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  • Writer's pictureTony Entwistle

Tips for Starting - Managing Slack Line

Updated: May 11, 2023

Learn to use the river’s current to advantage. It is all part of a good angling ‘housekeeping routine’, which in turn makes for more efficient and enjoyable fly-fishing. Taking the time managing slack line efficiently results in less time wasted stopping and starting or sorting out tangles ... which means more fishing time and ultimately more trout caught.

Managing Slack Line

a. Anglers in this part of the world commonly tend to fish dry flies or nymphs ‘dead drift’, which means they fish and cast facing upstream letting their flies drift back naturally with the current.

b. It is best to learn the basics of fly-casting over the grass, but for those anglers who want to practice on a river it is initially easier to face downstream and use the tension from the current to help load the rod.


“ While it is best to learn the basics of fly-casting over grass or still water, making the transition to casting in running water adds complications and frustrations for new anglers to deal with. Inevitably these complications arise from one issue … a build-up of slack line. Good anglers develop routines that minimize any slack line and the problems created by it.”

d. Tip One: After unhooking the fly from the rod, don’t try to immediately start casting directly upstream. Instead lay any short ‘starting casts’ across the current, angled slightly downstream. The current will tension the line and help when stripping more line off the reel. Once there is sufficient line to cover any spotted fish or proposed fishing lie, turn upstream to face the fishing area and commence the first presentation casts.

e. Tip Two: When changing flies or sorting out a tangle, don’t remain facing upstream. This is simply encouraging trouble! Turn and face downstream so that any slack line is carried away from the body. To restart, simply let all the casting line drift away downstream and turn back upstream to recommence fishing.

f. Tip Three: When wading upstream in the river (for instance when stalking and spotting for trout or simply moving between fishing lies), there is no need to wind the line completely back onto the reel … this just slows down the fishing process. It is more efficient to wade with the rod tip angled back downstream and the line trailing behind, again under tension in the current. Restarting is then a simple matter of flicking the fly forward into the air and recommencing casting.

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