Single handed rod exams

One of the things to practice thoroughly before taking any single handed exam is the accuracy requirements. From my experience as an assessor this is one area where there are regular difficulties in single handed exams. It is simply a matter of preparation.

When I had to do this I set up children's hoola hoops at distances in my back yard and left a rod sitting there six months before I took the exams. I don't think that scarcely a day went by where I didn't go out about four to six times a day for about ten to twenty minutes, perhaps a half hour just practicing for the accuracy. My system was watching the bottom leg of the line unroll out during the false cast, when I seen that it would have been right I then committed on the next cast as it is easy for the arm to do again what it just did, commit means do the same thing, not used extra force or do anything that would make you cause to deviate off what you just did. It has to be practiced off shoulder as well and without hauling. Don't let something like this bother you, sheer familiarity with it will make it easier. I used an eight foot mono leader (maxima mono) made up of 50% 30lb line, 25% 20 pound line and 25% 10lb line, I would stretch the leader and used a piece of wool only the size of a pea.

The main purpose of the accuracy test is to show the use the right stroke length and trajectory to unroll the line onto the target for the length of line out, the first target should be achieved using a very narrow fast unrolling loop at a steep trajectory from a short rod tip movement. The arc tilted to obtain the correct trajectory. The middle target with a medium stroke length and tilting the arc forward less for a different trajectory. The furthest target using a longer stroke and shallower trajectory angle.

If you miss the first target you need a kick up the behind, the first target should be automatic, the second also, that leaves the rest of the set downs available for any initial misses of the third target. Depending on the exam you are allowed six to nine touch downs to get all three targets, to waste a touch down missing the first one is practically inexcusable when you understand the short stroke tip motion required.

Some examination questions and suggested answers - single-handed rod


The Federation of Fly Fishers uses the Five essentials / principles of Fly-Casting. These originated with Bill and Jay Gammel

1. There is a pause at the end of each stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip

This means that at the end of the back casting stroke the angler must pause briefly to allow the fly line to unroll out behind before making the forward casting stroke. The pause will vary in duration with the length of line being cast, the longer the line the longer the pause. At the end of each back casting stoke and at the end of each forward casting stroke the caster must pause long enough to allow the line to unroll out behind or in front before making the next casting stroke. The pause is not until the line unrolls out fully and stops but until it is just about to unroll fully, in effect so that the forward stroke starts moving against a still taut but just straight line and not a stopped and dropping or rebounding line.

2. Slack line should be kept to a minimum

Ideally there should be no slack line. The elimination of slack line is the most efficient manner in which to cast a fly line. Start with the rod tip low and the line straight.

3. The rod tip must follow a straight line path

In order to form the most efficient, least air resistant loops. In order not to waste energy and to direct the cast properly, the caster must move the rod tip generally in a straight line path (in both vertical and horizontal planes). This is achieved through making an acceleration over the correct stroke length and occurs as the rod bends down while loading against the resistance of the weight of the line The rod tip does move down out of the way and out of the straight line path (vertical plane) at the end of the stroke. (due to the angle change from controlled wrist movement on a single handed rod).

4. Casting arc is increased with the length of line being cast.

The arc is the angle the rod tip travels from its starting position to its stopping position during a casting stroke. Stroke and arc may get confused. Stroke is the distance the hand moves.

5. Power must be applied in the proper amount and in the proper place during the stroke.

Power is applied smoothly and progressively. It is applied in an increasing amount with most of it happening during the controlled wrist movement at the end of the stroke.

Firstly the five essentials / principles of the FFF (from Bill and Jay Gammel) and how they all inter relate in fly casting is the main aspect or the basis of teaching fly-casting for the Americans. These essentials or definitions should always be on the tip of your tongue if they are relevant to any question you are asked during an exam.

It is important to always mention Straight line path, No slack line, Arc, Pause, and Power application if their adjustment or use is particularly important in the technique described, or in correction to a fault being described. A good way to remember them is the word SNAPP with two P's. Straight line path, No slack line, Arc, Pause, Power.

Closely related topics should always be to the fore in your thinking and explanations also such as rod tip path in particular, which will often be made deliberately different from the normally correct straight line path to open out a loop. Also terms like Stroke, Acceleration, tilt of the arc / trajectory, loading move, power snap, controlled wrist break, RSP to RSP - rod starting position to rod stopping position, creep, drift, tailing loops, parallel loops, tracking e.t.c.

18. Explain and demonstrate how to cast narrow to wide loops

Make a practical demonstration of loop shape on the ground using the fly line. Show the difference between wide and narrow loops this way to start off with by re arranging the line. Make sure that you point out the top leg, the bottom leg and the leading edge. You should mention what a parallel loop is and a V loop. Mention that a good loop doesn't cross over or tail.

