The following written by Mike Maxwell is part 2 of our two part article titled 'The Advantages of Speycasting and Speyfishing'. Over the last 10 days, we covered The Advantages and the question: What is 'True Speycasting & Speyfishing?' Part two will cover the final two topics: Choosing the Right Speyrod and Effective Fishing Range
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SPEYROD
Speyfishing Tackle - Just as in any other kind of fishing, the correct tackle is the key to successful and enjoyable speyfishing. If you are having problems with your casting, line and fly control or landing fish, ask yourself if it is you or your equipment that is at fault.
Speyfishing tackle includes:
Rods, Reels, Lines, Leaders & Flies
Lets discuss speyrods in detail.
Speyrods - Assuming that we are examining modern graphite speyrods, there are four important characteristics to be considered.
- Action - (How it bends)
- Power - (What line weight)
- Length (How long)
- Sensitivity (is it dead or alive?)
Speyrod Action - A well-designed speyrod has three requirements: Casting Line and fly control Fish control
Casting Action - Speyrods must be limber enough to make all speycasts from very short, to its maximum controllable line length. As a general rule, this requires casting two rod lengths in front of the caster on the shortest cast, to five rod lengths ahead on the longest cast. For example, a 15 foot rod allows placing the line from approximately 20 feet in front of the caster, to 75 feet in front, which is an enormous area of river to cover if fished systematically and intelligently.
Casts are measured from the reel to the end of the line - not including the leader.
Beware - Not all double-hand rods are designed for, or are capable of very short speycasts. The ability to make delicate short presentations, allows covering fish holding out of the fast current close to shore, the wrong rod will deny you this very productive water.
Rod Power - (What Weight of Line?) - Rod power or strength depends on the weight of the line it is to cast. Don't confuse rod power with rod action. A light line, low power rod can have the same shape of bend as a heavy line powerful rod.
Always select the power of your speyrod by the weight of fish you are going after. If you are not sure how to do this with a speyrod, just imagine that it is a single hander and choose accordingly. Don't go after forty pound fish with a seven weight speyrod, or five pound fish with an eleven weight speyrod.
Many speycasters are reluctant to use heavier line size speyrods, even though the size of fish requires them to do so. The usual excuse is that heavy line speyrods are tiring to cast and fish with, not realizing that the weight will be shared with both hands.
If you are having a problem with your heavy line rod, ask yourself the following questions: Is your rod a true flexible speyrod, specifically designed for speycasting and controlling line? - Not all double-handers are. Does your speycasting technique need improving? Those who are still casting with the arms only and a modified rollcast delivery would do well to consider the controlled energy method of speycasting described in my previous book (The Art & Science of Speyfishing) and my many video tapes on this subject. This relatively easy to learn method relies on using the body more than the arms and allows casting and controlling heavy line speyrods with very little strain on the arms and shoulders and minimum power required. My students are overly impressed to see me demonstrating long above water delivery speycasts, when holding the rod with just two fingers and a thumb of each hand. This is not trick casting, you will be able to repeat this technique when you use body movement power, not just the arms and wrists.
Rod Length - (Related to Rod Power) - Always use the longest rod you are comfortable with, bearing in mind that rod lengths are usually related to rod power. Shorter rods are usually designed for light lines and longer rods for heavier lines.
Keep in mind that the longer the rod the easier it will be to keep line off the water during the preliminary strokes of speycasting, when deeper wading is unavoidable. Another important advantage of a longer speyrod is the ability to control the line and the fly, keeping in mind that a speycast only takes about five seconds and the following line control procedure about fifty seconds.
As a general rule longer rods allow slower and more controlled casting strokes than shorter rods. If you are having problems timing the movements of your speycasting, try a longer rod.
One last important and often overlooked advantage of longer rods is keeping the fly away from you on windy days. Remember the original Scottish speycasters were wearing kilts.
Line and Fly Control - Many skilled speyfishers quite rightly believe that a speyrod's ability to control line is just as, or more important than its ability to cast line.
A golden rule of successful speyfishing is to present the fly to the fish in its forward binocular field of view and trigger its juvenile acquired instincts to feed or defend itself.
Make doubly sure that your speyrod allows you to make all necessary advanced line controls. Not all double-handers do.
Hooking Fish with Advanced Speyrods - Modern hard wire dangerously sharp hooks are much thinner and sharper than the frequently used old fashioned dull thick wire hooks and do not require a hammer blow strike to set the hook.
If you let the fish take your fly and hook itself on the considerable drag of a thick spey line as it returns to its hold you will land more fish than not. Keeping your instinctive reactions to strike under control is extremely difficult when you have been fishless for a while.
It should also be realized that anadromous non-feeding fish often come to a fly motivated by its juvenile period feeding instincts. This can produce a pull on the line by sucking in water and the fly close to or into a wide open mouth and reject it again in a fraction of a second. Unless it makes a mistake and turns and hooks itself before rejection the fly.
