Today we’re back with part 2 of our ‘spey casting in tight quarters’ mini-series of posts. Last week we kicked off the series with an explanation of how to use casting stations to work down a run shrouded with sections difficult or even impossible to cast from. Today’s topic? How to make fishable casts when backed up tight against the bank (or any obstruction).
When starting out, most of us are told that a huge advantage of spey casting, over traditional fly casting, is the ability to cast with minimal back casting room. While that is extremely true, many beginners find it disheartening to learn that some backcast room (even if only a few feet) is often needed to form a powerful D-loop, and become frustrated when attempting to fish anywhere it is not possible to wade more than a few feet off the bank.
It doesn’t have to be frustrating however. Here are a few tips to help make perfectly fishable casts with your back against the tightest obstructions.
Note: These tips are meant to produce fishable casts in tough conditions, but don’t necessarily reflect proper spey casting fundamentals. For some tips on getting your fly in the water in tough conditions, read on. For tips on basic spey casting fundamentals, click here!
- Sweep Slow. A well executed sweep is the part of the cast in which the rod is loaded before creating an efficient D-loop. With infinite back casting room, a smooth accelerating sweep can create a powerful D-loop extending well behind the angler, providing maximum load on the rod. However, when backed up against a ledge or grassy high bank, a similar sweep causes the D-loop to extend behind the angler causing it to crash into the obstruction. Instead, try slowing your sweep down (we’re talking way down here). Doing so creates less momentum for the D-loop to extend behind you, giving you more room to cast. The downside? The rod is not able to load nearly as ‘deep’ and a more powerful foreward stroke is necessary to produce an efficient cast. Will this create the same lazer loops made from a cast stemming from a d-loop extending far beyond you? Probably not. But it should get your fly back in the water.. You know, where the fish are.
- Try a Slower Rod. Contrary to popular belief, a slower action rod can actually be beneficial when casting in tight quarters. Take the tip mentioned above. When less momentum is present in the D-loop from a slower sweep, a more powerful forward stroke is necessary to load the rod. If using a fast rod, this takes a great deal of power to load anything but the tip section of the rod (not where the power is). On the other hand, if using a slower action rod, a deep bend is more easily provided with less effort, allowing a more powerful cast. As with anything, personal preference plays a factor, but we strongly suggest giving a slower rod a chance when back cast room is limited.
- Anchor Placement. As with all things spey casting, proper anchor placement is pivotal to a good cast. In simple terms, the closer the anchor is to you, the further behind you the D-loop will extend. This is great for long casts, but not so great when casting room is limited. On the other hand, the further away (or closer to center river) your anchor is, the less your D-loop will extend behind you. Proper anchor placement is a pretty juicy subject to explain in full detail here, so why not watch a great explanation, in video form, here!
- Get Good at the Poke. The Perry Poke is a spey fisherman’s best friend when it comes to casting in tight quarters. Quite possibly the most versatile cast, when combined with variations of other casts, the Perry Poke can be used on both sides of the body AND both sides of the river. But, best of the all the ‘Poke’ allows the option to set the anchor extremely far out in front of you with little effort, creating the shallowest D-loop possible. Master the Perry Poke and you’ll be surprised where you can put a fly.
Spey casting is an incredible tool when it comes to casting in tough conditions. Oh yeah, and it’s pretty darn fun too.
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