By Brannon Santos
My passion for fly fishing was rejuvenated when I was introduced to two-handed rods and Spey casts.
My excitement grew and I found myself addicted to the aesthetics that tantalize several senses when Spey casting.
The slick sound of the fly line as it's ripped from the water and forms the perfect D-loop is only matched by the beauty of the tightly formed loop that carries your fly to a much-desired destination.
A well-performed Spey cast is similar to the feeling a golfer gets off a crushing, accurate shot from the tee. Instead of a green fairway, you've got water and a large steelhead as your target. The fun doesn't stop once the fly lands. It's just begun.
Not a lot matches that high level of anticipation one feels as their fly swings through the water, while at any point a trophy-sized steelhead may intercept it with forceful aggression. Hopefully, you're now checking the calendar for the first slot of time you get to go fishing!
The many benefits of a Spey rod
Keep in mind the certain benefits to casting a Spey (two-handed) rod over a single-handed rod, like greater casting distance with less effort. This lets the angler keep distance between the target, reducing the chance of spooking fish, and lets you fish for a longer period of time due to longer drifts with the fly in the bite zone.
Best of all, you achieve all this without suffering from the effects of casting fatigue. Any angler who’s fished for steelhead using a single-handed rod with a heavy sinking line knows what I am talking about.
The setup I like for my home rivers in California is a 12- to 13-foot, 6- or 7-weight, medium-action, two-handed graphite rod. The reel should feature a large arbor and a good drag system. An interchangeable fly line system is a must. Most line manufacturers have their own by now. I prefer a Skagit head system with a wallet full of different sink tips.
The importance of the roll cast
The roll cast is a key portion of a Spey cast because it’s used in every variation of the cast. When you Spey cast, the roll cast is preceded by some movements (setup cast) of the rod to position the line for a change of direction.
For example, when performing a "snake roll," the angler moves the rod tip in a counterclockwise (when the angler is on river right) semicircular motion on the downstream side. This lets the anchor point and D-loop stay in line for the cast. But it's the roll cast that sets it all into play.
Single versus double-handed casting
Remember, the fundamentals of two-handed casting are essentially the same as casting a single-handed fly rod. The difference is how you use both hands on the rod to achieve the end result. The power necessary to unload the rod will not come from the caster's top (dominant) hand, but from the pulling motion of the caster's bottom hand.
All the other same rules of a cast apply. In other words the path and duration that the rod takes throughout the casting stroke will determine the shape of the loop. A tight loop will be achieved through a compact casting stroke, as a wide loop will derive from a lengthy casting stroke. The "anchor point" is also a big part of developing the loop in a Spey cast.
Set the anchor
The anchor point is the fly, some or all of the leader, and a portion of the sink tip (if one is being used) that’s "anchored" in the water by the surface tension. The anchor point helps load the rod because every cast requires tension. In a standard overhead cast, the necessary tension comes from the back cast.
There's no back cast in a roll cast, thus the need for the anchor point. To practice the roll cast, face directly
downstream. This way the fly will automatically have the proper tension that is needed for a cast.
Fundamentals of a roll cast
Then, let the fun begin!