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The Spring Salmon, natures perfection in a fish.

This traditional Scottish style of Spey casting is a bottom hand dominated technique, the top hand remaining as the pivotal point or fulcrum during power application in context of the role of the two hands.

Forearms determine the plane. it is important to adjust the forearms and lead with the thin part of the forearm during the sweep wen Spey casting.

A rainy May day on the Moy
The Double Handed Rod

There are a lot of benefits of using double handed rods. The double handed rod makes it easier to fish heavier flies and lines for everyone due to the greater leverage from the use of both arms, it especially opens up this type of heavier line fishing for those with less physical strength in general such as the elderly, the young or women.

The rods also afford the option to cast with ease in places where there is not enough clearance for overhead casting through using Spey casting techniques, those casting techniques require less room as they create a D loop and use the resistance of the end part of the line and leader on the water.

Double hand rods also make it much easier to control line on the water for requirements of presentation, and easier to play larger fish. Smaller double hand rods called Switch rods have become popular recently.

There are two main types of double handed rod casting, Overhead and Spey casting techniques.

There are three main branches or styles of Spey casting technique, traditional long or medium belly line Spey casting, Scandinavian Shooting head casting, and American Skagit casting technique.

Long stroke Spey casting incorporating upper body rotation and using medium to long belly Spey lines is the hardest discipline to learn, it is quite easy for most long stroke casters to shorten a stroke, but it seems to be extremely difficult usually for shooting head casters to lengthen a stroke. The longer the stroke the easier it is to go out of plane or not make a true acceleration.

Note: Long stroke, medium or long belly Spey line casting technique is often a bottom hand and body dominated technique in terms of the main sources of power application. There is a difference in the top hand moving forward smoothly as a relaxed acceleration to a stop to create the required stroke length for the amount of line out, and it being used as the main power application, or thumped forward at any point.

It is also necessary to understand the difference between independent top hand movement and indirect top hand movement, and how first class opposing leverage is applied. The top hand remains as a pivotal point or fulcrum even when it creates a long stroke once first class leverage is used. When the most efficient leverage is applied the pivotal point is placed along the lever as Archimedes discovered a long time ago.

The top hand can be used to steer, create stroke length and make the stop during long stroke casting but not as the main power application, and it can remain as the fulcrum or pivotal point. Opposing movement from the bottom hand and the top hand moving partly from body movement ensuring that it remains so.

It is very important to be able to understand and differentiate between stroke length and power application when looking at any long stroke casting style. Those that casually generalise all long stroke Spey casting as a top hand dominated style of casting are very much in error. They also do not understand the difference between indirect and independent top hand movement. If you don't practice long belly line Spey casting regularly for fishing you can't always judge what is going on. Other shorter techniques are very popular but by nature quasi Spey casting in technique to an extent when compared to longer belly line requirements.

Generally what is important in double handed casting is very much similar to what is important in single handed casting. Fly rods have the same properties and work best when used in the same way. Of course with both hands on the rod things are a little different as to how we manipulate the rod to achieve the same effect. The double handed rod is also so much more powerful than a single handed rod and it is so very easy to misuse and misdirect it. When one witnesses this mis use it not only looks really forceful, but quite dangerous also.

The forearms determine the plane, this is essential to understand and important when making the sweep of any D loop forming move. Make sure you lead with the thin part of the forearms.

A good stop is essential, both hands must stop together. An acceleration to a stop with pre load occurring from main position change before the final largest rod tip movement from the main angle change to the stop.

The biggest challenge for most is to become bottom hand dominated in power application. This is not an intuitive skill and is in fact extremely counter intuitive, it is a skill that must be learned over time.

Formal Training - the Old School Ways

The only way one can become proficient and understand something is when one has no limiting factor left in terms of motor function interference in your technique. i.e. when you can be bottom or top hand dominant in power application by choice and entirely of your own volition, when you can use either one or the other ways fully, and any combination of them, only then do have you actually have a choice in the matter. Only then.

Also as Peter Anderson used to say - "you'll keep tugging with the top hand as long as (he pauses in speech to create anticipation of the answer) you keep tugging with the top hand." Its really that simple. Its only when you are able to make an overall steady movement to apply leverage using a steady smooth tempo that you have any choice in the matter, before hand you don't. In other words its only when you rely solely on the effect of smoothly applied opposing leverage and don't make any tug or thump whatsoever, that you are free not to tug or thump.

You'll keep going out of plane as long as you fail to pay meticulous attention to planes. You'll not make a straight line incline if you allow the rod to dip down behind etc, etc. Casting a double-handed rod well (full control with economy of effort) is not easy. It takes discipline which comes from repetition of exercises. It takes time.

The fine art of using a single or double-handed fly rod and line of any type well, and casting with economy of effort and total control of fly turnover is one of the most satisfying aspects in salmon angling. It is always a blend of inter related aspects of technique married together.

There is something very, very special about the feel between the hands of a double handed rod loading from applied leverage, and about the incredible precise control possible of loop shape with such a powerful rod. When one sees the line really fly out from a good cast, the line taking on a life of its own, slicing through wind in the right trajectory and turning the leader and fly over as it hits the water at distance it is indeed a wonderful and satisfying experience.

