Trout Spey: Casting, Swinging and Searching
Don’t even get me started on casting. I often wonder if I prefer to swing for trout in solitude because casting is the weakest part of my game. The shame of sloppy loops and awkward flailing probably keeps me in hiding and scampering from spot to spot so I’m not found out!
But seriously, casting can be a big challenge; however, it’s one of the many reasons I love spey in general. I’m obsessed with perfection and learning everything I can about the intricacies of the various casts.
Some of the best resources for casting instruction can be found on YouTube, DVD’s (Ed Ward from Skagimaster 1 pictured below) and at your local fly shop.
I am a visual learner and learn more by watching the best casters do their thing. The rhythm, timing and effortless power are beautiful things to watch.
A big shout out to Paul Tornow https://www.instagram.com/paultornow/ who is one of the best spey casters I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with. He’s a fellow lefty and there’s nothing better than watching and learning from a true master☺
As stated in past Trout Spey articles: to me, casting is secondary to how you actually fish the fly though. There will be plenty of time in between catching fish to tweak your cast and get really good. So if you see me cursing out there and flailing, just know that I’m working on getting better.
Knowing what your fly is doing throughout the entire swing is critical to success. Critical things like fly depth, speed and angle can mean the difference between a multi fish day and a skunk (especially when water temps are low and fish aren’t as eager to move for the swung fly).
One thing I noticed today swinging my Rio Skagit Flight with T-18 vs. swinging an OPST Commando Head with that same T-18 is that the OPST head being shorter, allowed the sink tip to dig deeper and fish better. The longer Rio head, if fully on the water, tends to add drag and pull the sink tip slightly up in the water colum. This could mean the difference in swinging a foot over the fish or right at optimal level.
As I experiment with different setups, line systems, casting angles, mending, unweighted/weighted flies, I’m starting to pick up on some of the “feelings” associated with the “perfect swing.”
I was able to cast down and across yesterday with a slight mend on the OPST system and had multiple strikes and sevetal fish to hand. Today, however, I struggled to get any takes with the Rio system in the first 75 yards of the run and I knew something was up.
When you sense that something isn’t working, it’s important to make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes you have to change your sink tip or casting angle and in rare cases, you have to change your shooting head.
A quick adjustment of casting angle (more towards 90° instead of down and across) and a healthy mend, I was able to get down to the sweet spot and I started to get a lot of grabs.
Sometimes shortening your leader helps as well. If your leader is too long, a lightly weighted fly can unfortunately fish above the sink tip. The tip will be dragging on the bottom and the fly will stay slightly suspended and not fish well.
One thing I always tell myself when things aren’t going my way: “you’re lazy if you don’t change your tip or setup or make the necessary casting adjustments.”
I think of “searching” as basically having no clue where the fish are or maybe you have a decent idea where they are, but you’ll need to cover the water as thoroughly as you can.
Or maybe searching is that spiritual part of fly fishing where you’re off in nature trying to find yourself… more on that in upcoming articles…
Whether you’re searching for fish or the meaning of life, it’s important to read the subtle clues given away by the river. Surface currents and key features in the water like soft seams, rocks and other structure will be high percentage areas to target.
Another excellent spot to find lots of holding trout is the deep edges on inside bends where the deepest part of the run meets the gravel shelf. This “trough” can have some of the slowest subsurface currents and invite trout to hold here. A slow tantalizing fly swung through here can illicit nasty strikes that will just about rip the rod out of your hand!
All in all, Trout Spey is a great way to target trout. There is so much to learn and have fun with along the way.
Well get into fly selection, some basic troubleshooting scenarios and breaking down water in upcoming posts.