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Getting Started in Spey Fishing

Getting Started in Spey Fishing
by Dr. Terrence Tatarchuk

Introduction to Spey Casting   by  Dr. Terrence Tatarchuk

Spey casting for salmon and steelhead is catching on here in Northern Michigan.  The use of the two-handed rod really complements the fly fisher who wants to use the traditional methods of angling for these species.  The two-handed rod allows one to make a longer cast with minimal back cast room.  Spey casting, which is a change of direction roll cast, can be accomplished with either a two-handed rod or the standard one-handed rod.  Once learned, the technique allows the fly fisher to reach and fish those areas that previously went unfished. 

As Lefty Kreh often preaches, the presentation is what it is all about.  To present the fly to a steelhead, the current drag is the main factor.  The fly can be presented drag free, or the current drag can be used to the angler's advantage.  The drag free presentation is accomplished in many ways.  The first would be the upstream fly cast with added slack, such as in the tradional dry fly approach to a rising trout.  Another would be the long line nymphing (chuck and duck) style.  Here the fly and weight is cast across or slightly upstream and the running line mended upstream if possible.  The fly then travels downstream held back by the weight as it bounces along, approaching the same speed as a free-drifting nymph. The third would be the float technique whereas the float travels with the surface speed of the river's flow and is held back slightly by the line drag.  Therefore, the fly is presented at the current's speed, drag free, at the fish's level.  The drift length of all three of these methods can be increased considerably when a drift boat is used and floats are at or slightly slower than the surface current speed. 

All of the methods mentioned above present the fly to the fish in a line flowing down the river parallel to the current.  The aforementioned methods give the fish a look at a fly, presenting it as food freely drifting in the current.

Another way to entice the steelhead or salmon is to play on their aggressive or curious nature and present the fly sweeping across their zone of interest. Instead of drifting down the seam, the fisherman paints the river with sweeping arcs to have the fly pass in front of the fish.  These flies are often attractor-type flies or those that imitate a swimming prey such as a minnow or sculpin pattern.  The traditional down-and-across wet fly swing does exactly this.  The two-handed rod and the spey cast allows the steelhead angler to efficiently place the fly in front of the fish in a very precise and controlled manner.  When you take up spey casting with the two-hander, the first thing you notice is not the distance, but the power steering that you have.  The control of the line, leader, and ultimately the fly are part of the gratification of this style of fishing.  With practice, the distance will start to appear, but the newfound control will amaze you.  To fish for our Midwestern steelhead during the cooler water temperatures that we often experience, the mantra is " Low and Slow with line control".