Defining the Spey.... - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 01:08 AM Thread Starter
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Defining the Spey....

L.A. Smithers really gets me thinking when he posts about the Ghillies from Scotland and their spey casts and the true definition of spey casting.

I have always tried in my mind (at least casually) to always call the long rods we use for Spey casting that allow the use of two hands a "two hander," as opposed to a "spey rod" because as much as a "two hander," lends itself to easier spey casting because of the added length, you can spey cast even a single hander and I tend to consider the Spey about the method (casts) and not about the equipment. From my understanding, the original spey casts were designed on the River Spey (as we've all heard about) to help fly fisherman avoid snagging up with the brush/foliage behind them on a back/false cast from overhead casting. This then opened up a lot of water that wasn't previously available to the fly angler because of the creation of these casts.

Now with the above thought in mind, does this then label any cast that is created to take advantage of minimal backcast room as well as make fishing more efficient a "Spey cast?" (because of the original idea in mind to use casts that load the rod with minimal backcast room?) or are spey casts only casts that were forged on the River Spey and similar rivers with DT lines and soft greenheart rods? Does this then set the stage for giving name, like the article by Mr. Ward states, to some of the newer casts which we deem part of Spey casting, the "Skagit casts." I don't really discriminate on the river myself when using the casts, whatever loads the rod for a particular situation on the river is what I use. I don't say a prayer for the river spey everytime I use a Spey cast, and I don't say a prayer for Dec Hogan everytime I use the Snap C, or think about Simon Gawesworth everytime I'm using the Snake/Spiral roll. I guess I'm on the lesser discriminatory side and tend to call just about anything that has the basic premise of being able to cast with minimal backcast room and no false casting a "Spey cast."

What is your defintion?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 02:13 AM
 
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Hi Scott : Not to quibble since your basic thinking is pretty much down the line,but to add the spey method ,if we can call it that included not only the cast but the whole harmonius nature of the rod( your right to call it a double hander)the fly( a specific fly designed to fish deep from a floating line and long leader( the line was silk so it was just as often submerged as it was floating) the hackle on the fly obtained from selected reared birds( Spey cocks)in either black with a bronze tint or reddish brown.
Yes there are other casting methods which meet the requirements you noted,The Dee cast which originated on the Dee River and which also had its own special form of fly and fishing method. Again a harmonius system ,the dee fly is designed to float on the surface when dead drifted but to dive deep when tension was put on the line in the swing.
It accomplished this by incorporating stiff wings of goose quill or cinnimon turkey ,set out from the shank with a downward tilt so that they acted as diving plaes under line tension, The fly also had keels of jungle cock set downwards on the bottom of the shank to keep the fly running straight when diving.
The cast itself because it was necessary to dry the fly was a fully airial cast that followed the shape of the spey cast but permitted several false loops to dry the fly.
I have long suspected ,without any verifyable information that the fly itself and the fishing method were stimulated by the knowledge of the behaviour of damsel flies which land on the water and dive down to lay their eggs on submerged vegetation.
I feel that these old Scots were a canny lot who did some serious thinkg aboutall things fishing It is this inventiveness that makes me feel that we need to preserve the classic Scots methods in their original form for posterity.
One of the things you learn quickly about the Scots is that they reserve writing for poetry and for accounts and dont write down fishing logs.so much will be lost when the elders arnt here.
The second thing you learn is that they have a special form of teaching . A good Scots Ghilly teaching you to fish will simply say fish behind me lad and watch evrything i do dont ask me questions.
My fishing buddy a former rod designer and demonstrator for Sharpes of Aberdeen tells a deligtful story about the foreman in the fly tying shop where he was learning to tie classic salmon flies. The foreman would tie a fly ,then each of the apprentices were told to tie the same fly. The foreman would walk around the shop carrying a lit blowtorch if he saw something wrong with a fly he simply reached over and burned the fly back down to the hook and gruffly said "Tie it proper lad" no intruction just tie it proper lad.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 04:49 AM
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Dear all,

In reply to several postings on the virtues and origin of the Speycast:

In late April I am to fish "our" beat on the Middle Dee for the 5th year. It is opposite bank from one of the rivers most famous ones, whose name I not will post as not to embarass the surrounding ghillies, who all are genuinly good men.

Some of them put out a full 32m DT with ultimate ease and are wonderful examples of those L A refer to.

Why is it then that they, along with their guests, come to us to learn and study what tackle, flies, and techniques we "space-aged" underhand casting Scandihuuvians are using? You see, we always are on top catchwise, even if the beat statistics says that it should be the other way around.

