Spey Casting: 10 Things any Fly Fisher must know before Spey Casting, Scandi or Skagit Casting

Here is a list of newby Spey Casting basics to get you started on your Spey Casting, Scaninavin style, or Skagit casting journey.

Rank beginners:

1) For a multi tip shooting head, such as a Skagit head or multi tip Scandi or Spey shooting head, which are basically shooting heads with 10 or 15 feet chopped off the tip which can then be replaced with a 10 to 15 foot sink tip, for cooler water temps or replace the floating tip for warmer conditions.

(Besides backing and running line) you only need your Shooting head, a sink tip, and 3 feet of straight mono leader. Oh, and a fly. 

For fishing with the floating tip about 7 feet of leader can be used, on up to 15′ or longer, depending on fishing conditions and how much you love wind knots.  9 feet should be ok if you are first starting out.

2) Once you have attached the above set up you do NOT need to add any of the following. A polyleader, a versileader, , a cheater. Yet, these may come later but for now a straight mono leader or tapered leader is fine on the end of a fully floating line such as a Scaninavian shooting head or a Spey line. 

3) You have a skinny line, which is called either a running line or a shooting line that is attached to your shooting head which is a fat line. Keep Shooting head close to the end of your rod tip to start with or even slide it inside the guides a few feet.

If this is all completely foreign to you start with half or even less of the Skagit, Scandi, or Spey line outside the tip-top guide. 10 feet of Skagit head + 10′ of sink tip + 3 feet of mono attached to a moderate sized fly (think Hobo Spey) will give you 23 feet of line outside your rod tip. This is fine to get the idea

4) Safety Glasses are seriously a great idea or at least wear skookum sunglasses.

5) If you feel the wind on the right side of your face cast on the left side of your body. If you feel the wind on the left side of your face, cast from your right side.

6) With your short setup start with a roll cast.

7) There are two parts to every Change of direction Spey cast: The setup and the dynamic roll cast.

8) The double Spey cast is a great starter cast, provided you don’t try it in a situation where the wind will blow your D loop onto your body. See #5)

9) A Circle C or Snap T is fine to start with if the wind is wrong for a double Spey. With only 23 feet of line out it should be very easy to plop the fly down in a position where you can then roll cast it.

10) Feel the wind, Think set up….Then, roll cast. Gradually build your distance from there.

11) Watch the Above video, Play with the D loop drill. Gradually get used to the two-handed rod, The D loop, the setup and the roll cast.

12) Give yourself time to understand the basics of Spey casting with the shortened line and one day soon with some thoughtful practice you will be “bombing casts”.

13) Watch the video above: It will walk you through the basic steps, including the D loop drill, which is excellent for beginning or struggling Spey casters.

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In the above Spey Casting Video, I will share my version of three Spey casting techniques, including the Perry Poke Skagit cast, popularized by Ed Ward, the Skagit Casting legend.

The dreaded Perry Poke, which, when performed properly on the Deschutes, has been know to scare Atlantic Salmon as far away as Denmark.   

 Skagit Double Spey Cast. The double spey is a great cast for beginners.  If the wind is right.  But if you are a right-handed Caster and you are facing the river and it is flowing left to right but the wind is flowing right to left, (upstream) Your much better off casting left handed or cack-handed, unless you want to be smacked by your fly.

 High, Slow, Skagit Double Spey.

For a 6 or 7 weight spey rod lined with a 420 to 500 grain Skagit head, try 10 feet of t8 for a sink tip, a 3 foot long, straight mono leader and an easy casting fly like a Hobo spey. Anchor the fly no closer than a rod length away.

Let it soak for a second, then, with the rod tip fairly high, sweep out and around slowly,  circle up and cast in one smooth continuous, relaxed motion.

Remember, it’s not necessary to rush into the forward cast but if you work too slow you may lose tension in your D loop and create slack which is the arch enemy of all spey casters.  If the fly and sink tip sink too deep during the sweep you will have to pry it out of the water with excessive force when you cast.

If you are just beginning I can’t stress enough the importance of an easy to cast sink tip and fly set up with the use of a high relaxed high sweep in a cast like a double spey to give you plenty of time to think through the cast.

Also, Each set up will require a different tempo and rhythm, even a slight pause if necessary, particularly if you don’t allow the fly to soak long enough after you set your anchor or if you sweep too aggressively. 

