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On the Spot: Fly Casting Master Jeff Wagner

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February 21, 2012

On the Spot: Fly Casting Master Jeff Wagner

By Kirk Deeter

Jeff Wagner wears many hats. For his day job, he's part of the Cabela's team, integrally involved in boosting that company's fly fishing expertise and product offering. He's also a writer, and one of the best casting instructors (a Federation of Fly Fisher's Master) in the country.

If you ever have a chance to watch him talk about casting, it's pretty impressive, as he can carry on a conversation while maintaining flawless 60-foot loops. For now, I simply put Jeff "On the Spot" with some pointed questions about the fly cast.

FlyTalk: What is the number one mistake most anglers make regarding the fly cast?

Wagner: Not stopping the rod. Stopping the rod is what forms the loop. We think of the cast in terms of motion and fluidity, but it't really all about accelerating, then stopping the rod in the right positions, with the right tempo.

Fly Talk: On a 1-100 scale, the angler who thinks he is a "95" caster is really a what?

Wagner: About a 35. But we should all be our own toughest critics, and realize we all have room to improve.

FlyTalk: What is a realistic distance goal a caster should set for himself or herself, in order to be a fully functional fly angler?

Wagner: You should be able to cast 40 feet, accurately, in all conditions. If you're able to cast 30-35-feet in a 25-mile-per-hour wind, you should also be able to cast 60 feet in dead calm conditions, no problem. A real good caster can deal with the elements. It isn't about making long casts in perfect conditions.

FlyTalk: By percentage, break down how much the angler should be roll casting versus making overhead casts on a typical fishing day.

Wagner: That all depends upon where you are fishing, of course. Some rivers demand aerial mends and others are more straight line casts. If I were fishing in a small river in Rocky Mountain National Park, it might be 60 percent roll casts. If I'm fishing a big tailwater like the Green, it might be 60 percent aerial casts. You should be able to mix it up, wherever you fish.

FlyTalk: Who is the best fly caster you've ever seen?

Wagner: Tim Rajeff. The most consistent caster in the world might be his brother, Steve. But the guy who does the craziest stuff is Tim.

 

Comments (13)

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Best roll caster I ever saw, and a guy I worked with in selling his products, and also got an opportunity to fish with him one time, was Jim Teeny. The guy could shoot line on a roll cast like no one I ever saw. But a lot of anglers dry fly fish on rivers..you need to air cast unless you fish foam flies. Where is this Wagner guy from?..what was his background?

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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Have always wanted to work at Cabela's. Would love to spend my day selling product to outdoorsman.

Sayfu, Have always considered Teeny a steelhead guy. Probably throws a big stick...

Have always figured the length of the cast more to do with what's in your hand than how well you use it.

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Teeny is a big fish, steelhead, salmon guy but his technique is also tops. I really don't quite get Deeter's thinking that much of the time a guy should be roll casting. Roll casts are often used to position the line on the water to be picked up to cast. Straightening out the leader is more difficult when roll casting, but sometimes you do want to pile the leader up on the water. You can sure bet that a roll cast not executed properly puts wind knots in your leader bigtime. Accuracy is usually not as good roll casting, and you can't dry out the fly when dryfly fishing that a high percentage of guys do in the waters that I have fished for trout. No room behind you, fine, but must of the time you do have room.

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from buckhunter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Sayfu, Where I fish I rarely have room to backcast. I understand where Deeter is coming from. I also understand where you are coming from. You fish big water where roll cast are of little use.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnm98765 wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

On the trout streams I fish, I'm roll casting more often than not. Sure would be nice to be able to cast normally all the time though. And if anything I should be roll casting more, as I spend a fair amount of time with flies in the trees behind me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Well, you're right, the traditional salmon and steelhead techniques... Spey casting with two-handed rods... all basically roll casting. Heavy flies and heavy lines are best cast with roll casts. Hence the Teeny example is no coincidence.

On the dry fly side, false casts over fish spook those fish. Simple as that. A roll cast is also less effort, once you figure it out.

I don't have anything at all against an overhead cast... do it all the time... on my way to the Bahamas, and will overhead cast pretty much exclusively. But if you don't roll on a river at all, you're handicapping yourself.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

But you can be more accurate with the overhead, mend line in the air, dry your fly, and you do not have to cast over the fish. False cast to the side, then lay the low overhead cast in to where you want. The problem with the roll for single handers is..you do not put enough line behind the rod on the backcast to load the rod, and that means a more aggressive forward stroke that not executed properly piles up the leader, and in a worse case creates wind knots. I can roll cast well, but often don't straighten out the leader/line, maybe because I had slightly too much line out, so I strip some in, and roll it out again....then I find I have a wind knot in my leader. That roll causes the leader to fall within itself, and can put a wind knot in your leader as slick as all getout. But it is a very useful cast no doubt about it. That is why I am practicing how to effectively spey cast (glorified roll) using the single handed rods, as well as my spey rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Sayfu, I think we find ourselves in a rare case of agreement about casting here. The bottom line is to do what is most comfortable to you. In my case, believe it or not, I'm often more comfortable snapping little roll casts as I work my way up a small or medium trout river... and on the big rivers, I roll cast (Spey cast) when I throw the heavy stuff. But you're right... for most folks the roll is tricky. That's exactly why I preach the practice... like a basketball coach advising players to dribble with the off hand. The more you have in the arsenal, the better. And that's something nobody can argue.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

If a 95 is really a 35 than that means I'm only a 40..?! Yeah right, I'm more like 15! Improving every year though!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

