The Single Spey Cast

Needle Tubes and Tube Flies

The Amateur Approach to Spey Casting

by John Gray

Now I should say at the outset that I am by no means expert in the art of Spey casting. To be honest, I am just a learner. I am very much self taught and my casting style..... no, "style" is perhaps the wrong word..... my casting method, such as it is, derives from a bit of reading, a few video sequences and an awful lot of trial and error. Perhaps a lesson or two from a professional instructor might have simplified the learning process and set me on the right road, but where's the fun in that..... much too easy..... and it would cost a bob or two!  So I went my own sweet way, applying the various tips and tricks advised by acknowledged experts. I seem to remember Arthur Oglesby, either on video or in his writing, saying that he broke the Spey cast into three parts - the lift, the backward sweep and the forward cast - each movement done to waltz time ( lift,2,3....sweep,2,3.... shoot ) with a short pause between each phase of the cast. Now he was a very experienced salmon fisherman and knew what he was talking about. I felt, however, that this advice was unhelpful, as I have found it better to treat the single Spey cast as one flowing movement and try very hard not to pause at any stage of the cast. Mind you, the Spey cast is not an easy thing to describe in writing. It may seem odd, then, not to say presumptuous, that I am about to attempt that very thing. Nevertheless, I hope those starting out with the big rod, particularly fans of the do-it-yourself approach to Spey casting, may find some interest in what I see as the basic essentials of the single Spey cast. I recently splashed out on a 14 foot Bruce and Walker Norway Speycaster (a half price bargain from Sportfish). The rod, though rated #9, is well suited to the 10/11 weight Airflo Delta Spey line I recently bought, again a bargain at ten pounds. This combination allows comfortable casts in excess of thirty yards, much more easily achieved than with the double tapered lines I had used previously.

I am right handed, so, ideally, I will be standing in a foot or so of water and a couple of yards from the left bank with no overhead branches to interfere with the movement of the rod. The single Spey can be made from the bank but not so easily. A fairly swift but steady current also helps, with no back eddies or excessive turbulence below the angler. I will be standing comfortably with my heels about a foot apart, so that I can easily move my weight from one foot to the other as required. My right foot will be pointing in the intended direction of the cast, say forty five degrees right of the left bank, and my left foot will be pointing directly downstream, with the left heel roughly in line with the direction of the cast behind the right heel. [ Note: The feet will move position according to the desired direction of the cast. If, for example, I wish to cast directly across the stream at an angle of ninety degrees to my left hand bank, I will point my right foot towards the direction of the cast, at ninety degrees to my left hand bank, and my left foot forty five degrees to the right of the left hand bank, again with my left heel comfortably behind the right heel in line with the direction of the cast. This allows the whole body to move backwards and forwards, from front to back foot, in line with the direction of the cast.]

Using the Delta Spey, with its fifty five foot head, no sinking tip and a leader of around ten to twelve feet or so, my previous cast will have been made to a point about thirty one yards away near the opposite bank, at an angle of about forty five degrees to my left hand bank, and allowed to swing to a point as near as possible directly downstream. Having fished out the cast, I will point the rod in line with the fly line near the water surface and pull in the length of line shot on the last cast, let's say five pulls of about a yard each, until the whole rear taper of the head is just inside the rod tip. I will then take a firm grip on the butt with my left hand and, if concentrating, I will keep this firm grip on the butt throughout the cast, as I will with the upper hand, too. I will then begin the cast by moving the rod tip upwards and slightly inwards towards my own bank. This initial movement will merge, without a pause, into the upstream sweep, which should be firm, deliberate and steady. The upstream swing is made as much by swivelling the hips as by arm movement. As the upper body turns to the right, swivelling at the hips, the weight is transferred to the left foot, the back foot, returning to the front foot only on the forward stroke of the cast. I do not think the height of the rod tip above the water surface during the upstream sweep is critical. It may vary from cast to cast. What I aim to do during the upstream swing, however, is to move the rod tip parallel to the surface (or even on a slight upwards incline), not allowing the tip to drop at any time below the horizontal. The speed and strength of this upstream sweep will determine the "anchor point", where the fly, leader and last few feet of fly line will touch the water surface. The point where the fly itself touches down should be level with or slightly upstream of the angler or, to be more precise, just upstream of the intended line of the forward cast. Consistency in hitting this important target comes only with practice. 

As the fly, leader and last few feet of the fly line touch down, the upward movement of the rod will have begun, without a pause. The angler, having swivelled his hips to the right, will now be facing in the direction of the imminent forward cast, with most of his weight on the left foot. During this phase of the cast, the arms are moving upwards so that the right elbow approaches shoulder height. This movement should be a smooth continuation of the upstream sweep, the rod tip moving slightly inward of the vertical, and upwards. When the arms reach their highest point, the D loop will have formed upstream of, and behind, the angler and the forward punch is made, helped by the lower left hand being pulled in towards the chest, again with no pause or break in the flow of the cast, with the weight being transferred back to the right foot as the cast is aimed at the tops of the trees on the far bank. The forward punch stroke should be stopped abruptly at a point about 30 degrees forward of the vertical to allow the spring in the rod to complete the job.

For what it's worth, then, that is my take on the single Spey cast..... works well enough for me..... most of the time!

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