Articles by AAPGAI Members
By Clive Mitchelhill
In what situation do we need a Single Spey Cast?
Although all Spey Casts can be used when there is no wind present, one of the first things to be taken into consideration when Spey Casting, must always be the direction of the wind, if in attendance.
Although it is widely understood that Spey Casting was designed to be used where there are obstacles behind the angler, such as trees, high banks etc, where an extended cast behind, (such as an overhead cast) would cause you all sorts of problems, it is often forgotten that the Spey casts are also a series of casts that are influenced by wind direction. Obviously if there is no wind in attendance this will not pose a problem, but as most anglers will tell you, when arriving at the river, with the intension of fly fishing, there is often an upstream or downstream wind to contend with. This is what dictates which of the Spey Casting techniques you should adopt, not just to make your casting more efficient, but also much safer.
At this stage it is important to point out that a downstream wind necessitates the use of a Double Spey cast, and it’s counterpart the Snake Roll, (two of the techniques I have covered in articles 5 and 6) and an upstream wind necessitates the use of a Single Spey cast, and it’s counterparts the Snap T & Circle C casts, (see article 4). So before moving on to these other casts, let’s take a look at the Single Spey and why it is one of the Spey casts that performs better (and safer) in an upstream wind.
As many of you will be aware, the left and right banks of a river can be determined by turning your body to face downstream (your back to the flow) and therefore the left bank is on your left and the right bank is on your right. Bearing this in mind, a Single Spey cast should be adopted when the wind is blowing in an upstream direction, regardless of the bank you are fishing from, and believe me this does cause confusion amongst some anglers. Let me explain further!
The casting weight, or D shape of line we have created behind the rod prior to casting (covered in articles 1 and 2) must be placed on your safe wind side, i.e. the side to which the wind is blowing your D loop away from your body. So assuming we do have an upstream wind in attendance, your D loop, (casting weight) in this particular cast, (Single Spey) must always be formed on the upstream side of your body, regardless of which bank you are fishing from. This is not only safer, but it also gives you a huge advantage as the wind will inevitably fill up your D loop as if it were a big sail (picture 1) therefore allowing you more time than you think you have to deliver a much more efficient cast. The wind also assists you with keeping your fly line under tension, which can be very helpful when you come to progressively load the rod during the forward acceleration. “Notice how much more efficient a Yacht is when the wind fills its sail”.
Double Handed Rods
When using a Single Spey cast with a double handed Salmon rod, consider the following:
When you are on the left bank of the river place your right hand uppermost on the rod handle (A) and when you are on the right bank of the river place your left hand uppermost on the rod handle (B). This prevents you from crossing your hands over during the set up of the cast, allowing you to open your body up to the cast more effectively (and comfortably) and therefore allowing you to utilise a much longer casting stroke where required. Although this cast can also be made by crossing your hands over, that technique will not allow you to realise the full potential of your delivery (due to the restriction of your arms during the set up of the cast) and you will be more inclined to pull the rod across your body during the forward stroke, often creating a tracking problem. If distance is a requirement, then crossing your hands over will always be a limiting factor.
Practise a little from time to time with either hand, this will not only prove to be a real advantage when Spey Casting with a single handed rod, but it will also offer you more flexibility when fishing from both banks with the double handed rod (utilising both hands). Many anglers will often only fish from the bank they are most comfortable on, (often dictated by whether they are left or right handed) therefore never realising their full potential. This is not as difficult as it may sound, and a few sessions will certainly improve your technique, offering you the luxury of being able to fish from both banks with confidence.
As you may remember, at the conclusion of my last article “The Jump Roll Cast”, I indicated that we were going to add a change of direction to that cast to create what is known as the Single Spey cast, as this cast will be of much more use to us on the river (in a fishing situation) than a jump roll cast will ever be. So bearing in mind the mechanics of the Jump Roll cast, (article 2) all we need to do now is deliver that cast in a new direction, e.g. 45° from the bank, down and across the flow, and out into the river, as apposed to just sending it back from whence it came (the Jump Roll cast). It will now become apparent why we took the time to absorb and understand the Jump Roll Cast prior to moving on to this cast (the Single Spey). Let’s give it a whirl!
