Spey Line Overview
I have cast and fished all of these lines. Each have their
merits, and it is not my intention here to rate one over any other, although
where I feel a superior design is present I make note of it (note that lines are
presented in alphabetical order according to manufacturer name). My purpose is to
provide a brief intro to each of the major Spey lines currently available. As I
work with more lines I will update the information on this page.
The Airflo Speycaster is an intelligently designed long-bellied Spey line that will impress anglers who prefer long-line methods and casting in the traditional UK styles. This is the cleanest casting Spey line I've used--by this I mean that the line comes out of the water easily and with minimal surface disturbance. I suspect this is due to the polymers that Airflo is using--the line is very slick and stays that way even after hours of hard use. The line features a weight-compensated belly section, an extended front taper, and a long rear taper--about twice the length of the rear tapers on other Spey lines. This is an important feature because it affords the angler greater mending control at distance. While not specifically designed for shooting, the line coating and back taper design make it easy to add extra distance on the forward delivery.
When selecting an Airflo Speycaster for your rod, for faster
action US rods like Sage Euro actions and even the 10150-4, I suggest
that you step up one line size from your rod's highest weight rating for rods
with two line designations (such as 9/10), or step up one line size from the
middle rating if your rod has three line designations (such as 10/11/12): for a
rod rated 9/10, select an 11 weight Speycaster; for a rod rated 10/11/12, select
a 12 weight Speycaster). UK rods tend to nail the line weights quite well, which
is not surprising as the Airflo lines are designed, developed and manufactured
in the UK. Recent angling with a Daiwa Alltmor rod rated 10 -12 revealed that
the Airflo 11 loaded this rod perfectly. Take note of the Airflo 5 year non-crack guarantee--Airflo
is especially proud of its use of advanced polymer technology and is prepared
to stand behind its products.
The Delta Spey is Airflo's newest entry into
the Spey line arena and it is worth noting. Designed by Dec Hogan and Tim Rajeff,
the Delta Taper has a 55ft head, while the Long version has a 65ft head. This
puts the two lines in the Windcutter & MidSpey market, and they are worthy
opponents. I had the pleasure of testing prototypes of the Delta Taper and the Long
Delta Taper on the Dean in August 2001 and I was so impressed with the 55ft
version that I didn't use any other line for the rest of the year. The Delta
Taper throws beautifully pointy tight little loops and shoots like crazy--a good
caster will have little trouble chucking the entire 120ft line--so if you're
into having other casters on the river take notice this line will definitely
help. You won't find the line weight discrepancies that exist with the Speycaster--
the Delta Spey 9/10 will load your 9/10 rod well--and the line does carry
Airflo's exclusive 5 year guarantee.
Recently I've spent more time with the Long Delta and find it
a beautiful line to cast. The smaller diameter of the line makes it a better fit
on lighter reels than standard PVC lines, and the slick Airflo coating enhances
it's shooting capabilities. This is a great line length and choice for your 14ft
rods--frankly, I was astounded at how easy it was to throw the entire 9/10 Long
Delta with my 14ft speys.
Both the Delta and the Long Delta cast well at all distances.
For maximum distance casting, experimenting with overhang will pay dividends.
The Delta Taper comes in a full floating and multi-tip
configuration, while the Long Delta is available only as a floater. I'd like to
see Airflo produce a multi-tip version of the Long Delta.
multi-tip version of the Long Delta has been added for 2003.
With the exceptional casting qualities of the
Delta Spey lines noted in the spey casting community, Airflo had a big challenge before them: create the next
generation of long belly Spey lines. After consulting with experienced long line spey
casters (yup, including yours truly), Tim Rajeff designed a line that essentially takes the Long Delta taper
and extends it, creating the Traditional Spey. The Traditional Spey is a long
belly line with a head length of 80ft - 88ft depending on the line weight,
placing it solidly in the realm of the Mastery
Spey and the now discontinued RIO
The Traditional Spey exhibits the same great performance as
the Delta and Long Delta: excellent turnover, great loops, and the super slick coating makes it easy to pick the line up off the water and shoot it
for added distance. Like the Delta Taper lines the Trad Spey can be used like a
shooting head--hang the belly out the rod tip and the line will easily shoot to
the backing knot. The forward taper design also gives you good turnover even at
distance in windy conditions without the line feeling "tip heavy."
