Dispatch from the Dean: Troubleshooting the Spey Cast
I am totally convinced that the reason people have been using two-handed (Spey) rod techniques to catch fish like salmon...
I am totally convinced that the reason people have been using two-handed (Spey) rod techniques to catch fish like salmon and steelhead for generations is because Spey casting gives you something to think about and focus on for those 500 casts it takes between hooking fish.
But there are so many moving parts to Spey casting. Form a “D” loop… watch the “white mouse,” Skagit style.. Scandi style. It’s all enough to make you crazy. I fell for two-handers about 10 years ago (I’m a Skagit style angler) and though I am obsessed with it, I only get out and really pound these casts three or four times a year. In other words, I take two steps forward, and one back. If you want to get into the details of Spey, buy Simon Gawesworth’s “Spey Casting.” But if you want to dabble, or learn the basics, or keep yourself on a path of competence, you don’t need to confuse yourself with so many details.
Simply remember “BLAST” and you will have a blast. If, as you are casting, you find something going wrong, odds are better than 90 percent that is has something to do with the following five factors (trust me, I have failed in all regards, and self-diagnosed). I’m shooting laser-beams across the Dean now, and it’s because I’m focused on these five simple things.
“B” is for bottom hand. That’s the engine. If you insist on making the top hand both the motor and the steering wheel, go back to the single hander. The bottom hand on the cork handle pulls the lever, and that’s how you get full effect out of the two-hander. Use the bottom hand on every move, from the Snap-T to the final cast. If you lack power, focus on the bottom hand.
“L” is for loops, not coils. If you’re going to shoot line (which you should), you need to find your own management system for handling your running line. I like to lay long, separate coils on the water, segregated by switching fingers as I strip in line to prepare to cast. Always make the first coil on the water the biggest one. I count it out. Six strips… switch fingers… new coil… five strips… switch fingers… four strips… now ready to cast. If you don’t manage the line that’s gonna shoot, before you shoot it, your cast is a non-issue before it starts.
“A” is for anchor. Whether you Snap-T, or Perry Poke, or whatever, you want your anchor point to be within a rod length of you. Toss all your line well upstream, and you’re done. The closer the anchor spot (the center of gravity where you rip your line off the water to load the rod) is to you, the straighter and more accurate your cast will be. Every darn time.
“S” is for sweep the fly line. Slowly but steadily accelerate, and don’t cut the corner and start single-hand casting up and down. You want to see the “white mouse” (not the white badger, mind you). Gradually accelerate, and form that “D-loop” with purpose.
“T” is for trajectory. You want to launch that cast from the D-loop, not just point it. You should aim, therefore at the treetops. Stop the rod tip high. Think of it like driving a golf ball. You don’t want to throw a worm-burner. You need some loft to make this work.
Get these five things dialed, and you have a basic, sold Spey cast that you can fine tune and pad with distance every time you fish.