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Casting Tip of the Month - Casting a Straight Leader

courtesy Atlanta Fly Fishing School

Question: Many times when I cast, my leader doesn’t turn over and winds up in a pile. How can I get my leader to turn over and straighten out?


There are a few reasons why a leader might not turn over completely. Before looking at the casting mechanics, we need to examine the construction of the leader itself. This can contribute to the problem, especially for those of us who make our own leaders. There are many formulas for proper leader / tippet construction available. Don’t just guess…follow a proven formula. And before you begin casting, take time to straighten the leader to remove the memory coils. This can be done easily by stretching and warming your leader. Run your fingers or a commercial leader straightener down the line and the memory coils will be forgotten. We also need to look at the size (diameter) of the leader. Casting a leader that does not have the correct tippet diameter to cast the size fly selected will cause casting troubles including everything from piled up leaders to snapped off flys. To determine the correct tippet size for the fly you’re casting remember the “divide by three” rule. For example if you’re casting a size 18 fly, then divide 18 by 3 and you get 6. This formula tells us a 6X tippet would be the correct tippet for most size 18 flys. Once we have a correctly constructed leader, the diameter is right for the size fly we intend to cast, and memory coils removed, then we can look at the casting stroke and how it may cause the leader to “pile up”. The four most common ways our casting contributes to a leader not laying out straight are: (1) Stopping the rod tip too low on the final forward casting stroke. (2) Not casting with sufficient power or line speed to turn over the fly and leader. (3) Casting with too much power and line speed causing the line to stretch out and spring back while falling to the water. (4) Casting with the tip of the rod moving through a curving (sideways) path during the casting stroke rather than a straight-line path. This will always result in the leader curving off to one side.

Experimenting with the above variables will help you determine the cause of your collapsed leader and get your casting “straightened out”. Remember, you don’t always want a straight leader; many times a slack leader is the ticket for a longer more natural drag free float.

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