Plus the smaller diameter of the line makes it easier to load onto smaller
reels--for example I was able to load a Trad Spey 8/9 on my Loop
Evotec LW 8eleven and Traditional 3W.
On the lines I tested I found the running line a little on
the thick side, and I'd like to see the back of the line graduated into the
holding line/running line configuration featured in the Delta
Spey. At @ .048
the running line is the thickest I've seen on any Spey line, however the super
slick coating on the lines compensates for this. On the upside, as
with the Michael Evans line, the
thicker running line makes it easier to hang onto the line when you have the
head out the tip top, and the running line is also less prone to coiling and
tangling. And despite the thickness I was able to cast the whole line out to
the backing knot with relative ease.
The long belly Spey line has been rather neglected by the big
manufacturers lately in favor of shorter heads or extended belly lines. I think
that the Airflo Traditional Spey remedies this and sets a new standard for long belly
The Arrowhead Salmon line is Michael Evans's
follow up to his Specialist Speycaster lines. The Arrowhead line is a MidSpey-length
line (head length @ 66ft) backed by running line. I'd heard mixed reviews of
Michael's line so I ordered one and was pleasantly surprised by its performance.
The line has three weight ratings (9-11) but I found it worked best on 9 and 10
weight rods. The Arrowhead has a weight compensated belly section and extended
front and rear tapers all designed to enhance casting and fishing performance. A
unique feature of the Arrowhead is that it incorporates a color change in the
rear taper (the line changes from an off white belly to bright yellow running line)
so that it is easier for the caster to judge how much line is needed beyond the
rod tip for distance casting. Speaking of the running line, it is quite a bit
thicker (.044) than I've encountered on most other Spey lines (most running line
comes in @ 0.32-.035), but this doesn't seem to severely impact the line's
shooting qualities. A plus side to this thickness is that it certainly makes the
running line easy to handle and probably helps to keep it afloat in the sinking
The Arrowhead turned over wonderfully, and this was
especially evident on longer casts. I had no problems picking up the entire head
and shooting all of the running line into the cast with a 14ft 9 weight rod, and
turning over a 15ft leader at the end. I have to say though that the line itself
should be longer: at 38 yards (@ 114ft) I found the line a little on the short
side for some of the casts I know I'll be making on the Thompson, so I'll be
splicing 15ft or 20ft of additional running line to the back of the Arrowhead
before steelhead season. To me it doesn't make much sense for a factory spey
line to be any shorter than 120ft, and 130ft is better.
Michael Evans has done a tremendous job on the Arrowhead, coming
up with a great combination of tapers that works exceptionally well in the
medium length or MidSpey line category. This is a nicely balanced and enjoyable
line to cast.
So what's up with these UK Spey casters, and how come they keep
coming up with such great lines? First Michael
Evans, and now Ian Gordon! I have in my hot little hands a full floating
version of the Carron Jetstream Spey
line, and it is a beeee-yoot. While we North Americans toil away
trying to come up with the latest and greatest lines, the UK masters quietly
perfect line concepts that should make us all take notice. Such a line is the
Carron Jetstream, a product of the skill and creativity of master Spey caster
Ian Gordon. The Jetstream is the line that Ian used in the recent UK Spey
contests. I've been having a ball with this line since I received it in late
The Jetstream is available in full floating and intermediate
versions, and falls into the long line
combined belly and tapers of @ 76ft. The line has an extended front taper
compensated belly section, a long back taper and running line (total line length
150ft), and is rated 10/11. I cast it on
a number of 10/11 rods, from 15ft - 16ft, and it performed well on all
of them. The line has a long rear taper so you will need to experiment with the
amount of taper needed in the rod rings to effectively load the rod for your
preferred casting style and rod "feel", but I found it easy to put
most of the taper out the rod tip for my big water casts, effectively creating a
70+ft shooting head. Experiment with this line and then use a permanent marker
to place a mark on the line at the first stripping guide once you've determined
the best length of line for you. That way you can make perfect casts every time.
