Site logo


e mail:

M: 00353 (0) 860536833

Robert Gillespie
castlebar Road
Ireland F26 RR22

Delphi Lodge Fly Fishing School

Overhead and Spey casting techniques with both single and double handed fly rods.

The progressive nature of rod loading is the axiom upon which all fly casting technique must be built - Peter Anderson

Spey, Shooting head, Skagit.

Pat O'Toole, Myself, Gunther Feuerstein.

Forearm determines plane with both single and double handed rods.

Exercises for control

A fresh Spring Salmon, the ultimate prize for the fly angler. Fish like the one above are stunning to behold.





Fly Casting Matters

The phrase 'fly casting matters' essentially has two meanings. Any specific aspect of fly casting technique or tackle, is an individual fly casting matter.

As an overall or an all encompassing phrase, good fly casting technique and ability really matters for fly fishing most effectively, and for the better enjoyment of fly fishing.

A fly rod and fly line are in effect a vehicle with which you will transport the fly to the fish, just as a car is a vehicle which will transport you somewhere provided you are able to control and drive it. If you can't drive at all, or are yet unable to drive properly, a vehicle is not as much use to you personally as it could be. Nor would you be able to discern properly the differences between a good vehicle, and a poorer vehicle. Personal control over driving ability is a necessary pre requisite for that discernment and to have the best use from a vehicle. So it is also with fly casting.

Fly casting is a very subtle and generally a counter intuitive skill. Its not easy to learn to do it right but it is easy when you can. I do not teach people anything I thought up myself. I personally traveled and was formally trained in various fly casting techniques from various World class fly casting mentors when I was younger.

Many of the formal training techniques and practices for effective fly casting and line control that I learned from others, and the logic behind their use are what I teach. For instance the incline exercise progression, or the half lift exercise.

Loop Morphology

There are many different things that matter in fly casting, and it is also always a combination of compound movements in applying and directing leverage, and the effect of those compound movements on the rod and line, therefore the properties of the rod and line must first be understood.

It all relates to directing the line through controlling
loop morphology - loop shape and loop formation. Most importantly to achieve control over this with efficiency, with economy of effort.

Economy of effort or efficiency only comes from correct technique like for instance through using the right type of leverage and a balancing of the stroke so that the main power application occurs in our comfort zone - bio mechanically speaking.

It is very important to always note that any person may be completely unqualified by any certifying body, and be a truly world class fly caster and world class fly casting Instructor.

I was practicing and teaching Scottish style fly casting techniques in single and double hand fly casting 18 years before taking any examination certificate anywhere. I was the same caster overall before I obtained five casting certifications within one year as I was afterwards. Naturally, specifically practiced for the various examination tasks on the syllabai.

Excluding E.F.F.A. examinations, most qualifications will not compare to the lifetime of experience I had working as a Ghillie and fly casting Instructor on a large river with both single and double handed rods. Nor also especially to the formal training in a casting style I received long ago from Scotland's Peter Anderson when he was in his prime, and from the long term practice of the exercises involved in that teaching. From importing knowledge since then from others too, from those that truly knew their subject intimately from long experience, and in more modern times from some competition casters.

I am currently an
GAIA APGAI qualified Game Angling Instructor in both 'Trout and Sea Trout' and 'Salmon' disciplines. The qualifications covering advanced level single and double-handed fly rod use. Those that examined me in the GAIA organisation were officially accredited to do so.

Extremely honoured to be the double handed Mentor for the Italian S.N.L.
Proud to be involved with and able to help Europeans develop their own credible certifications.

I was the first person ever to pass all three FFF examinations at the one testing event at Roscoe, New York State in November 2004, I also passed three other certifications in Ireland at one event also.

However, after recruitment and when a fully qualified member, an introduced, enforced and eventually maintained policy of false claims use causing known direct conflict with cultural and lifestyle requirements then disenfranchised me from membership of both the Irish and American organisations.

