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chrome-magnon man
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I got interested in Speycasting in 1994 because it seemed like a really efficient, comfortable and (ok I admit it) cool way to flyfish for steelhead. I stuck with Speycasting because it was interesting and mysterious and challenging at a time when I wasn’t catching a lot of steelhead anyways. Eventually, the Speycast captured my imagination and kept me excited about flyfishing, and kept me connected to flyfishing during those times of the year when I couldn’t get out on the water. Currently, Speycasting is a sport unto itself, an end rather than simply a means, a passion. I began as an angler who wanted to learn how to cast so I could catch more fish. Somewhere along the way Speycasting and fishing became equal pursuits; today Speycasting is often more important and interesting to me than fishing, and certainly a bigger focus both off and on the water.

This was really brought home to me this past spring on the Skeena system. I was working with the folks at Z-Boat Lodge in Terrace teaching their Guide Clinic and Spey Week and having a really good time casting away and not hitting many fish while the clinic participants (mostly new or early intermediate Spey casters) were bumping into fish. On the days that there were no clients at the lodge owner Brad Zeerip took me fishing.

Now Brad is hands down one of the top 10 steelheaders I’ve ever met, and I’m a smart enough guy to know that you can learn a lot from a fellow like Brad if you drop the ego, keep your mouth shut and pay attention, so I watched what Brad was doing and later the two of us had some good discussions about steelhead fishing.

A Canadian by birth, Brad grew up in Michigan fishing and guiding on the storied Great Lakes steelhead and brown trout waters. Brad’s background is fishing crankbaits in the Midwest. Brad reads a river better than anyone I’ve met and takes a very disciplined and methodical approach to working a run. He is a great believer that choice of fly can make a HUGE difference to steelhead, and proved it to me several times while I fished with him.

The most important thing that I’ve learned from Brad is that, for the most part, I tend to cast too long. Now I know that steelhead are a beach fish, but I’ve spent so much time on the big flat pools of the Thompson and I’m so used to using a Spey rod as a tool to bomb it out there to cover lies a lot of other people can’t fish, and I gotten so familiar with the ½ dozen or so pools that I regularly fish on the Thompson that I’ve forgotten about the fishing end of things and really become more of a caster, even when I’m on a river full of steelhead.

Speycasting is addictive: the quiet of a morning river, the swish of a rod as you reposition the line; the cast, step, cast repetition that becomes at times Zen-like; the beauty of a perfect loop unrolling far out into the river. It’s great that it is this way, because there’s often a lot of time between fish and if you enjoy the casting part of the experience a long fishing day is certainly a lot more pleasant. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad day on a river if I wasn’t catching fish because I really enjoy the casting.
However, lately I’m starting to feel that I’d like to be Speycatching a little more often, no matter how the Speycasting is going. And so I’m paying attention to Brad and a few other folks who use the Speyrod and Speycast as really effective fishing tools.

Speypages moderator Poul Bech is another fishing machine who catches more than his share of steelhead. A couple of weeks ago we were out together and made 5 passes down a particular piece of water than had fish in it. I had pass 1, 3 and 5; Poul 2 and 4. Poul got the only fish, on the 4th pass. Now, since neither of us touched anything on the first passes I could easily write off Poul’s success as blind luck, but I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck, and Poul’s success pretty much reinforced that for me. What was Poul doing that I wasn’t?

1. Poul was fishing shorter
2. Poul was fishing deeper
3. Poul was fishing
4. I was casting

I was testing out a new rod and line combination and really wasn’t too focussed on the fishing, and it showed in my approach to the pool. We were on a relatively narrow section of river, a place I could easily cast across, and I wanted to see what the rod could do, so I would wind it up and bomb it out there. Then I’d play around with this tip and than leader, and this length of cast and that, and so on. Meanwhile, Poul was fishing. Carefully. Slowly. Methodically. Comfortably. Cast, mend, step, retrieve, cast. I don’t think there was any doubt in his mind that he would catch a steelhead, and certainly none in mine either. While our objectives that morning were different, this outcome underscored once again this spring that I tend to spend a lot of time on the casting part of things, with not a lot of time and attention to the fishing part of things.

To become an accomplished Speycaster requires a great deal of commitment—there is certainly nothing half-hearted about it. The investment of time and money—hours on the casting pond, cash for tackle etc—is substantial, and of course there is always something new to think about. Casting practice also provides you with the kind of feedback that anadromous fish do not, so it is easy to get distracted on a fishable river with the casting part of things and loose focus on the fishing.

