the water to sag. With the line moving, simply ease into a smooth, normal back cast. With a short amount of line out (and especially if you're at an elevated position) you may be able to lift all or most of the line off the surface before even starting your back cast acceleration (as in the picture above). This can make for a very quiet beginning to the cast with minimal disturbance.
Strip the Line In: Regardless of skill level, stripping the line in closer makes it easier to begin a new cast with minimal surface disturbance. Also, if there's any slack in your line before starting a new cast, stripping a few times to remove that slack makes beginning a new cast much easier in many circumstances.
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