Techniques Tenkara

Advanced Casting Part Two: The Casting Progression Table

Part Two of a Three Part Tutorial Series by Rob Worthing

In Part One of our three-part series on advanced casting for fixed line fly fishing, we learned about four-dimensional casting. Four-dimensional casting taught us to dissect complex casting strokes into four basic elements, or dimensions. – the vertical, the horizontal, the rotational, and time.

In Part Two, we learn the concept of The Casting Progression Table.  This is the part where we begin combining dimensions to construct casting strokes, building the casting skills that will make us advanced fixed line fly casters. The Casting Progression Table is the tool we use to get it done.

But before you dive deeper, remember that each part in this series builds on the part that came before it. If you caught Part One, we hope you’ve been practicing. Now that you feel adept at thinking about casting in four dimensions, you are ready to move on. If you missed Part One, or didn’t get a chance to practice, we highly recommend reviewing it prior to moving on with this article. Part One laid the foundation on which we’ll build advanced casting skills. We’re looking to build a lifetime of casting skills, so laying a strong foundation is critical. 

Part Two: The Casting Progression Table

Progression tables are used in a multitude of sports, martial arts, music, and more.  A progression table organizes skills into levels of difficulty.  Each skill relies on the lessons learned during mastery of the skill before it, and lays the foundation for learning the skills that follow. From the weekend warrior to the elite competitor, progression tables have a proven track record of building skill in all these disciplines. Fly fishing is no different.

About This Tool

Our Casting Progression Table organizes casting strokes according to both dimension and difficulty, leading the fixed line fly angler through the process of building an advanced casting skill set.  The table is not an all-inclusive list of advanced casts. Rather, it includes certain casts that emphasize particular skill sets. By practicing each cast, you build the strength, fine motor skills, and muscle memory needed to tackle more difficult strokes. Once mastered, these skill sets can then be combined in any number of ways to meet ever-changing demands on the water.

Included with the Casting Progression Table is a detailed explanation of each casting skill. Each explanation provides a description of the cast, examples of when the skill might prove useful on the water, and a measure that tells the angler when they have mastered the skill.  Though it is certainly possible to use a “thumbs up” grip, a “finger on top” grip is presumed when explaining casts. Pictures illustrating key movements of the casting strokes are included. 


Initially, all skills should be practiced using a standardized rig. Consider beginning with a total line length that is around 1.5 times the length of the rod. To reduce physical stress, you want a rod that is light and well balanced, not tip heavy. You also want a rod that is a little softer in the tip, not too stiff. A rod with a softer tip will be easier to load. The same rod and line should be used throughout. Worry about messing around with different rigs later.

The only exception to this suggestion is the long line cast (level 5), for which the line should be not less than 2.5 times the length of the rod. Ultimately, the dedicated fixed line fly angler can work toward mastering each casting skill using different line lengths and rods, different stances, beginning with the fly on the water or in hand, etc.  But for now, you want standardization.

Don’t Get Frustrated

Finally, as with all progression tables, it is important to understand that an individual’s skill development might not follow the exact order presented in the table. In fact, at one point or another, it almost surely won’t. For example, one angler might find it easy to master a steeple shoot (level 4), but have difficulty mastering a forty-five degree cross body cast (level 2).  When inconsistencies arise, they should be embraced as a good thing. They should be viewed as an opportunity to identify and correct weaknesses in your skill set.

Ignore those weaknesses – instead seeking the easiest path to demonstrating a “higher” skill level – and you will plateau quickly.  For example, if you jump to long line (level 5) without first mastering the supine and prone roll (level 3 and 4), you may find you do not have the strength, endurance, and control of the forearm needed to master long line casting.

Explanation of Casting Skills

Advanced Casting - The Casting Progression Table 1
Advanced Casting - The Casting Progression Table 2


Advanced Tenkara Casting - Standard
Advanced Tenkara Casting - Steeple Shoot
Steeple Shoot
Advanced Tenkara Casting - Prone J
Prone J
Advanced Tenkara Casting - Supine J
Supine J
Advanced Tenkara Casting - Prone Roll
Prone Roll
Advanced Tenkara Casting - Supine Roll
Supine Roll

Now, Go Fishing!

Invest some serious time throwing a few casts in your lawn, too.  Consider bringing the casting progression table, maybe even the explanation of casting skills, with you.  Try each cast in order, measuring your skills against the standards listed for each stroke.

Don’t get all bent over the “level” of your skill, or worry about what the guy next to you can do – pride is a recipe for disaster in this process.  Patience and humility are needed to recognize and improve your weaknesses.  Patience and humility pave the road to becoming a master angler.

In the final lesson in Advanced Casting on Tenkara Angler, we’ll bring it all home by analyzing a few on-the-water scenarios where your new casting skills might make the difference between getting blanked and having a trophy day.

Rob Worthing has had a fishing rod in hand for over 20 years. An avid angler, world traveler, backpacker, and wilderness medical professional, he enjoys going off the beaten path to find the best fly fishing possible. He is passionate about fishing tenkara in remote mountain streams. In addition, Rob takes great pride in combining techniques learned while fishing six continents and four oceans to create hybrid fixed line fly fishing styles that simply catch fish. He is one of the founding partners of Tenkara Guides, LLC.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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