Spey Casting is Fly Casting | Basic & Forgotten Fundamentals

Spey Casting is Fly Casting | Basic & Forgotten Fundamentals

My goal in writing this blog and making the video (above) is to do so without mention of terms most people who would benefit from reading this wouldn’t understand. If I tried to explain a bunch of techniques in this article, it would significantly take-away from the main points I’m trying to emphasize. If you decide to act on what you are reading and seeing here, the information to take it a step further is out there and we at Minturn Anglers are happy to be a resource. That being said, the information on this page is sure to help your flies stay wet a lot longer. By numbers, it’s a simple equation, “If ‘X’ Amount more fish see fly ‘Y’ in a day, then you will catch ‘Z’ amount more fish!”

The Most Efficient Path from Point “A” to Point “B” is a Straight Line….  

  • Throwing a dart at the target
  • Shooting a gun at a Target
  • Pulling the string on a Bow Towards a Target
  • Squaring up in the Tee Box to hit one down the fairway
  • Shooting a basketball from the the free throw line
  • Running a 100 meter dash
  • Throwing a football to someone
  • Hitting a baseball
  • sending an email as opposed to sending a letter

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  So why is it that fly casting should be so incredibly different?  Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not!  Unfortunately, this simple point has become  incredibly lost in teaching a very important aspect of fly casting on a moving river.  When an instructor teaches you to overhead cast on grass, the  “A to B” path of the rod tip is taught by any worthwhile casting instructor. While that’s all good and dandy, what happens when we lay that cast down on a moving surface of water?  Your fly has now drifted down stream into a position where it is not so easy to take the rod tip directly from “A to B” while 20-40 feet of fly line is dangling downstream. This is where the problem and an extremely under taught aspect of  fly fishing & casting begins.


When the fly is Downstream….What Do We Do?  

With the current pulling the line directly downstream, it actually works out where we can make a very efficient cast 180 degree upstream since everything is in a direct line.  This is called the water load cast and I blame a lot of the regression in the art of fly casting to the water load.  It’s very easy to teach, and for guides who don’t really understand fly casting themselves it gets the job done…well kinda. So what happens when you suddenly need to take your fly from directly downstream and cast anywhere other than straight upstream?   It’s simply not going to happen since the fly is only in a position to be water loaded upstream. In Colorado, our rivers are generally small enough where this awkward lift and cast across nonsense (sorry can’t bring myself to call it technique) is often taught and executed “good enough” to get the job done.  It might work on a small river,  but it is incredibly painful to watch and nothing makes my temples hurt as much as listening to a slack lined thing-a-mobber-cast from downstream to straight across rip the water in agony all day.  It’s exhausting to watch and yes, it looks worse than it sounds.  Not much better, is to make a series of false casts like a 4 point turn a big truck makes in a tight parking spot to eventually redirect the fly, line & rod back into A to B alignment (optimistically assuming that those 4 back casts didn’t land in the tree behind you or birds nest around the tip of the rod).


This Scary Misunderstood Four Letter Word, Called “Spey”

In my opinion, there is no such a thing as single hand casting and spey casting.  Fly casting is fly casting.  The only difference is a spey rod is used with two hands, and a single handed rod is used with one hand on the rod.  Aside from that, the casts we see performed frequently with two handed spey rods are all casts that can and should be made with the 9′ 5wt you have at home.  What you will find is that the casting techniques you see with 2 handed fly rods are more than just style points.  What you are seeing in the videos is an efficient and very practical way to to answer the question from the previous heading, “When the fly is Down Stream, What do we do?” The answer is quite simple.  We get our body, fly, line and rod all back into an “A to B alignment” aimed in the direction we wish to cast.


Where to Go From Here

If you have managed to read this far, you can no longer say, “well I didn’t know there was another way!”  If you are new to fly fishing the water load cast  is understandable but  I urge you to correct those habits before they become the way you cast and fish.  If you are an avid fly angler,  I encourage you to fish with a guide who can help you understand the basic principles of;  anchor placement, sustained anchor casting,  touch & go casting, D-loop, and casting under the rod.  All this will radically change the way you fish and add a whole new dimension of the enjoyment you get from fly fishing. You will soon realize that the process of casting is really fun & and not this painful intermission between mending & watching the bobber float.  If taught correctly, this is all easy to learn, and  you will be amazed by how much more time your flies are spent fishing over the course of a day.  If you are a fishing guide, and teaching the water load is the only trick you have up your sleeve, I beg you to buy the DVD Spey to Z and watch it over and over and over again. Start to implement it in your own fishing, and when your comfortable with it, start working it into the way you guide.

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

About the Author

Justin Nolan

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