Story last updated at 12/16/2009 - 11:52 am
The Spey cast is a graceful, flowing and dynamic cast that allows the fly fisher to harness unprecedented advantages in angling. These advantages include line control, distance casting, and access to un-fishable lies. Once proficient with the Spey cast, many steelhead and salmon anglers choose to fish the "two-hander" exclusively, and there is a growing interest in using light-weight Spey outfits for trout and other light game fish.
The Spey style of casting was developed on the Scottish river Spey in the early 1800s. Like other rivers in the Highlands of Scotland, high banks and trees border most of the Atlantic salmon runs on the Spey. These steep banks and overhanging trees preclude the effective use of traditional overhead casts. But the resourceful Scots developed a "new" style of casting, using long rods and graceful flowing movements to deliver long casts that require little or no back-cast clearance. Without a false cast, in a single graceful motion, a Spey fisherman could change the direction of an 80 to 100-foot cast up to 90 degrees effortlessly.
Here are three basic tips to help you improve your Spey cast:
1. Lining up your anchor
One thing that separates good, consistent Spey casters from wannabes is the way good casters always line up their anchors in the direction of their forward cast. By definition, a Spey cast is a cast where the back cast is made under the rod tip and the end of the line and leader are allowed to touch down on the water smoothly, immediately before the forward cast is made. Simple enough, but not enough people pay attention to how the line lands on the water. The end of the line and leader form the anchor or grip, and essentially halts the momentum of the line on the back cast so that the rod can load against it for the forward cast. If the anchor is not formed properly, casting distance will definitely suffer, as will line turnover. By focusing on improving your anchor shape and direction, your casting consistency and line turnover will rapidly improve.
2. Casting stroke length must be proportional to the belly length of line used
Many Spey casters learn with short belly lines or specialty compact heads such as the Scandinavian and Skagit heads. These short belly lines (around 55 feet) and compact heads (around 23 to 36 feet) are relatively easy to learn Spey casting with. However, they often lead to the development of bad habits, especially when the budding Spey caster wants to progress to longer belly more traditional lines.
Using a short belly line and a long rod (14-16 feet) mandates a short stroke length. When advancing to longer belly lines, remember that if you are carrying more line out the tip of the rod, you will have to increase your stroke length, both on the Spey back cast (making the D loop) as well as on your forward cast. One easy way to increase your stroke length and simultaneously improve the efficiency of your casting is to start using your torso. By rotating your torso back during the back cast, and forward during the forward cast, you can increase your stroke length by up to two feet, while simultaneously adding power without additional arm strain.
3. The importance of a sudden stop
Many beginning and intermediate Spey casters have difficulty casting tight, efficient loops. For some reason, even good single hand casters forget that a sudden and relatively high stop of the rod tip is fundamental in generating efficient tight loops. The same is true with the Spey cast. The casting stroke is determined by when the rod tip starts moving at the beginning of the cast to when it stops. Between these two points, during any cast (forward or back), the rod tip should be accelerated, with the tip speed steadily increasing until the casting stroke is abruptly stopped, ending the casting stroke. With the increased leverage afforded by two hands on the rod, getting the rod tip accelerating usually is not the problem. Focus on using both hands to abruptly stop the rod at its maximum point of acceleration. This will result in tighter, more efficient and wind cheating loops.
The Spey cast is an enjoyable and rewarding departure from standard overhead single-handed fly-casting. The cast is not only graceful and poetic in form, but it's also tremendously powerful and highly versatile. Moreover, the same movements of the Spey cast can be readily applied to single-hand casting which infuses additional versatility to any fly fisher's technical armamentarium. And that can help you catch more fish. Good luck casting!
Rich Culver is a fly-fishing freelance writer and photographer and member of the Scott Fly Rod Company's Pro Staff. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.