Fly Fishing Traditions

Fly Fishing Traditions Blog and Website
"It's about Life & Fly Fishing"

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Casting Grip

When starting to learn to fly cast the first cast that is taught is an overhead cast, we all try to move the flyline back and forth along a straight path as effortlessly as possible. But before you start casting you’ve got to pick up a fly rod and hold it. How do we hold it? Holding a fly rod in your hand is referred to as the “Grip”. So we should be asking, how do we grip it. As we develop our own casting style it will have a lot do with how we stand and hold the rod and which grip we use.

Why do different fly fishers grip the rod differently? Why have different grips developed over time? One obvious reason is that hand sizes vary, but beyond that, more advanced anglers change their grips in order for their fly rod to perform different tasks. For example, someone who fishes mostly small streams with short, delicate casts is likely to prefer a grip that enhances sensitivity and increased feel of the rod tip. Yet a fly fisher who fishes heavy rods and lines might look for a grip that provides the strength to force a bend into a stiff rod.

When deciding on what grip works best for you there is a decision to be made between sensitivity and strength. The comfort of a grip is also important, but seems to care of itself, people seldom continue to cast with a grip that feels uncomfortable.

Thumb on Top Grip

The Thumb on Top Grip is recommended for beginning students because it provides the best balance of strength and sensitivity throughout a broad range of casting distances. It is the one that I use all the time and typically recommend.

The thumb on top grip is very similar to how you would grip a screw driver.

What happens when you cast with a thumb on top grip? When starting the cast with the tip pointed at the water or the ground when practicing, a thumb-on top grip will typically be rotated upward during the back cast to provide thumb support behind the forward cast.  A word of caution, you need to be careful of not getting “wristy” with this grip.

Some people however turn their hands outward during the back cast and may make the forward cast with the reel out to the side.  This further complicates the notion of this grip, because the hand position during the cast is then different from the one taught to start the movements. Thus, those who rotate their hands outward may grasp the rod with the thumb on top, but make the forward cast with the thumb off to the side.  This would be considered to be a variation once you start the forward cast. Not all bad, just a variation.

Some people like to use the thumb as a directional guide on the forward cast. This is where the expression “point your thumb towards your target” comes from.

The Extended Fore Finger Grip

Another grip that sometimes is useful is the Extended Fore Finger grip. For example, if a caster is applying excessive force, changing to the Extended Fore Finger Grip will work for a more sensitive feel of the rod.

Although extending the forefinger is generally regarded in casting literature as a weak grip, some very well known casters use versions of it to throw impressively long casts with trout-weight rods.  Yet most of these casters, if not all, switch to a stronger grip when using heavier, stiffer rods.  Advocates of the extended-forefinger grip claim another advantage, that of eliminating excessive ‘wristiness’ in students.

The Extended Fore Finger Grip is not as robust or comfortable as the thumb on top grip. The Extended Finger on top is often used by many fly fishers when using lighter equipment on small streams and rivers. The proponents of this grip feel that it provides them with a better pivot point for accurate presentations.

The V Grip or Palm Out Grip

The V grip entails placing the thumb to the side of the rod handle. As a result the handle dissects the space between the thumb and the index finger. It is said by some expert fly casters that this grip provides “the most complete overall level of control.

There is some disagreement as to which is the strongest grip.  One grip may bring stronger muscles into play, whereas another provides more rigid support from the hand.

What Kind of Pressure with the Grip

Some people cast with variations of these distinctive grips.  Yet with any grip, it is possible to hold the rod too tightly.  One guideline for checking this is to think of holding the rod as if holding a bird in the hand, tightly enough to keep it from escaping, but not so tight as to squeeze it.


Try these three grips and see what feel right for you. Get out on the lawn and practice and then you should be able to make the best choice.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this up. I found it very helpful!


Have any Questions or Comments? Let me know, Clay.