Because not all clown sightings are creepy.. At least not in our neck of the woods.
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.
More on Spey Casting
We’ve said it many times before, but we love fishing giant flies for our trout in western Alaska. Some might assume that that’s because we subscribe to the ‘big fly, big fish’ theory of fly selection..
However, in our neck of the woods, abundant food sources and a short growing season lends itself to trout, both big and small, pouncing on flies the size of which might be more at home in a largemouth bass pond than a trout stream.
Don’t believe us? Just ask the juvenile dolly varden hanging out of the mouth of the, oh, ten inch rainbow trout shown above. Small fish eat big flies too!
More About Alaskan Trout
Ever wondered why so many fish come unbuttoned during a jump? Is it coincidence? Hardly.
Fish are able to contort their body faster and more violently when airborne than they can in the water. After all, there’s far less resistance in air than in water. When under tension, this can cause an unexpected yank on the leader able to break tippet or easily dislodge a fly.
Most saltwater anglers are familiar with the phrase, ‘bow to the king,’ when referring to jumping tarpon. The concept is simple; To combat the inevitable jump from a hooked tarpon, savvy tarpon anglers will thrust the rod tip towards the fish and down towards the surface of the water, as if paying homage to the fish with a well deserved bow. Doing so introduces slack into the fly line, thus reducing tension for the fish to pull against whilst thrashing above the surface of the water. It works well on tarpon, so why don’t many anglers use the same technique when fighting other species?
We’re not sure either! Whether you’re fishing for rainbow trout, silver salmon, smallmouth bass, Atlantic salmon, or virtually any other species prone to rocketing skyward throughout the fight, try taking a page out of the tarpon angler’s playbook, take a bow, and hopefully you’ll bring more fish to hand.
More Tips on Fighting Fish
No, not really.. That’s just a ‘jack’ king salmon in full spawning garb caught by our buddy Chandler Cook at Alaska West Lodge.
Many anglers are aware of the shocking transformation of our beloved king salmon as they transition from the chrome bright appearance from their years at sea, to the brilliant ‘fire-truck’ red as they approach the end of their journey to spawn.
However, many of our guests are surprised to learn that ‘jacks,’ younger king salmon (typically 1-3 years old) that have returned with their adult brethren, in our neck of the woods, actually take on a goldish/brown appearance more characteristic of the spawning colors of a brown trout or Atlantic salmon than that of a mature chinook.
We welcome the return of jacks each year to our home river, not only because we think they add to the awesome variety of our fishery, but also because they often round out the final species for a few anglers each season lucky enough to land the salmon grand slam, which we think is pretty darn cool.
More About King Salmon
From swinging flies for anadramous fish, to banging the banks with streamers, to skating mouse flies for trout, we fish a lot of articulated and stinger-style flies over the course of the year. However, until now we’ve yet to find a great way to store them.
We’ve long been fans of simple Plano Boxes for housing the majority of our flies, particularly larger patterns. They do a great job of housing a whole bunch of flies, but the errant nature of articulated flies that gives them their uninhibited action in the water can also make a mess out of your box. Reach for one fly and pull out a mess of a dozen entangled stinger hooks and bunny strips.. Sound familiar?
Large slotted foam fly boxes finally gave way to a long lasting solution to carrying large flies in a reasonably compact manner, but still, articulated flies tend to swing freely, often becoming dislodged from their slot, resulting in a disaster (or at least a few lost flies) upon opening your box. Also, being entirely flat, slotted foam boxes have the tendency to mash up the materials on the underside of the fly, particularly on larger patterns tied ‘in the round..’ You know, like that intruder that took you forty five minutes to tie.
That’s why we were excited when we first got wind of a series of fly boxes designed specifically for articulated flies by the good folks at Plan D Fishing Solutions. They work pretty darn slick, so today we thought we’d tell you about them.
Plan D Articulated Fly Boxes
We often say that simplicity is a key factor in quality gear, and Plan D’s articulated boxes feature a simple but super clever way to house both articulated or stinger-style fly patterns. Like most ‘large fly’ boxes available today, the boxes consist of a large slotted foam designed for the hook to be slid between allowing flies to be taken in and out without damaging the foam.
However, unlike other fly boxes, the articulated boxes feature small stainless steel ‘hooks’ at both the top and bottom of the box designed to grab the eye of the fly.
To house a fly, simply hook the eye of the fly to the stainless hook at the top (or bottom) of the box and slide the stinger hook into the corresponding slot in the foam (see photo below). This allows the fly to be anchored at two separate points, thus keeping it from swinging around. Plus, because the stainless hooks are mounted on an elevated piece of foam, the fly remains suspended, thus preventing the materials on the underside of the fly from being flattened (a feature we really, really like).
Currently, Plan D offers articulated versions of their boxes in several different sizes including the three shown above (from smallest to largest); the POCKET, the PACK and our personal favorite the BOAT box. They retail for $24.99, $34.99, and $69.99 respectively and can be found at your nearest Plan D Dealer. For more information visit Plan D’s website by clicking right here.
More Posts on Gear Organization
In the nearly 8 years since the inception of our humble little fly fishing blog, we’re happy to report that our online fly fishing community continues to grow! That makes us really happy and we have each and every one of you to thank for it.
Some of you have been following along with us since the beginning, wow. Some of you may have just recently started checking in. Either way, we like to stay current with what each of you like (or don’t like) to read about, so every now and again we just like to ask..
What Do You Want Us to Write About?
What would you like to see more (or less) of on our blog/newsletter? How about..
- Gear reviews? Which gear?
- Fly tying posts?
- Cool photos?
- Photography tips?
- Travel info?
- Specific articles?
- Tips from our guides?
- What else?
It’s been over a year since we’ve asked, that’s too long, so please leave us a comment below to let us know how we’re doing and what you’d like to see from us. Thanks for reading!