This interest has met us on the Tweed, the Spey and the Brora, as well.

Progress is synonymous with our art. A man like Arthur Wood, whose pools I have some knowledge of, constantly was searching for new and more refined tackle. Had he been with us today I am certain that he would be on Sage, T&T or whoever to have them finetune his tackle. Grant certainly would have been the same. They were ruthlessly unaffected of traditions and always eager to go further, from all I can deduct.

Therefore I find all attempts to try and identify the true Speycast as a bit amusing. From a pure picscatorial history point of view it of course is interesting - but to try and establish a given route within which the true disciples should remain, to me is contra produtive.

I too read the old books and occationally fish my cane rods and even silk lines. But it is to get a nostalic side kick - when it comes to real fishing I will try anyhting new and hopefully pick the odd improvement up.

Having said all this; my intention is not to try and put the lid on these dicussions as I enjoy them a whole lot.

"Tight loops"

Per

Last edited by Per Stadigh; 02-22-2002 at 09:03 AM.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 09:58 AM
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LA. Your description of a Dee fly is accurate, but I have never heard of it being fished in the way you describe or that this is the reason for the flat wings and drooping jungle cock cheeks. These flies were intended to be fished 'down and across' in the conventional way, and Price Tannatt says they were designed, like Spey flies, to give a generally 'fishy' appearance. I haven't fished the Dee, but have fished with Ghillies from that river elsewhere, and have never heard of a fly being fished like a floating plug, which is effectively what you describe. I'm sure such a radical technique would have been recorded somewhere in literature, even if by an Englishman (or indeed a Swede) fishing that river. What is more, the technique you describe would only be possible with a floating line, and Dee flies date back to long before Wood. John Ashley Cooper dates the Ackoyd to about 1880.

Remember also that Atlantic salmon don't feed in fresh water, so attempting to imitate a damsel fly would be unlikely to succeed. Furthermore, the Dee is a fast flowing river with little weed, and I don't believe it is even capable of supporting a significant population of damsels!


Per. I agree with you about tackle moving on. The old books define a Spey cast as a roll cast that involves a change of direction. Back then it was just single or double Spey. But having said that, there was and is no single style and technique of single or double Spey. Michael Evans, when giving casting demonstrations, makes the point that his style of modern Spey cast is really quite different from that developed with big greenheart (and cane) rods. That is not to say they aren't both Spey casts.

Surely a Spey cast is simply one in which the forward stroke is made with the line forming a loop beside the fisherman rather than aerialised behind him. Within this definition there are different styles and techniques, just as there are many different styles and techniques of overhead casting.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 02:23 PM
 
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Hi Gardiner: Well I wasent around in 1880 so I dont know just how they were fishing then but in 1920 my uncle ,a scot who regularly fished the Dee in earlier years introduced me to the Dee fly and the way he fished it .
Silk lines and even horsehair lines when dressed with Mucilin or other floatant material will permit a fly to float for hafl a days fishing .The the line is turned end for end on the reel and you get another half days fishing.
The method of dead drift surface fishing I described is to all intents and purposes the same as That used by AHE Woods which he described as Grease line fishing. Given the numbers of salmon he caught in Ciarnton water;which would far exceed all the salmon that either you or I have ever caught I think one might righly conclude that Samon do take surface flies both natural and artificial . Woods casting method was different but the way he fished the fly was the same..
As far as the cast itself is concerned how are you going to dry the fly unless you do make several false casts.The dee cast is merely a Spey cast made in the air .
The simple fact that you have never seen this cast used means little to me .I doubt that even though you come from Ireland you have ever see the galloway cast either yet it is a recognized cast of certain lineage.
Please understand that I am not against innovation but what I am saying is that the Modern cast with the graphite rod which depends on shooting line rather than rolling line and which results from our unwillingness to build proper rods in graphite should be called something else rather than a spey cast.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 02:52 PM
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Spey Cocks

Can any one post a picture or a scientific name for this fictious bird. No one on Spey side has ever heard of them.

