• Leigh Dowell

Are you in control of your anchor?

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

After learning a smooth power application through the casting stroke, I think anchor control is the next most important element to master. Before we can control the anchor we need to understand what it is and what its function is within the spey cast.

So let’s look into the anchor and its function.

The Anchor

An anchor starts at the fly and moving back towards the caster it ends where the line leaves the water to start the D loop. We measure the anchor when the forward cast begins.

If you have a small fly and 90% of your leader is in contact with the water when your forward cast begins, this is your total anchor. If you had your fly, leader, sink tip and some fly line in contact with the water, this would be your anchor.

The anchor is everything in contact with the water and includes our fly.

The Anchors function.

When we make a D loop sweep in spey casting we accelerate the rod and line. When we circle up we draw the D loop shape. We want to accelerate our D loop 180 degrees from the forward cast target. In this process the anchor forms the extension of the bottom leg of the D loop. If during the D loop sweep and circle up we don’t get an anchor, the fly line will continue to travel under the rod tip and end up straightening out behind us. The anchor halts the rearward momentum of the fly line and tensions the D loop. The anchor needs to stick to the water while we proceed into our forward cast.

What control do we need?

With a good anchor we need to control many things and some of them have variables. We want to control the size, shape, placement and direction of the anchor.

Let’s look at size.


What size anchor do we need? We want the smallest anchor we can have that fulfils the requirement, but that can vary. Something to try and remember is a smaller anchor is much easier to lift out of the water. So why would we want a bigger anchor? Remember an anchors job is to halt the rearward momentum of the fly line. Momentum is mass x velocity; if either mass or velocity is increased we will need to increase our anchors holding power so it can successfully fulfil the requirements.

Compare a scandi anchor which may be just the fly and long leader to a skagit anchor which could be the fly, leader and sink tip. If we tried to anchor a skagit line with just the fly and leader it would never hold.

Another force acting on our anchor is the force we place on the rod at the start of our forward cast, if we start too fast or aggressively we will pull our anchor out. If I have an excessively big anchor it will take more force to lift it out of the water, this is not efficient casting. A good anchor should come out of the water on the forward cast easy and with no noise.


Shape is something we must be consistent with. We want to achieve a straight anchor. If it is curved or in an L shape we are losing efficiency. If it is crumpled or piled we have a mass of anchor that we will struggle to peel off the water successfully. A straight anchor aligned to our target will peel off of the water smoothly.


Placement is something we can vary but as a base line we want our anchor about one to one and a half rod length to the side and the anchor point slightly in front of or alongside the caster. The anchor point is the intersecting point of the anchor and D loop, where the line leaves the water.

Anchor is the red line and the D loop the yellow, where the anchor leaves the water we call this the anchor point.

There are of course times when we need to vary this, such as when we don’t have enough room behind us for the D loop due to trees or a step bank. In this case we need to create a shallower D loop by either shortening the line or moving our anchor point further out.


The anchor should always point in the direction of our forward cast. Remember the 180 degree rule where the anchor, D loop and forward cast are aligned. Think of the anchor as a huge arrow, it is always telling you where your forward cast should go. If you don’t follow the direction of the anchor your forward cast will be less efficient and possibly tangle on its self.

How to gain the required control

How do we gain control of our anchors? Firstly you should watch each and every anchor. Most people are focused on the outcome of the forward cast and never really see what the anchor is doing. If you watch your anchor it will tell you when to make the forward cast and what direction to cast. Additionally a large number of spey casting faults are anchor related. When you gain consistency and control of your anchor your overall cast will improve.

Casts that fail or don’t lay out straight could very well have something to do with your anchor. Pay close attention to detail and I will guarantee your spey casts will improve. Make the anchor an accuracy challenge and try to land it consistently in the correct location and direction every time. Try changing the size and then the shape one at a time.

Good luck and I hope you can master control of your anchor.

Good anchor placement in front of caster

Poor anchor placement behind the caster. The anchor to D loop relationship is poor. There will be to much line stick for this cast to work efficently.

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