If you wanna see an incredible roll cast it surely must be on a U-Tube, or on it from the G. Loomis site. Steve Rajeff is promoting their 11 foot switch rod, that is light, and can be single handed cast, or you can spey cast with it. He points out that the advantage he has over the double handed rod is he can increase the load on the rod when he places the "D" loop behind him by hauling with his left hand as the hand is not on the butt of the rod as with a spey rod, but is holding the line. The rod has but as short butt. He lets that roll cast go, and the line is gone.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

where i fish, if you can't or won't roll cast just get off the water. the streams are just too small and tight to do traditional casting whenever you want. when we were teaching my girlfriend's daughter to fly fish, she had to learn to roll cast. everyone needs to know how to do that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

The one thing I disslike about the streams I've spent most of my time on is that I barely ever have the ability to overhead cast. As I've gotten better I can do it more and more, but in some places it is just impossible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

You guys are making me reflect on how great I have it out West here. Lots of room to cast. Lots of water for a fish to run line off your reel, Lots of rivers to float in my boat, and get out and wade fish if I want.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Well, you're right, the traditional salmon and steelhead techniques... Spey casting with two-handed rods... all basically roll casting. Heavy flies and heavy lines are best cast with roll casts. Hence the Teeny example is no coincidence.

On the dry fly side, false casts over fish spook those fish. Simple as that. A roll cast is also less effort, once you figure it out.

I don't have anything at all against an overhead cast... do it all the time... on my way to the Bahamas, and will overhead cast pretty much exclusively. But if you don't roll on a river at all, you're handicapping yourself.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Sayfu, Where I fish I rarely have room to backcast. I understand where Deeter is coming from. I also understand where you are coming from. You fish big water where roll cast are of little use.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Sayfu, I think we find ourselves in a rare case of agreement about casting here. The bottom line is to do what is most comfortable to you. In my case, believe it or not, I'm often more comfortable snapping little roll casts as I work my way up a small or medium trout river... and on the big rivers, I roll cast (Spey cast) when I throw the heavy stuff. But you're right... for most folks the roll is tricky. That's exactly why I preach the practice... like a basketball coach advising players to dribble with the off hand. The more you have in the arsenal, the better. And that's something nobody can argue.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

where i fish, if you can't or won't roll cast just get off the water. the streams are just too small and tight to do traditional casting whenever you want. when we were teaching my girlfriend's daughter to fly fish, she had to learn to roll cast. everyone needs to know how to do that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnm98765 wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

On the trout streams I fish, I'm roll casting more often than not. Sure would be nice to be able to cast normally all the time though. And if anything I should be roll casting more, as I spend a fair amount of time with flies in the trees behind me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

You guys are making me reflect on how great I have it out West here. Lots of room to cast. Lots of water for a fish to run line off your reel, Lots of rivers to float in my boat, and get out and wade fish if I want.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Best roll caster I ever saw, and a guy I worked with in selling his products, and also got an opportunity to fish with him one time, was Jim Teeny. The guy could shoot line on a roll cast like no one I ever saw. But a lot of anglers dry fly fish on rivers..you need to air cast unless you fish foam flies. Where is this Wagner guy from?..what was his background?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Have always wanted to work at Cabela's. Would love to spend my day selling product to outdoorsman.

Sayfu, Have always considered Teeny a steelhead guy. Probably throws a big stick...

Have always figured the length of the cast more to do with what's in your hand than how well you use it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

Teeny is a big fish, steelhead, salmon guy but his technique is also tops. I really don't quite get Deeter's thinking that much of the time a guy should be roll casting. Roll casts are often used to position the line on the water to be picked up to cast. Straightening out the leader is more difficult when roll casting, but sometimes you do want to pile the leader up on the water. You can sure bet that a roll cast not executed properly puts wind knots in your leader bigtime. Accuracy is usually not as good roll casting, and you can't dry out the fly when dryfly fishing that a high percentage of guys do in the waters that I have fished for trout. No room behind you, fine, but must of the time you do have room.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

But you can be more accurate with the overhead, mend line in the air, dry your fly, and you do not have to cast over the fish. False cast to the side, then lay the low overhead cast in to where you want. The problem with the roll for single handers is..you do not put enough line behind the rod on the backcast to load the rod, and that means a more aggressive forward stroke that not executed properly piles up the leader, and in a worse case creates wind knots. I can roll cast well, but often don't straighten out the leader/line, maybe because I had slightly too much line out, so I strip some in, and roll it out again....then I find I have a wind knot in my leader. That roll causes the leader to fall within itself, and can put a wind knot in your leader as slick as all getout. But it is a very useful cast no doubt about it. That is why I am practicing how to effectively spey cast (glorified roll) using the single handed rods, as well as my spey rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

If a 95 is really a 35 than that means I'm only a 40..?! Yeah right, I'm more like 15! Improving every year though!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

If you wanna see an incredible roll cast it surely must be on a U-Tube, or on it from the G. Loomis site. Steve Rajeff is promoting their 11 foot switch rod, that is light, and can be single handed cast, or you can spey cast with it. He points out that the advantage he has over the double handed rod is he can increase the load on the rod when he places the "D" loop behind him by hauling with his left hand as the hand is not on the butt of the rod as with a spey rod, but is holding the line. The rod has but as short butt. He lets that roll cast go, and the line is gone.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 8 weeks ago

The one thing I disslike about the streams I've spent most of my time on is that I barely ever have the ability to overhead cast. As I've gotten better I can do it more and more, but in some places it is just impossible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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