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Tailing Loops
[Versión en español]

Rodney in action

Okay are a couple of things going on here. For one thing this is not my usual cast at all. And there's some other stuff that I want you to completely ignore for the moment. It's interesting stuff of course; for one thing the abrupt shock at the end of the stroke destroys the loop's integrity. We found a way of fixing that which involved sticking an old bit of jumper between Rodney's arm and the stop-block (I'm inventing words as I type).

The reason I'm posting this rather large animated Gif is so I can show you the tip path for a tailing loop. I've been “doing” Sexyloops for almost five years (dunno, what else to call it) and surprisingly perhaps I haven't written a page on Tailing Loops. Yet.

Sorry if this is a bit technical… I realise that this page won't help everyone, but it will help some people. I like to think it will help everyone, even if you don't understand it all (you don't have to).

My definition of a tailing loop is different to everyone else's: Paul says, a tailing loop is the loop shape resulting from the tip of the rod dipping under the Straight Line Path [in the plane of the rod].

And if you think that's complicated you should see some of the other suggestions. It looks like this (just so you know what I'm talking about):

Superiour artistic skills once again in evidence - obviously in the wrong profession... and you should hear me play the guitar

Now my definition is smart from an instructor's point of view because describing the tailing loop is quite complicated… it's not enough to say that the loop crosses over itself, because sometimes this happens anyway, and the legs don't have to necessarily intersect one another either – but one thing that practically everyone agrees upon, is that tailing loops are caused by the tip of the rod dipping under the Straight Line Path.

So even if my definition doesn't mean anything, it is at least correct.

Here are the main causes and cures of tailing loops – I may even get to cover them all.

1. Forward Creep

The main cause of tailing loops (in Texas) is Forward Creep. Forward Creep is beginning the forward stroke too early. Anticipating the forward cast would be a nice way of looking at it. Either way it sucks. Your backcast is travelling backwards, your rod tip is travelling forwards, the backcast straightens pulling the rod tip under the Straight Line Path and you throw a classic tailing loop.

The tip path for forward creep is a Sine Wave.


If you are a complete beginner pause longer before you begin the forward stroke. If you are an intermediate learn to drift. Drifting is the antithesis of Forward Creep and is an important thing to learn if you want to throw Sexyloops.

2. Too small a casting/rod arc (for the flex in the rod)

I prefer the term casting arc since it's more descriptive, but rod arc sounds better. The casting arc is rotation the butt travels during the casting stroke. Remember that (normal) flycasting is about matching the flex in the rod to the size of the casting arc so that the tip travels the (sing it baby, sing) Straight Line Path. If the tip travels a convex path (big outward circle) you are going to throw an open or non-loop. If the tip dips under the SLP (starting to use acronyms now, don't be frightened) then you will throw a Tailing Loop.

Many casters seem to have one fixed rod arc – let's say 10-2, or 10-12.30 depending on which side of the Big Fishless Pond you reside. With a little line out the tip, you are not going to bend the rod by very much. Your 10-2 caster at this point throws (let's get technical) Fat Loops. Then he reaches his comfort point – maybe he's been practicing pick-up and lay-down (and man, is that a descriptive term or what?) casts for the last 15 years – and his loops tighten up. Finally he carries a little bit more line, the rod tip dips under the (hallelujah) Straight Line Path, and he shoots a tailing loop to 75 feet.

The tip path is concave.


Learn to match the casting arc to the (a) amount of line you are carrying and (b) the amount of force you are applying. You have several drills here, one is to practice false casting with 8 yards of line, and gradually increase until you can't. Another is to practice with a fixed amount of line and gradually raise the tempo. Mein Gott, I bet you can't wait for the Members Section to open when I'll discuss this stuff in detail.

3. Uneven Power Application

The most likely uneven power application is a final jerk at the end of the stroke. Now I know that us profession flycasting dudes talk about flicking the tip, and “powersnaps”, but we know what we are doing and you don't. Smoothness is everything, well not everything of course, tracking is pretty important too (bird's eye Straight Line Path) as of course is the [in the plane of the rod] Straight Line Path. So don't jerk the tip just before the stop, especially if you have a soft rod.


