Well, if you are reading this article, you have discovered the wonderful world of Sexyloops. Sexyloops is not just a web site, but a state of mind. It is an area on the web like no other. You can become totally immersed in the sport of fly fishing. You can read about fly casting, fishing destinations, fly tying, the life of a traveling trout bum, but most of all you have direct access to the most knowledgeable group of people that I personally have found on the web. You can ask any question, no matter how simple, and one or several of a group of people will answer you to the best of their ability. The leader is a trout bum by the name of Paul Arden. If it is possible, he is an expert fly fisherman. Paul is extremely knowledgeable in most, if not all, aspects of the sport. If you are in search of fly casting knowledge, then there should be no question that you are in the right place.
However, there is a trap in the Sexyloops' experience. This is the lure of the loop. All who spend anytime on this site are drawn to the perfect cast. Whether it is a long booming distance cast or the perfect reach mend after a sharp positive curve, we are all enamored by the loop. It is this desire that pulls many of us off course. Many who visit this site are in various stages of Sexyloops' development. There in lies the problem. Many visitors come to the fly casting board with a simple question. While reading the many post on the board, they run across a description of intricate techniques used by truly advanced fly casters that are trying to add the “ps” their loops. The visitor will often become distracted by the lure of these perfect loops and loose track of their own mission. You as an aspiring Sexylooper should always stay focused on the steps needed to throw the perfect loop.
I would like to outline the steps that I think are essential. We will start with the beginning and end at the “ps.” We will list every step along the way.
First, you need to know what it is you are after. These loops are tight, meaning one to two feet in height. They are generally “u” shaped or the sexiest of loops may have a slight point to them. Most of all, a truly effective loop places the fly and line exactly where you want it to land in order to enhance your fly fishing experience. So how do you learn to throw the fly and line where you want it? At first, try to learn the basic straight line fly cast. It won't be too far, no curves, no mends, just straight.
To do this, you must familiarize yourself with the essential elements of a straight line fly cast. Some say there are five and other say there are 4 or 6. It really does not matter the answer as long as the result is the same. There is one over riding result. The rod tip must travel in a straight line from the stop position at one end of the stroke to the stop position at the other end of the stroke. The closer the tip travels to this Straight Line Path (SLP) the tighter the loop will be.
I suggest starting by reading the Overhead Cast Section for Beginners. This will give you a good feel for how to get started. Some of you will start with a very short line 20 feet and other will start with 30 feet. It will come more easily to some of you than others. However, there are several goals before you advance from this section. You should be able to do the following:
- Throw a tight loop with a line as short as 20', as long as 40', and every distance between the two.
- Throw loops that vary from wide to tight on command.
- Throw tight loops at every speed from slow to fast on command.
- Hit a target 24” wide at all distances between 20-40 feet. You should be able to do this 2 out of 3 times at least.
- Hold 30 – 40 feet of line in the air and shoot 10 feet on the delivery cast hitting near your target.
- The last and most important is to make every effort to understand why and how about the above 5 items.
If you can do these six things you not only can go fishing and have a reasonable chance to have some success, but you can now look to move on to the next step.
Stream fisherman should now begin to learn various line control methods. Each cast and each method is different. They can be likened to clubs in your golf bag. Each one has its special purpose, but is based off of the standard golf swing. The more clubs you have, the more situations you are prepared for. The same is true of these casts. Paul and Carlos are a wealth of information on this topic. At the very least, go to the river with the following cast in your bag:
- Right and left reach cast.
- Right and left (positive and negative) curve casts.
- Bounce cast or vertical reach cast.
- Understand why these casts are used.
The more of these casts you know, the better you will be able to approach the many situations on the river. Now you need to continue on the Sexyloops' path.
Stillwater fishermen, saltwater fishermen, and would be casting nuts need to turn their pursuits toward distance casting. There is one absolute necessity in learning to distance cast. You must learn to adjust your cast as you apply power, lengthen line, and add the double haul. Adjusting the width of the casting arc is the most important skill you can acquire from this point forward. Everything you add or subtract from the cast will affect the width of the casting arc that is needed to achieve the SLP. Much of this material is found in the Fly Casting - Intermediate Section under Overhead Basics.
After you learn to adjust your casting arc as needed, it is time to start building the stroke that will one day throw you those Sexyloops' casts. The key to success is building a repeatable stroke. There are two things that you must commit to right now in order to be successful. You must throw at a target. I think this is done best using a measuring tape. Pull the tape out to the distance that you are practicing and place the spool on the ground as a target. The tape gives your eye a focal point, but most all, the target and straight line of the tape gives you a reference point so that you will know when the loops are repeatable. Now, once you have built a repeatable stroke for that amount of line, you must repeat the stroke over and over. You must build a muscle memory that will allow you to return to this amount of line and recreate these tight loops. For each of the follow stages you must build muscle memory. The ultimate goal is for your loop to just roll off the end of your rod without thinking about it.
The steps for building your stroke are as follows:
- You should now build your stroke one foot at a time. From 30 to 50 feet cast each foot with tight loops. You want to cast softly, working on your efficiency. This should not be physically taxing.
- Now you have tight loops. You should now work on making them go faster. Do this by accelerating from stop position to stop position faster and faster. You need to have excellent muscle memory at this point. It is a must for #3.
- You must learn the double haul. Start at 30 feet, cast one foot at a time to 50 feet. Note Paul's Intermediate section on the Double Haul.
- You are now ready to tackle wind techniques. Note Paul's Intermediate Section on Wind.
These simple techniques are the foundation of wind casting and distance casting. If you have done these techniques correctly, you should see some success at distance casting. Normal casting success with a weight forward line would be to hold 50 feet and shoot to 65-70 feet. Remember, there is no need to go forward until you have a repeatable stroke that will allow you to throw tight, fast loops.
Now, we need to continue our quest for the long cast. You are now armed with a 50 foot tight, fast loop. You need now to learn to make it go further. The first step is to learn to hold more line in the air. This is a never ending step always push yourself to hold more line. Use the one foot at a time drill to extend the amount of line in the air. The longer the line, the longer it takes to turn over, thus it can fly further. Adjusting trajectory and learning the drift technique will help you proceed. Note Paul's Intermediate sections on Backcast, Drift, Hauling and Distance. This journey will never end for most in search of the longest traveling loops. Great casters on hold 75 to 80 of line and can shoot to 100 feet with a five weight line. The elite casters are holding 80 - 95 feet of line and shooting to 115-120 feet.
If your desire is to master it all, you should now look to learn to Roll cast, Spey cast (single and double handed) and add to the never ending list of specialty presentation casts. This is a life time of work and I hope it will be an enjoyable adventure. The world of fly casting that Paul Arden has created will always help you. However, you must stay on track and not get pulled off course by the lure of Sexyloops.
“PS” I have never met anyone who has added the “ps” to their loops.
Bill Gammel is one of America's most respected authorities on flycasting instruction. Bill and his father were responsible for identifying the "5 Essential Elements" that make up all casts. He's from Texas where they shoot people who throw tailing loops ("because they look like rattle snakes") - a wonderful caster, Board member and flyslinger.