There are various styles of Spey casting techniques,
however, traditional and modern Spey casting with medium or long belly Spey
lines are most commonly used. Shooting head techniques are also popular
especially for sunk line fishing. Most anglers have outfits for both styles of
casting and in differing weights and lengths for the various times of the
Many years before any exposure to FFF terminology or
definitions, such as the five essentials, I was fortunate enough to have learned
a complete system of fly-casting with both single and double-handed rods via
formal training from legendary Scottish caster Peter Anderson. The particular
principles and techniques that we were taught such as channelling all the energy
and line momentum as much as possible in the one overall direction, using a
straight line incline, keeping in plane, making smooth progressive movements,
using lead before speed, making precise position and angle changes of the rod,
using the body etc. naturally shared alot of the general principles of
Fly-casting that modern terms also describe and define. They are simply defined
a little differently.
The style of double-handed fly-casting that I teach,
for both overhead and Spey casting with modern Spey lines, is called Fulcrum*
Fly-casting. It can still be used with shooting head outfits though. Shorter
stroke Scandinavian techniques are also an option for shooting heads. The
principles of this style are economy of effort and using the rod’s own inherent
unloading properties to it's fullest advantage.
* Fulcrum - the point or support upon which a
lever pivots. The point around which a lever rotates. A prop, support, or fixed
point on which a lever moves, i.e. about which rotation can take place.
I would first of all point out that the word 'Fulcrum'
is simply a generic term used in physics to describe a pivotal point. Where the
fulcrum is placed on a lever, along with effort and load also defines the
different types of leverage. All casting styles use fulcrums. It is a part of
the 'substance of fly-casting' as the Americans say. All other casting styles
make use of fulcrums to cast and it is nothing unique to this style. It would be
impossible to cast in any style without using the rod as a lever and fulcrums to
create the various classes of leverage used in Fly-casting.
The style is one that has evolved, although it
originates from Peter Anderson. Techniques have moved on with modern lines and
rods although they are variations of the same theme.
I often use the term explanation demonstration. It is
much easier to have a detailed explanation followed by a practical
demonstration. However, having an explanation of the essential skills will form
a basis of understanding and the following chapters contain a summarised
explanation of the key components of Fulcrum Fly casting style.
Most of the energy generated during Fly-casting is due
to efficient leverage. If the bottom hand is preceding the movement of the top
hand, even in minimal movements, we are achieving the foundation of the most
effective rod loading and angular change required for tight loops and maximum
efficiency in medium to longish range casting.
A two handed rod works by “Fulcrum & Leverage", the
upper hand being the point round which the rod will be levered and rotated. We
are able to change the angle and reposition the fulcrum to assist in necessary
stroke length, directional motion and elevation during the casting movements,
resulting in a more efficient bend in the rod over a short distance. The lower
hand provides more efficient leverage when rotated and moved around the upper
hand as it is further from the tip. If we were to use the top hand as our
primary source of power during any accelerated movements, the lower hand would
then become our pivotal point, resulting in less effective rod loading .This
would then require a longer stroke and more effort. If the top hand is
travelling faster than the bottom hand during the casting movements, then you
are not bending the rod effectively. The bottom hand applies the power and keeps
the top hand as the fulcrum at almost all times, except for the initial part of
an overhead cast.
Tournament Spey-casting requires a larger casting arc
and maximum stroke length which allows much more time to apply force so we can
achieve much more speed. Therefore the upper hand will extend further forward
than in the normal casting style.
The ability to judge the point of maximum rod tip
deflection is vital when casting efficiently. It is very important to keep the
rod in the correct plane of movement allowing the tip to unbend or deflect in
the same direction as the intended flight path of the loop. This helps channel
all the energy in the one direction. If the rod tip unbends excessively to the
inside or below the flight path of the line, then it is counterproductive and
inefficient. Power and speed application cannot be excessive and has to be in
the correct place terminating in an efficient stop.
Any rotational or back and forth movement of the upper
body during casting starts at the ankles! It is very easy to snatch or jerk the
arms but it is not as easy to jerk the upper body as any significant movement is
often reliant upon weight transfer and is naturally more proggresive. It does
not take a qualified eye to see how much smoother casting can be with correct
use of the body. Fly-casting with efficiency requires controlled movement and
repositioning of the body. These are essential for effective stability,weight
shift and rotation. We are able to achieve the desired motion by keeping our
movements compact and controlled. We keep our muscles just firm enough during
any power movement to be co-ordinated but it is equally important to allow just
enough relaxation so the movements can flow through their correct range.
Fly-Casting efficiently requires ordered sequences of movement with the upper
body, shoulders and arms moving in harmony and in response to the movement of
the lower body and legs.