Upper Wrist rotation will help alleviate too much upper arm movement and help you to keep your elbows in front of you where they belong.  This along with using some bottom hand in the sweep and forward cast will force the rod to do the work, not your muscle!

Spey Casting Technique:  Skagit Wrap Cast.

A wrap cast is almost a combo of a poke and a Skagit double spey,  an out and around sweep is mandatory. Don’t set your anchor too close or you may end up embedding a jumbo critter in your skull.

Perry Poke 
For Perry Poke type casts I like to start with the fly well in front (and slightly off to the side) especially when I’m backed up against the brush.  I pitch the belly of the line way out there, like a big arrow pointing towards the target.

When I actually cast the fly I want that fly to pop out of the water next to me or in front of me so I can utilize that nice big D loop. 

When I cast lighter payloads I can get more power when I peel the line off the water. It feels good, its fun, it loads the rod up and helps me with my timing.  I did pull off a decent Perry Poke the other day, with a bigger tip and fly, complete with the coveted Skagit casting line peel, because I slowed down.  

 

One of the problems that happen with the peel is that there is a tendency to peel really fast and then you have to fight your head to slow down for the rest of the cast.  You can peel the line off the water without getting crazy.  

 

I see guys on the river ripping line around like their hair is on fire while neglecting to build a big fat D loop. They hammer the poo out of their forward cast.

 

Sometimes their cast flies ok, but mostly they are using way to much effort and I’ll bet they are pooped in no time.  Their arms are sore and possibly their backs.  

The Skagit Double Spey was at one time my worst and least favorite cast in all of my Skagit casting.  I used my arms too much which is a big no-no in not only Skagit Casting but Scandinavian casting as well.

 

I learned from watching videos and getting advice from the likes of Greg, Bruce, Ed, Travis  and Janusz Panicz to keep my top elbow close to my side it forced me to keep my unruly arms inside the “box.” This also kept me from getting lost during that long time it takes to sweep around to firing position.  

 

The other thing I learned that has helped me lately was to SLOW DOWN or as Poppy says, and has said for years, “stay off the gas.”  In particular, with larger flies, I don’t get crazy about “tearing” my line off the water.  I prefer high and slow for large flies.

 

 So if you are new to Skagit casting or a veteran wanting to ad to your Skagit casting arsenal, try a higher slower sweep and don’t worry so much about ripping that line off of the water, I’m not saying its bad, I’m just saying let it take care of itself. If your technique is correct the line will peel itself.  

 

When you sweep around, feel for the heaviness of the line as you sweep it out and around. Keep your cast at that speed.  Don’t accelerate,  just maintain that nice belly in your line with the high sweep until it turns into a nice big D loop and then make your forward cast.  See if that helps.

I sweep to the side to begin the peel as soon as possible but with a little less out and around action and a little more back and forth movement with a tidy u-turn from sweep to forward cast in a rhythmic, more or less continuous motion.  This cast is a little more advanced but not very difficult.  It’s powerful.  When you hit the sweet spot it’s effortless, produces high Skagit line speeds, turns over payloads adequate enough for catching Steelhead in the PNW and scaring Atlantic Salmon all the way over in Denmark.

I had the opportunity to practice with my competition rod on a quiet lake under optimal conditions for casting and videoing so I decided to try to improve on my single spey presentation.  

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtrSbHRMFBo

Janusz Panicz. My mentor in all things Scandi

What is the difference between Scandi and Underhand Casting?

First, I would like to thank Llandogo who had this to say about my Underhand casting Goran Anderson style Video:

I have used the underhand style of casting for many years and your interpretation is excellent. I would like to make a few comments though.
The video above explains the differences between Underhand casting (sometimes called Scandi) and Skagit casting.   Modern Scandinavian style encompases both types of casting with the ability to also cast somewhat longer lines. 

Janusz Panicz Aka Cloner, the great European Scandi caster,  offered the following:

The way I see things is that there are three major styles of casting a double-handed rod with the use of an anchor (non-overhead casting).

