6 Step Fly Casting Drill

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6 Step Casting Drill

It is very important for you to feel the rhythm of the cast, the flex of the rod, and see the impact of your arm and hand on the rod’s actions as quickly as possible. This drill has helped others learn “the knack” of seeing and feeling the fly cast almost immediately. This is drill is valid for the beginner as well as the more practiced angler.

Introductory Points

The Grip

Not surprisingly, gripping the fly rod is similar to gripping a golf club. Most skilled casters place the thumb of the rod hand on top of the rod with the index finger immediately below the thumb under the grip. The remaining fingers simply grasp the rod, securing it in the palm of the hand. The thumb and index finger control the rod; the remaining fingers are relegated to a supporting role.

The Wrist

Little doubt that you use the wrist in making the cast. But having said this, be warned that the movement of the wrist must be tightly controlled. To illustrate what the wrist does and when it does it, do this: take a pencil and hold it in the rod hand as if it were the slender grip of a fly rod. Point the forearm and wrist away from the body in a straight line. The top line of the forearm is at the same height as the thumb, forming a straight line with the wrist. This is called the wrist’s DE-COCKED position.

Now, without moving the forearm, flex the wrist raising the pencil about 10°. The thumb is now angled slightly above the line of the forearm. This is called the wrist’s COCKED position. Now, hinge and move the wrist between the de-cocked & cocked positions, and hold this thought—the movement between the two positions must be tightly controlled. There can be no sloppy flapping side-to-side, flopping up and down, or any other wiggle of the wrist! Failure to heed this warning will result in a poor cast!


To begin educating your wrist, here’s a new word—FLICKSTOP! Think FLICKSTOP when “flicking” between the de-cocked and cocked position. FLICKSTOP is a controlled “flick” of the wrist followed by the immediate and abrupt halt to all movement. The two movements, the flick and the stop constitute the power stroke of the fly cast. To understand the dynamics of the “flick and stop,” think about these examples of other flicks most of us are familiar with:

 The flick of the wrist when launching a Frisbee.

 The flick of the wrist when popping a towel.

 The flick of the wrist when tossing a dart.

The ability to associate with one or more of these examples of flicking the wrist, helps in understanding two very important points:

(1) how little distance the “flick” physically travels, and

(2) the micro-second in time it takes for the “flick” to cover that distance. The “flick” is short and very, very quick!

One last point of amplification—with fly rod in hand, flick the wrist between the cocked and de-cocked positions. Watch the rod’s tip. Note that it takes very little wrist action in the “flick” to move the rod tip several feet. If the “flick” of the wrist moves the tip three feet or more, that is too much. Try again.

The Stance

The proper stance for fly casting is relaxed and open. Face the target at an angle—about 45°—with the open side favoring the rod hand and arm. If you are right handed, this means the right side is angled to the rear with the left foot advanced, loosely in line with the target. For those of you who cast with your left hand, reverse the setup: right foot advanced and parallel to the target line, left foot to the rear and angled about 45° to the side.

The stance, like the grip, has a relationship to golf, especially in the hips and legs—so be certain the knees are bent slightly and the hips swivel on command. A stiff position that prevents the body from being freely in motion will ruin any chance of making the cast. Being well balanced is important. The feet should be a comfortable distance apart enabling a weight shift as the rhythm of the cast demands. Here is a very important point: a long cast requires the use of the entire body, to include shifting weight and turning, just as striking a long iron on the golf course or driving a baseball into deep left field. Short casts, on the other hand, require little more than the motion of the hand and forearm. In other words, the longer the cast, the more the body comes into play to help make the cast. For now however, that distance is short. Begin all casts with the rod tip low, close to, or barely touching, the water. This means low! If your tip is pointing toward 8, 9 or 10 o’clock, you are wrong! Learn now to PUT THE ROD TIP DOWN!

The Drill

Step 1

With rod assembled, strip out about 15 to 20 feet of line from the rod tip. Then grip the rod, just as you would in preparing to cast. Trap the fly line running between the reel and stripper guide by placing it beneath the second or third finger of the rod hand. This freezes the line allowing focused attention on the DRILL. For now, the other hand plays no role.

Step 2

Position the rod to the front or side, elbow close to the body, with the rod hand turned palm up so that the fingers can be seen, but not the thumbnail. The tip of the rod should be angled upward slightly to about eye level. Being relaxed and comfortable is important.

