Spey casting is a method of fly fishing used to create longer casts without the overhead backcast.
TIP #1). Creep.
Wrap your head around the concept of both creep and drift (creep is as bad as it sounds, whereas drift is good and necessary for distance). All too often I see casters creep (both on single and double-hand rods), prematurely jolting the rod forward during the backcast while their rod is still loading. This causes a chain of errors (tailed loops, lost distance, popped anchors, inconsistency… to name but a few).
It’s important to remember that during the Spey cast the rod should be under constant tension (once the anchor is set). The creep does the opposite of that.
***This is as good a time as any to also familiarize yourself with the “circle up”. Cut corners and sharp, straight movements are enough to make any instructor or guide dive for cover.
Tip #2). Once you go up, you may never come back down.
Let’s focus specifically on waterborne anchors (like the Snap-T and Double Spey). Once you have set your anchor, it is ideal to bring your rod tip back down to the water before beginning the sweep (I stand beside students/clients and smack their rod tips back to the water until this becomes habitual for them). From here, there is ample room to travel upward on a circular motion (sweep), winding up (circle up), creating a back-cast (D-Loop), before the final delivery on a straight-line path forward. During this series of events, the rod should only ever be traveling upward. Envision a wine opener or corkscrew pasta.
- Starting the sweep too high means that, by the time you’ve drawn your D-Loop, your hands will be too high to have any sort of help from your core (plus, you’ll often pop your anchor, or drop your rod tip too far behind you).
- Dipping the rod down during the sweep or D-Loop can crash your line to the water, therefore sticking it to the water’s surface. Watch to ensure you’re not over-rotating your body. Many times the shoulder dips down and the rod follows suit.
- I believe one of the most overlooked motions in the Spey cast lays in the elbows. How much you need to lift your elbows depends on line length, personal style, and several other variables… Many people do it and can get away with it while Skagit casting due to the short line (self-included at one point in time), but it’s a good idea to get in the habit of lifting your elbows into a drift (back and up) as soon as possible. Shortline, short drift — long line, long drift… you get the drift.
TIP #3). Bloody L.
How in the Bloody L are there still casters out there who don’t know what this is!? Of all the first-world things that make me want to pull my hair out, this is at the top of the list. The Bloody L is a common Spey casting error in which the D-Loop fails to align the anchor parallel to the forward cast; the name derives from the typical layout of the line in an “L” shape on the water (in front of the angler) when this occurs. The result is a forward cast that lacks the energy to roll over properly. This is typically caused by setting the anchor in an improper position prior to the sweep, or an incomplete or shortened sweep which fails to carry enough energy into the D-Loop.
It can also be introduced by the other two culprits I’ve listed above: cutting corners from sweep to D-Loop (essentially drawing an “L” with your rod tip), as well as dipping your rod during the sweep, therefore encouraging the line to stick to the water (which causes a bunch of problems that basically only set the caster up to smack themselves with the fly, and that’s if they clear the water at all).
Feature photo of April casting from @flyfishingnation.