Architecture of the Spey Cast - Tight Loops for Greater Success

October 19, 2015

I have been doing a lot of spey fishing lately, both guiding and I even got a day carrying my own rod.  Which... happens to be a new 6130-4 Sage MOD. I put a Skagit MAX 450 on that rod and it is a dream.  I can see why you guys like fly fishing so much!  I love guiding but man o' man casting flies all day is even better.

Over the past couple of weeks I have seen all skill levels of spey fisherman come through the steelhead lodge.  From neophyte to expert, I have watched cast after cast, swing after swing, and have been soaking it all in. Lots of watching and learning.  There is always a lot to learn but there is one thing that really stood out. 

The Architecture of the Spey Cast

In this blog entry and video I want to provide some mentor-ship to beginner and intermediate anglers alike.  As you take on the challenge of building a good spey cast be sure that your focus is not only on learning the "SYSTEM" (anchor, D-loop, and finally the cast) but you work on the architecture of the cast which is... the loop.  The loop has to be defined and built properly in order for you to be successful. The line must lay out tight in the air and land without slack, it needs to defeat wind, get under trees, and be capable of neatly shooting some line.  NEATLY shooting some line

Now I can't possibly type out the "how" to get tighter more solid loops in text, and honestly - even a video won't do the trick. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS FOR YOURSELF.  There, I said it.  In all caps for firm but respectful emphasis.  You need to get some practice in and do some freestyling. Play around with it, figure it out.  Besides its fun. As you practice though I do have a few pointers for you beginner to intermediate casters working on better loops and better structure for their cast.

NOTE:  If really want a strong cast, buy this DVD set.  RIO MODERN Spey Casting.  I wouldn't keep on hard selling it if I didn't truly believe it is crucial to your success.  It is a GREAT set and you will be casting circles around your buddies that don't have it.  

  1. Practice.  Ok, so this might sound dumb.  Well, why didn't more of you do it then haha???!!!!  Caught you.  Here we are on October 19th in the PEAK of the Steelhead season and there are still a lot of folks hacking away that didn't practice!  Come on guys, buy the rod, string up the rod, tie on a chunk of yarn, and work out the kinks.
  2. Don't shoot a bunch of line. That is a waste of time and it annoys the guide. Nobody cares that you are able to use 100' of line to throw a 60' cast.  Shorten up, fish it clean, and work on consistency.  The spey swing should be a militant, grid like approach to fishing a run.  This requires discipline.
  3. The LOOP is the Foundation for Distance.  Work on perfect casts with just the head of the line.  Ok, so you are out there freestyling around, working on a more aerodynamic delivery etc. and you are tempted... to start shooting a bunch of friggin' line.  Just keep in mind that the loop is the foundation.  Without a good loop there is NO cast.  Shooting line is EASY. Any fool can let go of a running line and let it shoot out there.  It takes an an artist to control the loop and neatly place a 70' plus cast out across the river in a way that it will actually fish. Become the artist by exercising discipline practice and building a good foundation.  After that... all you have to do is literally "let go" of the running line.  
  4. Don't SNAG bottom.  This might sound trite, but its a real demon for the beginner.  Quit snagging and do more casting and fishing.  Especially at the end of the swing on the hang down.  Pro/experienced anglers rarely snag even with heavy setups.  Our casts land tight, we know where the bottom is, and if we don't feel good swing tension on the line we mix up the casting angles and mending until we do.
  5. Keep your rod tip level during the final stroke.  The path of the rod tip is what dictates the path of the of the loop.  "waive" rod tip and you will simply "waive" your fly in the general direction of the bank.  Throw your rod tip forward on a flat line parallel to the water and... waaalaa!  A tight loop.
  6. Don't underestimate the "anchor".  This is the cornerstone of the spey cast.  You won't get good loops without a consistent and proper anchor.  
  7. Do MORE with less.  Use the least amount of effort possible to get the loop tight and complete the cast.  Only after we have discovered how to efficiently cast can we even think about casting "harder".  That term is almost an oxymoron.  The harder people cast usually the worse it gets.  But you get the point.  Figure out how to make the spey system work dynamically for you by using as little effort as is possible. 
  1. com on fellas I know your busy but this river is key, why not a better update for the river,and you have a flyshop ???? but still love the info . make time to give great reports it is very important and only takes a few min,for you folks that are on your phones ALOT should have time....... always in your shop???
  2. Pretty rude comment there bud,,,, I myself love the info presented here and find it very informative. Reds does a great job of river reports especially compared to most fly shops out there. Its usually more rewarding to get out there and struggle a little and find what's working without always having directions anyways. Thanks again for the great info reds!
  3. Joe, what is the reel that you were using in the video? Mid arbor large arbor?
  4. I'm just entering the SR arena. I like that Joe really focuses his reports and information toward the beginner; plus, it's for the more advanced folks. Become a HUGE supporter of Red's this year. Found the staff and blog information well out pacing any other fly shop I associate with. Thanks Joe, Roger, Craig, and the whole staff!
  5. Hey Joe, Thanks for the update. Focused practice is the key to building and maintaining a good cast. Great reminders to focus on the right things.
  6. There are plenty of mediocre two handed casters out there that love to geek on their casts but don't have a clue how to dial it in, I see them every day. Thanks Joe for these tips, good stuff to work on while making our 1,000 different casts in pursuit of quarry. Another great tip you've left is that 'there is no excuse for catching the other side of the river...' I think about that tip all the time, my hookups have increased and I have decorated many fewer rocks and trees.
  7. Thanks for the support guys, I just read through these comments and appreciate the kind words. We're doing our best and wish we had the resources to do it all and do it better.