Fly Fishing Traditions

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Is the Entry Into the Spey World Confusing?

When you first open the door to fishing with a two handed rod it opens into a very broad and for most people a confusing world. I attended a switch rod clinic a number of years ago and the first thing that happened was the instructor opening up a small suitcase type of thing and dumped a pile of lines, heads, tips, etc. onto a table. I said to myself, "I'm not ready for this!". Running Lines, Integrated Lines, Skagit Heads, Scandi heads, Versileaders, T-8, T-11, T-14, Customized heads, my head was swimming immediately. What the heck is a Skagit Head? The instructor just said "forgetaboutit". Unfortunately you can't just put your head in the sand. You have to figure this stuff out, you have to learn how the stuff matches up. What lines match up with which rod? Grain weights? What's this about?

I'm going to attempt to demystify some of this world through a number of posts which will cover:

  • Switch Rods
  • Spey Rods
  • Reels to match the rods
  • Running Lines
  • Integrated lines
  • Shooting Heads, Skagit and Scandi and variations of each
  • Tungston heads
  • Versileaders
  • MOW tips
  • Leaders
  • Flies
Unfortunately this is just all the gear! What to do with it is another story. How do you cast the darn things? Who do we listen to? There are different styles of casting that tend to match your line configuration, type and size of water you are fishing, the size of flies.

There are styles of casting two handed rods. The expression being tossed around these days is "Modern Speycasting". These are classified as;
  • Modern Speycasting - This style utilizes shorter head lines, using a more compact style using both hands or with a dominant bottom hand. This is the style is best described as the style employed by Simon Gawesworth. Simon tends to use medium to long integrated lines, with fast, flat rod movements with positive stops to develop and maintain a "V-Loop", (and elongated D'Loop), with a long casting stroke with upper arm extension. His technique develops line speed by using his upper and lower hand equally, 50/50. This style is a good choice for rivers that have open areas for an enlongated "D-loop". With that said it can be used with variations on most any river.
  • Skagit Speycasting - This style can be described as using short shooting heads that are cast with effortless power by utilizing a sustained anchor This is often referred to as the "Ed Ward" style which uses a "Continuous Loading" throughout the cast, Similar to a "Belgian Cast" when single hand casting. The stroke never stops from pickup, swing or sweep, turn up, forward stroke. The rule of thumb for this style is that the hang-down (line out of the tip) should be where the line belly plus the tip (cheater, weighted head, or MOW tip etc) is in the range of 3 to 3 1/2 times the length of the rod. Another characteristic of the Skagit Casting is that the D-loop is form off the shoulder and does not conform to the 180 degree rule. It's  more of a 120 degree rule. (My interpretation). This style is a great for streams that have close cover and obstructions directly behind you, willows, brush and trees.
  • Underhand Style - This style can be used with integrated lines and with shooting heads and features the a dominant bottom hand. This casting style uses the 180 degree rule to place the D-Loop, and at the forward stop features a dominant pull with the bottom hand leading immediately afterwards to a stop of the rod. We're talking a hit the brick wall stop which results in a release of the rod tip to the target.
Three styles, all of which have their place. It's good to learn them all. Try them all and see which works for you.

Ready to give up? Hang in there and we'll slowly work our way through it.

I'll start with Switch and Spey rods in the first post in this series. Stay tuned and we all may learn together and in the end become accomplished spey fishers.


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Have any Questions or Comments? Let me know, Clay.