I was doing just fine fishing for and catching steelhead on my home waters of the Skagit, Sauk, Stilly, Wenatchee, and occasionally other streams in WA, OR, and BC. And most of them were caught on the same 8 1/2' fiberglass 8 wt. Then Jimmy Green was playing around with these 16' thundersticks on the Skagit about 1982, casting nearly to the far side at Sauk Bar. Next thing ya' know, Strobel and Lemire wangle a couple of these thundersticks from Jimmy. Bob's excuse was that his wife Joanne was having trouble with single hand rods and wading very deep, so the long two-hander would compensate. Of course Bob had to keep "borrowing" Joanne's rod. Well the thundersticks really weren't the most fun fishing implements. Jimmy gave me one of the prototype blanks, and it didn't win me over to two-handed casting. Some people innovate; I ain't one of them. Bob and Harry tinkered with the rods, and Jimmy kept rolling new blanks, and I remember when they came up with the prototype for the 9140-4. I thought, "wow, at 8 ounces it's only a little heavier than a 9' cane rod." But I didn't ask for and didn't receive one of those blanks and couldn't afford one when they first came on the market.
I'm a reluctant enthusiast, to quote Edward Abbey. Crowds had already begun appearing on my usual deserted pools, and I had begun adapting by fishing more of what we used to refer to as "conservation water." Those were the pieces of holding water on the high bank side of the river or with over-hanging vegetation or other obstacles to fly casting. But I was coping, having landed a 20 pound buck at the Hermit that I hooked on a 35' roll cast in 1983, one of five steelhead I caught that day fishing with Dr. Smith, who caught none fishing a Teeny 200 line, and I suggested that 15' of High Speed Hi-D was enough.
The upshot though, is that like Kerry, all the cool guys I knew were fishing two-handed rods, getting the girls, and getting laid, and these guys were all way older than I. It was something new, and I wanted to try it, ya' know, getting the girls and getting laid. Kidding; guys were having fun with two-handed rods. Nobody was catching more fish that I could tell, but clearly more people were fishing holding water other than the traditional steelhead pool with a gravel bar behind us for our backcasts. I could see a use for 50 and 60' casts in some of those places where I struggled to make 35'.
So I bought a 9140-4 blank and built it up and fished it. Within a short time I concluded that even it was a bit of a thunderstick for steelhead less than 15 pounds, and the vast majority of the steelhead I caught were less than 15 pounds. So I went back to switching between the Sage and an 8 wt single hand, depending on the spot I was fishing.
Then I bought a 12' Angler's Workshop 7/8 blank and built it up. It's a real noodle, but it was fun to fish and was no thunderstick on 8-12 pound fish, which is what the majority are. And it's just snowballed from there, a couple Spey Claves, exposure to more rods, more casters, and the all around fun of it. I'm a putz of a caster, but have determined to improve, and am getting better, especially after a couple lessons. Now I have a shit load of Spey gear, and my river is closed to fishing, probably never to re-open to fishing wild steelhead in my lifetime. So I will do my putzing out on the coast, on the Cowlitz, and a little bit on inland rivers in the fall. And maybe fish some more - 8 days a year - in BC.
That's why Spey. The novelty; it's fun. It sure isn't the catching, which I seem to do little of these days.
I didn't get to see anyone casting a Spey rod the last time I made it to the Grande Ronde to fish with my Dad.
I've never touched a Spey rod...never even seen one in person.
I was getting ready to come home to the Northwest this winter...and started looking up old haunts where I used to fish, and new ones where I'll be living (near White Salmon, Wa), on the internet. I started getting hits and hearing about "Spey casting"..."what the heck is that?" So I looked it up.
"Doublehanded rod huh"..."double hand casting with a water anchor to load the rod...hmmm"..."no need for a backcast...wow!"..."better mending and line control...cool"...
It all sounded very interesting and exotic...a new way to skin a cat I guess, but with some obvious advantages
Then I saw a few videos of Spey casting on YouTube and elsewhere..."oh man...that's an art form...just incredible"...and I instantly knew I had to learn to cast like that.
So my journey is just beginning...and I can barely wait to get started, feels good at my age to find something new to get excited about!
I got back into fishing with the fly after a brief but successful career as a gill netter and started hanging out with a few of the Skagit early adopters. They were all fishing these big ass 2 handed rods and looking super cool doing it. They got all the girls and were getting laid almost every night. I thought to myself that has to be the life and I could get the girls also. So I purchased a 9140. Of course one was not enough so the purchase of more and more rods soon followed with high dollar English made reels to adorn the handles. Hand built lines and tips to fit every circumstance. Trips to far away rivers to chase the steel that swam in them. Of coures there is a downside. The need for new and better rods. The latest in line technology. Hand built reels that annouce the hook up down the entire run. The cost to stay on top has financially ruined me. I can no longer afford to purchase new equipment and the old stuff isn't doing it anymore. It has been a downhill slide from stardom and I would warn any young man against trying a career as a 2 handed fishing god.
Well a while back a friend of mine and I, pounded sand on the O.P. for a week with singlehanders. Casting 8wt 10' rods with 15' sinktips for 8 hours a day turned my arms to hamburger. A buddy of mine then said hey man, if you really like this steelheading thing, you should get a two hander. He then pulled out his 9141 and took a few hours to show me the ropes. I was hooked. I found a 9141 and a windcutter. Pounded some sand some more for about a year. Then took the time to listen to my two handed friends and got better over time.
I have progressed in this game some and love showing others. I Now like Skagit for winter and skandi for summer work. I spend more time just enjoying my casting than anything else. I think that the two hander is what makes steelheading fun for me. I can spend 8 hours casting and not get bored. There is always the cast, even when the fish aren't there.