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The Tongariro Roll Cast [part 2]
by Herb Spannagl

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In a previous article I introduced you to this relatively new fly cast that is starting to make its mark for up-stream nymphing on the Tongariro River. Over the past winter I have used it so much that it has almost replaced overhead casting. A somewhat unexpected but nevertheless welcome bonus was greatly reduced casting arm fatigue and a significant reduction of my niggling shoulder pain. When you get older even minor impediments such as the above can kill much of the pleasure that an otherwise, great day on the river has to offer. Doing what you have to do with less effort takes on a new meaning.

Casting efficiency has fascinated me ever since I have been seriously fishing on the Tongariro. Whichever way you look at it this is a good practice to get into. It helps to keep you in synch with other anglers fishing the same pool, it greatly reduces the risk of a casting accident, it permits more productive drifts through fish-holding water and last but not least it helps you to last out a long fishing day without the need for pain killers.

In this article I want to show you how to set up the Tongariro Roll Cast with a minimum of movements for a “river right” and a “river left” position. As you might have already guessed for a right-handed nympher “river right” means that, facing upstream, the river is on the side of the casting arm. All other things being the same “river left” means that the river is on the side of the line hand.

The two situations are less important for the conventional overhead caster. However, for the roll caster “river right” and “river left” are of major importance because they present distinctly different set-up problems for the efficient execution of the delivery cast.

Before I turn to describing the best set-up practice for both situations, let me remind you of two roll casting rules that must never be ignored.

  • The D-Loop must be placed as close as possible to 180 degrees opposite the casting target.
  • The “Anchor” must be placed outside the rod tip to avoid the line and fly coming up and hitting the rod or caster.
  • In a “River Left” situation the working angle between bank and target is very narrow. Further more as the current drifts line towards you your workspace is getting smaller all the time. Allow for that by initially rolling the line further up-stream and closer to the bank. Don't waste time. Fold and slip line outside your rod tip to prevent line and rod tangling. Fold further forward to keep the folded line from drifting too close. Try to create an elevated D-Loop to avoid snaring rocks or sticks that might protrude from the bank. If you have given the right current lead and not wasted precious time your delivery cast should still be in line with the target. Alternatively, try to perform this cast over the left shoulder. This is harder than you think but well worth the effort.

    This article is more technical than I should like it to be. I apologise for having to make it so complex. However, since I can't stand beside you on the river it leaves me with little alternative. To make up for it I have peppered the text with copious diagrams to help you to navigate through the various phases a little easier. I hope I am right.


    Herb Spannagl is retired conservation officer and national park ranger with the New Zealand Department of Conservation. Currently councillor for NZ Fish and Game. Married with two adult son and daughter, one cat and one German Wirehaired Pointer. And he wears kinky boots!


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