Accepting introduced, unwanted, inappropriate, eventually forcibly imposed and maintained false claims use about FFF examination record upon myself and others as a legitimate, uncompromising and credible practice became a known required demand by them both. This requirement arising insidiously long after recruitment and qualification under different supposed and purported conditions of membership.

One certainly knows that examination attempts were not successful when one is present at the events when multiple unsuccessful attempts occurred, sometimes there as an official observer of those examinations. They all know too, and at all times were, and indeed still are, in possession of their official or personal factual examination records.

No person or group can ever legitimately introduce, require or demand acceptance of the known use of falsehood after notification and complaint, nor different and inferior treatment for another. Such practice does not represent any Professional, National, or International standard. Nor did the bullying and extensive prolonged cyber bullying involved.

No committee anywhere can legitimately accept known imposed falsehood use causing different and inferior treatment for another person, or any of their recruited members. Nor legitimately remove the right of any person or member to be free from known and demonstrable false claims use, or known different and inferior treatment.

A so called FFF ethics committee actually issued punishment upon a member for the rejection of forcibly imposed false claims use about their examinations as normal, credible, suitable or legitimate practice. Doing so while in full knowledge and possession of their factual examination record, of prior notification and complaint by that member, a guarantee then given by their Chair, copy of the twice printed false claims, and full knowledge of the cultural issue conflict involved, full knowledge of their supposed ethics code introductory principles.

Those ever accepting this type of practice for any other person as any type of normal, legitimate, uncompromising or credible behaviour, do so extremely disingenuously, unconstitutionally and unethically, and via a blatant disregard for normal standards in civilised society, or any normal and proper grievance procedures. Maintained falsehood use after notification and complaint absolutely compromises those using it, those maintaining it, those condoning it, and all inherent duty of care requirements of any recruiting body, period.

The so called Apgai-Ireland organisation does not in any way whatsoever cater to me as an Irish person, regardless of whatever pretence or false constitutional claims they may make to do so. From my horrendous personal experiences as a fully qualified member, I consider them to be entirely unfit for purpose.

The FFF / so called IFFF / FFI do not cater to me as a European or Irish citizen. From my experience of membership I consider them an unfit organisation for European society, standards and values.

The Casting often is the Fishing

For me,
as fly casting is the practical means through which we present the fly or flies, and a fly rod and line are the tools and in effect the vehicle used to deliver the fly, then it really is absolutely of the most significant importance in Game Angling and fly fishing to be able to use the rod and line effectively and efficiently, and to be able to fly cast well.

Apart from the necessity and the practical fishing benefits, there's also really a great deal of satisfaction to be had from achieving fine tuned control of fly casting.

I have often said to people very seriously that in fact ...
"the casting is the fishing."... Having Ghillied part or full time for thirty years I have a fairly qualified opinion on that statement. I'm unconcerned too with what some others say about casting ability not being important for fishing. Long practical experience has made it very, very clear to me just how important it is.

I've seen casting ability, or indeed a lack of it, make all the difference many, many times. Its an indisputable asset to be able to cast well in wild fish Game angling. I've often witnessed good, and indeed on occasion truly great, wild fishing opportunities occurring due to natural events and conditions combining to produce very special circumstances, circumstances then quite unable to be capitalised upon properly by some due to poor casting ability, and due to the serious problems it created for achieving an effective presentation. At such times also I've seen a few people really able to shine and enjoy the full benefit of the opportunity offered by nature due to their fine tuned casting skills.

In the beginning its most important to be able to function with a fly rod on the river, Lough / Loch, lake, pond, estuary or sea no matter the bank we are on, the wind direction or strength, the current, or if wading deep, from a boat, single or double-handed rod, whatever. We must first learn how to function consistently and effectively for practical fishing purposes. Its a process, once one gets started correctly with a proper basic technique, through practice and experience skill will develop.

Exercise Repetition, a Philosophy and Methodology of teaching fly casting.