A parallel loop - when the top leg of a loop is unrolling out over the bottom leg without touching, crossing over, tangling, tailing, collapsing into a pile of squiggles or skewing off to the left or right and it looks like two parallel lines joined in front by the curve of the leading edge. The distance between the top and the bottom leg is the width of the parallel loop.

I prefer a V loop and the legs of a V loop are not quite parallel as they converge. I consider a V loop is correct and more efficient, better able to penetrate the wind also.

Loop width is determined by the rod tip path used, it is necessary to alter the rod tip path to change the loop shape. In particular what matters is how much the rod tip is allowed to drop down out of what would be the normal straight line path (vertical plane) for the stroke length used on either the forward or backward casting stroke. A more domed or convex rod tip path in a slightly wider arc is used to create more open loops. The greater from 180 degrees the rod tip path's convex shape for the amount of line out, the wider the loop will be that forms. The tempo and acceleration of the cast is not increased, if anything it may be decreased slightly to prevent a more straight line path occurring. Stroke length may be the same or increased slightly due to the slower tempo.

The amount the rod tip is allowed to drop down out of what would be the normal straight line path in the vertical plane for the amount of line out dictates loop width. The further it is allowed to drop down the wider the loop.

It can be allowed to drop down in front and remain correct behind creating a normal tight loop behind and a more open loop in front. It can be kept normal in front and allowed to drop down behind thus creating an open loop behind and a correct loop in front. Or the loop can be opened out both in front and behind. If you demonstrate this ability practically it will be a very effective teaching aid.

Rod tip path is the key phrase, deliberately leaving the normal vertical straight line path to make a more domed path is the key point.

One analogy that I have heard is if you are in a room painting the ceiling for a straight line path of the rod tip, and painting the ceiling and the tops of the widows and doors for the more open loop. I don't use it, it is also used to describe not having controlled wrist break.

19. Explain and demonstrate the cause and correction of tailing loops

Tailing loops are always caused by a concave rod tip path of less than 180 degrees (in the vertical plane), for whatever reason this happens.

Show practically what a tailing loop is with the line on the ground or from a simple demonstration by aerialising a short piece of line. Explain that this is the cause of what are called wind knots in the leader, which are not in fact wind knot but bad casting knots caused by tailing loops.

Mention in particular the main causes, notably,

1. An abrupt or sudden application of power, usually early in the stroke
2. Not making a smooth or progressive acceleration
Both of the above are similar and are usually executed together thus breaking the 5th essential of the FFF on the proper amount of power in the proper place during the stroke.
3. Creep or rebound both of which use up possible stroke length to no avail as the line is still unrolling out behind
4. Using too short a stroke for the amount of line out - without any creep.
5. Trying to make too tight a loop
6. overpowering

Any other cause you can think of - my personal experience and teaching is that if a progressive acceleration is made when using the correct stroke length then a tailing loop impossible, even if excessive force or speed is used. Why? the rod tip stays down and does not get a chance to rise again and so cannot cause a concave movement.

I also believe that the leader or profile of the front taper or length of the tip on the line or overall set up of the line can cause tailing loops to occur more easily or less easily depending on how it is altered.

Personally I often cast with a softer rod on purpose to fine tune technique and to keep my acceleration very fine tuned. Softer rods are more likely to cause tailing loops with sudden and abrupt or erratic power application. They are more likely to tail and highlight flaws in technique or in acceleration.

20. Explain Rod Loading

A rod deflected into a curve, or bent / compressed, is a loaded rod.

The rod is flexible, it is a flexible lever. It will therefore deflect into a curve when leverage and acceleration is applied that changes the angle and position of the rod against the weight and resistance of the fly line. The rod will then straighten when it gets the opportunity to do so - once the angle change (Usually) or sometimes both angle and position change is stopped.

The fact that the rod is flexible is exactly what allows the rod tip to travel in a straight line through the arc, or almost straight line, the rod does do a slightly convex shape usually and it drops down slightly at the end of the stroke. That's why the rod is flexible and we could not cast effectively with a stiff pole or something that didn't flex - like a broom shaft.

The fly line is the weight used to compress/deflect the rod into a curve, or 'load' the rod. The fly line is the weight cast by the rod and not the fly, the leader and the fly is simply towed along by the line. The more line that is placed outside the rod tip the deeper the rod will deflect into a curve or load. The line weight is also matched to the strength of the rod with an AFTM number rating to ensure optimum loading and that the rod is not overloaded or under loaded in normal casting.

