Fly Fishing Basics: Double Haul- With Sheila Hassan

Sheila is the director at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing, and is an IGFA world record holder for bonefish and bluefish. Sheila published her first book, Fly Casting: A Systematic Approach, and we couldn't think of a better person to give us a few tips on how to properly perform the Double Haul. If you're new to fly fishing or a technique junkie, then this is the article for you.

Practicing the double haul:

The benefits of the haul include: deepening rod load; increasing line speed, using a shorter casting stroke, forming tighter loops; using less effort for the casting arm and creating a sense of symmetry with both arms contributing to the cast. Using the double haul is particularly helpful when casting in the wind and for increasing distance.

The double haul is a two direction move. A hauling or pulling out of line followed by a giving back of that line. The perfect double haul requires precision and awareness of both arm movements throughout the cast. The precision in the double haul requires you focus on timing and tension. Timing includes when to start, and stop the haul, as well as when to begin and how quickly to perform the give back. Tension must be maintained throughout the cast. The haul increases tension in the rod, the give back focuses on avoiding slack.

Now that we have reviewed the details, here are some suggestions for practicing and improving your skill.

1. Position / set up:

It is best to practice on grass so you can slow down each casting stroke. Eliminating the need to manage your line on water helps you focus on the mechanics of the haul. After some time practicing on grass you can to move to the water, but starting on solid ground allows you to slow the stroke down enough for you to analyze the cast, break old habits and create new good habits.

Stand sideways to the target, casting horizontally so you can easily watch the cast. Set out two targets: one for the back cast and one for the forward cast. The best practice always includes accuracy to a target.

2. Slow Down:

Start your practice session by slowing down the casting stroke, try using the minimum speed and power needed to make the cast. You need to move slowly enough to have time to analyze each cast.

3. Single casts:

Make just one cast (back or forward) at a time, allowing each cast to settle before you make another. After a warm up period, add the double haul. Make a single back cast while first hauling and then giving back the line. Allow the cast to fall and pause. During the pause recall the feeling of this cast. Did you move too quickly? Did you use extra effort?

After your analysis, position to make the forward cast and double haul. Again, let the cast fall and settle on the ground. Review that cast. Did you move slowly, using only the amount of effort needed to make the cast and haul? After you have slowed the casting stroke down to the speed where you can notice what is happening in the cast, you can focus on the details of the double haul.

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4. Visual Cues:

In the horizontal position, you can see your rod and line hands, and the rod tip. These are the cues to analyze the details of your hauling. Begin by watching your hands. Notice the timing, length and direction of the haul, and the timing and tension during the give back phase.

The timing of the haul is the first detail to focus and refine. Starting with the back cast. For a right-handed caster, the hands move across the body from the left to right. Watch your hands as they travel through the casting stroke. Look for the line hand and rod hand to move through the first part of the casting stroke in the same direction. When the rod hand thumb nail is positioned opposite the back cast target area, the line hand performs the haul. Be sure it is the line hand which moves away from the rod hand, not the rod pulling away from the line hand. The first scenario will significantly deepen the rod load; the latter is not as efficient.

Length of the haul is a common question. The hauls lasts as long as it takes to stop the rod, this yields the perfect length haul. Notice if the haul ends when the rod hand has stopped. Notice the direction of the haul. To maximize tension in the rod, the line hand hauls in a direction relatively opposite the rod hands’ travel. In the horizontal position, the back cast haul will be to the left while the rod completes its travel to the right.

Once the haul timing is in place, focus on the giving back of the line you have hauled. At the end of the haul, there is a short pause before giving back the line. The pause allows the rod action to occur and the loop to form. Once the loop is formed, give back the line you hauled at the rate of speed the unrolling loop can accept. Watch the fly line in your line hand, be sure this piece of line remains under tension during the giving back phase. If not, you will see (and feel) slack caused by giving the line back too quickly.

Once the back cast and haul is complete, let the cast fall and rest. During this pause, think about the feeling you had and what you observed in your hand action. After your analysis, you are ready for the forward cast.

In the horizontal position, on the forward cast the hands will be move from right to left side. Begin with observing the timing of the haul. Watch for the rod hand and line hand to travel through the casting stroke in the same direction toward the target area. When the rod hand thumb pad is positioned opposite the target area the line hand hauls.

