The Problem With Slack

2014 Texas Conclave Picture

Looking up “slack” in the dictionary you will find the definition of something that is not taut or tight. The control of slack in fly casting is very important. How you control slack depends on what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to make an efficient cast with good loops or trying to cast a dry fly for a good drift.


An essential in making a good cast is to keep slack to a minimum.  But you may say, “slack is needed for a drag free drift”.  This is true, and we do have slack line casts and mends, but that type of slack should be evident after the cast.  The slack that hinders a good cast appears before or during the cast.


Slack exists anytime we start the rod tip moving and the end of the fly line does not move simultaneously.  An example of this type of slack would be when you start your casting stroke with the rod tip near the water with a lot of loose line on the water. Another example would be when starting your cast with the rod tip too far above the water with the fly line bellying down from the rod tip.  In these cases much of the casting stroke is used up just to get the end of the fly line moving. A cast that starts with slack and no line tension is set up to fail.


A good tip is to always start your cast with a straight line and the rod tip near the surface of the water and end your cast at or near the surface of the water.  If you see slack in your line before your pickup, strip in the line until it is straight. Another place where slack can exist is between your line hand and the first stripping guide.  If when making a cast there is a wide separation between your line hand and rod hand, slack may show up resulting in poor rod loading due to the line and rod sliding relative to each other.  It is a good practice to keep your rod and line hands near each other during the forward and back casts to eliminate slack and maintain fly line tension.


Shooting line before the rod hand stops on either the forward or back casts can generate slack through line slippage and loss of line tension.  The loss of line tension allows the rod to unload, reducing the stored energy in the rod and a poor cast.  Train your line hand to release the line a microsecond after the stop of the rod hand.


Slack can also be present if your timing is off when going from a back cast to a forward cast.  If the back cast is not nearly straight when you start forward you will have slack in the fly line. Remember our mantra, long line/long stroke/long pause; short line /short stroke/short pause.


In an efficient cast, slack must be minimized or eliminated from the beginning to the end of the cast.


Tight, taut and straight lines to all.




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