The easiest way to learn how to roll cast

One of the aspects of fly fishing that makes it so unique and distinct from other forms of fishing is the ability to cast in different ways. However, anybody who has tried casting a fly line knows that this task is a little more difficult than it appears. Not only do you have to develop the correct form and arm movements to ensure that your line shoots forward when you want it to, but you also have to be mindful of the things behind you, and do your best not to hook a tree branch, the foliage on the bank, or worse – yourself!

learning to roll cast
Photo Credit: Luke Detwiler

Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough space behind you to accommodate for a long back cast. At times like these, you need to cast in a different style – one where the line doesn’t shoot out behind you. One such style is known as the roll cast, and although it takes a bit of practice to perfect it is ideal for these tight situations. Here, we’ve put together a few useful tips and hints that should have you roll casting like a pro in no time at all.


  1. Understanding the roll cast

The roll cast is a basic maneuver that anybody planning on picking up a fly rod should learn how to perform. Although you may initially find the roll cast difficult to master, when you do you will be surprised by just how often you use it. This is the perfect cast for when there are objects behind you, when you quickly need to throw your dry fly back down, or when you are trying to cast in a stealthy manner. As they say, time spent practicing the roll cast is seldom wasted.

  1. How to roll cast

To start the roll cast, let some line out in front of you. When you’re first learning to roll cast, try letting approximately 20 feet of line out. If your rod is a clock hand, gently lift it up to the 1 o’clock mark, so that the tip of the rod is slightly behind you. The trick is to do this very slowly, and if you are using a stiffer rod you may need to lessen the angle slightly. For the cast, make sure your casting hand is level with your ear and that your elbow is slightly bent out. Flip the rod tip forwards to start the cast, and your fly line should roll forwards in a loop along the water’s surface. Before the line drops onto the water, follow its motion down with your rod by lowering it to the 9 o’clock position. Ideally, the line will only drop onto the water once it has finished straightening, and this is the part that may take some time perfecting.

To refine your roll cast, you may need to play with the angle at which you hold the rod, the amount of line you let out, and how far forwards you flick the rod to start the cast in motion. Once you have these aspects figured out (it will predominantly depend on the weight and stiffness of your rod, as well as the weight of the line and fly you are using), you’ll be roll casting like a pro in no time at all.

  1. Variations of the roll cast

There are several ways in which you can add more power to your roll cast, which allows you to cast further using this method. One such way of adding power is by performing the “jump-roll”, which involves stopping your backcast with a slight upwards flick to send more line backwards. This means you can keep more line in the air and in turn cast further.

Once you’ve perfected your roll cast, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to cast along even the most awkward locations, and you’ll (hopefully) never have to retrieve your fly from bushes or trees again.

How to Fly Fish: The Single-Hand Snake Roll Cast


I spend time between the love of my life (my wife), my digital agency, and trying to squeak in time for fly fishing when I can hide from responsibilities. If you want to strike up a conversation with me try subjects on: fly fishing, fly tying, cooking, photography, reading, camping or anything related to social media or marketing.