Malcolm

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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 03:10 PM
 
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Hi Willie: No you cant have a picture of the bird but I may be able to get a picture of the hackle feathers from one of them . From what I have been told these birds were raised by Scots ghillies about the turn of the century.Usually only enough birds were kept to provide his personal needs. The birds from selected stock had to be reared for 4 years before the feathers were proper and each bird produced only a half a dozen prime feathers.
I have examined a number of these feathers,the barbels are the longest I have ever seen about 2 inches,the texture was almost like silk rope, the colour was black with a greenish bronze tint.
The feather itself was about 7 or 8 inches in length. The surprizing quality of these barbels was that they had no tendancy to marry and did not require any burning to keep the barbels separate.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 06:36 PM
 
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I`m afraid that I still believe in the virtues of the long soft rod and the double taper line. People often cite the value of the spey cast as the ability to change line direction and the lack of need for backcast space however I feel that the ability to make large well placed mends is of equal or greater value.
I have often see my Scots buddy fish two or threehunderd yards of river with only a single cast. To do this he makes an initial cast of about100 ' ,immediately mends to provide slack line for the fly to sink and fishes the fly around to a point about downstream . He then makes two big mends in succession moving the line about 50 feet across and slightly upstream. The current acting on the line pulls the fly across till the system is in balance and then fishes it back to the original position .He then takes a couple of steps downstream and repeats his double backmend. This process is repeated time and time again so that he covers a strip of water about 50'wide right down the run.
This is not some illusionary unheard of method this man fished compedatively for Sharpes ,Hardy,and Charles Ritz for many years and made enough money at it to put himself ,his brother and his sister through university and have enough left over to set up a flyshop when he emigrated to Canada.
What is clear to me is that it would be difficult perhaps impossible to manage line in this fashion with the average stiff double hander of today.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-22-2002, 08:41 PM
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Well I fish the Spey most weks but

I have often see my Scots buddy fish two or threehunderd yards of river with only a single cast. To do this he makes an initial cast of about100 ' ,immediately mends to provide slack line for the fly to sink and fishes the fly around to a point about downstream . He then makes two big mends in succession moving the line about 50 feet across and slightly upstream. The current acting on the line pulls the fly across till the system is in balance and then fishes it back to the original position .He then takes a couple of steps downstream and repeats his double backmend. This process is repeated time and time again so that he covers a strip of water about 50'wide right down the run.

And then he wakes up !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He then makes two big mends in succession moving the line about 50 feet across and slightly upstream.

Yea dream on

Dont tell me he wears his Y Fronts outside his waders

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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-23-2002, 12:07 AM
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I think Per has hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head and driven it home! And though I now prefer to fish the long line and am not a fan of shooting heads (on single or double handed rods), this is not out of any sense of tradition, but instead because I *like* it that way.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-23-2002, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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L.A. Smithers. You have done a lot to iterate your position and it comes through loud and clear, but I want to ask you about something.

The ideals behind Spey casting were it was to take advantage of minimal backcast room to produce casts to cover water previously uncoverable due to limited backcast space available to the fly fisher. This then sets the stage for an ideal. Scotlands ghillies of the 1800's were unique in the creation of these methods and here we are today having evolutionized the ideals and methods used by the Spey casters of back then into what we have now.

I would think that regardless of what rods, or reels, or lines were used, that the Scot's Ghillies of back then would be proud that they forged such superior methods for covering rivers for what we fish for today, still, Salmon and Steelhead and that the ideals, being able to fish with minimal backcast room with the fly as well as increased efficency are still being used and they are still superior. I don't think when Thomas Edison created the Light bulb, that he expected everyone to only use his version of the lightbulb his way, or you couldn't call it a light bulb. I think that he would be proud that evolution (so to speak) stepped in and took his ideals one step, two steps, and three steps further and this is just human nature. And it is why people still call it spey casting. What else could we call it? To me personally, as I said, I don't disriminate, it all comes down to picking a cast for a paritcular situation and no matter what cast I employ I create a D loop to load the rod and a power stroke to finish the cast.

I ask you, if I can't call the methods I use spey casts, what do I call them? Can I make a name?
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-23-2002, 09:51 AM
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It doesn't add up!

Hi LA. I am puzzled by your description of your buddy's technique, although I am familiar with the concept of 'two way fishing', to which it relates in a way. Can you explain to me how it is possible for him, with 100' of line out, to mend so as to cover a strip 50' out from him? Simple geometry indicates that, assuming the fly remains directly below the fisherman, this requires the line to extend at 90 degrees across the river for 50', and be doubled right back on itself forming an extrordinarily tight loop so the other 50' of line is pointing back towards the fisherman. That is a very remarkable mend! It also requires the fly to be more or less adjacent to the fisherman - yet you say that this amazing manoeuvre involves moving the fly 'slightly upstream'!