When I spoke with Ian about his lines he mentioned that the
Jetstreams had excellent shooting qualities, and that the line performs very
well with 50ft - 70ft out, and my tests confirmed this. As
mentioned, once you get the line out you have a 70ft+ shooting head, and it
really hauls out a lot of line and still turns over perfectly. Though the
running line is a little fatter than some other Spey lines (.039) it still
shoots well and doesn't hamper the line's ability to get out there when you need
I think the thing I liked most about this line was that it
simply was so easy to cast at all expected fishing distances. It is one of the
few long belly Spey lines I've cast that I believe casters of all levels could really
The Carron Jetstream will be spending a lot of time in the
rings of my big water Speys during the autumn of 2002.
Essentially Cortland's version of the RIO
Windcutter (RIO's lines were originally manufactured by Cortland). Head length
is a few feet longer (59ft) than the Windcutter but otherwise the profiles are
similar. A good beginner's Spey line.
Cortland's recent Spey line has a head length
of @ 65 feet. This length combines @ 50ft of full floating head with one of 4
interchangeable 15 foot tip sections--a floater, an intermediate, a type 3
sinker and a type 6 sinker. The line I tested was the 9/10, and it has @ 70 feet
of running line behind the head, giving the line a total length of @ 135ft. I
found it to be a great easy-casting line at all distances.
One of the defining features of this line are the large loops
that allow the loop-to-loop connection between the main belly and the tips.
These loops make it easy to pass your coiled tip section through the loop for rapid tip changes
and are big enough to pass a fly through for anglers who pre-rig
their tips with flies to avoid having to re-tie their tippet knots.
Initially I was a little skeptical of these loops, as their large size had
"hinge" written all over them (or so I thought!) but they actually
worked as well as and possibly even slightly better than many of the factory
loops I've tested. The combination of Cortland's taper design and these loops
cause the tips to turn over beautifully at the end of a cast, even a very
long cast. My only concern about these loops was their tendency to hang up in
the tip guides of my test rods--my rods have ceramic inserts in the tip tops and
I couldn't reel the loops through them. My solution to this was to cut the loop
off each of the tips and install one of Cortland's braided leader loops instead,
which solved the problem. Rods with larger ceramic inserts or large chrome ring
tip tops shouldn't have this problem.
The Hardy Mach 1 is a one-piece shooting head
system designed to replace Hardy's original shooting heads developed a few years
ago to help Hardy penetrate the European market. The Mach 1 lines have met with
approval both in Europe and North America where they are becoming popular as
overhead casting lines for some of the new saltwater two-handers that are being
I have tested the Mach 1 9/10 lines on a number of rods and
have found them to feel light on the stiff European actions like my Loops, but
fine on rods with more flex to them like my CNDs. This is a personal preference
thing I think--with shooting heads I tend to like to go a little heavier. Andy
Murray, Hardy's Spey guru, matches these lines with rods of the same line rating
and casts them beautifully.
These are shooting heads specifically designed for the Scandinavian Spey casting method (the famed Underhand Cast developed by Loop rod designer Gÿýran Andersson), but these lines also work well for short stroke Spey casting and overhead casting. The Adapted line kit comes with 3 shooting heads (floating, intermediate, and fast sinking, each @ 35ft - 40 ft in length) and @110ft of running line. The floating head is designed for use with very long (17ft) leaders which help the caster to get an effective anchor when executing the casts.
I have found these lines to be very useful for new Spey casters and those who, due to shoulder, arm or wrist injuries, find casting the longer, heavier lines difficult, fatiguing or painful. If you are an Underhand caster, these are the best lines you can buy.
