When you’re making spey casts in the Skagit style, try to keep your hands as close to your body as possible!
Ed Ward, long-time guide at Alaska West and one of the fathers of Skagit-style spey casting, has been called “the man who can spey cast inside a phone booth”. That’s a bit of an overstatement, but the point is well taken – Ed’s casting stroke is super compact, and his hands stay really close to his body at all times.
This point really only applies to short heads like we use in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re casting a 15 foot rod and a long belly line, your sweep needs to be big enough to get that big belly up and into the D-loop – and you just can’t do that with your hands close. In Skagit casting these days, we’re using rods mostly in the 11 to 13 1/2 foot range, and heads in the 18 to 27 foot range – and with those kinds of setups you can make great casts with a really compact stroke.
Why You Should Keep Your Hands Close
- It’s much more efficient. The physics is pretty simple if you think about it – your body is rotating throughout a spey cast, and it takes less force to control a mass that’s closer to the center of rotation. Keeping the rod close to you makes better use of power generated from your hips. It also loads the butt section of your rod more, and we all know that’s the easiest way to generate more power with less effort.
- It’s easier on your shoulders. Putting load on your arms when they’re extended way out in front of you, or way up above you, is much harder on your shoulders. If you can cast with your hands and elbows close to your body, your shoulders will thank you! [NOTE: your fearless editor has terrible shoulders and physically can't cast any other way]
- It makes you use your bottom hand more. The only way to generate significant power when your hands are close is to pull hard on your bottom hand – trying to punch your top hand exerts force way up the lever and you get a lot less bang for your buck! The bottom hand is the key to powerful Skagit casts, so why not cast in a way that makes you use your bottom hand more?