Remember the following rules:
- If you feel a pull on the line the fish is either on or gone.
- Use sharp hooks.
- And dull reactions.
Catch and Release Fishing - Without getting into the controversial subject of killing fish, it is assumed that we are going to hook, control, land and release fish quickly and humanely.
Out of Control Fish - Many of the fish control and landing procedures developed in the past seem to have been based on waiting for a hooked fish to exhaust itself or in the case of a kill fishery to be near death or dead before landing it. Many fish are 'lost' with this procedure.
Getting Spooled - Probably the most inhumane procedure is finding out how far the fish will run without any attempt to prevent it. This ridiculous situation can lose a fish and the line if carried to extremes. This often repeated performance goes by the macho name of 'getting spooled'.
Over Stiff Rods - There is one overriding subject in controlling and landing fish that must be clearly understood and that is the flexibility or shock-absorbing characteristics of your speyrod. If you have stepped into the trap of selecting your rod for its extreme distance casting capabilities, you could have trouble making all the required line controls and the delicate self-hooking procedure. Over stiff rods are probably the biggest single cause of losing a hooked fish due to their inability to absorb the shock of a sudden escape run or an acrobatic high jump or tail walk.
Misleading Terminology - Many archaic terms left over from the blood sport concept of flyfishing should be avoided. We no longer need to 'play' a fish to exhaustion, we 'control' it.
The term 'fighting a fish' is another term that should be dumped. How can it be described as a fair fight when the angler is ten or fifteen times the weight of the fish. On the humourous side perhaps it would be a fair fight if the angler cut the line then tied on another hook, hooked himself then jumped in the river to land the fish.
Final Check List - Make a mental check list if you want to hook, control and land fish effectively, quickly and humanely. Use a powerful flexible shock-absorbing speyrod. Use sharp modern hooks. Use the self-hooking method. Use the effective force method of controlling fish. Don't bow or lower the rod to a jumping fish. Don't pump and reel your fish to regain line. Land and release your fish in less than one minute per pound of fish. Don't overreact after losing a fish.
Conclusion - Don't be overly concerned with your speycasting. Remember that you are speyfishing not just speycasting. The final test of your speyfishing skill is in reading the water, making the correct presentation, hooking, controlling and landing your fish quickly and humanely to assist in its survival on release.
Your beautiful speycasting, line control and fish hooking procedures will be wasted if your rod makes controlling and landing fish difficult. Many double-handers do!
Flexible and powerful speyrods that are easy to cast and control line are generally good fish controllers, providing the correct technique is used. A well-designed fish controller should be sensitive enough to feel the slightest touch of an interested fish and the power to prevent a hooked fish from swimming away out of control. Without doubt the most important asset of a well-designed speyrod is its shock-absorbing effect when controlling an acrobatic jumping fish. There is no need to drop the rod tip or bow to the fish when a fish jumps. It cannot fall on to a tight line and unhook itself, or take off on another unnecessary escape run.
A powerful shock-absorbing speyrod will allow you to tire a fish quickly so that it can be landed revived and released with the least trauma for the fish and the angler.
The Requirements of a Speyrod - (Summary) - To sum up the previous examination of the design and selection of speyrods, it should be obvious that there are three main speyfishing requirements: To make all standard and advanced speycasts with ease and accuracy. From very short to your longest controllable cast. To make all aerial line controls before the line falls to the water and all line and fly controls after the line falls to the water. As your advanced techniques develop you will begin to realize that success in speyfishing is largely a matter of line and fly control. Make sure your rod is designed for this important function. To control and land fish quickly and humanely without worrying about breaking your rod or tiring yourself out. Many fish have been lost with poorly designed over stiff speyrods.
Sensitivity - There are many speyrods that feel asleep or dead when casting, controlling line or when hooking or controlling fish. This could be due to poor design or low grade material or both. There are also innovative advanced design speyrods using high grade materials that provide an uncanny sensitive feel of what is happening during all stages of speyfishing such as: Simple or advanced speycasting. Controlling the line and the fly. Feeling the slightest touch of an interested fish. Hooking - controlling and landing fish.
Although advanced speyrods can be cast and fished by popular contemporary methods, the prime advantages is the ability to perform all stages of advanced speycasting and advanced speyfishing.
Enjoy Your Speyfishing - The final and extremely important function of a speyrod is whether or not you enjoy fishing with it. Many anglers are unduly influenced by others, even though their concepts of speyfishing are different. If you enjoy delicate accurate speycasting within your effective range, don't use the same rod as the misguided speycaster who is convinced that the fish are all on the other side of the river and that the fish or onlookers will be impressed with their ego-boosting distance casting.
Relative Importance of Casting and Line Control - The thrill of excessive distance casting is so hypnotic that beginners and sadly some experienced speyfishers fall into the trap of selecting a rod for its distance casting capabilities with little or no thought of its line control characteristics.