Loop has recently redesigned their Adapted line system and I've been testing various prototype lines that are very promising. I feel that these new lines load the Color Concept Rods better than the original Adapted lines, and the loop-to-loop connections between the head and running line have been upgraded and are now stiffer and fully integrated into the line itself. Loop's new running line is a little thicker than their original, giving it more body and making it less likely to tangle than the lines I tested last year (2000), but this new line is very slick and shoots extremely well.
As with their reels and rods, Loop continues to explore new concepts in line design and are a company to watch for state-of-the-art double-handed tackle systems.
for Simon Gawesworth's Rio Line Recommendations
The Accelerator is similar to the Mastery Spey with a few
exceptions: the Accelerator has a front taper of nearly 30ft, and features a
"power hinge" @ 1/2 way into the taper. This power hinge is modeled
after the tapers designed by Vancouver Spey casting instructor Mike Maxwell and
has the effect of assisting new or weaker casters to turn over a long line.
Strong casters will find that this hinge causes the line to execute a "tuck
cast", plopping the fly into the water ahead of the line, and you'll
need to reduce the amount of power during the cast in order to remedy this.
Recently I've cut the power hinge out of the Accelerator and quite like the line
in this new configuration.
The Accelerator is 140 ft in length: a 28 ft front taper,
45ft weight-compensated belly, and a 6ft rear taper, plus 60ft+ of running line.
The famed Windcutter is an interesting line. It is favoured by many of the best American Spey casters and, due to its bright fluorescent yellow color it is often a line that shows up in photographs of Spey casts. I consider the Windcutter to be both a beginner's and an expert's line. It works very well for beginners because the short, weight-compensated head allows new casters to make fishable casts very quickly; it is an expert's line because with the right technique you can cast it a mile, and then you need to exercise advanced line handling techniques in order to control the drift of your fly.
The Windcutter is advertised as 140ft in length (the one I received was 130ft), comprised of a 20ft weight compensated belly, @ 32ft front taper, 2ft of rear taper and 76ft - 86ft of running line.
MidSpey is a recent addition to RIO's Spey products, and I believe that it
is their best. It represents a creative compromise between the Accelerator (and
other long-bellied Spey lines) and the Windcutter (and other shorter shooting
heads). The 65ft head length is short enough for newer Spey casters to handle
yet long enough for experienced casters to use to full advantage. The MidSpey is
easier to mend using conventional mending techniques than the Windcutter at
medium-to-medium-long distances due to the longer belly section. Put the
head outside to rod tip and you have an effective fishing distance of 80ft
- 95ft depending on whether you're using sinktips or long floating
leaders--plenty of distance on virtually all rivers, and all reachable with
minimal shooting, a boon in the winter time when cold air and water freeze rod
rings. The head section is backed by a long length of running line (the length
varies depending on the line weight--my 10/11 has 75ft of running line for 140ft
total line length)-- when you need to you can shoot it a mile. If you are
considering a RIO line, get a MidSpey; if you already have a RIO line, get the
MidSpey when your current line wears out.
What happens when two master Spey casters put their heads together to create a line to replace the Accelerator? Enter the GrandSpey, RIO's new extended belly Spey line.
The GrandSpey features an extended head comprised of
a relatively short front taper, a multi compound tapered forward section, a
belly section, and a 10ft rear taper in all line weights. Total head lengths (all
line in front of the running line) are as follows:
the RIO designers have stayed away from trying to make an overly long head. At
100ft, the head of the 10/11 GrandSpey is a
comfortable length for advanced long rodders, offering all the " lift, cast
and swing" distance you'll ever need while still being manageable when winding up for a
really long shooting cast. Total line lengths for the 8/9, 9/10 and 10/11 are
120ft, 130ft and 140ft respectively, giving advanced casters lots of line to
play with when things are quiet astream and there's nothing better to do than
see how far you can throw it (note: I think that the 8/9 line could be
longer: at 120ft I found
myself wanting a few more pulls of running line available for some of the bigger
pools I was fishing; I'd like to see the 8/9 extended to 130ft. The 9/10 at
130ft and the 10/11 at 140ft are just fine).