Economy of movement and effort, combined with
effective rod loading which terminates in an effective stop are the overriding
principles of the Fulcrum Fly-casting style. Movements are co-ordinated
combining mastery of technique with mastery of timing, achieving maximum results
with minimal effort.
As the lower hand is the most effective lever, it must
also be stopped effectively to flip the rod tip over at the fastest speed in
time with the upper hand. If efficient rod loading is a prerequisite to an
efficient cast then efficient rod unloading is also a fundamental requirement.
Many people try to stop the rod using the upper hand only, allowing energy to
escape from the bottom of the rod rather than being concentrated at the tip.
Blocking or stopping the lower hand firmly as the rod comes to a stop transfers
the energy and speed to the top of the rod and finally to the line allowing
maximum efficiency. You cannot stop a two handed rod with one hand, you can only
slow it down!
The more controlled speed at the rod tip results in
more speed in the line. The line can only have the desired efficient shape when
it has efficient speed: less speed, less shape.
To summarise, we require the fluidity of controlled
body movement for smooth energy transfer, combined with effective leverage
terminating in an efficient stop which allows the rod tip to deflect at speed in
the correct power angle and line of flight resulting in maximum efficiency from
Fly-casting is mainly about using leverage and the
flexible nature of a fly rod to help project a narrow unrolling loop of fly
The fly line is a long, flexible weight and the
weight is spread out along the particular profile or taper of the line. The
fly line will create alot of air resistance if the unrolling loop is not
kept reasonably narrow. Excessive air resistance of the line will cause the
cast to fail. The loop of line should unroll out fully without any tangling,
skewing or collapsing until the line and leader are straight and the fly
lands furthest away from the angler. When this occurs it is called fly
Changing the position and angle of the rod with
arm and body movements is used to generate line momentum and to deflect or
load the rod. The combined line momentum and tip speed from the rod
unloading will ultimately project or unroll the fly line. The leverage and
movements are directed, controlled and made so that the rod travels in a
very smooth and progressively accelerating motion. The application of
leverage generates line momentum and rod loading and eventually rod tip
turnover speed. There is always a slight delay from the rod being loaded and
stopped and then it unloading.
When the angle change of the leverage or loading
move applied by the caster is stopped the rod will then undeflect or unload.
The rod may continue to change position or angle in a relaxed fashion as the
rod unloads. A fly rod only does one thing by itself, when it is deflected
into a curve it will straighten when it gets the opportunity to do so. A
little like a bow immediately undeflecting when the drawstring and arrow are
released. When the angle change and acceleration of a casting stroke is
stopped the rod will undeflect or straighten. As the rod is tapered it
generates rod tip speed as it straightens/undeflects/unloads. The energy
from the greater circumference and mass at the bottom of the rod blank
travelling into an area of lesser mass towards the rod tip ensures tip speed
is generated. The rod tip does not just straighten and stop but the tip
turns over at speed and counter flexes before stopping. The energy is
transferred into the line and a loop unrolls down the line.
The fly line is the weight that loads the rod and
not the fly. Therefore the more fly line that is outside the rod tip, the
more weight is out and the deeper the rod will deflect into a curve or load.
The deeper the rod deflects the longer movement and time it will require to
fully deflect along with more power application when applying the leverage
Single hand rod fly-casting starts with really
understanding how the flex of the rod unloading generates rod tip turnover
speed and how an acceleration is necessary to create the correct loop shape.
We start by learning the key exercise of rod tip casting a short line from
side to side using controlled wrist break and a very short stroke so that we
can see and correct both back cast and forward cast loop formation.
After this essential technique is understood and
fine tuned we then will learn how to execute the basic foundation or
fundamental overhead casting stroke. The tip casting technique being
incorporated into the basic casting stroke at the end of the acceleration. A
longer stroke is used and the cast is made back and forward rather than
For the basic casting stroke approximately ten
yards of line will be placed outside the rod tip and we learn how to execute
a technically correct cast with this length of line. This is an essential
basic step otherwise future progress or potential may be hindered.
Single-handed fly-casting is about putting a few
essential component parts of the cast together and blending them seamlessly
into smooth, fluid motion to make the basic overhead cast. There are four
main steps for progress in single-handed fly-casting.
Aerialising a short length of line first (8 to
10yds) working from left to right and not back and forward so that the back
loop can easily be seen. The casts are made using mainly controlled wrist
break with very minimal arm movement prior to and during the wrist break.