Exercise repetition

One of the real benefits of using a practical repedative exercise system is that there is less time until the technique has to be used again than on real casts, therefore re practice of the technique and any adjustment for correction is very immediate as multiple uses of a technique are made in a shorter time. Therefore for a given practice period more repetitions of the particular element focussed upon by the exercise occur.

The style of casting I learned at various courses is mainly taught through an exercise system. It is also an old school, long term learning, system, no quick fix outside of exercise repetition over time was on offer, or indeed expected.

The only and best short cut is practice of the exercises, and of course learning them and the casting from someone who already knows them, and this style well. The
targeted exercises are repeated until perfection of form and fluency with them refines the basic foundational techniques.

For Instance once a technically correct D loop forming move is learned, it is a common element on the set up phase of all Spey casts.
The improvement from correctly using micro wrist in the tip casting exercise for single handed overhead casting is invaluable and will be carried over to and incorporated into all your overhead casting afterwards.

Even when experienced, the exercises are still often practiced to maintain absolute fluency with the foundations, upon which the rest of fly casting technique is built.

The discipline required in performing the counter intuitive exercises ultimately creates personal control of ones compound movements in applying leverage and stroke, and importantly the freedom in choice in determining ones compound movements to maintain control over things like making and directing a smooth acceleration. They ensure one is no longer a slave to any motor function or a habit, both of which are changed. They help create the ability to execute important counter intuitive actions.

As Aristotle once correctly stated,
"through discipline comes freedom."

The formal training methodology might sound a bit harsh, but in fact it is interesting and very rewarding. Interesting because one discovers the fundamental principles of how a fly rod works and correctly using it's inherent properties. Rewarding because it is a revelation how beneficial it is to apply those techniques and the properties of the rod in practical fishing casting for economy of effort.

Even some of the exercises are such a joy to master themselves and to practice, particularly the incline exercise progression for Spey casting techniques, and also tip casting with a single hand rod. They are addictive exercises to practice once a feel for them is gained. Theres such a buzz and an invaluable improvement from practicing and mastering exercises for their own sake too.

The incline exercises really ensure the ability of the person to become bottom hand dominant in double handed rod power application, and also to attain mastery of off side casting (rather than reverse or 'cack handed' casting).

One often does hear the really very mistaken generalisation made by some Scandinavian style casters who perhaps don't also long line Spey cast, that traditional Scottish Spey casting is a top hand dominant technique. It gets a bit tiresome hearing that unqualified generalisation repeated. It is not so with most competent Spey casters I have met. I learned from more than one notable in Scotland, none of them were top hand dominant in power application when they used a long stroke. One can easily combine a long stroke with bottom hand dominant power application, due to applying first class leverage. That is exactly what I was taught there from the beginning.

Exercises are not casts, but when the fluency of technique attained form them is incorporated into casting technique later they make a profound difference.

Learning this way focuses not only on being able to function well in real world practical fly casting situations, which is of course of primary importance, (thus line height management behind is always an issue), but also on continuing to develop further on a solid foundation built in correct technique. The foundation is placed in order to function first, but with the ultimate aim of achieving the efficiency, economy of effort and understanding that enables advanced fly casting.

After first learning how to function with a degree of consistency, there may then also appear onto some another step to be taken. One entailing gaining fine control over loop shape and loop morphology.
Truly efficient fly casting technique may indeed become a most graceful art form, just as Norman Maclean's Father noted and understood. A step further again than functional fly casting may be taken, a step further from a deeper understanding through experience and practice, primarily from realising how not to interfere with the excellence of the rod. How to allow the rod and line to release their own inherent properties and attributes for you.

When the clear, simplicity and logic of precise technique and its benefits really becomes perceived, appreciated and used it is a most beautiful thing indeed, both to see and to practice. Most especially how relaxed precision in applying and carefully directing, smooth compound movements for leverage, the effects of doing that and just how interconnected and interdependent everything is really perceived, felt and understood. How one thing leads on to another and compliments another.

