What is Spey Casting?
Courtesy of RIO Products

SPEY CASTING for Atlantic salmon evolved along Scotland's legendary Spey River. Specialized casts and two handed fly rod designs were developed because backcasting was hindered by rocky outcroppings and trees bent on snaring an angler's flies. The original spey rods were sometimes eighteen to twenty feet long, made of Greenheart wood from British Guiana. The wood was dense and a sixteen foot rod could weigh twenty-four ounces or more. Such long fly rods have several names: double handed, two handed, salmon, long rods or more specifically, spey rods. Not all the casts made with them can be categorized as spey casts, however.

Although single and double spey casts were developed for fishing forested or canyon waters with limited backcasting, they've only recently made the transition to the US and Canada. Interestingly, what were once specialized casts now appear to be revolutionizing fly fishing in North America as well as finding new applications, such as the use of two handed rods in grasshopper or stonefly fishing or in casting for Pacific salmon or steelhead. There is also a growing number of saltwater anglers who are finding the extra length of these rods very helpful for casting in strong winds or for getting the fly out over the surf. The advantage to fly fishers in learning the spey casts is that in situations where a backcast is difficult, water becomes accessible to the fly that was previously the province of hardware, bait or float fishermen. Once learned, the spey casts can produce -- without a backcast ---consistent casting distances of seventy-five to 140 feet. Anglers can benefit in using these wonderful rods to make shorter casts as well. Often you need only the length of the rod behind you. And once the cast is made, the degree of line control is astounding because you can place the fly and mend to keep it in the "bucket" longer than with a conventional fly rod.

Just as conventional graphite rods have different actions, modern two handed rods present various actions, classified in three groups: fast tip, middle and progressive-through-butt action. The original Greenheart rods, like the famous Grant Vibration, had a soft action, but the weight or mass of these rods moving the line produced good spey casts. The new graphite two handed rods have much stiffer actions but are significantly lighter. Good double or two handed rods will make excellent overhand conventional casts and good spey casts as well. Jim prefers a rod that has a tip bending progressively into the midsection plus the reserve of power in a stiffer butt. This is necessary in order to load the rod with sixty or seventy feet of line out on the water and then follow through with the final forward delivery.

At first, trying to control a fourteen to seventeen foot rod will be frustrating if you mistakenly believe that since the two handed rod is longer and heavier you should use more force to put a bend in it. Just the opposite is true. It's far too easy to overpower a long rod and end up with a chaotic mess of tailing loops and misdirected energy. Remind yourself constantly not to overpower the rod.

A great resource for experienced and beginning spey casters can be found at www.speypages.com/speypages.htm