When discussing the relative importance of distance casting and good line control with a speyfishing student whose other obsession was golfing, his final remark seemed to sum up the subject perfectly.
His advice was that a professional golfer: Drives for the 'show' (casting). And putts for the 'dough' (line control).
Excessive Distance Casting - Many accomplished speycasters are so proud of their extreme distance casting that they invent reasons for doing so. To add to the problem is the strange belief that most of the fish are on the other side of the river.
When the guide was informed that his guest was distance casting to catch fish on the other side of the his terse reply was: This is also the other side of the river.
EFFECTIVE FISHING RANGE
Effective Fishing Range - Throughout this book there will be constant reference to the effective range of your speycasting and speyfishing. Let us examine this in detail. Your effective speyfishing range is from your shortest to your longest speycast over which you can easily control your line and your fly.
Beware - Many double-hand fly rods allow casting well beyond any possibility of controlling the fly. This is good for the ego but seldom impresses fish. More fish are caught on shorter, line controlled casts than casting to the other side of the river.
There Are Numerous Factors Influencing Your Effective Range Every foot of extra wading depth may reduce your optimum cast by five feet. Wading out to reach a distant target is often counter-productive, due to the difficulty of keeping the line live and above the water during the preliminary strokes of a speycast. Every extra mile per hour increase in current speed will increase your effective cast by about two feet, due to the line tensioning and rod loading effect of the faster current. Even though the slightest head wind will reduce your longest effective range, shorten your line when this happens, don't just try and bash it into a head wind. Any object to the rear, or to the side, that restricts the movement of the rod or line when making a standard speycast, will require the restricted back cast technique and will shorten your effective range.
Find Your Effective Range - With so many factors influencing your effective range, it is necessary to establish your shortest and longest controllable cast, at every change of casting station. Don't worry if your speycasts are a little rough to start with. Check all the influencing factors and adjust the length of line accordingly. The most likely reason for inadequate speycasting, is trying to cast too much line for the local conditions. Check the length marks on your line at each station.
Reading the River - As a Speyfisher - Don't forget that speyfishers can cast virtually to anywhere - from anywhere, do not require the backcasting clearance of the overhead caster and can read the river as a speyfisher. It follows that you can be fishing sections of a river, where very little is known about fish holding locations. The temptation to wade out, disturbing fish holding close in, to cover that interesting slick or rock, is the most common error of the inexperienced speyfisher.
It should also be remembered that fish are not always playing fair and are not usually where we would like them to be. A logical and systematic method of searching the river, will find more fish than a haphazard guessing procedure.
Analyzing the geological nature of the river and establishing natural boundaries such as waterfalls, canyon walls or length of beat will usually set the boundaries of your search area.
The Game Plan - Searching for Fish
Following a logical game plan requires considerable personal discipline, however you will soon be following the routine naturally to search for fish.
Setting the Boundaries - Determine the length of river to be fished by natural boundaries, or by the length of time required to fish it.
Divide the River into Strips - Starting as close to shore as possible, determine your shortest, medium and longest controllable cast for the prevailing casting conditions. Make two or three casts at each length, watching or feeling for an interested fish, on each presentation. If no takers, it is time to move down the pool.
Divide the River into Casting Stations - It is not necessary to step cast when moving down river. Fishing the strips at three different lengths covers an enormous area of water, allowing you to move down the pool at about two rod lengths to the next casting station, without holding up another angler following you.
About the author: by Chris Francis
Speycasting in North America is synonymous with Mike Maxwell. Mike enjoys one of the more diverse lives I have ever encountered. He was born in India, received his early schooling in England. This was followed by five years as a tank commander during World War II. After the war Mike returned to England where he finished an engineering degree, and soon found himself en route to Canada to accept a position as a consulting engineer. The job agreed with Mike allowing him to fish all over the world, while always being able to return to the steelhead waters of British Columbia. After fishing for these steelhead with a single-handed rod for a season or two, he decided two-handed rods were the logical choice for the long casts, large steelhead, and necessary line controls these rivers demand. Mike decided this about 35 years ago and hasn't looked back since.
Editors note: Mike and Denise Maxwell own and operate Gold-N-West Flyfishers in British Columbia, Canada. They are North America's recognized authorities on speycasting and speyfishing. Designers & originators of a complete range of true speyrods. Canada's most qualified flyfishing instructors. Authors & publishers of the bestselling book on speycasting & speyfishing . Producers of a full range of flyfishing videos, from speycasting to flytying. Owners & operators of a steelhead guiding operation on the Bulkley River in British Columbia. Visit their web site atwww.speycast.com where you can also order Mike Maxwell's Advanced Speyfishing.
Cover photo and inside photo's by Steve Bechard, Sketches courtesy of Mike Maxwell
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