Salmon Speyline Perfection
By Jock Monteith 18th February 2018
There's been many things in Scottish salmon fishing that have caused me concern over the years but what I'm writing about today is how our Scottish Spey casting tradition has been completely hijacked by Scandinavian & American fly fishing technology.
Where Was Your Passport Issued
There's no doubt there's some Viking blood in all of us as there is no doubt there's Scottish DNA in Scandinavia & the USA but for goodness sake what on earth are we messing about with these largely uncontrollable 'washing line' heads and neglecting everything we knew and were doing so well with in the name of the 'falsely' perceived value of distance! What ever happened to the aerial elegance of the full stroked & effortless Speycast with complete & instant control of the salmon fly on 'landing' and 'easy' 2 or 3 loop running line management.
The Elegance Of The Spey Cast
As a youngster I used to sit and watch real Spey casters for hours meticulously covering salmon pools on the Tay and you didn't even need to be fishing yourself to get satisfaction from your fishing day. Just watching the aerial 'magnificence' of their impeccable style from a 'side on' viewing position was absolutely captivating. These days there's nothing of interest in the little 'under-hand' crash, bang, wallop of a broom handle butt fast actioned 'Scandi' rod or the twisted buckling aerial dog's breakfast performance of cast to thump a fly out as far across the river as possible with these shooting heads or even worse the Skagit line.
There Needs To Be Fly Fishing Elegance
A Skagit line serves only a few purposes and one is tying an anchor to and the other is for stretching between two poles on your back lawn for 'drip drying' hand washed woollens. If your excuse is turning over big flies or heavy tips get with a professional who will show you how to load a Speyline properly where you could turn over a 'half brick' and keep the control & elegance in the cast. These Skagit systems are a complete nonsense for Scottish salmon fishing requirements and there's miles more elegance & tradition in spinning the Tay with a 28 gram Toby & 18 lbs monofilament. Distant fly presentation with zero control of the fly is a complete waste of time & energy unless you are in control of your fly which only a Spey line will properly give you.
Trends On The River Tay
One of the beat's I used to manage on the Tay had the most perfect left hand bank fly water which I made a 'fly only' zone for Speycasters. Spin fishers had loads of deep water to fish from the right hand bank away from the fly water and all visiting salmon fishers were managed properly & were happy. Those were the days before the tackle dealers came in with their latest 'shooting head' fad & client 'churn' tactics and killed the Speyline industry stone dead as even a one armed chimp could put out a 20 yard cast with these little 'baby' head line systems. The 'new pup' ghillie brigade thought that made them all great casting instructors so their ego's were served even though their 'fly caught' catch records were nose diving.
The Death Of The Spey Line
Speylines got abruptly dropped for the instantly massive 'shooting head' business which tricked many thousands of anglers into purchasing one running line and multiple density head sections. Although the cost to the angler appeared lower at approx £50 per shooting head section excluding the cost of the running line the overall costs of buying enough heads across all the likely required head densities was much more than what a typical 'Spey' tapered multi tip line outlay was at £100 on average. And so the 'shooting head' express train began which I strongly believe resulted in what I'm going to mention in the next paragraph.
The Betrayal Of Scottish Speycasting
These once upon a time 'would be' Speycasters moved over to the 'dark side' and traded their 'malt' for 'akvavit' & 'schnapps' and lost complete control of their salmon fly for 1/3 rd of their fishing day resulting in less offers and miles less salmon fishing satisfaction. Many of these anglers were proud and highly knowledgable about this new 'grain & gram' fishing hut 'spiel' and fishing forums were bustling with 'guff' about all the latest 'Skull Splitter' and 'Long Boat Oar' rods and the critical yet 'mandatory' science associated in getting the 'balance' just right with a shooting head that had no rear taper. Our Speycasting tradition had now been 'critically' compromised.
Bass Fishers Appear On The River Tay
They'll never admit it but to my mind by observing a few Tay beats as examples these Scandi & USA fly line technology followers slowly started to lose interest in fly fishing as they must have been catching less salmon due to less control of the fly and with zero casting satisfaction compared to the traditional Speyline. The next 'fad' on the Tay was the introduction of the 'pretty' yet effective Vision Oneten bass lures. The normal nosed version of this lure in all it's beautiful range of colours could be fished through the shallow fly water present on many of the Tay's pools without getting snagged and if fished on braid it would give distance and better control of the lure at long range. All of a sudden more Tay anglers were rigging up 2 outfits instead of 1 on arrival at the fishing huts each morning!
My Personal Take On Speycasting
There's nothing that will ever compare to the enjoyment, elegance & the effectiveness of Speycasting with a perfectly tapered Spey line down through a salmon pool and mending 'to the fly' putting you in 'full control' each time your fly graces the surface of the river. The analogy I'm going to make here is as close as I think I can get regarding being taught sufficiently well enough to be able to use a Speyline optimally. As a child you'll remember the 'dodgems' at the carnival that were easy to drive although often bumpy! You'll also no doubt recall learning to drive a car and your driving test. There you have the difference that 'currently' hinders so many from gaining much more satisfaction from their Scottish salmon fly fishing pursuit.