Ultimately it is not just about getting a line out but actually just exactly how you do that in utilising the properties of the rod efficiently, ergonomically, and in regard to loop morphology (loop formation and shape). All these aspects becoming supremely important and controlled from experience and understanding.

 photo DHPic2Ukraine_zps0b14fadb.jpg
Long stroke Fulcrum style final delivery in a casting Competition, Ukraine. Combined left and right Single Spey casts, 45 degree angle change.
......."The progressive nature of rod loading is the axiom upon which all fly casting technique must be built."....... Peter Anderson.
......."Lead before speed"....... Peter Anderson.

In terms of control I consider Goran Andersson's
original Underhand casting style an absolute art form as he practiced it, and something well worth learning, and learning well.

Long stroke Spey casting with long belly lines is of course a different discipline and for me the highest and most demanding skill of all, most especially if done with the bottom hand and body dominant in power application. It is also the most rewarding.

I find the bell curve analogy a good test or measure of control. Can one go from one extreme to the other? Can one cast say a double-handed rod and medium to long belly Spey line well with, as far as possible, a top hand dominated power application during the stroke? then also cast the same outfit with as far as possible a bottom hand dominated power application during the stroke? Only then you will be able to have a qualified opinion about the differences, but really only then.

Sometimes I have said to people to cast in such and such a way and they have not been able to do it, yet they were expressing an opinion about what they in fact could not actually physically do themselves just beforehand. Such is life. In Karate an obvious belt designated your real level of ability, yellow belts didn't tell brown or black belts with stripes on them what they considered about the finer points of some advanced technique. They kept quiet until and unless they were able to do it well themselves. Can one isolate and separate things in the one arm? like separating making an acceleration from excessive power application? Maintain a fast, true acceleration but remove most of the power, or any sudden jar or thump?

A fly rod is so easy to mis use.

Owing to circumstances beyond my control, it became necessary for me to resign as a fully qualified member from two certifying organisations due to their, in my experience, disenfranchising modi operandi. The Apgai-Ireland organisation and the FFF / IFFF.

I understand what does not constitute proper or acceptable standards of stewardship for either myself or my students.

I have very strongly held views on the standards of how all others should, and indeed must, be treated. Most especially I believe these standards should be maintained by any group, body or organisation taking upon themselves any mantle of responsibility whatsoever concerning the stewardship and well-being of others.

Counter Intuitive
To cast well or efficiently with a fly rod is generally counter intuitive as John Maclean well noted. It is very much an acquired skill. Its one that I consider needs to be built upon correct foundations.

Although we start to fly cast simply to fish, we may also find that to cast well, or to improve our casting ability, becomes somewhat of an interest in itself. We may find that achieving greater control, through better understanding of technique from experience, is a very rewarding and satisfying development. It also greatly enhances our fly fishing capability and the enjoyment of fly fishing. In fact the art of fly casting while fishing, or indeed for its own sake without fishing, becomes extremely enjoyable.

Gaining more control over fly casting technique is a little like building a jigsaw puzzle. Once some basic parts are in place and are fine tuned to the point that they do not have to be thought about any more, so we can concentrate on getting another aspect correct. It then is eventually fully controlled, then another aspect is concentrated upon, and so on. We find that with focused changes, things may become much better or more efficient for us. Greater and more relaxed control is acquired.

Sometimes new techniques or variations on the theme are tried and either incorporated or rejected depending on the outcome. A learning curve is followed, an interesting and rewarding learning curve which may often involve importing tips and information from others, or sharing tips and information with others.

Personally although I had fly cast from eight years old in Ireland, I travelled to become formally trained in fly casting at various courses in Scotland and England and to import knowledge from those that had recognised ability.
To the uninitiated fly casting looks easy, its only when a person picks up a fly rod, either a single or double handed rod and tries to use one that they will realise how counter intuitive it actually is. It is an acquired skill, just like Guinness is an acquired taste. Now I don't like Guinness personally but I do love fly casting.

