There are three basic fly-fishing stances: square, open, and closed. As a rather practical individual, I’m not an advocate for using any single stance in all situations and instead recommend that flyfishers learn to rely on all three positions from time to time because each can be used to advantage under different circumstances. The following descriptions of the 3 basic stances also includes a few benefits to using them:
Open Stance – Using an open stance, the feet are almost parallel to the casting direction with the back foot slightly closer to that alignment than the front one. In situations where the line must be monitored during both back and forward casts (for example: when the backcast must be placed between a small opening in some trees), the open stance provides the best view of the entire cast, especially when the rod is tilted to the side at various angles. In addition, the open stance allows for a wide range of arm/rod movement that can vary from a short stroke for short casts to a very long, smooth, and easy stroke for greater distance. With its broad viewing area and wide range of motion, the open stance is also ideal when the presentation is best made with the backcast.
Closed Stance – With a closed stance, the foot, hip, and shoulder on the casting side are situated in front of the opposite foot. This position creates great torque if the hips and shoulders are rotated in conjunction with the back-and-forth casting motion of the rod/arm. That torque is of substantial benefit when casting into stiff head- and tail-winds. To reduce the chances of getting hit by the fly or line when a crosswind is blowing toward the casting side, the closed stance provides flexibility that allows a flyfisher to lean their body sideways into the wind while making a low, sidearm backcast and then resume a normal upright position for a more vertical forward presentation.
Square Stance – In a square stance, both feet are perpendicular to the direction of the intended forward cast. I use a square stance primarily for short casts that demand pinpoint presentations. It is somewhat of a compromise between the open and closed stances without the distinct advantages of either.
Stability is an important consideration in choosing which stance to use. In a strong flowing river, the position that presents the slimmest profile into the current is usually the best. From a boat, the preferred stance may change according to the wind direction or wave action. Regardless of which stance you ultimately prefer, spread the feet a comfortable distance from each other – about a shoulder width apart.
Keep in mind that there is no one “correct” way to stand. We all have slight physical differences, so the ideal stance for one flyfisher may not work as well for another. In the end, what’s most important in assuming a stance is to avoid rigidity and to relax and have fun.