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Adventure, Fish / July 17, 2016

Cast better with S.N.A.P.P.

Written by: Eric Jackson

He rose right there in front of you, 20 feet from the bank. The water is just murky enough that you are sure he hasn’t seen you. The gold flash told you he is a brown trout and looks like a nice sized one. Wisely you pull line off the reel and position yourself in a spot to make a solid presentation. You will likely get one shot at this fish.

You begin your back cast and keep your eyes on the spot from which he rose. The cast and false casts feel “off,” but you have fished for years so it is no biggie—20 feet is nothing. Two false casts and the next one will lay down right where I you think…. then PLOP!! You drop a wad of line in the water and the rod tip splashes down with it. That gold flash heading south is the fish you wanted so bad.


You blew it. You need to practice your cast.

But how do you practice? What do you practice? How do practice with good form? How do you even know how to recognize good form? All of these are absolutely valid and important questions. They deserve equally valid answers.

We all like to have expensive rods, reels, and of course the right guide, but casting lessons are normally forgotten. That’s a shame, because lessons are probably the best use of your fishing budget. Fly casting lessons are best given by an instructor with a certification from the IFFF, International Federation of Flyfishers. They have multitudes of instructors in their ranks who are ready and happy to give you a lesson.

A good instructor will teach you first how to cast a good “loop”: the u-shaped section of line that is at the end of your rod during every forward or back cast. A good loop, tight and with correct line speed, is the foundation for every cast you will ever perform.


The essence of the fly cast contains five essential aspects that are the core of a good cast with a fly rod.

  1. The rod tip must follow a straight line path.
  2. Slack line should be kept to a minimum.
  3. Casting stroke is increased with the length of line being cast.
  4. There is a pause at the end of each stroke, which varies in duration with the amount of line beyond the rod tip.
  5. Power must be applied in the proper amount and in the proper place during the stroke.

Those five form an easy to remember acronym, S.N.A.P.P., that can help you remember and incorporate these to your casting.


“S.N.A.P.P — Straight, No Slack, Arc, Pause, Power   ”

Begin with a basic pick up and lay down cast—there should be no slack in the line before you begin the back cast motion. This will allow for an efficient transfer of power through the rod tip to the line. The line should extend straight out from the rod tip.

Then, pull and lift the line with your wrist firm but not necessarily locked. This movement will incorporate your acceleration to a stop. Your hand should move in a straight path during this acceleration—the path your hand takes is the path the rod tip will take.

Load the rod for reach cast. Force the rod to flex, storing energy that is transferred to the line with the stop. At the end of this hand movement, make a firm stop at a high point so the line goes upward and not toward the ground. This firm stop will allow the rod to unload its energy to the fly line and create a loop.

Next, pause to allow the line to straighten completely. This will provide the forward cast with all the energy to transfer into the rod in that direction. This pause is a very essential part of your cast—without a correct pause your line will fall behind you or you will begin forward too early. Both of these will cause loss of energy in the line.

Make a habit of watching your back cast. Seeing when the line straightens will improve your timing and help create a good technique. A good back cast helps create a good forward cast.

Practice should always have a direct purpose. Aimless practice can easily add bad habits to your cast. A bad habit learned and practiced can be difficult to overcome, which why I recommend starting with lessons.

Proper practice will quickly build confidence in the basic pick up and lay down cast, so you are confident when you walk up to the water with the desire to get the fly to the fish on the first cast.

Have questions for our writer? Email them to [email protected]

about the author

Eric Jackson

From the time a nine pound catfish nearly pulled three-year-old Eric Jackson in the water to the time he waded the flats of the Texas coast for redfish, all of these experiences have led Eric to share and guide others in fishing.

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