When the rod hand completes the stop, the haul has stopped. Notice the direction of the haul. On the forward cast the rod is traveling to the left, the haul is toward the caster’s left hip, down and back. After the haul, pause for a moment before giving the line back. During the give back, watch to be sure the line remains under tension, avoiding slack. Let the cast unroll, and pause. Reflect on what you observed in your hand movement and the feeling of tension in the cast.

Once you have analyzed this stroke you’re ready to make another cast. Continue making a single back cast and haul, followed by a single forward cast and haul. This slow moving, methodical observation is what allows you the time to make the haul and give back with purposeful movement rather than habitual moves.

In the horizontal position, it can also be helpful to watch the rod tip to see the effect of the rod hand and line hand actions. Watch for the rod tip bending as you begin to load the rod. Then, see the load deepen as you perform the haul. Watch the rod unload and see the loop form. Watch the loop during the give back phase to connect with the feeling of maintaining tension as you give the line back.

"A word of caution: if you haul too aggressively for the cast, you can create a tailing loop. Using the haul does not mean pulling as hard and as fast as you can."

A word of caution: if you haul too aggressively for the cast, you can create a tailing loop. Using the haul does not mean pulling as hard and as fast as you can. The haul must be balanced with the entire casting stroke. Short cast, short stroke, short haul. Longer cast, longer stroke, longer haul. As with all good casting, the efforts must be smooth and balanced to the rod and the conditions.

Once you are comfortable with the double haul in each direction, begin to false cast. Continue in the horizontal plane so you can see both your hand and arm movements and the resulting loop. When you are ready, change your stance, raising the cast up to the off- vertical or vertical position. The direction of the haul will change because the rod angle has changed. The back cast haul will be forward and down as the rod moves up and back. The forward cast haul remains in the direction of the line hand hip as the rod is moving forward to the target.

As you false cast, close your eyes and focus on the feeling of tension in the cast. Be sure to first create the tension, then use the haul to smoothly deepen the tension. While practicing, you may false cast five or six times to get a feel for all the details of the double haul. Once you improve, limit the false casts to three, so you develop good fishing habits and avoid excess false casting.

Practice session reminders:

1)     Slow down the cast

2)     Use the horizontal position

3)     Make a single cast in each direction

4)     Use visual cues to analyze your casting mechanics

5)     Focus on the details of hauling then the details of giving back

6)     Close your eye to focus on the feeling on tension in the rod and in your line hand

7)     False cast with the double haul after the details are practiced

Line & Rod Hand Positions:

Back Cast Haul:

Begin Haul

Haul Ended

Give Back Completed

Forward Cast Haul:

Begin Haul

Haul Ended

Give Back Completed

Get A Copy Of Sheila's Newest Book:  FLY CASTING: STARTING IN THE SALT

A guide to learning to fly cast in saltwater. The primary focus is on fishing for Northeast species including striped bass, bluefish and false albacore. For those who enjoy flats fishing, there is a section on bonefishing. The book includes an extensive practice section to help you progress. This is a "go to" book for learning to fly cast in saltwater, and is a valuable tool for anyone looking to improve their distance casting.


Mastering the fly cast is not a simple feat. This book is designed for the novice through advanced student. Part one provides complete lesson plans for the beginner, intermediate and distance caster. Part two is chock full of detailed information on how and what to practice to improve your fly casting. Numerous photos depict the detail for practice and proper execution of the cast. Using the lessons and practice sessions are bound to improve any caster regardless of their experience. You will never outgrow this book.

For more great information from Sheila, you can visit her website: 


  • CJ

    The book looks great but I totally agree with Henry – a video is so much more helpful in seeing the exact parts of the cast. Thanks for sharing the helpful resources.

  • Richard Nelson

    This is an outstanding, clear and concise summary of double hauling. It’s excellent for new anglers, and as a review for experienced casters. I thought I was fairly expert at it, but I picked up a couple important pointers from this: (1) always back haul by pulling line hand away from rod hand, not the reverse, and (2) don’t be so quick on the “give back” that you create slack line that opens the loop.

  • Henry Carlile

    A video of Shelia M. Hassan doing a double haul would be much more instructive—especially if it includes the cast repeated in slow motion.

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