First, let’s define what a tailing loop is. I’m sure many, if not all, have heard the term “wind knot”. This term leads many to believe that the tangle or knot in the end of a leader or line is caused by the wind. The wind has little to do with a nasty tangle during a cast. Actually it is caused by something that is within our control, unlike the wind. In fly casting the correct term for the cause of the tangle or knot is called a tailing loop. A tailing loop is a casting fault that causes many headaches, four letter expletives and other problems. If these bad casting knots go unnoticed it may be the cause of a lost fish as they reduce the strength of the line or tippet by as much as fifty percent. Depending on where the knot is can be crucial. If that knot is in your 5X or 6X tippet section, you may be in trouble with that next hard pull on your line.
How do you know you are headed for trouble when you are making a cast? Is it when you see that big fat loop unroll? No, it may be that is what you wanted! Is it when you see the fly leg of the loop falling below the rod leg of the loop? No, that is what is called a dragging loop, caused by improper timing or gravity and is not a casting fault. When you see a wave or dip in the fly leg of the unrolling loop, a light bulb should go on, because something is not going right with the cast. If you see that wave or dip in the fly leg drop below the rod leg of the loop, better get out your bifocals and nippers because a nasty knot is most likely on the way to be untangled.
Now that we can identify what a tailing loop looks like and that it doesn’t help our casting, what do we do about it? Well, we need to get rid of that wave or dip and straighten the fly leg of the loop. In order to do that, we need to know what caused it and how to correct it. Do you still believe the wind did it or the line or maybe even the rod? It’s no on all counts! Believe it or not and strange but true it is caused by the hand that holds the rod. Now we can’t blame the hand entirely because there is another entity that controls the hand and guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint, it is a three-letter word starting with a “Y” and ending with a “U”! That’s right, it’s you! You control the hand, which controls the rod tip, which controls the line.
There are several actions that the hand can do that causes a tailing loop but the most common is the abrupt or uneven application of power or acceleration of the rod tip. The cast should start slowly and accelerate smoothly ending with an abrupt stop but when there is a punch or spike in the acceleration during the casting stroke it causes the rod tip to dip down and up creating wave in the fly leg resulting in a tailing loop. To correct this we need to remember that our hand needs to accelerate the rod tip smoothly in order to maintain a straight-line path of the rod tip. As we all know, the line follows the rod tip, so if the rod tip is going straight so will the line and the wave or dip is eliminated. Voila! No more tangles or knots. As mentioned earlier there are other causes of tailing loops that can be discussed later on, but that is enough for this article.