Parameters of a Spey cast

anchor placement in spey casting

Noticed the anchor placement out in front of the caster and off to the same side of the body the caster is casting off, this is a huge KEY

The need to define the parameters of the casting area is crucial in understanding the fundamentals of spey casting. We all seem to understand the principles of right and left, front and back, except when we put ourselves in a river with an unfamiliar rod. The simplistic idea of these principles is key to understanding placement in the area given to casters during their fishing.


By establishing right and left, front and back, we can draw quadrants with the rod in hand. These parameters help us define where the anchor should be placed in relation with each cast and on different sides of the body. They also help us to understand and allow the depth of each cast, how far our D-loop can travel behind us given our casting area.


The first parameter is right and left. This is the easiest. We have already set our target line with our upriver foot or hips and shoulders. By placing the Spey rod directly in the center of our sternum and pointing at the target, we can look to the left of the rod and see the left quadrant. We can look to the right and see the right quadrant. The right and left quadrants help us to gather the information we need on placing our anchor, depending on which side of the body we are casting from. For casts made from the right side of the body, all parts of the cast must finish inside the front right quadrant. All casts that come off the left will finish in the front left quadrant.


Establishing front and back seems like just as easy a proposition, but in reality, this is where parameters become difficult. Before this, Spey casting has been taught in a two-dimensional manner. We stand with arms and legs shoulder width apart and cast 90 degrees to the flow of current. In reality, that couldn’t be more wrong. We seldom cast at a 90-degree angle to the current, and when we do, we would simply plant our upriver foot, and turn our sternum, at that angle to make sure we achieve it.


To teach front and back, I have students place a rod firmly against their shoulders, one end pointed upriver and the other downriver. As we set our target line, we will notice this angle of our shoulders and rod and our front and back change dramatically with the flow of the river. What was once behind us is in front of us when faced at 90 degrees. Some of what was in front of us is now behind us. This optical illusion created by the river and the turning of our torso throws many people off. What may seem different to the has no bearing on the real fundamentals and parameters of the Spey cast.  Maintaining the same anchor and D-loop positions throughout the cast.

Pulling off the perfect spey cast

We can see very plainly the anchor and line are again on the same side as the cast is coming off and well in front of the caster, perfect position. Also notice the shoulders and body angle produced by rotating not pulling the line around.

By keeping our anchor in front of our front line and not letting it drift back behind, us we can achieve more powerful casts by letting the line pull the anchor from the river. If we let the anchor land or drift behind us, the rod and our physical strength are what we use to cast a line. This is what I describe as the difference between casting and throwing. When you cast a line, it pulls itself from the water. When you “throw” a line, you physically remove it from the water.


Another thing you can learn easily by placing anchor in front of the line or behind the line is how our loops and lines react to what is happening. When we can keep our anchor in front of the front line and in the correct quadrant, we will notice we can form a far more dynamic loop. When the anchor drifts back behind us, it’s hard to keep a wedge-shaped loop. The loop opens up, becomes extremely wind resistant, and loses much speed. On the other hand, the farther back we place our anchor behind the line, the further back our “D” loop or  back cast goes, and the chances of catching some streamside vegetation become greater. So controlling the depth of the “D” loop is another bonus of correct anchor placement. This allows the angler to fish more places with more consistency.

This aerial view of the anchor and forward stroke shows even in tight quarters these principles apply, maybe more so.

The last thing I would like to reference in these ideas is the rules of the parameters are applicable regardless of line style and Dominate hand or cack-handed placement. I feel that these are of up most importance to the caster and the nature of the cast themselves. I have noticed many times that correct and well executed action promoted more correct positions and actions and together make can produce a wonderful result. At the same end the casts the start bad usually don’t get better as the casting sequence is followed through, every now and then I am surprised by a result here and there, but for the most part bad positions and actions lead to more bad and incorrect positions and actions. Learn and ingrain the correct actions and you will get results

The Other Hand in Spey Casting

A well loaded rod is achieved through the use of both the top and bottom hand in a well executed two handed cast!

Frozen, snowed in and off my first Trade show of the season in Boise. I settle back into the chair in front of my computer, getting ready to talk more about the wonderful journey of Spey casting. So much is in a name, as from the words of Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”. I agree with the smell, but the mind’s image is what would change with a different name. Here in the big egocentric US of A. we call casting that uses two hands Spey casting, even if it is with a single handed or switch rod. 95% of the rest of the world gives this motion the name double handed casting. Double handed casting, Two handed casting, and Spey casting…Some of these names help to give a clue the need number of hands/arms it takes to produce a…Spey cast.

The stopping of the rod in the forward stroke being demonstrated nicely here is what transfers the power used to make the cast into the speed and propulsion of the line.

He in the PNW and almost everywhere in our wonderful country I have heard the same nomenclature for the descriptions of the power produced by the “bottom hand of the cast”. I have listen to this and even bought into this for a while…until I really looked at the forces needed to produce a double handed cast. What came to light was that, no matter the length of rod or line system put on the rods, I still need the help of both hands to produce the EASIEST most REPEATABLE cast I could. In fact part of my two handed casting presentation deal with the fact that the decent cast can be made with only a hand on the top grip, and were again produced by placing both and on the bottom grip. This showed me that either hand can be used to make two handed cast but when both hands had a fluid cohesion, the rod followed a better path and was easier to move and stop the rod in the appropriate positions, and was easier to make changes to the cast without over working both mentally and physically to try these new ideas out.


A good example of the hand position at the completion of a two handed cast when a good stop is made. The top hand would not be that far out if the bottom hand had not come in and vica versa.