Through applying leverage and motion with arm and body movements we can change both the angle and position of the rod. This is what will cause the rod to deflect into a curve or load against the weight and resistance of the fly line. When we suddenly stop this movement (the angle change alone, or both angle and position change of the rod), the rod will undeflect or unload along its taper towards the tip. The rod is tapered getting thinner towards the tip. As it undeflects, the energy leaving the larger mass at the bottom part of the rod traveling into the lesser mass at the thinner top part of the rod generates speed in the rod tip. The rod does not just straighten and stop but it counter flexes.A rapid rod tip turnover speed is created as the rod tip counter flexes from the rod blank unflexing or unloading.

For a correctly shaped loop to form and the line to unroll out fully with fly turnover occurring correctly the rod loading leverage and movement up to the stop must be made progressively as an acceleration.

Analogy - Bow and arrow, the rod is like a bow

21 Explain and demonstrate the casting stroke as it relates to changes in distance.

The stroke is the distance the rod hand moves during either a backward or a forward casting stroke including any continuous motion movement, drift or loading move. All movement of the hand used to manage the line including while it is unrolling is stroke.

The longer the line outside of the top eye, the greater the weight and the deeper it will load the rod or deflect the rod into a curve. This will also take a longer time and space to happen and it will occur over a longer movement of the rod. Therefore a longer stroke is required for a longer line. It takes a longer time and greater movement to generate line momentum and load the rod fully with the longer line, (incidentally, the straight line path in the vertical plane will be lower because of the deeper deflection of the rod).

In the fly-casting videos made by American single handed fly-casting Instructor Phil Gay, the term LAPS is used to denote the relationship between the line, the arc, the pause and the stroke. If the line is longer then all the other things must be longer, if the line is shorter then the other things are shorter. Some people use the word PALS as a reminder of the same thing.

On a shorter line the tip of the rod is able with a short movement to unroll a narrow loop of line with mainly wrist motion and minimal arm movement. The stance may be closed. This can be seen in the short range accuracy casts. With a medium length of line a short arm movement and wrist movement combined handle the slightly longer line and load the rod more, the middle and tip of the rod is used. This can be seen on the medium range accuracy casts. The stance may still be closed. With a longer length of line the whole arm makes the hand travel much further, as does sometimes upper body movement and weight shift. Upper body rotation and weight shift may be done with a closed stance but are usually more easily done from an open stance. The rod loads very deeply as there is much more weight of line in the air outside the rod tip.   The difference between the casts as far as stroke is concerned is that the rod hand travels further with a longer line.

22. Explain and demonstrate good timing when false casting.
                                              Timing mainly has to do with the length of the pause used. The purpose of the pause is to provide an opportunity for the line to unroll unto the right amount behind before the forward cast is made. The line should not be fully unrolled out stopped and dropping or kicked back, nor only partly unrolled. Ideally it should be almost fully unrolled when the forward cast is started, then as the maximum power is being applied the line will have unrolled fully just prior to this.   Too short a pause will cause the line to click or whip crack behind, often causing leader or line damage and cracking off flies.   Too long a pause will cause the line to drop very low behind and have lost the dynamics or line speed that would have been turned around into the forward cast with little loss of energy.  
 teaching fundamentals, loop size, analogies, student involvement  line, rod, body, long verses short stroke)
– Longer rod is slower and needs a longer pause, with shorter rods the cast is made faster in tempo and they need a shorter pause.

23. Explain and demonstrate casting into a head wind.      

Casting into a head wind requires a smooth and progressive acceleration to maintain loop shape and turn the fly over into the wind. Speed and power may be increased slightly on the forward stroke but the acceleration must still be smooth and progressive.
A narrow leading edge to the loop is essential, a very narrow leading edge is desirable and preferably it should V into the wind, the wind will actually compress it into a V shape if a good cast is made.
A lower trajectory is needed so that the fly turnover occurs just as the line reaches the water level or about an inch above it so that the line cannot be blown back by the wind. This means tilting the arc forward slightly. There will be a higher back cast and lower forward cast. A single haul may be used to assist the forward stroke. Or the standard double haul, what is important is that a haul is made on the forward cast. Leader should be tapered. It is not necessary to lengthen the forward stroke though some may do so to get more of a loading move or line momentum into the forward cast before the final acceleration. – I wouldn’t unless it was a long line. Less power is required for the back stroke as the wind will help the line straighten behind.                                                                         
Comments: (communication effectiveness, analysis, error recognition teaching fundamentals, loop size, line speed, power,
 analogies, student involvement, line, rod, body, double haul,  rod position other casts, casting angle)

