My adventure into Spey casting
I have always been amazed at the fluid motions the Spey anglers achieve with very little effort in their cast. This technique origin in the history books developed in 1880 originating from England. That, of course, is another amazing story.
Often I am in a situation where I can’t back cast to obtain the distance I require in targeting the salmon. Spey casting and its many casting techniques allow the angler to obtain a long forward casting distance without worry of the structure behind them.
I am proficient with the single hand fly-fishing rods and this would be a great challenge to expand my ability.
My targets were salmon and steelheads. From the small Pink salmon to the power house Chinook and chum salmons. I felt I needed a rod with a strong backbone to handle the Chinook salmon, Chum salmon and the Coho salmon. I have caught these brutes in the past with a single hand rod and I felt a 9wt was more appropriated for me. I didn’t want to extend the fight longer than needed, which would occur with a lighter weight rod as I was catching and releasing.
After talking to various veteran Spey anglers who graciously shared their own individual techniques. Each angler was different. They had evolved their own system and customized their line set up that produced the best cast for themselves.
It is very confusing on how to complete this set up. There is alot of videos available on the web that helped with various casting techniques. The vast amount of information on running lines, sink or float and many different kinds of shooting heads and sinking tips. I still found it difficult to zone in on what I wanted to achieve with my limited ability and what various tackle to acquire.
It is easy to get confused with all the various lines and techniques. The first difference is your main line, floating and/or sinking lines. I knew from experience with a single-hand fly rod it was easier to learn using a floating line. They were easier to lift off the water, easier to mend and also to cast.
I wanted a floating line with an ability to add various sinking speed tips for the various flow speed and depths I needed to get to my targets. It also would have to handle the big salmon flies weighted or not weighted.
There are two different types of casting lines, one being the Skagit casting line. It was developed near the Skagit River in Washington State. The Skagit casting is fairly short and a heavy line that is good for casting large flies in big sections of the river. Another is called the Scandi casting line. The Scandi is short for Scandinavia where it was developed. It’s a type of Spey casting that generally uses lines that are a little longer and a little ‘thinner’ than Skagit casting, and it’s more appropriate with smaller flies.
One of the largest fly line manufacturers has a site that actually will balance out all the various weighted lines, running lines, shooting heads and sinking tapers. It starts with what is your target. For me, it is only for salmon. The size of the rivers and distance I want to achieve in my cast. Throwing large weighted salmon flies was important. The length and line weight of your rod combined with your ability. I know I will eventually evolve and have my own combination but this is a solid way to start for a novice.
I settled on the manufactures recommendations 30 pound Dacron backing, Powerflex max .035, 100 -foot float shooting line, Skagit floating shooting head 625-gr 20 foot and a sinking Skagit MOW T11 10 foot sinking tip.
Depending on the river flow speed and depth the angler should carry an assortment of sinking speed tips. These sinking tips are measured by how fast or how many inches per second they sink.
Once I had the combinations of lines it was time to focus on the reel. I noticed if any reel had the name SPEY on it was very expensive.
What I knew from fly-fishing a single hand rod was that the reel was to be aluminium, sealed bearings, and most important disc brakes to handle the powerful run the large fish can place on your reel. A veteran Spey angler said I should research for a single hand reel with those specs and choose a reel two sizes larger than the weighted line I was going to use. I settled on a single hand fly reel for 11 wt. the line that loaded all the lines with a little space left over.
My leader started with 20-pound mono, then dropped to 15 pound and then to 12 pound allowing easier break offs if required without risking the loss or damage to the fly lines. Clear shallow waters required long leaders. High silted waters required shorter leaders to reach your target.
For flies, I selected salmon cone head tube flies as I could easily change up flies without changing leaders. Another selection was marabou flies weighted and un-weighted. The un-weighted flies would allow me to fish the shallows without snagging up.
There is a lot to learn with the different types of casting. I was told to stay with the basic D casting. I needed to learn to cast left or right side to be able to cover the various accesses. The modern-day social media allows an angler to watch many various pros showing, instructing how to handle the two-handed Spey rod. I started mimicking the movement in a grassy field. After lots of practice, I venture to the water just to practice so no hook that brought some attention to onlookers.
My first river to cover was the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island. With a drift boat, there is a lot of beaches and different water flows an angler can approach and cover. The river that day proved that I needed to have a larger selection of sinking speed tips. As a right-hander, I just loved the way the line shoots out. I needed to improve my left side casting techniques though. I found my synchronization flow off my cast was off on the left side.
The next river I covered was the Campbell River for Pink Salmon. I ventured to the fly zone only and spent 5 hours of delight catching Pink salmon. This river flowed from my left to my right. Perfect for the right-hander.
Next adventure came from the Puntledge River for the Chum salmon. Now, this was challenging as the river flowed from my right to my left. Casting from the left was difficult. After 2 hours I was going to give up but a fine gentleman from Scotland was casting a Spey rod also and approached me. He offered some guidance and that’s all I needed. I eventually got that technique and started to throw excellent casts. Mending the line I reached an area were a few fresh chums were laying and bam I had my first silver chum salmon on. I laughed when my daughter caught her first coho. Well, she would have had laughed at me as I screamed with excitement just like her.
I have now caught Pinks and chum salmon on my bucket list. Next season will be for the spring salmon and the Coho salmon.
As it is said to practice makes perfect and so begins my own development to the world of Spey fly-fishing