Whiskey Creek Fly Fishing

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Spey Casting – Take a class

May 31st, 2008 · 2 Comments


Last fall, I went Steelhead fishing in Maupin, Oregon on the Deshutes. I used a Spey rod for the first time, and highly recommend using spey casting for this type of fishing (swinging streamers on large rivers). I also highly recommend starting with a class – the learning curve is a bit steep.

Why learn spey casting?

Fly fishing for Steelhead is about searching for migrating fish, swinging flies though likely holding water. You don’t know where the fish are, so a large part of success in steelheading is covering the most water.

Spey casting allows you to cover more water. The casts are longer, with less physical effort, and I could fish closer to the bank, which better covered the edges. A couple of other benefits:

  • I didn’t lose any flies – with no backcast I didn’t have the opportunity to get hung up on the shrubs and trees on the bank
  • I could wade closer to the bank, better able to cover the shallow water and a bit safer wading

Casting Class

My buddy and I started the week by taking the spey casting class from the Deschutes Angler, taught by Jon and Amy Hazel. This was my first time touching a spey rod, so I was a rank beginner. We met another student, who was taking this class for the 3rd time. In the back of my mind, I though, wow, she must be a slow learner. However, if I go back next year for a week of steelheading, I will plan to start the week with taking the spey casting class for a refresher. That is exactly what she was doing.

The class was taught on the river. We floated downriver for about a mile before touching a rod. We learned the switch, circle, and double spey casts on river left. Then, after lunch, we went downstream and learned the same casts on river right.
“Lecture” was in river, with either Jon or Amy demonstrating casting, and common errors (plus how to fix the errors). The practice portion had both rotating between each student for personal lesson. There were 6 students total.
We also had on stream lessons on steelheading with spey rods.payday loans online Where to cast, which flies to use, detecting strikes and what to do if the fish was on (fighting and landing), and what to do if it was a miss (hint: if you miss a strike, try again )

Overall, the class was a very effective way to get up the learning curve for fishing with a spey rod. The 8 hours was definitely not enough time for me to become an accomplished caster, but I had the basic knowledge down and ability to diagnose my cast myself. After the next 3 full days of fishing, I was making decent 70 foot casts with the double spey at least 4 out of 5 casts.

At first, I was very frustrated with my inability to cast spey. I knew, though, that I would catch on and stuck with it. To make your first casts, there are about a dozen things you have to remember (lift line off the water, sweep over for the setup, finish the setup with rod on left shoulder at a 45 degree angle, sweep rod to right keeping 45 degree angle until D loop forms, keep anchor in water, make sure flyline is off water, pause, cast vertically – in the correct direction, power with bottom hand…_) you get the picture. This was not easy to start.

Repeating a couple of things for emphasis:
Spey casting was very frustrating for the first day. Stick with it, power through the frustration – its worthwhile in the end.

However, once getting the basic cast down without having to remember everything, I could fish and practice while improving only one thing at a time. I think it was helpful that for the entire 3 days of fishing, we fished from the same side of the river, with the same wind profile. That allowed me to build my skill with one cast (double spey)

Good thing with steelheading, I had plenty of opportunities to practice casting


I took the class, but did not immediately purchase a spey rod. I tried to fish with my 1 handed 8 weight. I found myself being more effective holding the fighting butt and spey casting anyway. At the lunch break that first day, I went back to the Deschutes Angler’s shop and purchased a Beulah 7/8 which is 12 feet, 7 inches long. The Beulah was the rod that I was using during the casting class, when I finally “got it” (just after lunch). I don’t know if the rod matched my casting style, or more likely, it was what I was using when I built enough muscle memory to get 1 cast correct. The Beulah was about half the cost of the Sage and Winston rods available in the shop, which also helped make this decision.

Along with the rod, the shop configured a Vision floating shooting head, custom cut to match this rod.

A cool service of the Deschutes Angler fly shop is matching the fly line to any of spey rods on the market. The Hazel’s have purchased one of each model spey rod, and experimented to find the correct match for the shooting head fly line. They customize each line to match the rod by cutting back so the remaining line is the perfect weight to properly load the rod.

Fishing Report

Fresh casting lessons and with a new Beulah spey rod, we fished the Deschutes for steelhead. I was skunked the first day and a half. The next full day of fishing, though, I fought 3 fish, landing 2. Two of the fish took green butt skunk, and 1 a rusty orange skating fly.

This trip opened up 2 new worlds to me, steelheading and spey casting. Spey casting is definitely the way to fish for steelhead on the Deschutes, and taking an in person class is definitely worthwhile for learning how to spey cast.

Tags: Fly Fishing

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 spey casting // Jun 1, 2008 at 5:51 am

    […] this type of fishing swinging streamers on large rivers. I also highly recommend starting with a clahttp://wcflies.com/blog/?p=10SPEY CASTING TOPICSOn one end of the spectrum is the traditional use of the double-handed rod, the […]

  • 2 Jean-Paul Lipton // Nov 11, 2008 at 8:12 am

    I gotta couple questions regarding the beulah switch. could you email me?

    mail [at] roughfisher [dot] com


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