Recently I was looking through some issues of the FFI’s Fly Casting Journal “The Loop” (Fall 2020), and found an article by casting instructor Jody Martin, about a roll casting tool. The entire article can be found at:
The issue with doing roll casts on grass is there is no anchor for the fly and instead of anchoring, the fly line just slides all over the grass. Most instructors have a clip board or book or something like that to substitute for a water anchor, but setting up between casts takes a lot of time and takes the fun out of instructing or practicing roll casts on grass.
When I saw the roll cast tool I knew I had to make one. I practice waterborne casts like the static roll cast, dynamic roll cast, Perry poke and Tongariro all the time at the office lake but sometimes I want to practice at home. Casting in the yard I can do static roll casts pretty well, even on grass, because I have pretty good form but I have to cheat and hurry the cast. The roll cast tool can help me on my form. One thing I can’t do at all is the Tongariro because it needs a secure anchor and I was keen on getting the tool to help me with the TRC because I like to try different rods and lines and see which work better.
I looked around the office and found an old chair mat that needed to be thrown away. I fashioned a saw-tooth looking jig out of foam board and used it to mark up the chair mat for cutting. I used an oscillating tool to cut the chair mat and it went through the plastic like butter. After cutting the jig, I sandpapered the rough edges and then used a lighter to melt all the edges down, making them smooth to save wear and tear on my fly line.
Years ago I built a rod holder for events where our club instructs kids and adults on casting. It has a base and the rod holders are removable. I took the rod holders out and screwed the roll cast jig onto the base. So now I have a dual purpose device which can double as a rod holder or as the roll cast tool.
Here is my new roll cast tool in action:
The jig needs to be transparent so you can tell when the practice fly or yarn is behind the jig to prevent pulling it too far, which could result in it jumping out of the jig. To load the jig for a cast, begin by casting over it and letting the leader drop into the jig. If the fly line lands in the jig the loop knot will catch before the fly so if the fly line lands in the jig, mend the fly line until the leader drops in place. Pull the leader until the fly begins crawling up the back, then ease it up until it hangs or “anchors” in the jig. If the fly hops out of the jig, just re-cast over it. Having to re-cast is mildly aggravating but it is still far easier than setting up a clip board or book. I usually snake roll the leader into the jig because it is accurate and fast but it also happens to be Phase Three of a TRC and therefore, good practice.
The phases of the Tongariro in the roll cast tool require the purist to “look the other way”. It’s nothing like performing the cast on water. For example, I do a snake roll and drop the leader into the tool, which is good practice and the way it is performed to get it into the jig is just like the “line fold” change of direction or “Phase Three” in the Tongariro, as described at: https://www.sexyloops.com/articles/tongarirorollcast2.shtml. But setting the anchor is basically dragging the fly into the jig, an extra step and not helpful. Ultimately one has to get to the water to perform the TRC correctly in all its phases.
Phase Four is releasing additional line onto the water for the extended D-loop. This can be demonstrated, though the grass and the tool will not behave like water, but the effect is the same or near the same. The grass allows slack in the line which reduces the tension that water would provide and as a result a cast from the tool won’t have as pretty of a loop nor the distance which can be achieved on water.
Phase Five and Six are forming the D-loop and making the cast which can be done pretty much like on the water, including adding a haul, which is where the real power comes in and what distinguishes the TRC from a spey cast, in my opinion. With a Tongariro I do about 65-70 feet in the roll cast tool where I can get 80 to 85 on water, largely due to the extra tension that water provides as well as the cleaner lay of the line on the water i.e. no slack.
Roll cast practice on grass is greatly facilitated by the tool in that is easy to drop the leader into the jig, pull the practice fly or yarn up until it seats or “anchors”, make the cast and then just keep repeating. The tool cannot replace water, which is the best roll casting anchor there is, but it does allow someone to perform or demonstrate roll casting on grass which is inevitably where the casting clinics are held. Now that I know how much I like it I may have to make another holder for the jig so at casting clinics I can use both the rod holder and the casting tool at the same time.
Anyway, thanks to Dr. Jody Martin, CI, who wrote the article and did the grunt work to create a “Better Roll Casting Tool”.