Spey Casting, a newbie's lament...



The weather was perfect, the Skagit was in great shape and I had it mostly to myself. Today I was going to take out my new spey rod and learn to cast. Spey casting sucks!...or at least I suck at spey casting. All I have for my troubles is a sore back and terribly hurt ego.

A lone fisherman, my only company on the river, using a 6 wt. single hander could almost double my distance with his roll casting (and he wasn't a particularly good roll caster). Frankly, I simply stunk with the spey gear. I could barely cast beyond the shooting head on the RIO setup. I believe that was part of the problem, not enough line to load the rod, but I just could not find a way to get any more line in the water without it coiling in front of my waders. When I got a little extra line out I was unable to pick it up to start the upstream portion of the roll cast (that really put a hurt on the old back). Here I got the spey gear to ease the strain on my shoulders and I end up throwing out my spine. Errrrrr!

I doubt the fly shop will take the gear back, so what do I do? Do I learn to overhand this two-hander, or do I hang in there, nurse the back to good health and try spey again? Come on guys, I could you some encouragement, especially from you spey chuckers.

An old man with a sore backx(
Hey there,
Although I'm the furthest from being an expert, my advice would be to nurse the ole' back to health, and while you're at it , rent some spey casting videos and watch them 'till your eyes are glazed over and you can hum the background music.
I took a three hour lesson through my fly club on the banks of the Puyallup and was able to grasp the basics. And being that I am quite literally a "steelworker" and am responsible for the raising of three children, I put off buying my two hander for the time being, and have adapted the spey methods to my single handed rod with a great deal of success. Perhaps learning the "mechanics" of the double and single spey on a single handed rod might ease the strain on your back??
If not, I'd certainly suggest learning to cast a standard weight forward line before before I tackled the complications of shooting heads and sinktips.Those things gives me hell on my single handed rod. If all else fails, try roll casting the thing. Afterall, spey casting is just a self propelled roll cast. I myself can achieve simmilar distances by simply putting a haul into my plain 'ole roll cast.
Your "absolute" best option though, is to find someone who knows what they're doing and has the ability to explain clearly, and see if they'll be so kind as to give you some pointers and/or lessons. This will be my plan of action when I finally get my hands on another long rod
Anyway, hope this helps,


Hey, old man with a sore back. I think you answered what I was thinking about. I was thinking about getting a Spey setup. I'm too old also to try something new and I also have a bad back already. I think that I will just get a weight foward 7 line and use it on my 6wt Lamiglas. And save a whole lot of money. I don't really think that I neeed a new rod set up. Besides my wife said if I get one more fly rod she said she was going to leave. I'm too old to get another Wife. Jim S.:TT
Don't give up. You're original inclination is correct; once you get the basics mastered, you'll be covering more water, more efficiently, and with less effort. Theoretically, that should even translate into more fish on the beach. You don't even have to become an expert to start reaping benefits, so don't despair.

Try to remember back to when you were trying to learn how to double-haul, so you could effectively fish your singlehander. If you're at all like me, that didn't come overnight, so you can't expect this to either. As you are now aware, this is a whole new kettle of steelhead. (One more item: your intuition about your line might be correct; I've heard complaints that the Rio line does not have enough belly to easily load some rods, particularly very long ones.)

The video's a good idea, or even a magazine article if you can find one. It is true that some one on one instruction will be best. A number of local guides will be happy to turn a fishing trip into an instruction session (they can also give you advise on lines). Given what you've likely already spent, what's a couple hundred more? Plus you'll also get a day's guided fishing, learning where and how to fish the best steelhead pools on the river.

Two guys I'd heartily recommend on both fishing and teaching counts are John Farrar out of Pateick's Fly Shop in Seattle or Mike Kinney out of Creekside Anglers in Issaquah.

Good Luck.
is spey casting easier than normal casting, or is it for smaller dudes so they can cast farther. sounds funky to me but some say im pretty arrogant to new ideas. just what are the advantages to 2 handed casting over one handed casting. sounds like there is alot of process involved for every single cast. Ben