With your fly fished out into your own bank, point your rod tip downstream towards your fly, as if you were going to execute a Jump Roll Cast (article 2). Now point your foot (the one directly underneath your casting arm) toward your intended target, (in this case 45° out into the river) and slightly forward, making sure your other foot is also facing the new direction (for reasons discussed in the Roll Cast). The rod tip should now be pointing directly downstream and across your body whilst you will be facing your new target out in the river. Some people prefer twisting their body to face downstream at this stage, (picture 4) this is fine, as long as you’re feet are still facing your intended target. Both techniques work well, as your body swivels back around during the set up of the cast. (helping to generate line speed and assist with anchor placement) This also helps you to line up your D loop with your intended target prior to the forward delivery, i.e. the 180o rule (180 degrees opposite your target).
From this position, the mechanics of the Single Spey cast are almost identical to the Jump Roll Cast, the only difference being, that because you are now introducing a directional change into your cast, you have had to bring your fly line leader and fly much further around your body to enable you to place your leader and fly into your anchor point position, which is now upstream of you, but still (as before) out to the side of your casting shoulder prior to the forward delivery (approximately one to one and a half rod lengths away from you) (see Jump Roll article 2 for explanation of anchor points). Remember, with all Spey Casts, all you are trying to do (at this stage) is create a roll cast set up, with the D loop (albeit larger) leader, and fly, all facing your intended target, rather like a large wheel, “if its not pointing that way it won’t roll that way”.
An easy way to remember the D loop process (up to this point) is to imagine that every time you are setting up your Spey cast, you are wearing a very large imaginary Sombrero (See A). Raise the rod tip to the edge of the Sombrero, (from the direction of your fished out fly) then sweep your rod tip around the Sombrero, whilst at the same time creating a very shallow arc off your casting shoulder. This is to make sure that you find your anchor point position on the water. The shallow arc will be easier to achieve if you’re imaginary Sombrero is worn with a tilt to the side (See B). All you need to do now is to follow this tilt with the tip of your fly rod throughout the duration of the sweep. Do not at any point cut the edge off your Sombrero during the sweep as this will cause the fly line to take an alternative path, often causing you to either, create slack line, or worse still, miss your anchor point completely. “Follow the path of the arrow (shown in the picture on the left) with your rod tip”.
Always remember, whatever path your thumb takes the rod tip also takes, and whatever path the rod tip takes, the fly line will follow. This simple rule can be a great advantage to you when fault finding, allowing you to analyse the cast at different stages, also helping you to identify the fault. “When your fault finding skills improve, then so will your casting”.
If your D loop has been set up correctly (180° opposite your target) then you are now ready to deliver the forward cast. This is done in exactly the same way as you delivered both your Roll cast and your Jump roll cast, simply by applying a smooth and progressive acceleration throughout, which is one of the key components of a good cast. If you have created a good anchor point and your fly line remains under tension at all times, (picture 5) all you will need to do now, is make sure that your thumb travels in a straight line to your intended target, (and parallel to the water) before rotating your wrist into the dead stop at the end of the forward stroke, this will also ensure that your fly line unrolls above the water as it delivers your fly. If this is all done correctly then the outcome should be a good one.
Finally, (as you did with the Roll & Jump Roll casts) following the stop at the end of the forward stroke, lower your thumb, and therefore rod tip, in unison with the fly line leader and fly as they begin to fall, for a good presentation. “Job Done”!
When first starting out, the Single Spey cast can be one of the most difficult Spey casts to perform successfully, this is because it consists of what is often referred to as an airborne anchor i.e. your fly must be lifted from the fished out position on the water and carefully guided through the air, around your body, and back down onto the water again into the correct position off your casting shoulder. The same could be said for the Jump Roll cast, I hear you say, but the difference here is that because there is no directional change with the Jump Roll cast, the path of the fly line, after being lifted from the water, is easier to control as it travels much straighter through the air, thus making it easier to create consistent anchor placements when learning the cast for the first time.
That said, it is worth knowing that there are a couple of alternatives to the Single Spey cast available to us, which are not only useful in an upstream wind scenario, but also when you find yourself fishing in difficult situations, and more, (especially on rivers) as they not only assist with anchor point placement, (if that is something you are having difficulty with) but are also generally much easier to learn than the Single Spey cast, and can often alleviate the pressures of a frustrating day when your Single Spey is proving difficult to master. The casts I am referring to are the Snap T, and Circle C casts, which I will explain in more depth the next article, as well as looking into the differences between the two techniques.