I stand on the threshold of a new dawn. Doesn’t that sound nice. I can imagine opening the curtains just in time to see the first signs of the new day peeping over the horizon. It’s obviously going to be a nice day. Shorts weather. Or, the new dawn could bring wind and rain and utter misery. I am not sure what my new dawn is about to bring me. In fact I might just stay in bed and have a look later.
WTF am I talking about? Spey casting. Let’s look at where I am at the moment; I never have to spey, I mainly fish stillwater, the rivers I do fish are not wide enough to spey cast, I have learned the basic mechanics on grass, grass is no place to spey cast, so I keep being told, and I believe them, I very, very rarely use a double-handed rod. Am I in the shit or what?
I have the perfect facilities to practice my conventional overhead casting (which is almost certainly why I have got quite good at it) I only have to walk to the end of my garden and I have a beautifully manicured cricket ground to play around in. There is no effort involved. If I want to learn to spey cast I am going to have to find some water to practice on. Now, that’s a whole new ballgame. It will mean traveling and I don’t really do traveling. It also means finding somewhere that I can wade or, at least has a jetty or pontoon, again, I don’t know anywhere that has those facilities.
It also puts me on the bottom rung of the ladder again. A whole new language to learn, a whole new set of skills to learn. Another period of utter confusion.
I’m going back to bed, call me when the sun’s up.
When will I know I have made it?
I have a friend who is always telling me so and so say’s it’s done like this and so and so does that like this and if you want to know the definitive how to do that ask so and so. I will know when I have made it when I get an irate phone call from so and so asking me to shut up because he is fed up with hearing how Mike Bloody Heritage does it.
There is no definitive way to do anything, especially if it’s anything to do with fly casting or fly fishing. This is the proverbial more than one way to skin a cat area. Some ways may suit you more than others. A bit of one way and a bit of another is how you develop your own style. For instance I have moved from a Hartmann/ Ardenesque style to a more Rajeff like style for my distance casting and now I suspect I am somewhere in between, although none of them may never have recognised anything I do as remotely like they were doing. It was very similar in my head, and that’s all that matters, to me. My general casting is a glorious mishmash of possibly every caster I have ever seen and probably some I have never even met plus one or two ideas of my own.
You should never have fixed ideas. flexibility is the name of the game. Take in the things you are told and the things you see, adapt, modify, hybridise, utilise. Never accept that that is the only way to do it. This is one reason I have such an issue with only teaching one style. Of course we all have to start somewhere with the basics but even then students have a personal preference about things like rod cant or stance. If I feel it is interfering with their casting I will offer alternatives.
Anyway, back to the subject. At the end of the day the primary purpose of fly casting is to present a fly or a team of flies to a fish and if the fly gets there then it was a successful cast. I suspect that many of the presentation casts we use today were made by accident in the first place and the caster recognised that he had just invented something useful to add to his armoury, gave it a name and passed it on to his friends who then further developed and refined it. The River Spey has a lot to answer for. We have traditional spey, modern spey, contrived spey and all sorts of derivations in between, each one done differently by whoever is performing them. I find the single spey awkward if I just lift and sweep the line in one movement. I find a cut in to the bank first adds fluidity to my stroke and anchor placement more consistent. Ok, it’s not strictly necessary but it works for me.
There is often a common denominator in a cast that means that there may be only a very limited way to achieve it but get ten casters to perform it and I would bet you would get ten slightly different variations.