Step 3

Now, put the rod into motion using the forearm to move it swiftly back and forth from left to right. Use enough speed to aerialize the line so that it smoothly follows the rod’s motions. Concentrate! Watch the rod tip! Use peripheral vision to observe the fly line. As the rod moves from side to side, observe how the rod tip bends, and then straightens when stopped. Forcing the tip to bend is called “loading the rod.” Loading the rod gathers and stores the energy that will be released when the rod’s motion is abruptly stopped. The tip springs forward releasing the stored energy, in turn, launching the line. This process is otherwise known as making the cast.

Step 4

Now, add to the slower rhythmic movement of the arm by “flicking” the wrist between the de-cocked and cocked positions at the end of each back and forth movement. Focus on the rod tip and remember—FLICKSTOP! By “flicking” the rod tip, the aerodynamics of the line will change. The FLICK will cause a bigger deflection in the tip and the STOP will instantly release the tip’s energy. It is the tip of the rod that casts the line. If you develop a rhythm to the movement of your forearm complimenting FLICKSTOP, the line that probably had been traveling in a sweeping oval, will now take on the appearance of the fly cast—the line will form a loop—a tight oval—as it flies back and forth. Should you lose your timing or rhythm, stop and begin again.

Step 5

As your confidence grows, gradually extend the amount of line in the air. You will, of course, need to adjust your timing and rhythm as the rod is paused to allow the line to unroll at the end of each stroke. Keep the line in the air. Begin each back and forth motion at the moment the line begins to straighten. Remember—watch the rod’s tip throughout the drill.

Step 6

Practice the DRILL until it becomes second nature. Why? For three reasons: First, the DRILL is a “miniature” fly cast. To complete the cast, merely FLICKSTOP the rod and, as the line unrolls and settles to the ground, follow through by dropping the rod tip toward the ground. Second, by extending the amount of line in the air, the distance of the cast is being increased. Third, the sidearm casting motion taught by the CASTING DRILL becomes a necessity when mastering advanced casting techniques. More on this later.

By practicing and mastering the CASTING DRILL, effective and efficient fly casting is not far away. It is, after all, timing and rhythm that make the fly cast. Once the “feeling” of the fly cast becomes etched in your mind, the other fine points of the fundamentals are easy to add beginning with the stance.

Final Thoughts

Thus far we’ve covered the grip, the wrist, the casting drill, and the stance and made other general observations regarding the cast. First, the rod tip is down—that’s always the starting point for making the cast. Next, note the stance. It’s relaxed. The feet are placed comfortably apart for balance, and your weight has already shifted forward as you prepare to make the cast. Also note that your hands are close together. The hands should never become widely separated during the cast.

We’ll continue this in a future blog post with more advanced casting techniques. Until then, get out and enjoy being on the water!

How does Headwaters Bamboo do it?

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The Value of a Headwaters Bamboo Fly Rod

If you’ve ever looked into bamboo fly rods, you’ll know that rods typically sell from about $1,200 to over $4,200! So you may be wondering how Headwaters Bamboo can build and sell a quality bamboo fly rod in the range of $600-$700? Well, here’s the deal:

How can Headwaters Bamboo do this?

Factory-built. Headwaters Bamboo builds high-quality rods in high volume to tight specifications for consistent product and lower cost.

Production vs. Custom Product. Most of our competitors build custom product with very high-end components. We build in production batches with standard-grade components (the same components that are going on a typical quality-built graphite rod–except that we put a classic agate stripping guide on every rod).

Sell direct to you. We don’t have to account for wholesaler or retailer margins. You get the savings.

REVIEW: Fly Fishing New England

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“I don’t know what makes a good bamboo fly rod. But I do know a good fly rod when I cast it. This is a great fly rod.”

-John Katsigianis

To read the entire review, please click on the attached .pdf of the Fly Fishing New England magazine.

Fly Fishing New England magazine review

Introducing the Clark Fork Classic Fly Reel and LX Silk Fly Line

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Clark Fork Classic Fly Reel

Headwaters Bamboo all about affordable quality classic fly fishing products. The Clark Fork reel is a new addition to the product line up. A classic handmade click and pawl action reel to go right along with your Headwaters bamboo fly rod.

