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Using the Snap-T Cast to Reposition Line

by Philip Monahan

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Question: Now that it’s fall, I’m fishing a lot of streamers with a sinking-tip fly line. At the end of the swing, when the line is hanging in the current, I have a hard time making the transition to the next cast. First, I have trouble getting the line off the water, and then I have to make 4 or 5 false casts—and duck the fly as it whizzes past my head—before I’ve got the cast pointing quartering upstream again. I end up having to strip in most of the line before I can cast again. Is there an easy way to do this?

Geoff C., Little Rock, AR

Video: Eoin Fairgrieve demonstrates the Snap-T Cast.

Answer: There is an easy way to do this, but you’ll need to master a couple of simple tricks: the roll-cast pickup and the snap-T cast. It’s a three-step process. First, a roll-cast pickup allows you to get the line to the surface, so you can move it upstream more easily. Then, the snap-T moves your line from downstream to upstream. And finally, another roll-cast pickup gets the line airborne, so you can make the presentation cast. Here’s how the whole process works:

  1. At the end of the swing, allow your line to straighten in the current downstream. Then, raise your rod tip and make a long, aggressive roll-cast stroke. Don’t worry about what the cast looks like or how the line lands. All you want to accomplish here is getting the heavy sinking tip to the surface. With very heavy tips or shooting heads—especially when paired with a heavy, waterlogged streamer—you may have to make two or three hard roll casts in a row to get the fly to the top.
  2. As soon as you’ve got the fly line on the surface, immediately raise your rod diagonally upstream until the tip is pointing slightly upstream and upward at about 35-40 degrees to the water’s surface. As soon as the tip reaches this point, “snap” the tip downward and downstream in a chopping motion, as if you were forming the bottom leg of the number 7. As your rod tip travels underneath the line, the line will shoot upstream. Trust me: it will.
  3. Now you’ve got the line dumped on the water upstream of you. Before the line has a chance to sink, rotate your body upstream and immediately go into another roll-cast pickup aimed in the direction you want the final cast to go. You can make a full roll cast, if that’s all you need to get the fly where you want it. Otherwise, as the roll cast straightens out, don’t let the line the land and go into a back cast instead. You should now be casting normally in the correct direction.

Although this sounds complicated, once you’ve done it a couple times, you’ll realize how simple it is, and the process will become second nature to you. The snap-T is one of many two-handed-rod techniques that has applications in single-hand fly fishing. By using the water tension and the weight of the sinking tip, you can move the line without having to aerialize a lot of line. In fact, when you become really proficient with this technique, you won’t have to strip in any line at the end of the drift, thus allowing you to get the fly in the water more quickly.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Phil Monahan is a former Alaskan guide and was the long-time editor of American Angler magazine. He's now a columnist for MidCurrent and writes and edits the fly-fishing blog at You can email your fly fishing questions to us at
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  • Joe P.

    Excellent explanation. I have been doing this for several years now while Steelhead Fly Fishing the west coast. The “D” cast does a similar service in setting up the final roll cast. When the line is lying down stream to the left of the caster and when has settled, simply lift the rod pointing downstream and make the form of the letter “D”. This will put the line upstream very similar to the Snap T procedure explained above. From this position you can make a simple roll cast or a roll cast followed by an overhead cast – no false casting required.
    Joe P.