The Spey Cast Power Stroke
By Jock Monteith 1st June 2023
Today's article is dedicated to the third and final section of the Spey cast which is known as the 'power stroke'. This completes my in depth career based breakdown of this 'timeless' and magnificent traditional Scottish art form cast which seems to have been lost amidst the new less elegant casting techniques and often ugly 'casting systems' that dominate the salmon fishing fly line industry these days.
The Perfect Spey Line Lift & Swing
Ok so we've perfected a correct line lift to properly put the wheels in motion to cancel out 'water resistance' going into the swing and have smoothly swung the line round with a high outward pointing rod tip that has not dipped on its flight path round to its upstream 1 o'clock rod position (upstream clock face). There's been enough assertive smooth swing energy to bring your 100% taught Spey line round to the 1 o'clock position and now the front metre of your line has momentarily kissed the surface of the river.
Watching Your Spey Line Anchor Point
With the above in place you've now tuned your peripheral vision into the anchor point to make sure your timing 'off the water' is precise. You've also brought this anchor point far enough round to make sure you're creating sufficient loading but to also keep the fly approx one rod length away from you for personal safety reasons even though you're wearing suitable eye protection. Now everything is set up perfectly for a sweet forward 'power stroke' delivery.
Perfectly Timed Spey Cast Anchor Point Release
The anchor point only needs a brief second and no more than that before sending it away and the sound 'off the water' will tell you whether you're too slow or too fast. If you're too slow you'll hear a 'slooshing' sound which is a waste of line energy that should have gone to the forward delivery. If you're too fast and you hear a 'whooshing' sound which means you've come in a split second too early and missed the anchor point. What you want to hear is the sound that's right between these 2 noises which is the sound of absolutely 'nothing' which ensures the anchor point was achieved and all of the line energy build up has gone to the fly and not been wasted.
The Spey Cast Forward Power Stroke
At this spilt second of Spey cast set up perfection with everything understood and in place all that is now needed is to fully understand how to get the best from the action of your rod to power the fly line out across the salmon pool. Many Spey casters think it's about throwing the rod at the river but it is most definitely not the case. A maximised power application cast with any fishing rod involves a sharp 'stop' of the rod. It is this 'stop' that unleashes a rod's power and with the forward stroke of a Spey cast it is no different. This almost invisible 'stop' on the forward power stroke should come in at the 11 o'clock (upstream clock face) rod position. The split second after this almost invisible stop is applied release your grip on your fly line to shoot the running line if required. Running line management should always allow the smallest loop of line to fly first on the power stroke and no more than 3 big loops in your 'running line management' should ever be considered to avoid a butt ring jamming fankle. A long cast with a short 'shooting head' line system will require many more than 3 loops of running line which will invite trouble at running line release time unless you're a skilled octopus!
Stop The Spey Rod For Real Power
Powering the rod forward from the 1 o'clock (end of swing) position to this high forward 11 o'clock barely noticeable stop position forces the rod to kick forward and also set your fly line off at the optimal trajectory for distance at the same angle of release as if you were launching a stone across the river. A low incorrect stop will set your fly line off on a downward angle which will be indicative of the belly of the fly line landing on the river first instead of the entire line extending to full casting length, straightening and landing all at once. Once this split second high forward 11 o'clock stop has been applied then lower the rod to lower the trailing running line in the air. If you don't do this your fly will likely catch your mainline on the way out so don't leave the rod tip static at 11 o'clock when you've applied the power stop.
The Spey Cast Power Stroke Body & Hands Position
Your body throughout the cast should be angled at approx 45 degrees out from the downstream riverbank (facing the target area) and to maximise your swing and power stroke range you should be rotating your upper body to the left and then to the right from the start of the lift to the 1 o'clock stop position at the end of the swing. This way when you apply the power stroke you're also bringing in your upper body movement into the cast which will give you even more power stroke torque! Your hands should be high throughout the cast and should not vary from your high hand position at the top of the lift right through the swing to the moment the forward power stoke delivery is applied.
Real Spey Rod Power From Using Both Hands
If you're performing a Single Spey cast with a right hand up rod position and you've brought the anchor point round into position you should push your left hand out away from your body before you apply the power. The most power in a forward power stroke delivery comes when both hands are brought into play in unison and as the right hand is driving the forward power your extended left hand should be sharply pulling the rod butt in close to your chest. The extra effortless rod speed you'll achieve from this dual hand technique if you can master it will far outweigh what you can achieve with just the right hand driving and dominating the power stroke.
The Scottish Spey Cast Summary
Understanding and mastering these three steps 'The Lift' & 'The Swing' and this article today detailing 'The Power Stroke' are what I personally regard as 'crucial' for perfecting the most satisfying salmon fly fishing cast of them all. If your brain fully understands exactly what you should be doing during each stage of this cast then your hands will automatically be programmed to follow. If you compare each stage of the cast as specified in these 3 articles with what you're currently doing I'm positive you'll find pointers I've mentioned that will significantly assist you even if it is only one minor adjustment to your current Spey casting technique.