As a group, the contemporary ideals of spey casting have their ups and downs. Some of them I can get behind and others i just don’t have time for. The main thing is our group tends not to look at thing objectively, we go with the flow. I think this is for a couple reasons, number one we don’t get to casts enough to have a few of our own truths and keys, and number 2 is just seems easy to go with the instruction and points that are out there. What ever the real reason for the difficult of the changing of fundamentals and ideas in the Spey casting microcosm one point seems to stick out further then the others. The facts of disproof hanging all around but still most casters fall back to the old belief and never get to make sense of the fundamentals of the casts.
The ugly and over emphasized idea of a bottom hand centric wold in spey casting just does not fit as the upper hand typically more dominate has some of the most important jobs as well. I have witnessed first hand over the past 15 years the clumsy and narrow in view of what a bottom hand dominated casting world can become. I am not sure what most of us our thinking placing our top hand only on the rod as a convenience of looking like the guy next to us but not really understanding to true picture of the uses of the most coordinated hand we have. enough of the ranting. let us speak easier and fuller to broadcast an new/old idea that even if it only helps on or two caster was worth typing this out.
From the moment the hand reaches out to pick a spey rod up the upper cork is grasped. I often watch what hand casters pick their rod up with as a clue to what their dominate hand is. Once again as an instructor I watch as to how a caster handle the rod even doing the smallest of things. when we look at a properly gripped spey rod or even better once we pick up the rod and properly place in our hands we can start to notice a few things. If you have one handy grab the handle section of a double handed rod and lets see what happens. Now with the rod placed in both hand move one hand and the the other. Note the reactions of the terminal end of the rod. Lets make the note that the terminal end of the rod mirrors the top hand, (this is very important). On the other hand the terminal end of the rod does exactly the opposite of what the bottom hand does. With a bit of time spent with rod in hand, not even casting an angler can gain a high level of proprioception about how he can handle the rod in a variety of manners. Again this type of feel and information can be very useful on the water taking the guess work out of your positions and let your mind worry more about the two steps down stream during the steelhead migration.
So we have covered the differences in how the rod reacts in both and and in some respect how it moves in retro spect to each hand. As it is with a single handed rod the top hand or only hand is our engine, guide, plane, and delivery system. With a doubled handed rod the jobs can be split between the hands. Especially the job of steering or guiding the rod, this job is best performed by the top hand with a nice lose grip. The ability to maintain a straight line with the top hand is undeniable, even more so off dominate side casts. Where the top hand can be watched in eye line go toward the target. The reason that the bottom hand is so overstated is that at first new caster to spey casting tend to push but worse they tend to drop the top hand down as the top hand arm becomes extended. This action not only opens the loop up dramatically but does not allow for the rod path to stay going toward the target line nor does it give a sufficient stop to transfer the energy stored in the D-loop to be directed properly.
We also need to remember that the art of Spey casting is 3 dimensional, It has height, depth and length. As single handed casting can be easily diagramed 2 dimensionally, Spey casting can not. The best analogy I can give for a nice top hand path is like tossing a piece of smashed up paper into a near by trash can. Not really a basket ball style shot, but not a baseball thrown either. To do this the hand almost never goes behind the head but stays in front of the tosser to ensure accuracy and look better in front of the co-workers. The paper is lightly tossed and with most of us the hand goes in a straight line toward the trash can with minimal effort. No crazy force is applied at any given point but a gentle follow through of the hand as the paper is made air born. The power used here is almost same same amount used at the highest levels of distance spey casting. Timing and tempo becoming more the secret of power and line speed not how hard and fast either of the hands can move. So next time your out fishing give the top hand a bit more credit and awareness, be surprised how straight those casts can get going, with how little effort.