Today’s post comes from the ‘topics you asked us to write about‘ category!
Spey casting is a fun, efficient, and versatile way cover a whole bunch of water. There are numerous casts (and variations of those casts) designed to present your fly in situations which would be otherwise impossible with a traditional overhead cast. However, for many anglers new to spey casting, it can be really confusing as to how to determine which spey cast to use, and when to use it.
There are a number of variables present on the river, all of which can dictate which cast (or even variation of such cast) will be best for a particular situation. Some of these variables include, but are certainly not limited to; wind direction, the side of the river you’re casting from (river position), present obstacles and obstructions, the desired presentation of your fly, and so on. However, today we’re going to talk about the two most governing factors in determining which spey cast to use for most every situation; wind direction and river position.
Safety should always be of the most utmost concern when spey casting. No one wants a hook in the head, especially the size of which are most often associated with spey casting, and choosing your cast with the wind direction in mind is crucial to keeping you out of harms way of your fly.
We like to simplify the wind direction as either upstream (blowing in a direction traveling upriver) or downstream (blowing in a direction traveling downriver). This direction dictates which side of the body the anchor must be placed in order to keep the line (and thus, fly) from being blown into our body during the cast.
For example, if the wind is blowing upstream, it is crucial that we choose a cast which places our anchor on the upstream side of our body so that the wind will help to carry the line safely away from our body during the forward cast. Such is true in the opposite scenario as well; with a downstream wind, a cast must be chosen which places the anchor on the downstream side of the body.
Obviously, in the event of a calm day, or a wind blowing either head on or directly away from you, casts can be chosen with anchors on either side of the body. However, keep in mind that even the slightest cross breeze can reposition your line into an unsafe position. Always veer on the safe side.
Aside from wind direction, the other major factor dictating which cast to choose is your river position, or perhaps better put, the side of the river you’re casting from.
We like to simplify our position on the river as either river right (on the righthand bank when looking downstream) or river left (on the lefthand bank when looking downstream). Knowing which side of the river you’re casting from (along with whether you cast right or left handed) helps dictate which cast we can use, and how to perform it (whether off of our dominant or non-dominant side).
For example, lets say you’re casting from a river left position, with an upstream wind, and prefer to cast right handed (with your right hand on top). The wind direction immediately dictates that we must choose a cast which places the anchor upstream of our body. Therefore, a few casts we could choose from could be a snap T, circle spey, or a single spey to name a few. Due to the fact that we are a right handed caster, casting from river left, each of these casts will performed off of the dominant side.
Now, lets jump over to the other side of the river, on river right, but still assuming an upstream wind. We must still choose a cast which puts the anchor upstream of us, but because our river position has changed, so must our execution. For a right handed caster, appropriate casts now might still include a snap T or circle spey, but they must now be executed “cack handed” (such that casts across the body off of the non-dominant shoulder).
Note: Keep in mind, casters who are able to cast both right and left handed are afforded the advantage to always cast off of the appropriate dominant shoulder regardless of the wind direction or river position.
So, Which Cast Do I Use?
More often than not, there are more than one effective spey cast to use for a given situation. However, an appropriate cast can be narrowed down by remembering the following.
- Wind Direction: Dictates which side the appropriate cast must place the anchor.
- River Position: Dictates how the cast will be performed (Dominant shoulder, “cack handed,” right handed, or left handed).
Always think about these two factors before starting down a run and you’ll be sure to choose the best cast for the situation at hand.
Mark Stinson says
Thank you for this exceptionally clear explanation of which cast to use given river position and wind direction. I’m new to two-handed casting/fishing. I have found your web site to be a gold mine of information. If/when I ever get good enough to fish for steelhead and salmon with a Spey rod, I’ll book a trip with you.
Bryan Burke says
Thank you very much for being in touch and thank you for the good words. We appreciate it! We’re super glad to hear about your passion for spey fishing and are glad to know our blog content has been helpful. Thank you! When the time is right and you would like to join us, we’d love to have you. And if you have any questions for us, please feel free to drop us a note. We’re happy to be at your service anytime!
Be well, be in touch and Happy New Year to you and yours.
The Deneki Team
John Maidhof says
Well said Mark,
I must add that when you are learning and practicing, start your first cast with one pull of line, in other words- short with a good fly turn over and feel how little it takes. Repeat your next cast with another pull of line, repeat…… repeat and always look for a clean turn over of the fly. When you fail to turn over the fly, shorten your cast by three feet and that is where you should work on finding your mistakes. I’m a newby of six years and this advise served me well. I was stationed at King Salmon in the Air Force a million years ago and I single handed for Silvers and bought a six foot ugly stick on base for Kings and the Naknek river fish “ruined me for life” – it was that good. Nostalgia may bring me back.
Best to all the Deneki Team,