How to Roll Cast: A Comprehensive Guide for Fly Fishers

The roll cast, along with the basic overhead cast is probably one of the best and most useful ways of fly rod casting anglers can learn. In fact, with just an overhead and a roll cast in your arsenal, there aren’t many fly fishing situations you won’t be able to handle.

To master how to roll cast does take a bit of effort though, and of course, a lot of practice. The technique might look simple, and in essence, it is, but there are some key things you need to work on to ensure an accurate presentation of your fly. Here are all my tips on how to make an efficient roll cast every time.

When To Use A Roll Cast

When To Use A Roll Cast

Roll casting is the best form of casting to use when you’re fly fishing in a tight spot with a lot of trees or bushes behind you that don’t allow room for you to make a back cast. This is because when you roll cast, there is no back casting required, as you’re using the surface of the water to load your rod with enough tension to make a forward cast.

If you can develop your roll cast, you’ll have the ability to cast no matter where you are fly fishing, whether it’s on small spring creeks or a river lined with thick bushes and trees.

The Mechanics Of Roll Casting

The key to learning how to roll cast is first understanding how to roll casting works in the bigger picture. While most forms of fly casting rely on a backcast to create enough energy for the fly line to load the fly rod so you can eventually make your forward cast, roll casting doesn’t.

It relies on the tension created between your fly line and the water’s surface to bend your fly rod and fill it with energy so that you can make a forward cast with enough distance to land your fly near your target.

How To Roll Cast a Fly Rod

Step 1 – Positioning

How To Roll Cast Positioning

The first step to getting your roll cast technique right is making sure everything is in the right position from the start. This will ensure you can throw an effective roll cast with a tight loop.

When you begin your roll cast slowly raise your fly rod up and backward so that your rod is in a position in line with your ear/shoulder. You should lift your rod in one motion and finish this motion with your rod tip at around 2 o’clock behind your head. Make sure your rod is slightly angled to the side as this will stop the line from tangling around the rod.

By lifting your rod tip to this position behind you, you will have pulled your fly line across the surface of the water and your flies will have risen to the surface as well. This is what loads your rod so you can make a forward cast.

Step 2 – Watch Your Fly Line

Look At Your Target

While going through the motions of Step 1, your line should end up forming a D loop where your rod is the arm and the line is the loop of the D. If this happens you are setting up your roll casts correctly.

Step 3 – Look At Your Target

The next step of your roll cast is to make sure the line goes the distance and in the direction, you want it to. Whether you’re fishing to a rising trout or want to drop your fly in a riffle behind a boulder, the key is always to look at where you want your line and flies to go.

Step 4 – Pause

One of the best tips I learned about roll casting was the need to pause before making your forward cast. It takes quite a lot of practicing to iron it into your roll cast but it makes a huge difference.

Where should I practice roll casting

Step 5 – Forward Cast

Once you have brought your rod back and paused in your roll cast it’s time to gently push your rod forward using your hand and your thumb. This will turn over your line and fly and send them in your chosen casting direction.

Step 6 – End High

To fish your roll cast, end your cast with the rod tip at around 10-11 o’clock in front of you. This will ensure the line straightens out and turns over above the water, not on the water, for the most effective presentation that doesn’t spook the trout you’re trying to catch.

I have seen countless anglers end their roll casts by pushing their rod tip down into the water and making all kinds of noise on the surface – no fisherman wants this.

Below is a video you can watch that talks you through the best way to roll cast


How do you practice rolling casting?

Practicing rolling casting is best done in shallow water with a rod and a weighted line or leader. Start by dropping the weighted line onto the surface of the water and allowing it to sink.

Then, use the rod to pick up the line and roll it over the surface of the water. Continue doing this until you can control the line and cast it out as far as you want. You can also practice with a partner, having one person cast as far as possible and the other person attempting to cast further.

Can you roll cast on grass?

Yes, you can roll cast on grass. However, it is much easier to practice this technique in shallow water. The grass can often provide too much resistance against the line and make it difficult to control the cast.

How do you roll cast streamers?

To roll cast streamers, start by attaching the streamer to the weighted line or leader. Then, drop the line onto the surface of the water and allow it to sink.

Pick up the line with the rod and roll it over the surface of the water. When you are ready to cast, use a forward stroke with the rod to cast the streamer out.

How do you roll a Baitcaster cast?

To roll cast with a Baitcaster, start by attaching the lure to the line. Drop the line onto the surface of the water and allow it to sink. Pick up the line with the rod and roll it over the surface of the water.

When you are ready to cast, use a forward stroke with the rod to cast the lure out. You can also use the Baitcaster’s magnetic brake system to help control the line and cast more accurately.

Is roll casting effective?

Yes, roll casting is an effective way to cast a line in shallow water. It is also useful for casting streamers or lures that require a more controlled cast.

Where should I practice roll casting?

If you’re into fly fishing then you already know that practice is key to being good a casting and catching more fish. When it comes to practicing a roll cast, you need to practice it and learn in on the water as much as you can.

This is because the cast relies on the water tension for it to work, and grass just doesn’t have the same effect on the gear as water tension does. You can learn/practice it on the grass if that’s your only option though, as some practice is better than nothing.

How do you roll cast further?

How do you roll cast further

When you’re fly fishing on big rivers, you often need to punch a slightly larger distance to get your flies to the fish. Once you have mastered a basic roll cast the next step is pushing it a bit further.

To roll cast further all you need to do is get a bit more energy into the rod and line and you do this by creating a bigger D-loop in Step 1 of the above instructions and then by using a bit of a haul when making your forward cast to really push that line out there some extra distance.

Photo of author

Jamie Melvin

Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.

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