The GrandSpey has a two-tone color scheme similar to Michael
Evans's Arrowhead lines: the head is chartreuse while the running line is
buckskin. This color change makes it easy to accurately adjust the amount of head inside
the rod guides for maximum loading of the rod on long casts, and is also a fun
way of reminding you how much line you have out. I found the chartreuse head
easy to see in both bright and low light conditions.
my line tests are made under more controlled conditions than your serious
steelhead trip, but the GrandSpeys did not have this luxury: the first time I
cast one (the 8/9) was at first light on a favored run on British Columbia's
Thompson River, a perfect pace to test a high performance extended belly Spey
line. On the Thompson long casts and often tough wind conditions are the norm,
and in these conditions the GrandSpey excelled. Throwing the entire line into a
breeze on the Thompson's great pools was easy, and I was astounded by how well
the line turned over in such conditions. The next morning I handed the 8/9 to a
fish and in the early morning half light I could see the GrandSpey
unrolling in the air and hear Jeff saying things like "Wow!" and
"Beautiful!" That pretty much sums up my feelings about the GrandSpey as
The GrandSpey is RIO's answer to the Mastery
Spey XLT but it does not exhibit the casting idiosyncrasies of the Mastery
line. The front section of the GrandSpey enhances turnover at all distances, and
this line really does handle long leaders and heavy flies very well. Over 13
generations of prototype lines were tested before the final design was arrived
at, and all that work is evident as the GrandSpey unrolls.
Even at extreme distances the GrandSpey turns over perfectly. While I can make
the XLT do this as well, it took some line surgery and an alteration of my casting style in order to accomplish this consistently. The GrandSpey on the
other hand exhibits its impressive turnover characteristics with my default
casting style right out of the
Designed as a fishing line that will allow anglers to cast
long distances (as opposed to a casting line that can be used for fishing,
which is my impression of the XLT), the GrandSpey's multi compound step
taper design maximizes efficient energy transfer along the head. The taper is
designed to load a Spey rod well at all expected fishing distances, so a 30ft
cast turns over as well as a 130ft cast. And after watching Spey
casters of varying skill levels casting both the XLT and the GrandSpey I
am convinced that the GrandSpey is a more forgiving, user-friendly line.
One thing you will notice about the GrandSpey is that it does
feel a little heavier than the XLT when casting, and this is due to the fact
that the GrandSpey does not have as fine a tip taper as the XLT. Although this
makes the XLT feel lighter it also contributes to the problem the XLT has
turning over long leaders and heavy flies and casting into a wind, real
world angling conditions addressed by the GrandSpey's less radical forward
taper. So the sensation of a somewhat heavier line
translates into superior casting and fishing qualities that the XLT can't match.
Still, like the XLT the GrandSpey is a heavy line and it is tiring to cast over
a couple of long days on the water. Working on the efficiency of your casting
stroke will help you avoid undue fatigue with this or any other extended belly
After casting the GrandSpeys on several rods I am convinced
that these lines should have 3 line weight designations similar to what RIO has
for their Windcutter lines. These designations should be based on an
angler's skill level, as well as preferred rod action and casting feel (what Simon has
already done with his "A" and "B" ratings in his RIO line
recommendations). As an example, the 8/9 GrandSpey casts well at all distances on 9/10 and 10/11
rods (we tested it on Loop and Sage 9/10s, and Loop and CND 10/11s), and at
short to medium-long ranges (say out to 70ft or so)
it would also load many 8
weight rods well, so I'd like to see it rated 8/9/10. To properly line your rod with a GrandSpey refer to Simon's
line ratings; however if you are an advanced caster and your rod is not found in this list I suggest you
use the line's higher number as a guide to lining your rod--if you have a 9 weight
rod (or a 9/10), line it with the 8/9 GrandSpey
Also keep in mind that like the XLTs, these lines eat up a lot of reel space,
so if you don't already have a large capacity reel you'll want to get one if you
plan on spooling up the GrandSpeys.