Think “smooth”. For me this means like “running water”, for Mel Krieger this means “oily”, for Jon Allen (distance flycasting athlete) this means, “like stroking a woman's thigh”. Flicking the tip doesn't work for everyone, that's why we have casting instructors, if flicking the tip is giving you a tailing loop then just “stop the rod”. Practising with a softer rod sometimes helps (instructors argue about this).

Those are the main ones. Here are some other descriptions that we commonly use:

4. Lack of forward loading move

Now, I actually think this is the principal cause of tailing loops on UK stillwaters. I know that you could call it “too small a casting arc”, or even “uneven power application”. But I like to separate it. Here's what happens: the line fully straightens on the backcast and the caster immediately hits the forward cast. The rod buckles and the tip dips under the Straight Line Path. You can't do this, well you can, but it doesn't work: you have to get the line moving in the intended direction before you apply the main power part (see? technical). Herb Spannagl describes this as premature rod punching (another one for the ladies there I think).


Learn to “Slip”. Start the forward stroke maintaining the rod butt angle and only rotate the butt at the end of the stroke. The best distance casters in this world – such as Rick Hartman and Steve Rajeff – all delay this final butt rotational right up to the very end of the stroke.

5. Finishing the stroke too soon

Which is a bit like too small a rod arc, only not quite, because the caster for whatever reason has decided to finish the stroke too early, the tip rises (rising above the Straight Line Path – see it is different) and the loop tails.

6. Finishing the haul too soon

Here's what happens when you make your forward cast. You are pulling the line through the air and flexing the rod simultaneously. You stop the butt and the tip bounces forward, the rod re-flexes and then straightens again. As the tip is bouncing forward it passes a point when it is completely straight. At this point the tip is moving quickest. We call this the Rod Straight Position – confusing instructors' acronym: RSP.

Line speed is a combination of haul speed plus tip speed. Maximum line speed is the maximum combined haul-plus-tip speed. As soon as the tip-plus-haul speed decreases line will start to overtake line and a loop will begin to form.

If you finish the haul before the Rod Straight Position the tip will rise and the loop will tail. This is not a common fault and only seems to happen when one first learns the Double Haul. The ever-so-exact timing is “Stop-Release”. Most casters tend to go “Stop----Release” which is a fault of course, but it's not a tailing loop so we won't talk about it today.

7. Trying to cast the backcast and forward cast at an angle of less than 180 degrees [in the plane of the rod]

I'm running out of succinct definitions. Make a high backcast, then make a high forward cast and your loop will tail. Why? Dumb question, the tip has dipped beneath the Straight Line Path. Of course there are times when it's the only option: just to give you a feel for this, a vertically orientated Steeple Cast has a backcast/forward cast angle of considerably less than 180 degrees. And that's why it sucks of course.

8. Slack line

A poor backcast, one that doesn't straighten fully, can induce a tailing loop. If you begin the forward cast with slack, when the line hooks up tight the tip of the rod will dip under the SLP. I think there may be a pattern emerging.


Most poor backcasts either come from a failure to stop the rod (at the right point) or else too large a casting arc (failure to make a proper lift). Another major fault would be tracking of course. But frankly if your backcast is crap you're probably not going to have understood any of this.

As in fact can one that straightens too hard…

9. Unexpected Pre-load

Yeah I know that some people use pre-load, and talk about it like it was the dog's bollocks of flycasting. But it's not and it's quite possible for preload to disrupt your "otherwise quite pretty" loop and cause it to tail.

There may be some other causes.


If you are throwing tailing loops pay attention that your backcast fully straightens, that you begin your forward cast both slowly and deliberately (like flicking a plum/spider/watermelon) and at all time think Jon Allen smooth. 99% of the time that will fix the problem.

By the way since all presentation casts are in fact casting cock-ups, there are a number of uses for the tailing loop. Vertically orientated tailing loops give the same effect as a Tuck Cast, but without the drama. And horizontally orientated tailing loops give superb hook/curved leader casts.

But if you're a Board regular then you'll know all this of course.

Good luck!

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