I deliberately refrain from using the term spey casting as some purists would say underhand casting is not spey casting. The three styles are:

1. Underhand casting (originated by Göran Andersson).
Characteristics:
– shorter/fast-action rods
– short heads
– short casting stroke
– long leaders
– use of bottom hand alone to sweep and to propel the line into the forward cast
– maintaining high rod tip position from the lift into the forward cast
– slow and relaxed hand movements from the lift into the firing position
– short distance between top and bottom hands on the grip
– high line speed
– airborne anchors
BTW underhand style has its use with both SH and DH

2. Traditional spey casting
Characteristics:
– long/slower rods
– long lines
– long casting stroke
– use of top hand to sweep and to propel the line into the forward cast
– long distance between top and bottom hands on the grip (top hand closer to winding check than to the reel seat)

3. Modern spey casting

Anything between 1 and 2. Including Scandinavian casting and Skagit Casting. With the reservation that Scandinavian casting employs bottom hand as a dominant hand to propel the line into the forward cast.

Those are the simplest definitions I can come up with according to my understanding of the styles.

I can cast Skagit heads in Scandinavian style. I can cast mid and long belly lines in Scandinavian style. I can cast Scandi heads in traditional style. It’s too much fun too keep it in strict boundaries.

Janusz demonstrates Modern Scandinavian Casting in the above, and below videos

 

Llandogo also makes a good point: Cloner has given an excellent précis of the different styles. He is certainly not Mr Average a very, very skilled caster and could cast a broomstick and chain with the Jack Rusell terrier still on the end.

I would point though,no problem casting a skagit line Scandi style, but with the underhand style take care.

You are condensing a lot of power into a short stroke and the weight is carried in the tip. I know modern rods are designed to take a wide range of weights but they do still break.

I would recommend coming down a weight or two in line weight with a Skagit line although personally, I prefer a line designed for the job.


I’ll add that using Skagit heads for Scandi or underhand is best if you underline, but I will also add that a single Spey or switch cast done with your standard heavy Skagit head is a very powerful cast, for me, even more powerful than waterborne casts with severely over weighted flies.

Also, I am not wearing a kippah, nor do I have a round balled spot on the back of my head, so it must be the video equipment I was using but that is me casting.

I seriously hate casting that ridiculously heavy, bullet weighted crap, but I find myself running experiments for the good of mankind often, and the results are sometimes surprising.

Cloner: (In response to Llandogo’s post about using Skagit heads for Underhand) Just point. In general, I would say the more bottom hand you use the lighter the head/line should be.

Conversely, the heavier the head/line the slower the forward cast should be. The use of bottom hand to propel the line combined with the short grip produces high line speed which favors lighter head/line.

There are a few variables to play with. That’s the beauty of fly casting.

Cloner:  Line/head density makes no difference as far as style is concerned. I personally use sinking lines combined with leaders or multi-tip floating body combined with sinking tips exclusively.

Both for practicing as well as for fishing. On all the videos available on my YT channel I’m casting at least the F/I head/leader or head/tip rigs.

For fishing sinking rigs I particularly like Salmologic Logic Heads and Logic Leaders system. Their system is also very good for underhand style as Logic Heads are true shorter Scandi.

Both Salmologic heads and leader get shorter with density change which makes them easy to be lifted off the water right away without a prior auxiliary roll cast. Many modern Scandi heads/lines are more like light Skagit heads – RIO Scandi for sure.


Llandogo:  Once again Cloner I am in agreement with you. I also like the Salmologic line system for underhand casting but the only drawback is they are expensive in my part of the world and to purchase the full range is beyond my pocket.

It is only fair to point out that Guideline still do a short shooting head and they have been in the game longer than Salmologic.

The Guideline Scandi Compact was designed by Klaus Frimor before moving back to Loop and it comes in a full range of sinking lines,it is a beauty to cast and it’s less expensive in the U.K than the Salmologic.

That, however, may be because most of them are manufactured here in the U.K whereas the Salmologic lines I am led to understand are made by Rio in the States (so they are probably cheaper over there).

Unfortunately, and I think applies more to the less practised in this style quite a few ‘off the shelf’ shooting heads are a little long for it to be as easy to learn with as it should be.

The longer are more suited to Scandi casting. Many of the dedicated underhand casters would still prefer to customise their lines, cutting them from the back end until they find the sweet spot.

There is a couple of clips on U Tube by Scandinavian fly lines, on one of the clips, he discusses the benefits of doing just this.

My own personal thoughts are, I don’t find it worth the effort of cutting and weighing the line anymore (after doing it for years).

I am happy to use the ready-made ones, that’s what happens to you as you get older. Incidentally, Rio do some lines that are excellent for underhand.