The Clark Fork Series reel is a modern-day shout out to the classic days of fly fishing. Inspired by reels by Edward vom Hofe of the late 1800s, the classic S-handle and black vented side panels present a quality classic fly reel to the modern fly angler.

CF-Double_frontContemporary manufacturing methods and materials allow for consistent weight and precise construction, and the clicker drag system is unparalleled in its simplicity and durability. Machined of 6061 aircraft-grade aluminum billets, this classic trout reel will be the heirloom reel that you’ll pass down to your posterity, after a lifetime of use on rivers and streams.

The Clark Fork requires no adjustment for left or right-side retrieve.  Simply wind your line in the direction needed and you’ll be ready to go. The internal click and pawl action is designed to function ambidextrous.

Price: $198

Click here to shop for the Clark Fork Classic Fly Reel.

Click here to shop for the Classic Outfit – Get the rod, reel, and line at a discount.

Model Diameter Weight Line Weight Capacity
CF25 2.5” 4.2 oz WF3F-4F WF3F + 50 Yds 20# Dacron
CF30 3.0” 5.2 oz WF5F-6F WF5F + 75 Yds 20# Dacron


Headwaters Classic LX Silk Line

Our Classic LX Silk Lines are individually crafted by hand using the finest quality pure Chinese silk. The taper is built by braiding the lines.

Silk-On_boxNatural silk fly lines require a little more care, but the benefits are remarkable. The control and power gained allows for better distances and greater accuracy. The lines are narrower than modern plastic lines allowing for more delicate fly presentation. In addition, you will lift from the water surface quicker and smoother and they are less susceptible to air resistance in windy conditions. Finally, with proper care, silk lines will last longer.

One line, three different line types. With the use of Mulicin as a floatant, you will have a floating line. Leave the tip section ungreased for a sinking tip. Or wipe the line clean of Mucilin for a full sinking line.

This Double Taper line comes with care instructions and a tin of Mucilin.

Price: $98

Click here to shop for the Classic LX Silk Fly Line.

Click here to shop for the Classic Outfit – Get the rod, reel, and line at a discount.

Model Length Flotation Taper Line Weight
LX3 90 feet Floating–add Mucilin. Sinking–no Mucilin. Tip Sink–No Mucilin on tip Double Taper 3-WT
LX4 90 feet Floating–add Mucilin. Sinking–no Mucilin. Tip Sink–No Mucilin on tip Double Taper 4-WT
LX5 90 feet Floating–add Mucilin. Sinking–no Mucilin. Tip Sink–No Mucilin on tip Double Taper 5-WT
LX6 90 feet Floating–add Mucilin. Sinking–no Mucilin. Tip Sink–No Mucilin on tip Double Taper 6-WT


Click here to shop for the Classic Outfit – Get the rod, reel, and line at a discount.

REVIEW: Rackelhanen

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Rackelhanen - Flyfishing Magazine

“I carefully examined the rod under a magnifying glass in sunlight to look for possible weak glued joints in the segmented construction and found none.”

-Dan Fallon

Click here to read the review online.

Flex. Momentum. Power.

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Fish Better? Consider the mechanics of bamboo.

Bamboo’s weight works to a fly fisher’s advantage: the bamboo’s mass propels the line to give the feel of the rod casting itself. At the center of a bamboo rod is a soft, pithy substance that dampens vibration, slowing down and delaying the transmission of useless motion. The hard exterior enamel strengthens the bamboo. These elements combine to give the bamboo rod a smooth, more natural action, with incredible strength and durability.

Every fly angler ought to fish bamboo. Whether you’re hobbled by the prohibitive cost of custom rods or the heirloom sentiment of an antique, a reasonably priced Headwaters rod proves a fishable alternative.

Bamboo inherently has remarkable flex action. This enhanced arc is a loading multiplier that generates amplified momentum, making your casts effortless and buttery smooth. Skip Pritchard of Stone Creek Anglers in Walla Walla, Washington, says:

I love fishing your rods. I use them when I instruct casting and they are great tools to get people to feel loading of the rod and the gentle rhythm that comes with bamboo.

So stand in the water and wave a stick, a superb stick handcrafted of genuine Tonkin cane. Bamboo is a natural, renewable, environmentally responsible material that has amazing physical characteristics. Let the flex and momentum of a Headwaters bamboo rod help you cast better.

The elegance and beauty of bamboo rods.

