The Journey of Spey

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Destination Spey. If life is a journey then one of the winding roads for fly fishermen/women is spey. Think of swinging for anadromous fish and trout in the same way that one experiences a spectacular view amid many spectacular views, it does not take away from your experiences but merely adds to and accentuates the whole. While not the most productive technique if catching fish is the only criteria, its attraction is not in production or other aspects of scientific methods designed to increase efficiencies or the overall effectiveness in catching fish. Rather it more akin to the idea that doing is succeeding. Success is defined by larger aspects that go beyond catching fish, when one is swinging there is not only time for contemplation but one is forced to become aware of the surroundings and the gentle rhythm of life that flourishes on a piece of moving water conducive to spey.

Cast, Mend, Swing, Retrieve. There is a rhythm to most of the great things in life and when swinging a fly the rhythm is cast, mend, swing, step and retrieve. In few things can you be in the moment of presenting the fly and simultaneously looking at your next cast as spey. The grab comes on the tight line transferring the present to feel and the future to seeing, it is an awesome process that has its own unique rhythm and it satisfies both the caster and the angler, the caster for the satisfaction of a well executed cast and the anger in the way it covers the water, and timing the swing so it is the perfect presentation while moving through the target run or bucket that may hold fish. Balanced rhythm is when you get to the stage where the casting motion becomes intuitive and small corrections to the anchor, sweep, D loop and forward stroke are made by feel and a sense of timing. There are times when the caster is so into the sequence of rhythm of the cast that the grab is a shock and an interruption, but what a way to get interrupted!

Trout Spey includes the aspects of swinging for steelhead but adds the trout enthusiast’s need to tailor specific aspects to present the fly just right. Swinging in deep runs for fish is appropriate but adding the mend or the little hitch, the twitch or the intermittent strip to action the fly presenting the fly in a time and place of a large trout’s requirement thus utilizing all of the angling knowledge gathered over a life time, and showing that fish what it needs to see from an alternative approach. The logical sequence of a well executed task combined with the art of an appropriate presentation to get the grab.

The Grab. The electric thrill instantaneous with the realization of the grab and followed immediately by the mountain top experience of the tight line ripping off the reel or the plunging depth of dismay when the line goes slack, but the grab starts it all and the grab, the tug, the take, the pull, the hit is where we all desire the culmination of our practice with the spey rod to get us, but as we strive we find that the journey is more than the arrival.

Spey is neutral, it can be the technique that rounds out an anglers quiver or it can be the single approach depending on the perspective of the angler, I wonder why in some circles there seems to be competition between anglers on the preferred way of delivering a fly. It seems odd to be in conflict over such things. If nothing else fly fishing is an extension of individuality and time tested principals and techniques developed by truly gifted fly anglers. This quote attributed to an anonymous writer captures the idea,” The fly fisherman was asked why he fishes? And he replied because of the places it takes me,” this captures the essence of why we love fishing. Additionally it takes us to places with people we want to share the experience. My circle of spey is loosely called the Cowlitz Intruders and they are exceptional fishermen and casters with tremendous accolades attributed to many of them. I learn simply from being in that group as they represent what is common in the company of fly fishermen, and that is the willingness to share expertise to improve, an attitude difficult to find in this modern age. As a guide I am sometimes asked, “ do you ever guide difficult clients?” and while I am sure there are exceptions to the rule for me the answer is NO!, because when I take someone fishing they are exactly where they want to be and doing what they want to do. Spey does this well and Trout Spey in Montana is truly awesome. I am blessed that I get to live in the last best place, and to travel to other exceptional places to swing flies. If you too love to swing flies then we can help you do that. Reach out to us here at Total-Outfitters and we will help you on your journey of spey.

Tim Parks, Head Guide with Total Outfitters

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