I thought I could make it short and sweet but I rambled on more than my original single spey how to and video because I kept remembering little odds and ends I thought might be helpful for others who are learning the cast or improving their single Spey cast.

I’m sure you can relate when I say I basically get the gist of what I’m trying to accomplish with my rod and line but sometimes what I think I’m doing, or what I’m saying I’m doing are not exactly what is going on when I watch the casts on video.  That is why I find videoing my casts extremely helpful for improvement.

I learn every time I cast. That is why I enjoy it so much. That, and I get so totally emersed in what I’m doing or attempting to do, that I forget about any trials and tribulations I might be going through on the outside, and concentrate on the nuances of casting.

After reviewing the video I’ve decided that the information is good, but my casting doesn’t exactly match the info.

I still want my hands more in front of me during the sweep, particularly on my left hand up single spey.  I have a tendency to use my arms too much and delay the forward cast a tad at times which causes a tad too much line stick.

So do as I say and not as I do for now if you find any of this helpful.  Watch Travis Johnson, Gerard Downey, Brian Styskal and the like. They are some of the best Spey Casters in the world.

I had the opportunity to practice with my competition rod on a quiet lake under optimal conditions for casting and videoing so I decided to try to improve on my single spey presentation.

 

2 thoughts on “Spey Casting: 10 Things any Fly Fisher must know before Spey Casting, Scandi or Skagit Casting

  1. Hey Tim, first off, thanks for all the great content. For me personally, your website and videos are & continue to be one of my best teaching aids in my two hand – skagit journey. A problem that I have is during the “turnover” sequence. I have been told at times that my rod tip is coming to far back before the forward cast thus creating slack and a collapsing D loop. Do you have any tips to help with this problem ?I have read the “poke the rod tip in the sky” but since the elbows are tight to the body, would a slight raise of the elbows be suffice ? I’m talking if like 2 – 4 inches is suffice. As well, how would you describe the motion or action that takes place with your wrist, hand and forearm when you transition from the plane of the sweep to the plane of the forward cast. I’ve read descriptions from Ed Ward and Tom Larimer and even yourself. For whatever reason I have a hard time visualizing the, ” writing the letter U with the rod tip ” analogy. For the record I use a 11’5″ two hand rod with a 20′ skagit head. Any input is appreciated Thanks !!

    1. Hey Paul, I’m very happy you took the time to log in and pose a great question. As far as poking a hole in the sky, I think that is your best bet for breaking the habit of laying the rod too far back. Once you have the concept down and make some successful casts you can change it up but for now, I say go ahead and drift up a bit by letting your elbow come up and poke that rod tip into the sky.

      Another thing that might help is to watch the D loop Drill in This Troubled Caster Video Force yourself to make short casts with 3/4 of the head out the end of your rod tip while doing the D loop drill and watch the D loop for and make the forward cast when the D loop looks ready. I’m sure you are further along in your casting than this but a drill like this will help you to realize that it’s not complicated.

      Another thing that might help is to think of the sweep to the forward cast transition as less like a U turn and more like a sideways D. So the sweep is like a half circle and when the sweep ends, you cast straight forward. This isn’t exactly what happens in a true cast but If you visualize it differently it might help the light go on for you.
      Here is another idea: Practice with just the butt section, in the mirror if it will help you see the position of the rod and your hands to better understand what is going on. Sweep to the 4:00 position. So if your nose is pointing at 12:00 the end of the butt section is pointing at 4:00. Now, go directly into the Key position, which is basically the forward casting position. That’s all that has to happen. It’s basically a circle up. (or can be called a drift) The top wrist swivels, the rod rotates in basically less than a quarter of a circle and travels up because the bottom and pushes down and away at the same time.

      Try pinning your top elbow against your ribcage and gripping your upper hand tightly around the top cork. If you rotate your top wrist all the way around from the sweep to the forward cast position with your top hand gripped on the cork that will kind of give you a visual as to how the rod moves in a circle up. Its pretty hard to cast that way but with just the butt section in hand it may give you a pretty good idea. It’s not complicated.
      When your actually casting Take lots of time, think your way through the cast, watch the D loop. I suggest a high slow sweep to give yourself plenty of time to think, watch, and cast. Good luck and let us know if this makes any sense whatsoever or is helpful in anyway and thank you for asking!!!!

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