Yup, I love the GrandSpey. This is the production extended belly
Spey line I've been waiting for.
The Mastery Spey is a dependable long-bellied
weight forward line specifically designed for use with two-handed rods for
casting in the traditional UK methods. The long belly allows for long, controlled
casts, and the extended front taper turns a fly over at distance. Highly skilled
casters, or those preferring overhead casting, can also shoot line on the
forward delivery for casts exceeding 100'.
The overall length of the belly portion of the Mastery Spey
is @ 78ft (50ft belly, 20ft front taper, 8ft rear taper), backed by @ 40ft of
the Mastery Spey has now been redesigned and re-introduced as the
Mastery Spey "Mid Head" along with the brand new Spey Short Head. My
first experience with these new lines was back in the winter with the Spey Short
Head 8/9 and my Loop Gray 9130-4. The Short Head is a wonderfully balanced line
that casts exceptionally well. Sometimes short head lines tend to feel heavy or
clunky once you get everything outside the rod tip, but not this one. The Short
Head behaves well at all distances but it really likes you to treat it like a
shooting head, so that's generally what I do. It casts crisp tight loops and
turns over perfectly at distance. I tend to like to underline my rods with these
new lines--I find that the 8/9 lines are really nice on 9/10 lines for example,
and the current set up that I've been using as one practice rig for the FFF Spey
Certification is my Loop Blue 10150-4 and the Spey Mid Head 9/10.
here for XLT line recommendations
The long-awaited, much anticipated and somewhat controversial XLT is SA's newest entry into the Spey market, and is designed to allow anglers to make very long Spey casts without shooting line. The achievement of the XLT is its synthesis of various line concepts into a workable extended belly line that can be mass produced. SA has been pretty secretive about the taper design, but with a fabric tape and micrometer I was able to figure out that the XLTs that I tested were @ 130ft long (8/9) and 140ft long (9/10) and were comprised of an extended front taper, a step tapered belly, a long back taper (@18ft on the 8/9 and 9/10 models I tested), and running line. This gives an angler a workable belly of 100ft or more and is designed to allow long casts in excess of 100ft without shooting line, but the info I received from SA indicated that a skilled caster will also be able to shoot line into the cast. During test casting with a variety of rods on both moving and still water the XLT lived up to these claims: a skilled caster certainly can pick up and throw the entire belly and shoot line to the backing knot and beyond, which is a fun thing to do on anyone's river. Put a 15ft leader on the end of it and turn it all over and that is a very long Spey cast no matter how you measure it (note: Steve Choate used a customized version of the XLT to win the recent Musto Spey contest).
Although the XLT is supposed to turn over well at
all distances, I haven't found this to be the case. My own tests and
feedback provided by others who have cast the line indicates that at distance
the XLT struggles with clean turn over especially with longer leaders and/or
heavier flies and requires adjustments to one's casting stroke to compensate;
casters favoring long leaders and/or big flies might want to cut the line back a
few feet before tying on their leader (casting tip: aim high so that the
line has enough time to turn over before falling to the water). Also, the weight ratings on the lines
seem to be off a little, especially for anglers capable of picking up and
throwing the entire belly. In my experience the lines best loaded rods rated one
or two line weights above the line's maximum rating: use an 8/9 XLT on a 10/11
rod, for example. I found that when used with rods that shared the line's rating
(a 9/10 line with a 9/10 rod, for example) the line was overloading the blank
once most of the belly was outside the rod tip (see my article on Spey lines here
for more on this). And as far as casting efficiency goes, while you may not need
to strip and shoot much line with the XLT, even the best casters will find it
tiring to pick up and throw all those grains cast after cast over a long day of
fishing, and certainly with fatigue comes a reduction in casting efficiency and
But with those three concerns out of the way the line
certainly does mend nicely and the AST coating makes it super slick so it comes
off the water easily and shoots very well. The XLT throws nice tight loops and
can provide a delicate presentation, even at extreme distance.