I didn't in fact say that I had never seen the so-called 'Dee cast' (although I haven't). What I said was that I have never even heard of or read about the entire way of fishing a fly you describe, including the Dee cast. I do not dispute that fishing a 'dead drift' fly may be effective where you are, but I repeat that it has no place in salmon fishing in the British Isles. Wood never allowed his flies to drift lifelessly in the current - and nor did or does anyone on this side of the Atlantic except as the most minor of tactics. I have never come across any reference to it in UK fishing literature - and I include books going back to pre-Wood days. Furthermore, the floating fly for salmon has almost no place in the UK and Ireland, and never has. I simply cannot accept that these forms of fishing were practiced and yet have not even been mentioned, let alone analysed, in any of the multitude of books written about British and Irish salmon fishing.

I do not mean to be disrespectful towards someone of your great age - if your uncle introduced you to the Dee cast in 1920 I assume you must be about 90, at least. However, given that I have the word of one man against the whole panoply of salmon fishing literature, you will understand if I, like Willie Gunn, take your posts with a large pinch of salt!
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-24-2002, 01:12 PM
 
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Hi Gardiner: You say: Wood never allowed his flies to drift lifelessly in the current - and nor did or does anyone on this side of the Atlantic except as the most minor of tactics. I have never come across any reference to it in UK fishing literature - and I include books going back to pre-Wood days. Furthermore, the floating fly for salmon has almost no place in the UK and Ireland, and never has. I simply cannot accept that these forms of fishing were practiced and yet have not even been mentioned, let alone analysed, in any of the multitude of books written about British and Irish salmon fishing.

Well I guess that the version of AHE`s journals that I read was not the same as yours. As I recall Wood`s version of he explorations into grease line fishing and the low water fly was,that he was fishing below a weir with little success with a conventional wet fly when he noted that some for of lepidoptera were landing on the water and were drifting motionless downstream. The salmon were taking these flies readily.
He tried dapping a similar artificial without success bu t reasoned that if he could produce a fly which would remain in the surface film and if he could make that fly drift downstream without any action he could take salmon.
He ordered flies from Hardy tied on very fine wire,tied two sizes smaller that the hook size ie with all material in front of the point of the hook, and using no feather that included stem material,his term "no hard feather" That these fished with a "dead drift " my term for a lure with no movement or action" could take salmon in low ,warm water of summer.
He ordered three rods from Hardy all of 12 " built for single handed casting with a double taper line . One of the rods used Grants Vibration rings. With the intermediate weight rod he found that he could regularly cast 120 feet and that with full arm mends could mend his line right down to the leader junction.
His description of his low water method involved a straight across stream cast followed by an immediate mend upstream. The said that he always lead the line with his rod tip and continued to mend a give slack line untill the fly had reached about 45 degrees downstream. He then allowed the fly to swing but continued to lead the line. and tried to keep the fly moving as slowly as possible.
His Journals contain correspondence with a number of advocates of the conventional wet fly including the stripped wet fly ;in which he argues the merits of his low water approach. After the initial success of his low water approach he indicates that this method became his main method of fishing at all seasons when the temperature of the air was greater than that of the water.
No maybe all this published material is just as willie would say a figment of my imagination ;however since I still have the book I dont think I dreamed all this.
I cannot account for the difference in perception of what Woods said that we have but maybe you can.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-24-2002, 01:59 PM
 
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Apparently there are some who dispute my use of the term "dead Drift" as well as deprcating the use of the method.
As to the term I can only quote from one of AHE`s letters to .Crosfield." Now as to a slamon not taking a fly if it is floated down on its ownI should like to repeat Col Mainwarings remark when he saw me( Wood) fishing 'you seem to let your fly float down like a dead thing ' Thus my use of the term "dead drift" .However I would not claim to have coined this term I believe it has been in wide use at least in British Columbia waters for many years.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-15-2005, 07:34 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K
I don't think when Thomas Edison created the Light bulb, that he expected everyone to only use his version of the lightbulb his way, or you couldn't call it a light bulb.
A light bulb by any other name is still called a light bulb..

But for whatever reason those creating light bulbs today still respect Thomas Edison for his genious.

I've noticed with regards to fly fishing double handed rods, too many individuals are searching for glory, money, marketing power and will discredit, make fun of, even negate the original creator of "Spey casting" And instead of teaching true history.. they ignore the facts and base their literature on people who've merely modified the technique to call their own.

No one says Screw Edison my light bulb is not really the same as his so I'm going to call it a... a... er... an Illiminating orb..

That's just ridiculous
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