Spey Casting

Spey casting is a casting technique used in fly fishing. Spey casting can be accomplished with either a normal length fly rod, or a rod referred to as a double-handed fly rod, often called a Spey rod, Spey rods can also be used for standard overhead casting. 0000


Spey casting is used for fishing large rivers for salmon and large trout such as steelhead and sea trout. Spey technique is also used in saltwater surf casting. All of these situations require the angler to cast larger flies long distances. The two-handed Spey technique allows more powerful casts and avoids obstacles on the shore by keeping most of the line in front of the angler.


History of Spey Casting: Spey Casting originated in the heart of Scotland in the mid-1800s. The name most likely came from the Spey River in Scotland, which is where the cast originated. The Spey River has a strong current and its banks are rarely clear of trees and brush. Therefore, the Spey Cast was developed so one could successfully cast on a river such as the Spey. When Spey Casting was introduced, 22 foot rods were used. These rods were made of greenheart, a heavy wood imported from British Guyana. Today, rods are only 12 to 15 feet in length, and can toss a line up to 80 feet.


There are two groups of Spey Casts: the "Splash and Go", and the "Waterborne Anchor". Splash and Go casts contain a backstroke that is in the air. The line then falls to the water, and the forward cast starts as soon as the tip of the line touches the water. The Waterborne Anchor casts are a little different, as they contain a backcast that stays on the water. In these types of casts, there isn’t a requirement to achieve perfect timing in order to forward cast after.


While there are many variations of the Spey cast, the basic technique is broken down into a few simple actions. With the fly line floating directly downstream, the angler first lifts the line off the water with the tip of the rod. The angler then sweeps the line backwards just above the water, and allows just the fly and leader to "anchor" the cast by touching the water one to two rod lengths away. This back-cast is often referred to as the "D-loop", from the curving shape of the line between the anchor and the tip of the rod.


While swinging the "D-Loop," it is important to make one continuous, deliberate motion with the rod tip climbing at a 45-degree angle off the water. As the "D-Loop" comes around, the cast is completed by firing the line forward with a sharp two-handed "push-pull" motion on the handle of the rod while making an abrupt stop with the rod tip at the end of the cast. The cast is most easily compared to a roll cast in onehanded fly fishing, although by using the fly as an anchor, a Spey cast allows a greater loading of the rod and thus achieves greater distance than a one-handed cast.


Styles of Spey Casting: The two most commonly used styles of Spey Casting are "The Single Spey" and "The Reverse Double Spey". The single Spey cast can be considered the most useful of the Spey casts. It casts the line the farthest and it can be used with winds blowing upstream.


This cast is part of the "Splash and Go" group of casts.


These are the most common steps to achieve a Single Spey cast:


1. Feed as much line you want to cast into the river, letting it drift downstream.

2. Make sure you're facing downstream with the rod pointing down.

3. Which ever way the stream is flowing, hold the bottom grip of the rod with your hand that is on the downstream side.

4. Now rotate so your upper body is facing upstream but your rod remains facing downstream.

5. Lift the rod up so almost all of the line in the river is out of the water.

6. Quickly, before the line hanging in the air sags, drop the tip down and smoothly pull the rod up and upstream at the same time.

7. The fly should come back to you, and right before it kisses the water, raise the tip as if you were going to make a roll cast, and make a powerful forward stroke.

8. The fly should end up on the other side of the river.


The Reverse Double Spey Cast is easier than the Single Spey. It is useful in strong winds; however, it cannot be used in when the wind is blowing upstream. In addition, you must be familiar to the roll cast, and the reverse casting techniques.


These are the most common steps to achieve a Reverse Double Spey cast:


1. Start with the line and fly downstream.

2. Pull the rod upstream, keeping your rod low and your right arm extended.

3. Make a slight upward curl of the rod and move the rod horizontally level across your body back downstream to the left.

4. Now pull the rod up into the reverse position on your left shoulder.

5. Execute the power stroke forwards to launch the line in the direction your rod is facing.


This technique was developed on the River Spey in Scotland.


The Reach Cast is a casting technique used in fly fishing.


The Reach Cast involves casting the fly lure over flowing water, such as a stream, and then just before the fly lands, moving the arm and fly rod in the upstream direction to arrange the fishing line so that it produces less apparent drag in the water. The technique allows the lure to more closely resemble a free-floating insect, resulting in greater chance of it being taken by a fish.


Reach casting also allows an experienced caster to pitch curved casts in order to get the lures into difficult places.


Reach casting is most commonly used in fishing freshwater streams for trout although the reach cast is also used in some saltwater fishing where one can stand in the shallows and there is a consistent current moving in one direction.


A Reach Cast is considered a type of mend during the casting stroke, an in-air mend prior to the fly landing in the water. Without this cast adjustment, the line would grow taut immediately upon impact with the moving water's surface and would pull the fly against the current or across it, making its motion become more unnatural to the fish seeking an insect that has just landed on the water.


In many streams, current may flow more slowly along the edges where it is shallower and there is drag introduced by the shore, and surface-feeding trout and other fish tend to linger in the still part of the water. When casting a line across a stream, the line can land in the swifter-running portion of the current, and would pull against the fly lure that land in the slower-moving water.


The Reach Cast introduces some slack to compensate for the faster-moving water, allowing the fly to land and move more like a floating insect.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Spey Casting


There is no denying the fun aspect of these casts, but aside from the sheer pleasure of it all, there are a number of practical angling benefits to consider:


One of the most obvious differences is that with Spey type casts you don’t have to make long back casts. This means that you can now fly fish in places where obstructions like trees, rocks, brush, or whatever might have otherwise prevented you from doing so. Comparatively speaking, relatively long casts are easier to execute, and using two hands can be less fatiguing than casting a rod singlehanded.


When fishing currents, the longer double-handed rod is more effective for mending the line and controlling the fly on the swing. From a safety standpoint, the fly can easily be positioned in front of the angler and on the downwind side when it’s blowing.


The downside to consider is that the longer length of these rods makes them less efficient as fish fighting tools, landing a fish by hand can be more difficult, and transporting them can be a bit of a challenge.


Fly Line Choices


Long Belly Lines


Over the last several years, manufacturers have made significant improvements in fly lines designed for Spey type casting. Unfortunately, this has also led to considerable confusion. To simplify matters, think in terms of two broad categories of fly line: the traditional or long belly lines; and the newer, shorter belly-shooting head and Skagit lines. The longer belly lines were originally developed primarily for Atlantic salmon fishing. The head sections of these lines are generally at least 60 feet long and make it possible to easily cast more than 100 feet even into the wind. Little or no stripping and shooting of line is involved. In freezing weather conditions, this can be a welcome advantage because it helps keep your hands dry.


Due to their length, however, they are also the most difficult lines to learn to cast.


Shooting Heads and Skagit Lines


Skagit casting is a sub-style of Spey casting using short, heavy Spey lines with heavy tips (typically the sinking variety) and/or large flies.


Skagit casters use casts with waterborne anchors: the snap T, double Spey, and Perry Poke.


As a rule of thumb, shooting heads and Skagit lines tend to be between 3 and 3 ½ times the length of the rod one is using. These are the most popular lines for U.S.-based anglers in freshwater and are seeing increasing use in saltwater applications. The heads are available in a variety of sinking densities and are especially useful for overhead casting with double-handed rods. In the Skagit configuration, the belly of the line floats.


With the addition of various tip sections, they allow the angler to fish virtually all levels of the water column. Due to their shorter length, compared to the long belly lines, they are considerably easier to learn to cast. In conjunction with a floating or an intermediate tip section, this type of line is ideally suited for the novice caster.


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