Video Pro Tips: What Is Spey Fishing?

Written by: Derek Botchford and Steve Morrow, Epic Waters Angling

Epic Waters Angling and Orvis have teamed up to create a steelheading miniseries. Using the latest Orvis prototypes, the clips are specifically catered to small-stream tactics. After a busy season of guiding, Derek Botchford and Steve Morrow set out to deliver viewers techniques that are designed to elevate the game of steelhead anglers from the west to the Great Lakes.

Spey casting is more popular than it has ever been, and it’s not uncommon to see anglers using these techniques for salmon, trout and even bass. So what exactly qualifies as Spey fishing, and what are the basics?

The most important consideration in the world of Spey is the cast used. A true Spey cast requires a roll cast and a change of direction. The most common presentation involves swinging a fly down through current. When the swing is finished, the fly and line are drawn and deposited back in the river close to the angler: change of direction. In the delivery of that final cast, the line should maintain some contact with surface: the roll cast.

So is Spey the same as two-handed? Not really, since you can make Spey casts with a single-handed rod, and some small Spey setups are incredibly effective and an absolute blast. When targeting larger species on big rivers, however, the fulcrum created by opposing top and bottom hands on a two-handed grip makes moving a lot of line efficient and remarkably easy. Therefore two-handed rods are the darlings of Spey casting. Also, launching a line with a long rod looks real badass.  

To understand the basics of Spey it’s important to understand the three major parts of a spey cast.

First is the anchor, or the portion of the line resting on the surface during the roll cast. How much or how little line is on the water will determine a large part of the energy of your cast. Like building a bridge, you need to start with a good foundation.

Second, you require the D-loop or the backcast of your Spey delivery. Because you have line touching the surface, when you swing the rod tip behind you creating load, the rod and line form a “D” shape behind and under the road. You can tell a lot about a caster’s ability by analyzing the D-loop.

The forward cast is the last part. The delivery should be lined up in the same plane as the D-loop, which will use the energy in the cast most effectively. Tow visualize why this alignment is so important, think about what would happen if you make a regular backcast and then turned and made the forward cast in a different direction. The line is either going to fall flat or slap you in the back of the head.

Spey casts are as varied as ice-cream flavors, but the chocolate and vanilla of British Columbia steelhead fishing are the snap-t and double-Spey. With those two basic casts, you can approach any system and have a fighter’s chance of delivering a knock-out blow.

See all 15 videos in this series on the
Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center.

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