This exercise really helps people to understand the rod’s properties and
action better and then be much more able to execute the basic casting stroke
correctly and with minimal effort. Once perfected, the technique will then
be incorporated into the basic casting stroke. The leverage applied to the
rod by the crisp controlled wrist movement is fine tuned by feel to ensure
tip action and rod tip turnover speed from the rod’s recoil reaction as it
straightens. This fine tuning of tip casting is used as an initial learning
exercise by aerialising a short line prior to learning the actual basic
The key here is changing the angle and position of
the rod in such a way as to generate a little momentum and then cause the
recoil reaction of the rod blank straightening to kick the tip over sweetly.
It takes fine tuning and practice to get it just right. When the correct
reaction from the rod occurs some people refer to it as rod "pop". The whole
movement is done as smoothly as possible.
Mastering the basic or fundamental casting stroke
is an essential step. The basic casting stroke is the foundation or building
block of single-handed fly-casting. It should become an entirely automatic
process, an established muscle memory in the style that you wish to use
before further progress is attempted. It's purpose is to ensure absolutely
correct technique using a short line.
Through mastering a basic casting stroke the
angler learns among other things:
Not to reach. How the rod’s own unloading action
and rod tip turnover speed will project the line from the correct
application of leverage alone and without any reaching.
That Fly-Casting is not forceful or erratic. How a
pure, steady and smooth overall acceleration and controlled power
application is applied.
How all the arm pivots are used to bring the rod
along an incline to the right elevation.
How excessive wrist break is avoided and the
correct trajectory backwards and forward is used.
How to ensure there is fly turnover in front and
behind with narrow parallel loops or V loops and no tailing loops, tangles,
collapsing loops or wedge loops.
How prior loading takes place from ‘off rod’
leverage and acceleration before the ‘on rod’ fulcrum point leverage and
acceleration is applied.
That one type of leverage seamlessly blends into
both types being applied while maintaining the overall pure acceleration.
How loop morphology is maintained by the rod being
allowed to unload itself, rather than being forced.
How continuous motion casting is used for line
height management behind and correct timing.
Keeping in plane ensuring correct rod tracking
After the basic casting stroke is completely
mastered we will progress to aerialising a slightly longer line backwards
and forwards using rod action only without using the line hand or any
hauling. We are still using the rods own action but with a longer length of
line. We will use a more open stance and turn our feet to approx 45 degrees
to the direction of the cast. The correct longer stroke length will become
important as will timing. When using longer lengths of line there will be a
longer stroke, more arm movement to generate line momentum before the
controlled wrist movement, slight upper body rotation, a loading move (or
lead) and drift. When aerialising a slightly longer length of line with
correct loop formation is an automatic, controlled exercise, then we can
introduce hauling with the line hand.
A haul is a pull on the line with the line hand.
It is made as a smooth acceleration and not an erratic movement or sudden
tug. There is an immediate return of the hand steadily back upwards after
the haul. A double haul is where two separate hauls are made with the line
hand to increase line speed during the cast, one haul is made on the back
casting stroke and one haul on the forward casting stroke. The hands start
off close together, in order to make two hauls, after the first haul the
hauling hand has to be returned back up towards the rod hand and the fly
line fed back smoothly into the rod rings while under tension from the loop
forming or unrolling out behind. The line hand is brought up slowly with
line tension maintained so that slack line does not occur. A second haul can
then be made on the forward casting stroke. The fastest part of both hauls
should coincide with the fastest rod tip turnover speed and the haul is
usually made over the second half of a casting stroke. Hauling is practiced
with an open stance. Haul length is kept short and is usually 1.5 to 2 feet
Double hauling allows a shorter stroke to be made
with a longer length of line than would be used without hauling.
The best way to learn double hauling is to learn
on some well-mown grass using a side casting stroke. You can learn at your
own pace building up familiarity with the motion a step at a time. Initially
use only one back casting stroke or forward casting stroke at a time and
stop at the end of each back or forward cast. Do this until the line feed
motion after the haul is automatic and your hands are back together each
time. On grass if the line feed is forgotton to be made it only takes a
couple of side steps to bring the hands back together and drag the line taut
again. Don’t worry, no safety net is required to learn double hauling on
grass. You will then, in your own time, eventually do the line feed move on
each cast. Then you will gain enough confidence to string a couple of
casting strokes together to make one casting cycle. Once you can keep a
couple of casting strokes going without stopping on each stroke to let the
line fall on the grass you have a casting cycle. Then you will make a couple
of casting cycles, then a few more. It is then a simple matter to keep
hauling and side casting. You will then be able to raise up the rod to a
more vertical plane as you are hauling and change your stance to an open
stance and face the direction of the forward cast.
Is that double hauling finished then? No, the arms
alone will only take a person so far in casting distance using the double
haul. Perfectly fine for most fishing situations. However to go for greater
distances, then it will be necessary to use simultaneous body movement from
weight shift and weight transfer with a longer casting stroke.