One other note: if you decide to buy an XLT be certain that your reel has
enough capacity to carry it. In the heavier line sizes the XLT will only fit on
my largest Spey reels.
My original thoughts about the XLT were that it is a good line that has the
potential to be a really great line if some of its shortcomings are addressed.
I believe that for a line to be truly exceptional it should cast well right out
of the box for a wide range of casters without any need for major modification
to either the line itself or to a proficient caster's technique (as it was
rather pointedly suggested I do by a few fellows who sent me nasty email in
response to my original review). This was not the case with the original XLTs.
Since then SA has been tinkering with the 9/10 and 10/11 XLTs and it now looks
like the weight designation and tip turnover concerns mentioned in this review
have been addressed. I watched Steve Choate casting an advanced prototype
version of the 9/10 this past autumn and the latest version at the Kaufmann's Spey Days in
March and the line was turning over much better
than the originals. Additionally, I observed several other casters of varying
skill levels cast the line and the tip turned over just fine. I have just
received the new versions of these lines and will add more once I've had a
chance to cast them.
update2: now that I've had a chance to work with all of the finalized XLTs I am satisfied that the initial glitches have been worked out and the line has realized its potential. Long casts are effortless for the experienced caster, and the turnover is crisp and positive. Like the GrandSpey the XLT is an extended belly line that can help advanced intermediate to expert casters realize their long belly casting potential.
The Spey-Driver is the famous line developed by casting instructor and Winston Spey rod designer Derek Brown and has been one of my most used Spey lines since I got my first one back in the late 90s. Hand-made, the Spey-Driver is a variable profile line that can be adjusted to suit the tackle and casting style of individual anglers. This advanced casting line features a weight compensated, step tapered belly section, an extended front taper, and a long back taper, a combination that allows skilled casters to throw over 100ft of line without shooting. The Spey-Driver is
based upon the principles set forth by the great caster Alexander Grant in Jock
Scott's Fine and Far Off, and is the line Brown used to make his
186ft cast in June of 1996.
The Thompson Spey Line is an extended belly line design concept that
I have toyed with on-and-off for 5 years or so, and is my most used extended
belly line. This is a custom made line
constructed of pieces of various commonly available lines spliced together using
the Flex-Zap splicing method. The Thompson Spey
Line began as I tinkered with one of Derek Brown's Spey-Drivers,
adding different sections of line and changing some of the belly and taper
characteristics, and has evolved into a 150ft line that features a continuous and
extended front taper, a relatively short belly section, and running line. It is
a line designed to load 15ft+ rods in line weights 10-12. There are only a very
few of these lines in existence and I won't publish the specs for this line. I
mention it here not to generate interest in it but to hopefully generate
interest among other anglers in tinkering with other lines to come up with
something that truly works well for them.
A great extended belly line developed by master spey caster Takashi
Shimosawa of Japan. Like the Thompson Spey Line, the SCJL is a custom
spliced line based on the original Spey-Driver concept but incorporates a few of
Shimosawa's modifications. Somewhat lighter for its length than the Spey-Drvier
or Thompson Spey Lines, the SCJL gives rods a slightly quicker action in a given
line weight. I used a SCJL for ˙ŭ of the 2003 autumn steelhead season and it has
become a favored line for 15ft+ rods in line weights10 - 11.
I have grouped this series of lines made by
different people under one generic heading that I believe best represents the
spirit of these tapers. Skagit lines are custom made shooting heads made by
various people including Marlow Bumpus, Mike Kinney, Harry Lemire and Ed Ward.
These lines are an important part of the spey casting history and traditions of
the Pacific Northwest and were the inspiration for the Windcutter. I have cast
various versions of these lines and they all have similar attributes: all are
designed for sink-tip work, all are spliced from pieces of various commercially
available fly lines to the maker's specifications, and all are designed to work
equally well at short or long distances. I spent the spring 2003 season with a
Skagit Line and found it to be very effective.