New Member
Okay, - you probably are not really OLD! Just seasoned and wiser than most of us, don't be so hard on yourself!
I am really short (thats a fact). I two hand cast 13.5 ft rod-just a shorty, however,it has made life a bit easier for me, however, in answer to Ben, no, actully shorter or smaller people still will have some of the same problems taller folks do, as for each foot of dept you are wading you will loose distance in your cast- it is a fact -has nothing to do with being taller or shorter it is a proven physics equation (we-shorter folks experience it faster than tall ones). ( I am not good at math- I only know it to be so- ask around.)
Now then, several points to be made.
Yes it is a problem to start yourself out (depending on the amount of effort and time you want to expend), with some of the shooting head lines ( by this I am talking about sinking heads in particular). I was fortunate to have some really good advice about the lines I choose when I first purchased my rod and reel and then all the gear to go with. Kevin Jackson ( and yes, he is Alec Jackson's son) at Avid Angler, Jimmy at Patricks, several great friends and reading many of the books out there until I couldn't read anymore with out going out to fish!- I was guided into a Mid Spey line from Rio- - it has the longer belly and all the heads to go with it. BUT! I was advised to get the floating line out and go out as often as I could to water that is wide, and easy to wade and just cast- until I could cast no more- I was also told- learn to do the snake retrieve and the snap tee- before I did anything else- (these depend on which way the water flows, I am from Colorado everything flows to the left where I come from so - here I experience some other type of phenom from you all, meaning ya all's water runs out to sea to the right on this side of the mountains- (and the Yak runs to the left from the near side) So I had to perfect the snake retireve, more work for me- since I knew I would fish primarily on the west side all winter and early spring. While you may not catch a bunch or one or even get a nudge the first hundred times, but-keep it up and maybe do the practice without a hook on! Save your face, ears and legs. As well as anyone within 200 foot of you.
Get the tapes they are wonderful, someone will let you check them out as long as you need to and grab the remote, watch it all day- while your back heals, when you cant watch anymore, read them all!! Then one day you will have had enough and you'll just have to go try this out! Take your butt and not anything but the rod butt, go out back and very softly and gently take the rod butt and slowly with no effort- go through the motions, without line, without the reel on, nothing- go through the motions make your arms and your brain memorise the motions. (if you can - pain permiting- if you can't, wait till ya heal man!) The trick is- if you are putting your back and upper body into this - you very clearly are doing it wrong, this is a TWO Handed rod! that means one pushes/pulls and one is a merely a pivot point or directional if ya will! It will actually be easier once you learn it wrote style than a single handed rod. It just happens, then you will begin to try the sinking tips and find that as you go- it will get easier, but- not until you have the motions and the technique down, - BUT it does take practice. I worked out over at greenlake at the dock with the sinking tips, no hooks until I could get it out of the water. It seemed like it took forever until I got to where I could get them up and out of the water.
I will tell you- John Farrar IS the guy to go to for the day trip(Dec Hogan, as well the classes the avid anlger has are great too). In the heat of July or August - you will find John practicing on the Yak, with his two handed rod- Yes, he is one of the best- but it tells me when I see him out there doing that on a slow day, that I as well, should be practicing for the fall weather and the mighty casting I have to do all winter.
Yes, practice, practice, practice, with out the heavy sinking tips- and all- just go fling it with the floating lines until you have all the casting styles that you have watched and read about put together for your style, keep trying it out before you go with the heavy stuff, and yes occasionally - they will rise to the dry- since we all want to hit them in the face- you never know- an old instinct may come back to them after the rest of us have beat them silly with our sinking heads!
Small goals will actually make it easier for you- that is- this year, don't expect much but to learn how to cast the damn thing!
Hope this helps, I am long winded sorry, but it takes much explainin' to do.
:D I am sure I will get some greif here, but heck we all need to learn a few things and I know only a very little, this is how we do learn!
Good Luck, hope your back gets better soon!


Sure I did everything wrong, I'm a newbie:CONFUSED

I had on the sink tip and the bushiest marabou fly I owned - indoctrination by fire, I guess. Should have done it with no fly and no sink tip.

The technique I was using was the Reverse Snap-T as demonstrated by Dec Hogan on video at http://www.geocities.com/speypages/dec3.mpg

...and yes, my form was all wrong now that I've reviewed the clip. My back was doing way too much of the work on the part where you pick up the line initially to begin the line toss upstream. Hey, there was some distractions going on and my mind sorta drifted (the angler I mentioned before who couldn't roll cast very good was catching far too many fish as I viewed him from the corner of my eyes - jealousy, frustration, both? - my soul was screaming run back home and pick up the 6 wt. and join in). Well this fisherman and the spey rod conspired to put the better part of a three hour hurt to me and my day. To make matters even worse, this was the day my 13 year old daughter decided to join her old man for a day on the river. Oh the shame. This guy and his little bitty rod outfished dad and the allmighty Sage wonderpole. She still gets the digs in, days later.

Well I haven't quite quit on it. It seems I can manage to tie my shoes by mid-day so the healing will come. I will take this $1,000.00 albatross out again after I purchase a video and spend many hours viewing it (and purchase a better back support).

Thanks for the words af advice and encouragement, I needed both. If things don't go well, I may be offering up the wonderpole for trade, though. Anybody got a good 7 wt. with some length to it?

Old man still with sore back...
All videos are not created equal...I would suggest Derek Brown's Spey Masterclass video ($29). You should also consider getting instruction at a good fly shop...it will make a world of difference. Dennis at the Bellevue Kaufmann's offers 3 hour spey casting clinics on the water for ~$50. He brings multiple rods and lines so you can get a feel for different setups. You can also book time with Mike Kinney out at Creekside...I have heard that he is a very good instructor.
Stick with it,