I am not too proud to admit that I’m not a very competent fly caster. Frankly, there’s simply no hiding the fact, and therefore no reason to deny it.
Having grown up using spinning gear for bass, pike, and walleyes, I harbor a mental block that prevents me from fully comprehending the mechanics required to make a clean, long, and accurate one-handed fly cast (or I’m just hopelessly obstinate). On occasion I hold my own with a 4- or 5-weight on a small, bucolic trout stream and nary a breeze in the air, but get me out on a wind-whipped bonefish flat or a big northwestern salmon river, and ask me to cast an 8- or 9-weight to a fish 50 feet away, and I fall to pieces in a hurry. I’m enchanted by the idea of fly casting, but my inability to do it well is endlessly frustrating and discouraging — both to myself and those who attempt to help me.
On a recent trip to Alaska’s Alagnak River, however, I was introduced to a fly-casting technique that even I could wrap my head around — Spey casting. Named for Scotland’s River Spey, the technique has been around since the mid 1800s and is typically performed with two hands rather than one. For this reason, most Spey rods, which are longer than standard fly rods (think 11 to 15 feet), feature a second handle below the reel seat (on the Alagnak, I was using G.Loomis’s brand-spanking-new 11-foot PRO4x Switch rod). Altogether, the technique incorporates a series of sweeping casts that combine to produce fly presentations out to 80 or even 100 feet (check out G.Loomis’ Bruce Holt’s mini tutorial video).
It took me a bit to get a handle on Spey casting, and by no means have I come close to mastering it, but it wasn’t long before I was zipping bright pink leech patterns to silver salmon so fresh they still had sea lice on them. Spey casting is a leisurely, almost meditative way to fish a fly. If you’re like me, and struggle to cast with a one-handed fly rod but aren’t ready to give up on flyfishing altogether, you might consider giving Spey casting a try.