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chrome-magnon man
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Refining the Spey

Learning to Speycast Part Two
Dana Sturn
copyright © 2005 all rights reserved

At the end of last month’s column I wrote:

"If I have a two day school, I will walk the clients through the roll cast, then the switch cast, then the change of direction switch cast (aka single spey), then on to the circle casts and snap-t, followed by the double spey and snake roll. More on my thinking behind this learning progression next month!"

Generally speaking, a one-day speycasting school is the “Guerrilla Tactics for Speycasting” approach to things—most folks want to learn a couple of casts that will allow them to go out and fish with a spey rod tomorrow. With a responsive student who has cast a single handed rod for a while I can usually have them speycasting a fishable length of line in a few hours of private lessons or a one day school. However, when I’m teaching a 2 day school I have different expectations and usually so do my students. So, let’s talk about structuring a two day school.

Speycasting, like any new skill, follows a natural progression of skill development from basic through advanced. Deciding how to structure a class depends on what the students want to or need to know, and the instructor’s insights into how people learn, insights based upon knowledge and practical experience. Determining how to go about teaching a skill requires the instructor to engage in a task analysis of the new skill. A task analysis is simply a process through which the instructor breaks down a skill into its components, and then determines how to best sequence and teach each of the components until finally they are all brought together into the execution of the new skill. The basic switch cast that we break down into the initial lift, the forming of the D loop, and the forward cast—and all the components of each of these steps—is an example of a task analysis.

I have structured my two day schools to take students from the basics of speycasting through to an exposure to some of the advanced skills. As we know from single hand casting, mastery is based on a solid grasp of the fundamentals, so I start everyone off with the basic roll cast, moving quickly into the switch cast for some groups who may already be accomplished casters. Much of the morning of Day 1 is devoted to the roll and switch casts as they allow students to develop and refine their basic skills, the skills we will return to time and time again for the remainder of the course.

The roll cast with a two-handed rod is important as it teaches the caster how to make the basic movements the will eventually form the D loop during the backcast, how to properly accelerate and stop the rod on the forward cast, as well as teaching the essentials of stance and grip. Additionally, I want to try to relate the student’s learning in spey to other learning, particularly (and obviously) to single hand flycasting. Since most single hand fly casting students first learn to roll cast, it makes sense to start speycasting students with the roll cast. This activates prior learning and gives the student something in speycasting they can immediately relate to what they’ve previously learned in single hand casting. Once the student is proficient with the two-handed roll cast we then develop that roll cast into a speycast.

The basic switch cast is the key component to any speycast. A caster needs to become proficient with the switch cast before moving on to the speycasts, which are often (if inaccurately) called “roll casts with a change of direction.” We move from the roll cast into the switch cast by learning to form a live line D loop by putting power into the backcast to make the loop live (moving through the air). Once a student is able to do this, a single spey is simply the switch cast with a body pivot to change direction.

The beautiful thing about teaching the single spey early in the course is that it is the most difficult speycast to master, and with a little practice most students can make decent single speys within a few hours. Once they have the single spey, I get to say “congrats, you’ve now successfully completed the most difficult part of the course!” This gives students early confidence in their abilities and makes the move into other casts easier.

The circle cast and snap-t are usually the next casts I teach since we are already on the single spey side and they are both replacements for the single spey and very useful fishing casts, especially for those anglers using heavy sinking tip lines. I’ve found that once people learn these casts they rarely return to the single spey.

When I teach the snap and circle, I spend some time making sure students understand the timing of the forward cast, and to get the timing right I talk about the “white mouse” that is usually associated with the double spey. Learning the concept of the white mouse with the snap-t and circle cast will help the student later when we move across the river to learn the double spey.

The double spey is the next cast I teach for the reasons outlines in last month’s article (after the change of direction is completed, the principles of lifting the line into the D loop and casting are the same for both the double spey and the circle and snap-t casts).

The snake roll is usually the last cast I teach for two reasons: 1) it relies on absolute line control; 2) it is a tremendously sexy cast that everyone wants to learn so it makes a nice ending to the course. Snake Rolls happen in the early afternoon of Day 2 when the students have had a day and a half of casting and an evening to think about their learning. The snake goes right back to what I talk about early on in the course—maintaining line control through the use of constant tension and precise movements of the rod. The snake allows me to thoroughly review the entire course within the teaching of one cast.

So there we are, a quick look at how I approach the teaching of One Day and Two Day Spey Schools, and my thinking behind my approach. I hope that these two article have been helpful to you whether you are a student, and instructor, or both. I’ll be interested to hear any of your responses to my approach.
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