The way in which you hold your flyrod has a profound effect on your overall casting ability. It can affect the straightness of your backcast, your power application, and the overall accuracy of your cast. In short, it determines in which way you utilize your wrist, and this is important for effective rotation, maximum flex and obtaining an abrupt stop. Lets now play with a couple of different methods of holding your rod and find out what feels the most natural to you.
It is important, no matter which style you choose, to hold the rod with a relaxed grip.
This is for two very important reasons. Firstly, gripping the rod too tight takes away all feeling from the blank, will dampen down its action, and the responsiveness of the rod tip following the stop.
Secondly, it is unwise to rotate ones forearm under stress. Ball your hand into a tight fist, and pantomime your casting stroke. Feel all those muscles and tendons contracting a full range of motion under tension? Doesn’t feel very comfortable does it, and continued repetition could lead to permanent injury.
Relax your grip as you stroke the rod, squeezing your hand only at the stop for much better effect and personal wellbeing.
Thumb on top
The traditional fly casting grip and one readily adopted by newbies. This grip can be likened to shaking hands with the rod, or holding a hammer. Rotate the forearm out, and grip the rod gently with the thumb lying along the top, pointing straight along the blank. Curl your fingers comfortably around the cork.
The thumb here provides optimal driving power for the traditional overhead and roll cast techniques. Lift the rod into the backcast with your fingers, and accelerate forward, leading with the thumb. Some like to imagine there is a button beneath the thumb and lead forward by ‘hitting the button’. In theory, just like shooting a shotgun, whichever direction in which you drive the thumb forward, the line will follow.
We will now rotate the forearm inwards to allow the index finger to lie along the top of the rod. This has two situation specific benefits in that we now eliminate much of the sideways movement of the wrist, and can keep to a smaller, more restrictive movement of the wrist into the back cast.
Finger pointing will cure many back cast problems, and is a grip I will sometimes resort to particularly if a student has trouble maintaining a high back cast through ‘sloppy wrist syndrome’. However, this can become uncomfortable for many, in particular women, for the index finger lacks the strength of the thumb for supporting a fully loaded rod.
If you find yourself bringing your back cast too far back, finger pointing will fix it instantly, and you can always return to thumb on top once you have the feel for a high back cast.
The V grip (or palm forward)
My current favourite, the palm forward, or V grip allows a crisper, more controlled movement of the wrist throughout rotation, important for achieving maximum line speed and tighter loops.
Reach out to shake hands and put your hand in the thumb on top position. Now knock on a door like this… Not very crisp is it?
Now rotate your hand 60 odd degrees, and with your palm facing forward try again. Notice the difference? Much crisper, and it just feels much more natural.
Similar to the barden grip in golf, the V grip places you in your bodies’ natural throwing position with your palm facing forward, and allows more control throughout rotation. Any cricketer knows the key element of a decent throw is ending with the palm facing towards the target.
This grip is also useful for those having trouble with their back cast.
Like the finger on top technique, the V grip also helps to control sideways movement of the wrist, but without the discomfort or increased stress of supporting the rod on a weaker digit. It will assist in keeping the rod tip high into the back cast.
It will also facilitate a crisper upward flick, handy for those of you having trouble straightening, or keeping your back cast high. Crisper, later rotation = higher line speed.
I experienced this just the other day with a student. Terrie had trouble keeping her backcast above the matagaori and I could see she just didn’t have the line speed to avoid a sag in the bottom leg of her loop. The top leg was still unfurling whilst the bottom leg had lost all energy and was dropping fast. A quick change in grip, rotating her palm forward added the extra zip to her rotation and soon had her line travelling high behind and fast.
V grip variation – Borgers 3 point grip
A variation of the V grip, modified by fly casting guru Jason Borger. Jason employs an extended index finger running along the outside edge of the handle, along with an extended thumb, with both resting on the upper hemisphere of the rod handle itself, not along the sides. Your thumb should sit opposite your middle finger. An imaginary line running along the top of the rod travels in-between the forefinger and thumb, resulting in your forearm and wrist being in its natural resting position.
Your remaining fingers are lightly curled around the grip, providing support from below.
So you now have three points of contact ;
1 - fingers curled and relaxed around the underside of the rods handle
2 - Thumb and forefinger resting along the upper hemisphere of the handle
Where does the third come in?
The heel of the hand of course! I like to position my heel on top of the reel seat, for better control and feel of the rod throughout the cast. When held correctly, the rod should be directed along the centre of your arm – this is essential for making this grip work!
We now have the three points of contact, and are holding the rod in a relaxed, natural position for both our wrist and forearm. It should feel comfortable from a muscular standpoint, but may feel unnatural for a while if you are used to another grip. Give it a chance, and you will be happy with the overall result on your casting performance.
The three-point grip offers all the natural movement and control of the universal V grip, with the added bonus of sideways stabilization provided by the extended forefinger. You are less likely to drop your back cast through excessive wrist movement, and the longer base of pressure points will ensure that no power is lost when pushing for distance.