Most people have seen the film “A River Runs Through It.” In the book by Norman Maclean, the Maclean boys' father, (John Norman Maclean), believed that anybody who did not know how to fish (fly cast), should not be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching it.

He also considered that someone picking up a fly rod who never used one before proved factually and theologically that man by nature was a damned mess, that he had fallen from a state of grace, and only by picking up God's rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty. That all good things come by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy.

Now personally I do admire that 'old school' thinking and approach to things. Game fishing for wild brown trout and Atlantic salmon with a fly rod practically demands this type of respect most of the time. That is in fact the attraction with Game fishing and fly casting. If it was easy it would lose a considerable part of its appeal. In fly casting especially for me there is the necessary requirement of self discipline for gaining control.

Essential Fly Casting Elements

Though I had fly cast from an early age, I was retaught in an uncompromising fashion (thankfully), by Peter Anderson when about 25 years old.

Some essential elements were prioritised as foundational and for fine tuning It was ensured that they were correctly practiced and carried through all of technique. He had a complete and very logical system of fly casting based on exploiting the rods inherent properties and simple, logical physics. Both single and double handed rods share the same inherent properties.

Channeling all the energy and line momentum as much as possible in the one overall direction. Mainly position change merging into a mainly angle change to a stop. The acceleration at the end of the stroke by rod tip speed keeping the line moving in that same overall direction. Using the straight line incline. Specifically not letting the rod tip drop down behind during the power application phase on the back cast, or on Spey cast D loop forming rod tip path. Keeping in plane throughout the casting stroke.

One element for instance always making a true acceleration on the forward cast being one of the most important techniques to master. Anyone casting into a wind will soon realise the importance of this technique and any shortcoming in the practice of it. Evident sometimes too when people attempt a roll or Spey cast forward cast.

A mainly position change initial movement into a mainly angle change movement to a stop on the back or forward casting stroke as a foundational stroke is important. Simple to say but keeping the very controlled small wrist movement angle change to the end with a single hand rod seems to defeat a lot of people. Moving the single hand rod with a maintained locked arm wrist angle at the start also seems to be troublesome for some initially.

Other aspects I have appreciated more over time and with experience like the type of leverage applied where and when, like his statement that "the progressive nature of rod loading is the axiom upon which all fly casting technique must be built."

Or, connected to the acceleration, "lead before speed" which is about ensuring an acceleration on the forward casting stroke and pre load of the rod using a main position change of the rod before the main controlled angle change of the rod to a stop.

This formal training and complete casting system I received directly from Peter Anderson, on the Spey and in Ireland, is mainly what I now teach others.
Personally I believe in giving myself the very best chance in the generally uncompromising sport of game angling through letting the fish see the fly with the right presentation first time. This means gaining full control over what happens with the rod and line, including fly turnover. I don't want an Atlantic salmon for instance to see my fly at all unless its seeing it with the right presentation the first time it sees it, (depth, fly water speed, and angle of presentation for the water speed). I don't want the initial novelty factor of the appearance and presence of the fly wasted through an incorrect presentation from a poorly made cast, or from any lack of line control. I don't want to alert any trout or salmon that there's obviously a fly line crashing around before they notice the fly.


Adverse winds are really the great test of whether a person truly has control over their fly casting technique for fishing purposes or not. In the West of Ireland the mountains often channel the winds coming in from the Atlantic. So many times I witness people unable to deal with wind on the river through poor fly casting technique, particularly with their forward cast. Some salmon anglers are unable to change uppermost hand on a double handed rod to cast on their off side when wind suits that requirement. Or with a single handed rod, to then use the other hand on the rod to cast, or use the high back hand power hauling technique with their normal rod hand on their off side (a most useful single hand cast for that circumstance).

That is in fact the deeper attraction of fly fishing for some, the real challenge it presents even to get a fly out there consistently in the first place and the line management control afterwards to fish the fly or retrieve the line, the long term learning involved. If it was too easy, then it would not have the same appeal. Good fly casting is a very subtle art form indeed.