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The Art of Bamboo

Fly fishing author Arnold Gingrich said,

On the day that Jascha Heifitz plays a plastic violin in the New York Philharmonic I would consider using a rod made of synthetic materials.

World-class music is made on exceptional instruments. An exquisite bamboo rod of six strips of Tonkin cane artfully split and tempered, then meticulously finished, is an instrument of incomparable casting quality with an appearance of fine art. A bamboo rod will literally take your breath away—the craftsmanship is exquisite in its fine detail. You will come to delight in the workmanship and grace of bamboo.

If you’ve longed for bamboo, Headwaters is your welcome home. Our classic bamboo rod tapers have a silky smooth action to delight anglers with a preference for fine crafted rods with a relaxed casting rhythm. Anglers worldwide have discovered the exhilaration of fishing Headwaters bamboo.

Six hand-planed strips of genuine Tonkin cane form a rich texture of functional yet timeless craftsmanship. Quality hardware complements the natural elegance of bamboo.



Casting the Fly  by Winslow Homer


The History of Bamboo

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The History of the Split-Bamboo Rod

From Wood to Bamboo

Early fly fishing rods, prior to the 1830s, were made of wood and were generally in the range of eleven feet long.  It took a great deal of strength and endurance to cast these mighty beasts, especially if a person were doing it repetitively for any length of time.  Not only were these fly rods unwieldy and difficult to manipulate, but the tips were rather breakable and they had a tendency to warp over time.

Rod builders realized that better materials were needed–materials that would be lighter and stronger, as well as more elastic.  They began experimenting with laminated strips of cane that were imported from India, via England.  At first, two strips of cane, split and glued together, were used just for sections of the fly rod.

The Hexagonal Prototype

Other designs were developed–some used three or four strips of cane for a fly rod section. This eventually gave way to the six-strip design and construction of the entire rod from cane sections, rather than a combination of wood and cane. Nobody knows for sure how or why the evolution came about. Some experts theorize that it had to do with the type of cane being used at the time.

The original cane imported for building fly rods was Calcutta cane, a variety that has a pithy interior and a thin outer layer of fibers.  It was susceptible to various boring insects and the standard practice was to scorch it with fire, perhaps to kill insect infestations.  It was easier to obtain six thin strips of undamaged cane, than four wider strips.  In addition, a four-sided rod section had more useless pith in the middle.

It is known that sometime in the mid-1800s, Charles Murphy of New York was constructing entire fly rods with a six-strip design and by the 1870s the hexagonal design had become standard.

Better Bamboo

In the late 1800s a different species of bamboo became available to fly rod builders.  The Charles Demarest Company introduced Tonkin bamboo to the rod building market, where it quickly became the material of choice.  The scientific name for Tonkin bamboo is Arundinaria Amabilis.  It is native to a fairly small area of southeast China and the canes are smooth, clean, straight and thick-walled with non-prominent nodes.

Machining Increases Availability

The business of making cane fly rods was an exceedingly slow one.  Each rod had to be handcrafted from split pieces of bamboo and meticulously glued together to fit into a balanced whole.  It took a gunsmith to elevate rod building into a trade with mass distribution capabilities. Many of those who built fishing rods in the early days were gunsmiths by trade so they were skilled wood workers.

Hiram Leonard developed a machine to manufacture precisely the tapered cane pieces, reducing overall production time substantially.  He was very protective of his machinery and kept it locked up from even his own employees.  However, others developed their own methods and the early years of the twentieth century became the golden age of bamboo fishing rods.

Loss of the Cane Supply

Fishing rods made from synthetic materials might never have been invented but for a trade embargo imposed on Chinese goods, including Tonkin Cane, in 1950.  Only a few manufacturers of bamboo fly rods survived.  Those who continued did so because they bought cane from the companies that folded.

Still, between a shortage of quality bamboo and the development of synthetics, the cane craft nearly died out altogether. The embargo ended in 1971, but by then bamboo fly rods were built only by a handful of manufacturers and a few home craftsmen.

The Resurgence

Moving into the 1980s, fishermen and craftsmen renewed their interest in bamboo fly rods.  A couple of nostalgic books led people to remember their earlier fishing experiences and the craft was reborn.  The classic bamboo fly rod is back and better than ever.  Century-old designs coupled with modern technology for more precise measurements and fittings are an unbeatable combination.