Spey in the South?!
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: River X, Appalachia
I'm a mediocre spey caster at best, or maybe just a talented beginner. My teaching has been almost solely in one-handed casting, but I have done a lot of that.
More important than anything, though, is the fact that I taught myself to cast all the way to a high level. I have never had a lesson. As a result, I went a hell of a long ways down some wrong turns along the way.
When I need to restructure my cast, as I have done several times, I follow the method advocated by one of the other posters, breaking the cast down and rebuilding from ground up. To identify the flaw, I will literally just backcast for a one hour session, or just try to keep my tip in the vertical plane, etc. I consult casting diagram books, which don't exist yet for spey, but something along the lines of "Troubleshooting the Cast" should surely be along shortly. I also videotape myself and I think this is a spectacular teaching tool for instructors.
Once identified, I follow the 'deliberate practice' routine. There is actually a field of psychology devoted to this, mostly for athletes, but also for musicians and other performers, like politicians. The gist of it is, rather than simply repeating over and over again a new skill, hoping to gain muscle memory, the subject mentally and actively envisions what the 1) body, 2) rod, 3) line, and 4) process is doing at each step of the way.
It takes a while to make breakthroughs whether in learning a new skill or in revamping an old one, but when you do make a breakthrough, the improvement is sudden. I went from an average 80 foot cast with a 9' 8 weight to an average 100' cast in about 2 sessions once I hit the break point. Since that time my progress has been slower as I am nearing my physical peak (only 5'11" 165 lbs.), but I have added 10-15' to that figure using the same methods.
For casting, I try to visualize how the rod should move in a 3-dimensional sense, almost as if it were on a computer. I watch the rod closely and identify where it isn't behaving as it should. Video is stellar for this. If the rod isn't giving enough feedback, I pay attention to the line. Is the nose pointed? Point low = early application of power, downward airfoil, bad cast. Point high = late application, upward airfoil, elevating cast. Although I don't really cast tailing loops any more, I can still detect the elements of the tail if the loop unrolls more in a 'circle' than like a tank track. This is instructive, I am overstressing the tip at the finish point.
According to those psychologists, the mental act of active participation and analysis of the activity is just as important as the repetition. Using that method, I suspect you will see significantly better than 3 to 1 results.