Spey Casting Basics
Although I have called this section 'basics' you would be surprised how often I see clients who do not consider or apply these basic principles to their casting. Your Spey casting can be likened to a house, it needs to be built on strong foundations, and without these you will not achieve a good standard of casting and consistency.
Here are the basic principles that should be applied to all Spey casts.
Your grip of the rod handle should be firm but not tight. A tight grip leads to tense muscles in your shoulder framework, which hinders mobility and accelerates fatigue. The spacing for your hands should be approximately as wide as the distance across the front of your shoulders, achieve this by dropping you hands down by your sides while holding the rod, where your hands fall is about right. This grip could then be shortened a little for personal comfort or to increase effective leverage but very rarely is there a need for this to be widened. If your grip is too wide it will make loading the rod more difficult and encourage pushing with the uppermost hand. In most cases the grip of your uppermost hand should also include your thumb being placed on the top of the cork (opposite the side the reel is attached) and pointing down the rod at the tip.
Correct stance and alignment towards your target is vital to achieve accurate and efficient casts. Think of a Darts player, he aligns himself towards his intended target in such a way that his throw towards his target is a simple straight-line movement. He stands directly facing his target with the corresponding throwing hand (your uppermost on the rod) and foot facing forward. When he pulls the dart back (his back cast) so it is 180 degrees opposite his target. When he makes his throw (his forward cast) all of his energy is directed in the most efficient way towards his target, in a straight-line path.
For optimum efficiency there should be no slack line anywhere in the system at any time. The line must always be under tension from either the rod tip or the water or both. Think of an Archers bow, if there was slack in the bow string there would be needless energy and movement wasted just to take up this slack before the bow was loaded by his hand pulling on the string. This is the same with any Spey cast, slack line causes wasted energy and rod tip movement to achieve nothing. Only when the line is under tension will the rod tip movement have any effect on the line.
You cannot make a Spey cast without first constructing a D-Loop. The D-Loop or 'D' is the term used to describe the fly line that is suspended in the air behind the casters upper hand shoulder, between the rod tip and the water. The name D-Loop comes from the fact that typically the line forms the rounded profile of the capital letter D with the rod itself making the connection at the top via the rod tip with the water at the bottom. In more advanced casting we aim to change the shape of this loop so that it becomes pointed rather than rounded, this is then called a V-Loop or 'V' as it mirrors the shape of the letter V turned on its side like this >.
The anchor is the term given to any amount of your fly line that is attached to the water immediately prior to your forward cast beginning. Apart from the basic roll cast which will always have a large anchor of 15' or more, all other anchor points should be minimal with ideally no more than 3'-5' of fly line and leader in contact with the water. Your anchor on the water should always be aligned towards your intended target with the tip of the line pointing in the direction that you want your forward cast to go.
This is a very important principle and applies to the position of your D-Loop just before you make your forward cast. As mentioned earlier in the stance section the most effective and efficient path that your rod tip can make is a straight line movement from directly opposite your target, this also applies to the line and energy stored in your D-Loop, imagine the loop of line behind you as a big wheel that you want to roll towards your target from 180 degrees opposite. The path it will take is straight and perfectly aligned.
The Inside Line
This can also be called parallel tracking. In simple terms think of a rail track with two lines running parallel forever, imagine this track is now aligned with your target about a rods length out from your casting shoulder (the one with your hand uppermost on the rod). Your D-Loop and particularly your anchor should always be facing the target and it will be aligned with the outside of the two rail lines. The direction that your rod tip takes from the start of your forward stroke (back stop) to the end of the stroke (front stop) will always follow the inside rail line nearest to you. This will ensure that your forward traveling loop unfurls in a straight line and without colliding with itself (collision loop).
This is the term used to describe the distance that the rod tip travels between the back and forward stopping points of the forward stroke. The optimum starting point for the rod tip is when the rod is at an angle of 45 degrees behind you (back stop) and the optimum finishing point is a mirror image i.e.; 45 degrees in front of you (front stop). It is widely accepted that these parameters are best suited to modern Spey rods and lines in the 40'-80' head range. With lines either side of this range the stroke length can be altered to suit i.e.; shorter stroke for shorter heads and vice versa. There is a good reason for this optimum stroke length, it is that it gives us enough time to smoothly and progressively increase the acceleration we apply to the rod tip from a standstill until the abrupt stop at the end of the forward stroke (front stop).
This describes the manner in which the rod is moved from the back to the front stop. Telling someone to just 'hit it' or in the words of a famous Instructor of yesteryear, 'just try to snap the rod', are by today’s standards not a good enough explanation of how to deliver an efficient forward stroke. The speed at which the rod and in particular the tip moves through the forward stroke must be smooth and constantly accelerating and ending in an abrupt stop when the rod tip is traveling at its fastest. Too much acceleration too early in the stroke or a single paced forward stoke will result in open and inefficient forward loops.
These may seem to many as very basic rules and they wonder how these alone will improve their casting. It is surprising just how often I have to re-endorse or teach these basic principles to often very experienced fishermen. I cant emphasize the importance of understanding and implementing these rules as a basis for all of your Spey casts.