Fly Casting Instruction with George V. Roberts


Photo courtesy of Amy Reichenbach Photography.

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To become an accomplished fly caster requires two things: knowledgeable instruction and regular practice.

I’ve been teaching fly casting to anglers of all abilities for more than 20 years. Among the students I’ve taught, several have gone on to earn their Federation of Fly Fishers Master Casting Instructor Certification. Among my most accomplished students is Sheila Hassan, who is the Director of the Wulff School of Fly Fishing and has authored two books on fly casting.

Introductory Lessons

Introductory fly casting lessons focus on fundamental concepts and techniques: fly-rod mechanics, rod-arm mechanics, the roll cast, the pick-up-and-lay-down cast, and line-hand functions. For beginning fly anglers, the objective will be to get you fishing with a fly rod—and catching fish—immediately. For experienced anglers who have had no previous formal instruction, the objective will be to ground you in the fundamental concepts, principles, and language of fly casting; to emphasize the strengths you’ve already developed; and to troubleshoot any difficulties you may be facing. The objective of introductory lessons is to get you on your way to building a solid basic fly casting stroke.

If you wish to use your own equipment, I suggest an 8 1/2- to 9-foot 5- or 6-weight rod outfitted with a weight-forward floating line. If you’d prefer, I can supply the outfit.

Beyond the Basics

As your casting stroke evolves over time with practice, there are a number of areas we could address in subsequent lessons. I would prefer to follow the curriculum laid out in Master the Cast: Fly Casting in Seven Lessons, but we could also could cover such topics as oval casting or Spey casting with a single-handed rod (see below), or anything else you might like to learn. Your progress is limited only by your willingness to work on your cast.

I require intermediate and advanced students to provide their own equipment.

Advanced/Saltwater Fly Casting

Many of the students I’ve taught have been experienced saltwater anglers who have wanted to add distance and power to their cast. Here I recommend following a practice program in which you break the long cast into its smallest possible increments—beginning with the back cast—and master each increment before moving on to the next.

The objective of advanced instruction is to facilitate your becoming a longer and more powerful fly caster. Anyone who has taken a lesson or seminar with me will tell you that I put major emphasis on the fundamentals, and advanced instruction is no different. You can expect an advanced lesson—that is, a lesson designed to help you increase your distance—to begin by focusing  on the back cast, and all that it entails. Regardless of what other material we may cover in the lesson, it’s my intent that you leave this lesson and work exclusively on the back cast for at least two weeks before arranging further instruction.

For an advanced/saltwater lesson, I will require you to use an 8- to 10-weight fly rod strung with a weight-forward floating line—no intermediate, sink-tips, or sinking lines.

Spey Casting (Single- and Two-Handed Rods)

I’ve owned a two-handed fly rod for more than 20 years, and I was lucky enough to be one of Simon Gawesworth’s students when he first came to the United States to teach Spey casting with Jim Vincent (the founder of Rio). This was when Vincent taught a three-day Spey casting seminar every year at the old Hunter’s Angling Supplies in New Boston, New Hampshire.

Since that time I’ve taught Spey casting, both single-handed rod and two-handed rod, to a number of students. Most students to whom I’ve taught Spey casting were preparing to visit the Ponoi River in Russia to fish for Atlantic salmon. I’ve also taught Spey casting with a single-handed rod, which is a very efficient—not to mention fun and elegant—way to fish wet flies and streamers for trout on moving water. If you can Spey cast with a single-handed rod you will be able to fish stretches of river that have very limited back cast space. Spey casting with a single-handed rod is not only beautiful—it is eminently practical.

A Spey casting lesson with a two-handed rod will begin by covering the basic roll cast and the live-line roll cast (also called the switch cast). From there, we’ll progress to the circle C cast, which will allow a right-handed angler to fish when the river is flowing from his right to his left. Next, we’ll cover the double Spey, which will allow a right-handed angler to fish when water is flowing from left to right. These two basic Spey casts will allow you to start fishing wet flies and streamers from either bank using a two-handed fly rod.

Depending on your progression, we may cover two additional casts—the single Spey and the snake roll—or we can leave those more difficult casts to a future lesson, after you’ve had the opportunity to work on the basics.