I’ve certainly seen this happen to me a lot over the past few years. There is one particular run on the Thompson that has some funky currents that can really mess up a long line if you don’t stay on top of your line control game. I’ve often found myself thinking about something to do with my casting when working down through this section and then realize that there is a lot of slack in my line and unless a fish grabbed and took off I would not even feel the take. This is good casting, but really bad fishing and I realize that I need to shift my focus if I want to have more productive fishing time on a river.

The best fishing I’ve had recently has been in a situation when I had no choice really but to fish. It was a cold day on a winter steelhead river and shooting line was not in the cards, so I was forced to fish with a fixed length of line. I landed two chrome winter steelhead on casts of less than 80ft. The takes were subtle cold water takes, one fish I had to cover 3 times before I hooked up. The “shorter” fishing casts allowed me absolute line control and my slack free system make it easy to detect these soft takes and know that a fish was interested in my offering.

On a site about Speycasting it makes sense that the casting part would overshadow the fishing part, but I think it is worth remembering that the fishing part is still there, and to give some thought to how we can best apply our casting skills in fishing situations.

At least, I should!
 

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Connection to 9 months article

This article ties in nicely with your one on "9 Months to Speycasting."
This past weekend I was trying to practice casting with just the leader out, then just ten feet of line and leader, etc as you suggested. I was on a section of the Kennebec River with trees right down to the edge of the water and a small set of falls that was forcing the small schoolie stripers to bunch up close to the bank.
Long story short -- my first ten casts resulted in 5 stripers to hand and 3 hits and misses, all within 20 feet of the bank.
Had a great time and got in some good practice too. There is a very different feel to such a short cast that I really had to pay attention to it.
Thanks for these great articles/instructions; I for one really appreciate them.
Joe
 

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JD
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a site about Speycasting

Spey Pages, Spey Clave, International Spey Casting,,,,,et al. Spey Fishing does seem to have gotten lost in the mix. :roll: Maybe we need to address that side of it more often?

But I regress. A good cast, out to those lies unreachable by those of lesser abilities, just plain deserves the attention of Mr. fish!:D
 

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This is a good topic. I have always called myself a fisherman first - I was a long time gear fisher who thought the new challenge of the spey rod was cool. , However, as Dana points out, the casting aspect of the speyrod is subtle and powerfully seductive. Though I don't have a lot of trouble focussing on "fishing" while I am on the river, I have to admit that the separate pursuit of casting has got to me ... hell I even practiced a little (very little :eek: ) for Spey-O-Rama this year. Even now, as trout season is upon me I am itching to get out and make a few spey casts!

I don't see this as conflicting, the only time I become a caster on a river is when I feel that there are few if any fish to be had. Then I can start to enjoy just making good casts. For the most part I agree with what Derek Brown told me once a long while ago; "you canna practice yer castin' if you have a fly on yer leader". He was referring to practicing with yarn on your tippet, but the logic is sound, the instant you tie on a fly, your focus is on presenting it to a fish - not casting.

There has been much discussion elsewhere on the Clave about casters vs hunters (fishermen) and as I stated there, the two are not exclusive of each other. The "fisherman" will benefit immensely from improving his casting skills and the the "caster" will benefit equally (if not more) from learning "fish-craft" - understanding the fish and how and where they use rivers and how to read the water and fish your fly in it. This is the great thing about double-handed rods and spey casting - the two are separate pursuits, yet the same pursuits. Each makes significant contributions to the success and enjoyment of the other - a pretty damn good arrangement if you ask me.
 

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Ty for a great article Dana:)

Despite the fact I pursue the species I do- non-salmonids- I none the less pursue them with the same gusto and passion as the more traditional anglers. Spey casting for me was a solution to a set of FISHING problems that I could,nt solve otherwise.So I guess i,m more a fisher than a caster. I slide between wishing it was / and focusing on , my technique being better and intensely trying to solve a fishing/presentation/situational problem, spending more time on the latter than the former. All that said at the end of the day I always come home tired and satisfied from whichever point on the scale i,ve spent more time being focused on, ain't learning grand:))) A little presumptiuos on my part but, I recently gave a presentation on warmwater applications of spey approaches to the local Fly Fishing Club in Manitoba- what was interesting was that the questions and interest during the presentation and after was clearly on how/when/why spey approaches were more effective.


Will
 
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