Techy Thursday - Single Hand Spey 101

By Chris Dore 06/11/2020
 

There’s been a lot of discussion of recent surrounding single hand spey techniques, and rightly so. However, roll casting has been around since the beginning of time and if you’ve been pulling your line into place to facilitate a roll cast delivery then congratulations, you’ve got it…to some extent.

Over time the tactics and equipment have developed to the benefit of modern fly anglers, and so have spey specific techniques. We now have a multitude of textbook casts to learn and master with all the tuition readily available, along with specific tools to make life easier and to deliver tips and flies beyond the average casters abilities with standard fly fishing kit.

With single hand spey, essentially you’re looking to deliver nymphs, wets and light streamers on lighter sink tips or polyleader type systems. It takes mass to move mass and the weight required to load your rod must be carried in your D loop. This means employing a long belly line with precision, or a modern, short and heavy, single handed spey head and shooting line set up. Here’s where we have you covered.

YOUR ROD

While your 9ft rod will perform all the casts you will want to make, the longer the rod, the longer the lever and the easier the cast will be, all things given. However there is a limit before the swing weight becomes too much and then you require two hands on the rod to avoid fatigue. I find a 9’6” 6wt Scott Radian, or similar rods with that tad extra length and low swing weight perfect for single hand spey techniques.

THE LINE

As mentioned, any line will do but modern more specific heads will make life easier, and for most people they make it easier to turn over sinking tips and bigger flies. We don’t often have the luxury of expansive casting room and so a shorter more compact head will allow you to fish many of your favourite but hard to get at spots.

At the forefront of our range is the Airflo Skagit Scout, a spey specific head designed with shorter two handers and single handed rods in mind. However, unlike others, a little more thought has been put into the design of the Scout giving it more versatility than just a tool designed to ‘turn stuff over’.

Ranging in length from 13.5’ for the 150gr head to 18.5’ and 480gr, they feature a short rear taper to smooth out the cast and a longer forward taper to reduce kick and offer a little more accuracy and precision to your game. From polyleaders and wee wets, to T-10 Airflo Flo Tips and beaded buggers, the Airflo Skagit Scout allows you to deliver flies from tight quarters at surprising distance. (disclaimer: distances and performance may vary if you cast like crap).

For a little more, see my earlier blog on the Skagit Scout HERE

Next comes the Airflo SuperFlo TRC (Tongariro Roll Cast) line. With a head length of 46’, this line packs a lot of punch when you anchor it straight, and fire. Designed specifically for delivering heavily weighted nymphs with an upstream change of direction, this line is the Tongariro Roll Casters dream. Available in one weight, a heavy 6-8wt multi rating, Superflo technology has allowed us to marry a high mass head to a super thin polyurethane running line avoiding the issues associated with PVC. No matter your leader length or the weight of your flies, the TRC will load your rod deep and deliver it to the far seam.

A great option too for those wanting something a little longer, but with the tip mass to still deliver streamers.

Did you know, in the early stages of switch rod development the Airflo 40+ floater was the pick of the bunch for North American switch rodders, and our very first Airflo Switch combo was released in 2010 loaded with a 40+.

The Airflo 40+ is still a very versatile integrated shooting head for sending out flies and stripping them right back to your feet. Loaded with a 10’ polyleader it allows easy distance.

RUNNING LINE FOR LIGHTER HEADS

Your favourite coated running line may sing behind your 450gr skagit head but often your lower grain weight single hand spey heads just won’t pack the weight to tow them to the far bank. Lucky we have some other options. Mono is my go to running line for most heads under 350gr, allowing for longer, more effortless distance.

Airflo Impact Running Line is a low stretch, oval shaped mono which is relatively memory, and tangle free. Two Surgeons loop knots create a strong, sturdy loop connection in mono and a touch of glue can lock it all in place.

Airflo Miracle Braid Running line for shooting heads

Airflo Miracle Braid is super easy to handle, especially in colder winter weather, and is a good option for beginners to stripping and managing thinner running lines. Simply splice a loop and secure with glue, attach your head and go.

SINK TIPS

You’re generally not using higher grain weight heads and so will be more limited compared to the guy wielding that 13’ 7wt over there, but that’s not what we are trying to achieve here.

We are realistically looking to present soft hackles, or bugger style flies on polyleaders, and Airflo Flo Tips. Many employ a simple tapered mono leader but soon find they lack the diameter to efficiently grip the surface to hold the D loop in place. If you want to fish at the surface, a 10’ floating polyleader is a much better choice.

salmon steelhead polyleader big fish

Now generally I’m using Airflo Salmon/Steelhead 10’ polyleaders as my choice of tip, in floating, clear intermediate, fast sinking and extra superfast sink. The 40lb core of the Salmon/Steelhead polyleader withstands the shock of spey casting and quick changes of direction much better than the trout weight leaders. A good choice for swinging on the 40+, or TRC lines. If you’re particularly tall or find yourself blowing out your anchor regularly, then I’ve found the 14’ polyleader helps some clients in this regard.

T-7 and T-10 Airflo Flo Tips can be handled relatively happily on 240gr and above Skagit Scout heads. Focus on eliminating all slack line from your anchor and D loop, setting it up straight, and put in that little extra zip when throwing backwards into your D.

THE FUNDAMENTAL CASTS

Waterborne casts are predictable, easy to learn and easy to perform at your own pace. They are also more forgiving of errors than more dynamic casts such as the single spey or snake roll which generally turn to custard for most when employing short, skagit style heads.

The Circle Spey is my go to cast to teach when the flow is right to left for the right handed caster, capable of lifting the head from the water, owning the tip and clearing the rod tip easily in an upstream wind.

For a left to right flow with a right hand caster the double spey allows you to slow things down, anchor each phase of your cast to the water, and set up the D as you wish.

For more descriptive breakdown of these casts watch the clip below where we talk you through these casts.

PLAN OF ATTACK

  1. Learn to roll cast. Very, very well. HERE again we can help.
  2. Learn the double spey and circle spey as above. Match your sink tip to the depth and speed of the water, and where you feel the fish will be. The lighter the better when you’re learning.
  3. Attach 5’ of tippet.
  4. Choose a simple beaded woolly bugger to begin. Keep it simple and easy to cast.
  5. Focus on the edges, holes, drop offs, riffles and swing in towards stable banks. Forget those big casts way out into the back of yonder. You wont catch fish there. Keep it short and controlled.
  6. Cast, mend, swing and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You may not catch loads of fish most days while swinging, but its a fun, relaxing way to fish and when its hot, its hot.
  7. Check out our back catalogue for advice, tactics and techniques to get a better understanding of swinging for trout, but HERE are a COUPLE to get you started.