A Spey casting lesson with a single-handed rod with cover virtually the same material.

For a lesson with a two-handed rod, I’m going to require that you provide your own equipment and that you outfit your rod with a full floating weight-forward Spey line or floating double taper line.

A Spey casting lesson with a single-handed rod requires no special equipment. Any single-handed rod outfitted with a floating weight-forward or floating double taper line will suffice.

Whether you’re interested in learning to Spey cast with a double- or single-handed rod, please keep in mind that a solid basic roll cast is prerequisite to learning how to Spey cast. I strongly suggest that, before we meet, you spend sufficient time refining your basic roll cast. It’s been my experience that I tend to spend too much time in a Spey casting lesson teaching the student how to roll cast. This cuts into valuable time. The better your roll cast is when you meet with me, the more quickly the lesson will progress, and the better your Spey casting will be. Also, please note that a Spey casting lesson should not be the first instruction you take with a fly rod. I recommend you first take a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lesson with a single-handed rod.

Incidentally, if you ever get the opportunity to take a lesson with Simon Gawesworth, I highly recommend it. Not only is Simon among the very best Spey casters in the world—he is one of the best natural instructors of fly casting I have ever met. 

Tenkara Angling Instruction

For more information on tenkara, see my page devoted to it.

Tenkara instruction will begin with an overview of equipment and how to set it up. We’ll cover traditional tenkara casting, as well as a couple of lesser-known ways to cast derived from Western-style fly casting. We’ll cover basic tenkara angling techniques, as well as hooking, landing, and releasing fish. The entire lesson will last two hours. The emphasis will be on fishing with the rod—and catching fish—as soon as possible. Although the instruction will take place on a pond or lake, you’ll easily be able to adapt your skills to moving water, where this method of angling really shines. No previous fishing experience is necessary to enjoy tenkara.

This would be an ideal learning experience to share between a parent and child, two spouses or significant others, or simply two friends who are interested in another way to share the outdoors.

Rates for Private Instruction*

One angler (2 hours): $150**

Two anglers (2 hours): $250

*Rates are based on 1 hour of travel each way. For instruction that will require more extensive travel on my part, or for instruction longer than 2 hours or more than 2 anglers, please inquire.

**I require all children under the age of 16 to have a parent or guardian present during instruction (the parent or guardian is not required to participate).

Group Seminars

I am available, on a limited basis, to travel to your destination to conduct personal casting instruction and group seminars. For rates, availability, etc., please inquire.

Video Analysis and Remote Coaching

In my early years of teaching I would frequently receive phone calls and emails from customers in various parts of the world who had purchased my casting video, and they would try to explain to me (over the phone or in writing) particular problems with their cast. As I would have to explain to them, it was impossible for me to diagnose a cast I could not see.

Then one day I received a call from a woman who asked if I would be willing to watch a VHS tape of her distance cast and offer feedback. I tentatively agreed, contingent on the quality of the video. To my surprise, the tape was of good quality and included slow-motion video of her cast. The tape also included timecode, so I could pinpoint exact moments. We arranged a time to speak, and I spent an hour on the telephone with her, reviewing her cast while each of us watched the tape. I offered her feedback on how I thought she could make the cast more efficient and, ultimately, longer and more powerful. She felt this was very helpful.

Fast forward to the present…. Because quality video is now accessible to the average person, and because there are now apps available that allow sports coaches to critically review video clips of athletic performance (e.g., Hudl Technique), I am finally able to offer video analysis and remote coaching services to experienced casters who may not be able to travel to my part of the world for personal instruction (or who are not able to arrange for me to visit them). To visit my page on video fly casting analysis, click here.

To read my recent blog post on using video analysis to improve your casting, click here.


“If you want to Iearn to cast or improve your casting skills I would strongly suggest without any reservation you do 3 things. #1. Buy and read every word of George’s book ‘Master the Cast.’ #2. Buy his video and do exactly what he teaches on the video. (Both are available on Amazon.) #3. Schedule a lesson with him. I can promise you that you will get more bang for your buck than you can imagine. Suggest doing #1&2 before lesson(s).”

–David Drez, Lake Charles, LA