Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pros and Cons of Spey Rod Fly Fishing

Spey rod fly fisher in a large river, rocks in the foreground and green trees in the background
Photo By: John Shewey, Classic Steelhead Flies © 2015
Spey fishing is named after Scotland’s Spey River. It is basically a dramatic roll cast that helps to change the direction of the cast and enables casting longer distances. I learned how to cast a Spey rod over 30 years ago on the Sandy River with my friend Cal Cole. He had a good understanding of Spey casting and showed me the basic methods. However, I was having such good success with my single handed rod that I didn’t feel that there was a need to change.

The advantages of Spey casting are obvious for larger rivers in that long casts can be effectively used to cover more water. You can also use special casts such as the Snap C, T and Z, which are very important in putting the fly in motion. Spey casting may be less frustrating and fatiguing than casting a single-handed rod. It may also be more effective in mending the line, controlling its speed, and using less effort to play fish. Aside from this, a Spey cast is primarily a long roll cast that doesn’t require extended back casts. This allows you to cast and fish in places that are surrounded by obstructions such as trees and brush. Of course, this depends entirely on the ability of the caster.

There are some disadvantages in Spey casting. Longer rods may become more difficult to handle when you try to land a fish with your hand. If you are fishing a good run that has brush, logs and other debris behind and below your position, landing a fish can be difficult. I can remember an angler that had to stick his Spey rod back into brush and use the tip section to try and land his fish. Longer rods can be less efficient in fighting fish and may cause overkill on smaller fish. Also, transporting Spey rods in a car and carrying them through brush can be difficult.

An additional and somewhat unfortunate problem with Spey casters is that many never had the time or inclination to learn how to cast and enjoy a single handed fly rod. Casts like the side arm, back hand, curve, parachute and many others are seldom used in Spey casting. These types of casts are vital for success in fishing all types of waters. Also, anglers that first learned how to cast a single handed rod usually make a smooth transition when learning how to Spey cast. I also believe that if you are a sturdy wader and can cast 60-70 feet or more, you can cover nearly as much water as a Spey caster.  A final dilemma is that Spey rods weren’t made to fish small streams and rivers and personally, I like to fish small rivers.

One thing for sure, I’m not trying to discourage people who want to learn how to Spey cast. It’s a very productive and satisfying method to use. And maybe, just maybe, when my old legs start giving out I’ll become a dyed-in-the-wool Spey caster. I remember my Dad’s transition when he was in his late 70’s and not able to wade like he used to. He gave in to better judgment and switched to using a bubble and fly on his spinning rod and he caught fish. Aging has a natural tendency to change a lot of old, integrated habits, and Spey casting may be the logical answer.


  1. I have found spey casting to be as enjoyable as single handed casting. It's just another tool in the toolbox. I will never give up single hand rod's but have another way to catch more fish with the spey rod. Also, there are many smaller switch rods, I believe down to 3 weights, that can fish smaller streams these days. When fishing steelhead, you have your fly on the water more with a spey rod because there is no false cast. You just pickup, place and cast.

  2. Hello Doug,
    I read your article very carefully and I am amazed after finishing this. I got many information about Scotland’s Spey River. This place is very dramatic and thrilling place. Thank you for your nice sharing.

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