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L to R Ruairi Costello, Gerard Downey, James Chalmers, myself.

James Chamers in action on the Shannon

Starting position


Loading pressure from body turning and bottom hand pushing out

Line breaking free

Line gliding or coasting through the air

Rod straightened, relaxed lift starts with rod at same angle as the line glides through the air

top of lift and strt of final delivery - continuous motion

Power application final delivery, anchor has touched down

Top arm still bent bottom hand pulled in

While I could not over estimate the importance of the incline exercise progression in learning how to Spey cast correctly in this style, with either a single or double-handed rod. It is also actually in itself an absorbing and rewarding exercise.

A most important tool for refining fluent Spey Casting technique off both sides of the body.

This exercise was devised by James Chalmers who has produced some of the best Spey casting I have ever witnessed anywhere. I can say that standing beside him on the Spey or the Shannon and watching his line V loop perfectly across that magnificent river is a sight to behold. He manages to keep perfectly in plane consistently with the forward cast, the line and leader rolls out as if it was drawn there by someone using a ruler.

It is an exercise progression that has been incorporated into Fulcrum Fly-Casting technique as it is so important for correct technique. This technique teaches many things about Spey casting and rod loading and unloading. It is a fundamental building block of this style.

The practice of this exercise sequence leads the caster through a logical progression towards efficient Spey casting. Through a process of minor variations on the theme the caster eventually is able to correctly execute the 'climbing curve' basic Spey casting movement, both from a fly line traveling back through the air and touching down, and from a fly line placed on the water first with a line placing move. Both airborne and waterborne anchors in other words.

I have seen how this exercise, and its natural progression, utterly transforms peoples Spey casting ability in general as far as anchor placement and anchor shape is concerned and in particular how it rapidly gives them mastery of Spey casting on their off side, which is really very important. In fact it turns people into very accomplished casters on their off side. Also in how it shows the importance of and difference in effect of the correct use of first class leverage. The versatility it allows in loop formation and in 'shaping' the D loop. or V loop, especially important for those taking Instructors examinations. I have yet to see a good V loop produced in an exam outside of those familiar with this technique.

Practical Steps
1. The first incline exercise is characterized by having no initial lift, an incline is made right from the start.

The first need in performing this exercise (which is not a cast) is to be precise, a straight line incline is a straight line incline, therefore not an arched or convex curve, nor dipped and concave, nor with a pull down after the rod tip passes your shoulder, nor any curve pull in behind out of plane.

The furthest back position the rod tip reaches was arrived at by the rod tip rising to get there, naturally - when a straight line incline rod tip path is used.

Opposing leverage is opposing leverage, not ever a single movement leverage. Compound movements not single movements.

Forearms determine the plane and the reel moves into that plane to start.

Due to upper body rotation mainly indirect top hand movement rather than independent top hand movement is used on the loading move.

1. Get into preferred stance. Personally I use right foot forward always with right hand uppermost on the rod. Move the arms into plane with the rod tip an inch or two from the water surface. Bottom hand will therefore be out from the body a little. Track the rod tip on a straight line incline of 30 degrees when it moves. Use upper body rotation and simultaneously push out the bottom hand. Move to opposite where you started along the incline. Find the right tempo so that the line does not just drag but actually breaks free from the surface travels a little way through the air and then the end of the line touches down in the correct place, that is slightly in front and to the side. Too fast a tempo and the line will fly back like an overhead cast made to the side.

The line momentum created from the rod unloading when the line breaks free should all in the one overall direction and at the right trajectory, the rod unloading directing the line momentum efficiently in that direction.
The upper body turning and a simultaneous pushing out of the bottom hand provide the leverage for loading. The top hand is the fulcrum and remains the fulcrum used mainly through the body turning it causing the majority of the top hand movement. Very little independent top hand movement takes place, it is mainly indirect movement from the body turning. An incline makes sure the energy is directed in the one overall direction. The reason there is no lift is to develop the understanding and need to build up leverage smoothly. A tug does nothing as too much line is placed on the water initially, therefore steady leverage is required. Upper body rotation is achieved by rotating from the ankles. The rod itself places the line from steady leverage without any other interference from us. It does a better job than we can by tugging. There are really only two things happening with out body, we are turning the body and pushing out the bottom hand.

