Originally Posted by Anadromous
"It is important to understand how the different styles work"
I think the answer is "it depends." Many anglers take an interest in the various casting styles and would like to understand the similarities and differences among them, but I don't think that this knowledge is essential for everyone who casts a two-handed fly rod. One of the things I've been all about is demystifying spey casting and making it accessible and understandable in the best way that I can to anyone who is interested. I think it is fun to know about all the different styles and the casts associated with them, but I don't think you need all of this info to fish with a two-hander and have a good time doing it.
Originally Posted by Whorwood
Unfortunatly, too often as instructors we see totally unbalanced equipment, rods and lines that don't match, making this so difficult for the beginner that they get frustrated and quit.
Out here over the last few years I have seen far fewer examples of this than previously. I think tackle shops have really taken an interest in understanding spey casting and have worked hard to make sure that their customers leave with something that works. In some ways I think speycasting can be more difficult to learn than overhead casting--there would seem to be more variables to deal with when speycasting--so I think it is important for new casters to get competent instruction early on.
Another important thing for a new caster is to try and match your default casting style with a particular rod action. I don't know how many times I've worked with a caster, and then said "here, try this rod" and suddenly they are casting better than ever. All I did was watch their casting style, and select a rod for them based upon the way that they cast. I am often asked "what spey rod should I buy?" and I respond, "well, what kind of action do you like in a single hander?" It is an imperfect "science", but it is a good place to start.
Getting back to the issue of casting styles and rod/line choices for them, someone on the speyclave once said something like "if you really want to cast in the traditional manner you need to find a greenheart rod, silk line and gut leader." It is great that we have all of these different rods and lines and that manufacturers are going to a lot of trouble to let us know what casting/fishing style they are suited for, but that doesn't mean that you can't cast a long belly line with a Scandinavian rod or a shooting head with a Traditional rod.
So, do you need to learn how to Skagit cast in order to cast sink tips and lead-eyed flies for winter steelhead on the Mixer? Nope. Do you need to learn to Underhand cast to catch Atlantic salmon in Scandinavia? Not at all. Is it fun and interesting and downright cool to learn all of this stuff and apply it if and when you feel like it? Absolutely.
I think we're now well into the Spey Renaissance and I love all the new stuff that's out there and want to see the sport continue to grow and evolve, but I also want to keep in mind what we learned years ago when we had just "European" and "Traditional". In the end it's all still casting and fishing, and the current styles are variations on the theme.