Oct 9, 2014

Spey Casting Errors by Charlie Chambers

Spey Casting That Prompts Cursing
Original photo and Credit by Larimer Outfitters - Photo edited by GFS for this blog post.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.
Leonardo DaVinci

I don't pretend to be an expert when it comes to spey casting but I've screwed up my cast without any outside influence enough times that I have become moderately skilled at troubleshooting my cast when "the train comes off the tracks". Anyone who has spent much time with a two handed rod can profess many experiences where the casting was going perfectly then suddenly went from a little bit off to full on incompetence. A flurry of curse words inevitably follow. When you are dealing with a fulcrum that is 13 feet long, a small change at your hands can translate to a huge mistake at the tip of the rod. And frequently, we try to troubleshoot our casts by doing the exact wrong thing in attempts to heal our sins. So, here's my list of my most common spey casting mistakes and some suggestions to help. I'm not a guide or a casting instructor so these aren't the most common mistakes for everyone but these are my most common evils, but I'm willing to bet that you've done these a few times as well.


 I think this might be my problem 85% of the time. And frequently, I try to fix everything else first without realizing where the problem really lies. Unfortunately, if the anchor is incorrect then we try to compensate with altering the remainder of the cast. If you don't feel the normal load on the rod from the formation of the "D" loop then you automatically correct by going forward faster. Make sure that your anchor is far enough away from you with the line/leader junction right in front of you. As long as your fly does not end up on the same side as your rod tip at the end of placing your anchor, then you aren't in danger of impaling yourself assuming the rest of your cast is normal.  I commonly place the line much too close to my body. Remember that you want to have your setup perfect prior to going into your "D" loop when you want no Skagit head on the water, or a few feet of Scandi line. If your anchor is well placed, then the sweep to the "D" loop and forward cast can be effortless and powerful. And remember, rarely, very rarely is the answer to speed up or apply more power to any portion of your cast. Instead, examine that anchor like a subtle clue in a Jack Reacher novel.

Don't Stop in the "D" loop

I think in some way, learning to speycast after having experience with a single handed fly rod can be a more difficult process. 

Though aspects of both have some overlap, a few techniques that are vital in single handed casting are a "death blow" if used with a spey rod. When sweeping the rod back to form the "D" loop, I have a natural tendency to want to pause before going forward with my cast. This tendency stems from allowing my back cast to straighten out when overhead single handed casting. That pause when spey casting causes your "D" loop to lose the energy that has already been built up with your sweep to form that "D" loop. Instead, I try to make sure that I go immediately forward once I've swept back to my "D" loop. Don't overcompensate by accelerating forward but merely change the direction of your cast without losing any energy in your "D" loop.

Adjust to Changing Conditions

Very common for my casting to be consistent and decent to where I start to suffer delusions of grandeur. I think about what it will be like to accept the trophy for longest cast ever recorded. Then reality slaps me in the face like a fish flipping me the fin instead of eating the skater. Frequently, the conditions have changed and I have not appropriately adjusted. When you make these adjustments, make small fine tuning changes. Two things that commonly "rock my world" of casting is water velocity and wind. Commonly, we wade into the top of the riffle where velocity is highest and the tension on the anchor is greatest. But, as we wade down, the velocity decreases and becomes easy to rip our line off the water and "blow" the anchor. Instead slow down and make sure that you do not dip the rod tip back when forming the loop. Don't pause but go forward smoothly and not in a hurry. Remember, save the anchor!!

Wind is another demon that can "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war". In my mind, I don't think about changing my cast. I believe that wind merely reveals any preexisting flaws in my technique. During your sweep to form a loop, slow down. Otherwise, that wind blows your line well away from you if you are trying to speed up. And instead of speeding up the forward cast and finishing lower to the water like you are trying to throw the line, think instead of exaggerating a high finish with an abrupt stop. Remember this will give you the tightest, most aerodynamic loop. To help myself keep that high stop, I imagine trying to throw my fly at a target high above the opposite river bank, like a tree top, cliff edge, or hillside. Hearing the wind, and feeling the wind ignites an instinct to go faster and throw the line, resist that urge. Okay to throw caution to the wind but not the fly. Cast it instead.

Charlie Chambers
Gorge Fly Shop Contributor 

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

1 comment :

  1. Charlie, really great info here! Thx it's mind boggling how dialed in we can be feeling great and then all of a sudden out if nowhere.... Fall apart! So true. Great read


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