Single or double-handed rod use for salmon fishing is also often defined in the West of Ireland and most especially in the Moy Valley as using either
"The Short Rod" or "The Long Rod." Only true double-handed rods are called the long rod, switch rods are considered as single-handed rods (short rods) with extension butts. They are also most referred to as grilse rods or single-handed salmon rods.

Traditional and modern Spey casting techniques with medium or long belly Spey lines is the most used style where I live, however shooting head techniques are also very popular and used extensively, most especially for sunk line or sink tip line fishing. Most serious salmon fly anglers have outfits for both styles of casting, long belly and shooting head. They also have rods and lines in differing lengths and weights for the different times of the season and different sizes of rivers they fish. However many anglers simple use shooting heads on their normal salmon rods in Spring time or in high water conditions. Skagit lines are also becoming popular for sink tip fishing.

Overhead casting is popular with some and there are a few people from the older generation who don't ever Spey cast.

Not so many years ago almost all double-handed salmon rods were softer in action generally than many used today, and we all used double taper lines. Lines that would stay up forever when overhead casting, just hanging in the air behind defying gravity while casually rolling out and not dropping like stones as the modern Spey lines can do. There's more reason than ever now to use the continuous motion, line height management techniques of fulcrum fly-casting when overhead casting.

Also the feel of the softer rod loading was really evident when Spey casting. Modern rods are lighter and sometimes with a faster recovery and many Spey lines are indeed more efficient for Spey casting and for shooting some running line. However that doesn't mean that everyone has changed or that everyone is happy to change. Some people still much prefer the older set up and feel from the softer rods. Some consider all the modern casts like snap T's and Snake rolls to be unnecessary circus tricks, modern Spey lines too heavy and excessive splash / disturbance creation items.

Personally I prefer some of the modern progressive action rods and Spey lines while still appreciating and respecting the old and what was a major part of the learning curve for me. Carbon development has some on in leaps and bounds recently and there is no comparison today to the carbon of even ten years ago.

I still think it is always a good correction or check on technique to use a softer rod occasionally as it prevents over hitting and excessive power application. Any deviation from perfect technique shows up instantly in a tailing loop or failed cast with a softer rod. Maintaining tension over a longer stroke with smooth compound movements and good timing becomes extra critical.

Some people may worry or get confused about all the different types of Spey cast. The thing is they all have a common technique, forming a D loop. One technique on the set up is common to all. One technique on the forward cast is also common to all.

The best thing to do is simply to learn how to form a good D loop off each side and its really plain sailing after that. The D loop rod tip path and the way the leverage is applied during the power application is the same, one will be formed from a line traveling through the air, one by pulling a placed line off the water. Slightly more power will be used to pull the line up into a D loop from the water surface, than forming a D loop from a line traveling through the air and the end of it touching down.

Once you can form a D loop off each side of your body and either by pulling the line through the air, or lifting it up from the water surface, its practically game over on the set up.

All you have to do after that is a few flip the tip exercises to master the forward cast.

Lastly Switch rods, which are small double handed rods that also can be used single handed, are becoming very popular now. It is important to remember when purchasing fly lines for switch rods that there are two line scales, a trout line weight scale and a salmon line weight scale, Switch rods require the salmon scale lines. Or a trout line two to three sizes heavier in rating than marked on the rod.

The best example

The best example is always when you see someone willingly help someone else and give something back for no possible gain for themselves and no financial reward, it may even cause them to use up their free time.

One of the most enlightening moments I have ever seen in Fly-casting or fly-casting Instruction was when one of the top double-handed casters in the world set an example I personally will never forget until the day I die. The American Spey caster Al Buhr was asked by a relative novice in double-handed casting, and someone he did not know from Adam, to help show him how to Spey cast properly. This was just after an exam session and a long days work for Al Buhr in Ireland. He willingly started to show and explain to the young man how to cast the double-handed rod. The trouble was it clashed with other arrangements that had been made for him to go sightseeing that evening. I personally witnessed and heard the following at first hand as I was there when it happened, so it is not any exaggeration nor any second hand story.

The people turned up at the riverbank and let him know they were waiting on him to go sightseeing, the other American Instructor who was over with him came to tell him they were waiting and to get him to leave with them. The person who had asked him to help him said that he did not realise the others were waiting on him that Al should go sightseeing, that he would learn double-handed casting some other time. Al then said to the other American Instructor, I'm sure the buildings will be there for another time again, right now this young person has asked me to sow the seeds of two handed fly-casting with him, with him and who knows how many others he'll meet in future as he wants to be an Instructor. Now thats what I'm going to do, thats the real reason why we're here after all, and right now I think thats more important to this young man than me going sightseeing. You can go on without me as I'm staying here and sowing those seeds of two handed casting for this person who has asked me to do that.

He stayed and taught that person and I benefitted yet again too, I once more witnessed another magnificent workshop on double handed casting from Al Buhr. However more than that I had witnessed what the word "genuine" really means in a person.

His action and statements had a profound impact on me, and on the other American Instructor who upon hearing the reply also stayed and helped. It was truly magnificent to witness something like the concern he showed for another persons well being in todays age. Al Buhr after all is not just anyone, he is one of the absolute best Instructors in the world, yet he did not know the person he stayed to teach. All he knew was that this person wanted to learn. A magnificent example to set.