Continuous tension

From when the fly-line is first peeled off the water until the launch point in the forward delivery, the fly-line must be kept constantly under tension, otherwise it cannot be controlled. There are some special casts which utilise slack line to achieve a desired effect, such as a negative mend but these are special cases and will be dealt with separately.
To achieve continuous tension the rod-tip must be accelerated at all times even though the rate of acceleration might only increase very gradually, in some instances.
Deceleration of the rod-tip will cause a loss of tension and the control of the fly-line, and furthermore it will result in the unloading of the fly-rod. If rapid deceleration occurs before the end of the casting stroke this will cause the rod-tip to track a concave path, which will result in a tailing loop.
Prior to casting the fly-line must be laid out on the water so that there are as few twists and turns as possible, otherwise when the fly-line is lifted this will cause slack in the fly-line.
To maintain continuous tension at the beginning of a casting sequence the fly-line must be held close to the surface of the water, so that there is no initial slack in the fly-line, and then the fly-line should be continuously peeled off the water until the line-stick can no longer hold back the fly-line. This will ensure that as much fly-line as possible is off the water and that there is a minimum amount of resistance caused by line-stick. At this point the fly-line can be easily lifted and led by the rod-tip to where the caster would like to position the fly-line. If the fly-line is lifted too quickly this will cause the line-stick to release the fly-line unexpectedly and the fly-rod to unload, thus causing loss of line tension and control.
During sweeping movements with the fly-rod and line it is also important to maintain acceleration and hence line tension. This means that the sweeps must be made in wide arcs ( all the way around the arc with no shortcuts) with the rod-tip leading the fly-line at all times. To do this effectively the full leverage of the fly-rod must be used for sweeping movements.
With the exception of special casts, at the end of the casting stroke a rapid deceleration of the rod-tip is induced by stopping the fly-rod abruptly. At the point of maximum acceleration, the fly-line is launched in the direction of the cast.
Sometimes, it is possible to maintain control after deceleration of the rod-tip and this is used to good effect in some Spey casts such as the Jump Roll, Circle ā€˜Cā€™ and the Snake Roll, however to do these casts follow-through has to be employed to maintain tension on the fly-line.
Some instances where continuous tension is important are:-

  • Lifting the fly-line off the water and sweeping round to set up the D-loop for a single Spey cast.
  • Sweeping back and peeling the fly-line off the water when setting up the D-loop for a double Spey cast or a snap cast.
  • Lifting the fly-line off the water and placing the anchor for a double Spey cast.
  • Lifting the fly-line off the water for an overhead cast.

Below is an example of continuous tension employed in the second sweep of the fly-rod for setting up the D-loop, during a double Spey cast.

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About John Symonds

I mainly fish the rivers Wye,Usk and Ithon for salmon, trout and grayling. Also fish in Ireland on the rivers Moy, Suir and Blackwater. Specialist skills photography and graphic design relating to fishing, casting and fly-tying. Qualifications include Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor (APGAI) single and two-handed fly rods, International Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) two handed casting instructor and Level 2 Angling Trust Coach.
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