Big Change-of-Direction Single Speys
One of the marks of Speycasting mastery is the ability to make large change-of-direction single Speys. Most often when we think of the single Spey we think of a cast that changes direction of perhaps 45°. Some skilled anglers can change 60°, some even 90°, but it’s not common to see changes greater than that.
Big directional changes in the single Spey are based on one thing: line control. If you can control the tension and motion of your line you can move it around at will, placing your anchor anywhere you want, giving you the ability to make 90°, 180°, even 360° single Speys.
In the big directional changes, slack is your #1 enemy. And as you know from my past articles, I believe that slack is your #1 enemy in any Spey cast. Slack makes Spey casting inefficient and tiring, and defeats your best efforts to add distance and power to your casts. Probably the very best way that I know of for anyone to improve their ability to control slack is to learn to make big directional changes in the single Spey.
The very best example I’ve seen of the BCDSS is Hiroshi Okada’s demonstration on the Art of Speycasting DVD released last spring by Miracle Productions. In this sequence he makes single Spey casts of 180°. Okada is using a single hand rod for his demo, but the principles are the same for a two-hander. If you haven’t seen this it is worth picking yourself up a copy of this DVD.
Here’s the Big Change-of-Direction Single Spey:
1. on river left for the right handed caster (river right for the lefty), the fly has swung in and is hanging directly below you.
2. Strip in until the line is straight and tight. During your initial learning it will help to strip in a bunch of additional line, or better yet, start off with a short length of line, similar to the length you used when you first learned to cast.
3. Place your feet so that they are facing in the direction you are going to cast, or as close to this as possible
4. pivot about the torso to face downstream towards the fly (remember it should be a yarn fly for safety!!!)
5. smoothly lift the rod high to get as much line off the water as possible. You may find that you need to lift higher on larger directional changes. Pay close attention to your line tension. The rod should be bent and remain bent throughout the casting cycle until you form your D Loop. A bent rod is a loaded rod and a loaded rod maintains line tension
6. Once the line is lifted, pivot about the hips as well as use your arms to move the line around until the rod is opposite your target, then move into your D Loop formation.
The biggest challenge will be maintaining line tension. Once you master this you should be able to lift the line and make a “helicopter cast” (Simon Gawesworth calls it the “Oozlum Spey” I think), keeping the line aerialized and whipping it around and around until you decide where to place your anchor. A good way to practice maintaining line tension is to focus on moving things very slowly, and paying close attention to the bend in your rod. As in any single Spey, the rod should load as you lift off the water, and remain loaded throughout your casting motions. As you pull against the line, aerializing it and moving it around, you’ll notice that the bend in your rod increases; if it decreases you are loosing line tension and are in danger of introducing slack into the system. If you get a bit of slack you can recover if you have good line control skills, but for many of us once slack is there it is really tough or impossible to eliminate.
A secondary challenge is overcoming the urge to hurry the forward cast once you move into your D Loop formation. Whenever I make one of these casts I am so focused on maintaining that line tension that it is easy to forget that you’ll loose this sensation once you form your D Loop. The feeling of a momentary loss of contact with the line makes me feel like I want to hurry my cast, but the opposite is required: slow down, allowing the D Loop to form, and ease into the delivery cast. This of course is “Spey casting 101”, but it is easy to forget to apply the basics when we are working on a new skill, and the big directional changes are a good time to review those essentials of Spey casting.
Let’s be clear though: as far as I’m concerned big change of direction single Speys really don’t have much application in actual fishing conditions—there are much better casts for this—but they are really useful for teaching, practicing and reinforcing the critical nature of line control in Spey casting.
Apply the lessons learned through mastering big directional changes in the Single Spey and you’ll find that the rest of your Spey casting gets a whole lot easier.