Beyond Fly Casting – The Ten Commandments to Fly Fishing TIP PATH

Beyond Fly Casting – The Ten Commandments to Fly Fishing TIP PATH

Tim Kempton | Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Flycasting is not flyfishing. The following are ten key practical skills (the Ten Commandments) that I have believe will take you beyond casting a fly in a park, to start you on the journey to becoming a proficient fly fisher. I will share my thoughts about each of these as a weekly contribution to Sexyloops.
Tims Ten Commandments...

1. Feel
3. Constant tension
4. Make the first cast count
5. Energised backcast
6. Timing of power application
7. Line management
8. Casting in the wind
9. Casting with non dominant hand
10. Repositioning casts


One of Bill Gammel’s Five Essentials is Straight Line Path (SLP), which is incorporated into the FFF teachings for fly casting. We teach that the line will follow the rod tip, ie where the rod tip goes the line goes. Lefty Kreh described this as Principle No 3.The fly is going to go in the direction that you accelerate, then stop, the rod tip at the end of the cast”.

The FFF has a definition for a convex tip path for a domed or windscreen wiper cast. A concave tip (or downward rod tip path ) results in an inefficient loop, and often a tailing loop. There is lots written, and great videos about tip path, and especially tailing loops caused mainly by misapplication of power during the casting stroke. There is even more written and debated about SLP, casting stroke and tight loops (see Soon Lee Fly casting on YouTube).

Tip Path and Fly Fishing.  There is another important and practical application of tip path as it applies to fly fishing and the lift. The lift is when you start the cast and lift the line from the water into the backcast.  

What should be the order of thoughts when you see a fish and start the cast?

The first thought should be Can I make a backcast?”. Are there bushes, tall grass, trees that will catch the fly and or flyline. If you are on a skiff, are there aerials, rods, fellow fly fishers, or the guide behind you. Look back and check. Do I need to move?

The second thought should be “what is the straight line tip path away from the target” (the fish).  The 180° rule says a straight linepath. This is taught in the park with a piece of wool as the fly, and so the lift is always at 180º away from the fly. However the fish are not always where you pick up the fly.  The back cast should align with the forward target (the fish) as nearly as possible.  Why? It's all about fishing the angles, repositioning the fly, speed of delivery and maintaining constant tension.  

To start the lift, for most casts the rod tip must be on the water to avoid slack line. Turn your body to face the target. Lift the tip in a straight line away from the target.  If the fish is on your right hand side and you are right handed, this may require a backhand cast over the left shoulder. Or, it may require a backcast at 45º away from the body on your right hand side if the fish is on the left.  

Many fly fisherman lift the line into the backcast directly over their shoulder, as you would when you practice in the park. They form nice loops with 180º tip path, however if the fish is on your left (or right), and you lift into the back cast directly over your shoulder, you may have to false cast to reposition the flyline into the required plane to deliver the fly to the target. This can be a waste of time and energy, cause tailing loops, and the rod and body movement may spook the fish.  

Ideally you should be able to pick up and laydown with no false casts.  This will increase your delivery speed, save energy, and reduce the amount of rod and body movement.  The PUALD challenge highlights that casts over 40 metres (130’) can be achieved with a single pick up and laydown.  Amazing.  Imagine just how much time and effort is being wasted on false casting.  Joan Wulff once commented that there were so many false casts the fish must think there was an insect rise!  

TIP:  Practice the pickup and laydown cast with no false casts to targets placed at all angles and distances from your body.   

There is a lot more to the PUALD cast as we will discuss in following articles. Paul Arden developed his snakehead casts based on this technique.  Watch his videos, they are inspirational.


And happy birthday Paul..I have thoroughly enjoyed our trips and times sitting around exploring the unexplored. You are a modern day explorer, unconventional and as Ayn Rand (in Fountainhead) would say you are a Creator, not a “second hander” or “followeryou are the ultimate individualist.   Your contribution to flycasting and fly fishing is unparalleled.  Well done and thanks for being a friend.