Now I am not saying the the bottom hand is not needed, or the top hand is the answer to all problem that deal with the forward stroke or key position of the cast. I am saying that either hand can produce good cast but both need to work together to make it better for the caster. I have notice that the stop needed in the forward stroke of the double handed cast, has more bearing on loop shape and power transfer from the D-loop into the forward stroke. The casts made with just the top hand were possible because the stopping of the rod made the power applied in the forward cast applicable to make the cast successful, same phenomenon happened  with just the use of the bottom hand. Stopping the rod…Just like a single handed cast made the cast possible. When both hands we used to make the cast and stop, less physical energy was need and a better feel was received back from the rod at the completion for the cast. Similar to those felt went hitting a baseball or golf ball solid, the feedback was instant and rewarding.

This man uses both hands in his casts!!! Mastering this has help make Gerard Downey the finest double handed caster to even walk on the planet.

Now I know about a million other things can go wrong during the cast, but I believe if you go out and just concentrate on making a clean stop in the forward stroke and worry less about what hand you used during the cast, you made find it becomes easier. Even a little easier is an improvement in my book. Lastly remember that the stop of the forward cast should as in single handed casting happen at 10 or 2 based on side of the river you are on. Don’t be afraid to get back to me with questions or experiences with your casting!!! Thanks and enjoy.

The Same Old Questions

Fishing a Mid Belly line on a fine summer day on the Deschutes.

Fishing a Mid Belly line on a fine summer day on the Deschutes.

Winter has gripped my house and surround area, leaving me to do fun stuff like dig out boats and paper work. I have also been doing a fair amount of reading. I love golf another esoteric invention of Scottish origin, imagine that. I will also say more has been written about golf than will ever be written about Spey casting or even fly fishing for that matter. I have read a few really helpful things and a few things that were unfitting for the problems I have, and a few that I was not ready to learn. The best part is that no matter how old the books I am reading, the books cover the same problems for the average golfer….That’s me for sure but seems odd that with all the people that golf and how  much time that is spent analyzing the golf swing that new problems have not be brought forth by the presentation of different ideas.

Good casts cover the water better!!

Good casts cover the water better!!

There seems to be the same parallel in the world of spey casting. The same problems exist and the same answers are given for the fix. I also love Spey casting, and I am a  bit better than average. I can also tell you that the question I ask about spey casting have changed and are not longer the same as the rest of the casting world. I will also so the the answers that I need to give have changed. The thing I see is that Spey casting is a 3D movement having height, width, and depth. The Spey cast also is alive, well it should be, it has feel and tempo giving it a beat and power its breath. If you casts it pieces stopping at all the point of the cast it is kinda like watching Frankenstein walk, cumbersome and rigid. At the same time watching a runner move can be amazing, never a wasted movement each motion having a reason and purpose, fluid with the flow and never contradicting the other motions. The questions we ask in a single dimensional fashion, and as it has been we receive a single dimensional answer. Is it that the questions are the wrong ones, or are the answers bad???? Well to be honest neither… just like the questions and answers it is more complicated than that. So what needs to happen is that in depth answers and better how to, will in turn bring a progression of the questions that should be asked.

This type of thinking again is not new. This seems to have gotten us to the point we are at now. I think we can go further.  I believe any person can Spey cast. I also believe that for the majority of us that spey cast, beginner to master we all strive to be a little better than we are, not really ever satisfied with what we can done and have done but imagine that more is attainable.  For that small pushing in the bulk of our small but growing spey community we are ready for more info, better answers that will bring about new questions and push together the knowledge base we all desire to know.

Now I am not blaming any person or group of people for where we are now, they all help get us here. That’s right you and I, I personally know that more is too come, and if I still have questions and a desire to know more, I am sure you do too. Now let’s talk about one of these so called “Single Dimensional” questions and answers, shall we.

Crisp cast is picked up easily and clean from the water, correct stroke length not wasted movement or power.

Crisp cast is picked up easily and clean from the water, correct stroke length not wasted movement or power.


The first one that comes to mind is long line, long stroke… so does this mean short line short stroke? Seems simple but this is the problem, it is not that simple. I am all for simplicity but a generic statement is not meant to bread inspiration, it just provides a temporary band aid for the knowledge that should be given at that time and place.  I never hear people complain about getting to much information, I do hear them complain about hard to understand and over pontificated explanations. I once excepted the “Long line, Long stroke” answer. Until I went out and really spent some time casting, like 3 to 8 hours a day. This simple question became more complicated when line styles were changed, sink tips were applied, and anchors were being watched. Just like a spey cast as being a series of simple motions creating a “Oscillation Motion”, no movement is difficult by it self but when each motion relies on the one before it the entire picture looks different. To simplify the more anchor one has the longer the stroke need to remove it from the water to perform the cast. At the same time if one has a sink tip, the heavier or longer the sink tip the more energy and motion it will take move this heavier mass. For the last angle the deeper the water gets around the angler the the different timing one gets to make a cast and then the anchor placement, amount of stick and tempo of the cast change. So the simple statement of “long line, line stroke” is not wrong, but not the answer as complex as the question.

Aero Heads loads like a Skagit and is easy like a Scandi

Aero Heads loads like a Skagit and is easy like a Scandi

So the line between information given and information needed becomes grey not black and white. Better teaching ideas and principles will educated and bring about new questions from those willing to learn. For the one example I presented the same critical angles need be looked, for understanding, for teaching, for growth in our sport, for line design, for the future of caster yet to come. I hope the readers enjoy this and start thinking about what they want to know because, your questions are different then mine. Shoot me over a couple questions and lets start being better.