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International fly fishing champion leads Spey casting clinic on Clark Fork
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031813 fishing SECONDARY
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031813 fishing SECONDARY

ARTHUR MOURATIDIS/for the Missoulian

Mark Smith of Ovando and a group of other fly fishermen practice Spey casting on the Clark Fork River in Clinton on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

March 17, 2013 9:00 pm

To learn more about international Spey casting expert Simon Gawesworth, his upcoming casting clinics or his books go to speyborn.com.

To learn more about Missoula’s Blackfoot River Outfitters go to blackfootriver.com.

CLINTON – Snow spit from the sky and a raw wind carried water spray along the wide stretches of the Clark Fork River as Simon Gawesworth taught the finer points of Spey casting on Sunday.

Despite the unfriendly fishing weather, Gawesworth’s students gladly braved the cold for the day’s lesson on the elegant sport of two-handed casting.

An international fly-fishing champion, Gawesworth is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on Spey casting and has taught and demonstrated Spey casting around the world, said John Herzer, owner of Blackfoot River Outfitters and organizer of the casting clinic.

“He’s the Michael Jordan of Spey fishing,” Herzer said.

This specialty sport was born on Scotland’s river Spey in the mid-1880s, where steep cliffs and deep water prevented fisherman from back casting and from wading into the wide river for salmon, Gawesworth explained.

To fish, long rods and long lines were used to develop a style of large-looped rhythmical casting that looks likes a winding snake and is a style in which the fly is always in front of the fisherman.

“It’s a waltz,” Gawesworth said of the two-handed technique. “It’s got it’s own absolute rhythm.”

Using rods that are twice as long as the typical 6-9 foot fly rod, Spey casting requires two hands.

“Because of the leverage you get, there are so many different cool ways to cast,” Herzer said. “It really opens up a whole new world to fish.

“It’s really efficient, particularly when you are using it for steelhead fishing and you are on big rivers,”he said. “It makes it so much easier to cover a lot of water.”

Although Spey casting has been popular in Europe for a long time, it’s only caught on in the United States in the last eight to 10 years, Gawesworth said.

“Manufacturers have started making lighter rods to catch smaller fish in smaller rivers,” he explained. “We now have the tackle out there to suit the species and the rivers.”

Helping to make that change, Gawesworth designs and markets Spey lines for RIO, an Idaho-based company that makes fly line, leaders and tippets.

Mark Smith said he became curious about Spey casting after a few steelhead fishing trips to the coast.

Not only did it look cool, but it looked like it wasn’t as physically taxing as using a single-hand rod.

When he learned Gawesworth would be teaching a weekend clinic in Missoula, the Ovando rancher jumped at the opportunity to learn from the famous angler.

Although it’s a challenge to learn a whole new way of fishing, Smith said he is glad for the Gawesworth introduction to the sport and is looking forward to future fishing expeditions to improve his newly learned Spey cast skills.

“This saves on my shoulders because I don’t have to cast as often – it has a longer drift,” he said.

Unlike fly fishing, Spey casting is a style that relies more on correct body rotation and not on arms.

“You can spend all day Spey casting and not get tired. At least that’s what I heard,” Smith said, smiling. “You first have to get good at it.”

529 Posts
I took a one day class from him in central Va last Fall. Worth every penny (about the cost of a guide day). One fellow drove up from Atlanta for both days. If you have the chance, I would highly recommend the effort to take a class from him, especially if you are the early stages of this addiction.

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