As there are no left or right hand rods we realise that with these two movements the rod is going to work exactly the same way on either side as long as we change its position and angle and apply pressure in the same fashion so that it is a mirror image of our normal side. We realise that anyone can turn their upper body or torso from their ankles and push out their bottom hand.

All body movement starts at the ankles, saying we turn our upper body is a bit of a misnomer although that is what we do but perhaps not literally, all of the body is on the move from the ankles up including the hips. So anyone can turn their body. If before we turned our upper body, we placed a hand out in front of us slightly and turned the body, our hand will turn with the body of course. The hand is then moving in relation to a position on the ground or in relation to your toe but you are not moving your arm to do it, you are turning your body.

So as Andrew Toft once pointed out, the hand can move independently of the body and the body can move independently of the hand or arm but bring the arm with it, this is still stroke length. To a fixed point on the ground body movement moves the hand, in relation to its position against the upper body however it is not moving. Now anyone can also push out their bottom hand steadily. Both movements – upper body rotation and the bottom hand pushing out can be done at the same time, both movements can be spread out so that they happen simultaneously throughout the stroke. The top hand can ensure steering along the approx 30 degree incline desired.

It is made along a shallow angle gradient. That angle is about 30 degrees as Patrick Steenhout an Instructor from Belgium who is a carpenter and rod builder confirmed by eye. It is necessary to absolutely ensure this constant straight line incline. The angler must feel the rod load and unload without reacting to that by hesitating or tugging. He must use a steady overall tempo and disregard what he feels. The tempo will become apparent as there is a correct position for anchor placement.
If 12 o’clock is directly in front of the caster then the rod tip is touching the water at 1 o’clock, it is going to rise on a 30 degree incline and swing round to 5 o’clock. If only the body turning was used it would go to about 4 o’clock, because the bottom hand pushes out it can go to five o’clock. He turns his body and starts pushing out the bottom hand simultaneously, the top hand will raise the rod along the incline as the body turns.

2. The second incline exercise introduces a small shotgun lift and then uses a straight line incline of less of an angle due to the initial lift. What matters is that the energy of the lift runs on down the line as there is no time delay between the lift and the start of the incline which happens in sequence immediately. However there is no blending of the two actions into a hybrid movement. They are distinct but joined in sequence without any delay between their execution.
This exercise is much easier and creates a V loop behind.

3. The third incline exercise is in fact a jump roll, it uses a shotgun lift and then a climbing curve into the key position. The difference is that smooth opposing leverage is used to form the D loop.

4. The fourth exercise covers all water borne anchor casts. It places the line on the water in front of the caster from left to right, or right to left, and outside of the rod tip, to do this a high lift is made then with right hand uppermost the rod is move in a descending curve going to the right then to the left as it descends, the rod tip is kept well away from you in front as this happens. As it is an exercise there is no change of direction. A peel or tear is then used merging into the D loop forming move, pause and forward cast.
The first, no lift, incline exercise on the river. Sorry about the pic quality as it is taken from a film, as was the top sequence on a pier on Lough Cullin one evening.
However this sequence on the river does show the resulting V loop formation. The top sequence shows weight shift and upper body rotation.
The first incline exercise using a medium belly Spey line, (Carron Pro Line 65ft head). The resulting V loop formation from the straight line inclined rod tip path.

The second one involving a small lift is a most useful exercise for examinations requiring a V loop back cast in a jump roll.
A basic climbing curve single Spey with a straight anchor and curved D loop formation.
The Incline Exercise Progression