The Winter Line is a custom long-bellied Spey
line for experienced Spey casters that I've designed especially for use with
sink-tips. A winter steelhead-specific application of Derek Brown's Spey-Driver
concept, the Winter Line will turn over long sink-tips such as 15ft of Cortland 12wt
type VI (@180 grains) and is best for rods rated 10 -12. This line was designed
using the Sage 10150-4, 10160-3, the Daiwa Alltmor, and an 18ft Bruce and Walker
10 - 12, but other rods of similar rating--such as the Scott 15ft 10 weight--
will handle the line well. The advantage of this line is that it has 75ft -
80ft of tapered belly behind the sink-tip, which gives you over 90ft of fishable
line without shooting (using a 15ft sink-tip), reducing or eliminating
the need for line stripping during colder fishing conditions. Compare this to
just 75ft with the RIO Accelerator tips version. Specifications for the
custom-spliced version of this line have been published in the February 2001
edition of the Spey
Probably the most underrated Spey lines
available today. These lines are easy to cast and turn flies over beautifully.
Although advertised as a "continuous forward taper" the Triangle
Tapers really aren't, but the overall effect is that of a continuous taper.
For example, the back end of the line stays level for several feet before
necking down to another section of level line, which in turn necks down again. Recently
I have been experimenting with improving the Triangle Taper Spey designs.
The lines are available in 70ft and 80ft head lengths.
Leaders are an important yet overlooked component of any line's
performance. It's the leader that becomes your best friend at the end of a long
Spey cast when it turns your fly over and places it exactly where you aimed it.
During fishing the leader is the last contact point with the fly: whether you're
controlling the drift of a green butt skunk or trying to control the panicked
flight of a 20lb steelhead your leader makes you or, well, breaks you.
As a general rule, with double-handers and floating lines use
a leader that is at least as long as the rod, and longer if you can handle it.
For my casting and fishing I use leaders of 15ft for shorter, lighter rods such
as the Fly Logic 1308, the Loop 8124, or the Sage 7136; and up to 20ft for
longer rods like the Daiwa Alltmor, the 15ft Loop, or the 16ft Sage. For
sink-tip lines shorter leaders are in order, lengths of 3ft - 5ft.
The strength and diameter of your leader will depend on a
variety of factors, including the size and weight of the fly to be cast, the
expected size of the fish, and the type of water you'll be fishing. Smaller
flies tied on lighter wire hooks can be fished with lighter tippets, but if you
are after big fish in faster water a lighter tippet is probably a bad idea.
Also, no matter how much fun it is to play a steelhead or Atlantic salmon, if
your ultimate objective is to release the fish you should consider using a
heavier leader as this will allow you to pressure the fish for a quick release.
I've used a lot of different types of leaders for Spey
casting and fishing, from off-the-peg to custom tied, but over the past year
I've become a believer in the Airflo Polyleaders and the Loop Polytips and Loop
LNL 17ft Salmon leaders and can recommend them highly. During the fall of 2000 I
used the Loop floating and sinking Polytips and the LNL Salmon Leaders
exclusively. The floating Polytips and the LNLs were originally designed for use
with the Scandinavian Underhand Cast but they are
excellent for all forms of floating line Spey casting and have added distance to
all of my casts due to their amazing turnover. The sinkers are compact, easy to
carry, and cover me for all summer and fall applications where I might need
depth. I've been experimenting with the Airflo Polyleaders this winter and have
also found them highly effective in pools of moderate flow 3ft - 5ft deep. You
can run the Polyleaders off a standard sink-tip line for serious dredging or off
an intermediate line for pools where you might normally use a standard sink-tip,
giving you an easy-to-cast yet highly effective sink-tip system without the bulk
and weight of standard sink-tips.
And while I like all the custom-designed nylon and poly
leaders and believe that in many situations they give you superior turnover,
there's still something to be said for 4ft - 15ft of 15lb Maxima as a leader. In
fact, many accomplished spey casters prefer leaders of level nylon as they find
that it gives them a better anchor during spey casting. Take your pick.