  24. Explain and demonstrate casting with a crosswind blowing into the casting side.
A wind blowing in to the casters side may cause a safety issue depending on the strength of the wind. It may cause the fly to be blown across dangerously close to the anglers head or body. Safety should always be the first concern.   If the wind is light it is possible to simply cant / tilt the rod over slightly more to the right for a right hand caster. Alternatively the angler could cast in an oval shape with the back casting stroke kept well out and away from the angler on his right hand side (right hand caster). Sometimes incorrectly called the Belgian Oval cast, it is in fact an Austrian cast devised by Hans Gebetsroither, the Gebetsroither cast.   Off shoulder – it is also possible to cast with the right hand off the opposite or off shoulder. There are two ways of casting on the off side, one is to use the hand in front of the other shoulder and the rod is well canted over on that side. The other method is to cant the rod tip over to that side but to have the hand in front of the forehead, almost like saluting in the army. Either way the line is well away from the angler and held away by the wind.   Turning around and making what would normally be the back cast the final delivery, aiming low on that cast and high on the set up.
Other methods are casting left handed either overhead or oval. Spey casting or jump roll casting off the left side either off side or using the left hand.
    Comments: (communication effectiveness, analysis, error recognition, teaching fundamentals, loop size, analogies, student involvement,   line, rod, body, other casts, casting angle)  

  Instructing Ability:   Explain and demonstrate a "saltwater type cast". Start with fly in hand and approx 20'- 25' of line extended from rod tip. Shoot to 60' with no more than 2-3 false casts.
A saltwater cast is made usually quite quickly as it has to be made to a moving target from initial sighting by the guide to before it has moved out of range. This means a limited opportunity in terms of time.   The caster has to be ready to extend the line and shoot some line with ideally having made only a couple of false casts. The running line must be ready to shoot.   The line is stripped out to about sixty feet. Some of it is coiled in three large open loops – about hoola hoop size, it is carefully placed in these large loops on the boat deck.   Then there is a large drooping loop of line outside the top eye reaching down to the boat deck and back up to being hooked by the index finger of the rod hand,   The fly is also held in the line hand but not inside the fist, the fly is positioned on the outside of the hand or fist. The bend of the hook is lightly wedged between two fingers so the point and eye of the hook is pointing out   The line for hauling is held in the index finger and thumb of the line hand.   When a fish is spotted and a cast is to be made the loop of line in the index finger is released and swung out with the rod tip, at the same time the fly is pulled free with this loop and as it is simultaneously dropped by opening the fingers of the line hand while the finger and thumb still hold the line for hauling.   A back cast is made and hauling commenced, lengthening the line, after about two false casts the final delivery shooting the rest of the line is made.   The line being shot on the final delivery is not allowed to shoot uncontrolled and a circle is maintained between the finger and thumb through which the line runs, the finger and thumb held out to the left slightly and more above the coils than the rod so that the line lifts up cleanly without tangling.     If when retrieving a fish takes and there was some slack line they use what is called an Angel lift to sort it out. The rod is raised and held out to the right and the circle with the thumb and index finger is made, raised and held out to the left.

Explain and demonstrate the casting technique used to cast a heavily weighted fly or sinking-tip line.
  Fast moves and sink tip lines do not go well together, it is necessary to have a steadier slower but progressive rod loading with slightly increased power application and a more open loop.   It may be necessary to make preliminary roll cast and also to hand line in some line starting off with a shorter more manageable line to make the cast and then shooting the rest that is required for the fishing presentation or distance used on the final delivery. With a heavily weighted fly the fly must not crash into the rod blank or hit the angler, as well as slower more open loop more power the angler may also tilt the rod further over to the side to keep the fly away from his person and hopefully the rod blank. A more open loop will prevent the fly from hitting the rod.  

Explain and demonstrate "change of direction casts". (i.e. from a downstream position to an upstream position).

  Change of direction casts are made with both overhead casts and spey / roll casts, and combination casts using line placing moves then a final delivery or cast.   On a small change of direction – up to 30 degrees – the change is made by moving the rod in line with the new casting direction before making the cast and it is then moved in a 180 degree plane in the new direction of the cast, that is including the initial back casting stroke. There is no attempt to curve the line on the cast or to change rod planes from back to forward cast, this will work with an angle change of up to 30 degrees, to make a larger angle change then two consecutive casts may be made each one taking up some of the angle change and none attempted at more than 30 degrees.   Occasionally a little sack line may be created by moving the rod tip into the new plane, it is then very important that a normal cast is not made, initially a slower steadier move is made to take up the little bit of slack first and then progressive acceleration at a slightly faster rate than normal is applied.

Explain and demonstrate casting with a strong head wind, tail wind and wind from either side.
Strong Head Wind – see answer 23 above

Wind from the right side for a right handed caster– see answer 24 above

Wind from the left side for a right handed caster (or from right side for left handed caster)  – no alteration is necessary for a light wind the arc may be tilted forward slightly so that the fly turns over just an inch above the water surface or on the surface so that the wind cannot blows it sideways after turning over. If it turned over higher and was dropping the wind could carry it sideways. In a stronger side wind from the left some alteration in the direction of the cast may be necessary to allow for the wind blowing the line across to the right as the loop rolls out.