Passing the Spey Torch- By Josh Mills

Articles, featured, People — By on September 17, 2012 10:05 am


You can find more from Josh at his blog Chucking Line and Chasing Tail.

A few years ago, I looked at my buddies who tossed bombs with their spey rods and thought to myself, “good gawd, that looks complicated.”

Until they passed the spey torch to me.

Fast forward a few years and a few fish later, I am a full-fledged spey addict and I found myself on the other end of the equation.

It was time to pass the torch.

We all have at one time or another depended on a friend, a family member, or someone else to give us the initial push out of the nest and out of our comfort zone to a new style of fishing that we have eyed zealously. The world of spey casting can and must feel like speaking a new language to someone who has never picked up a two hander. It’s a new gear set. It’s a completely new cast. Where the hell do you start?


The annual return of steelhead to their native rivers of Eastern Washington gave me the perfect opportunity to indoctrinate a new spey neophyte. Ryan and I had long talked about getting out on the river to get him into the game. 3 hours of travel to my home steelhead river had us discussing the finer points of the spey game.

Terms like sustained anchor casting, the hang down, d-loops and water tension were tossed about. . You can watch hours of YouTube videos, read books and magazine articles, but nothing gets you going like a 13-foot rod in your hands, water running past you, and someone to coach you along.

Sitting river left, we began with the basics of the Snap T. The hang-down and into the lift and set down, the cross body rip to let the d-loop develop and then the hammer drop. Four or five example casts and I removed myself to let Ryan learn for himself. You can show someone, but they really can only learn when they do it themselves.

It brought me back to the first couple times on the river when my own spey rod set up felt so weird and foreign. I felt like I was five years old and my dad was behind me trying to teach me to how to ride a bike. Just as awkward and unruly my first bike was, so was my first time with a spey rod in my hand.

A day of teaching isn’t rewarded so much by a steelhead to hand, but watching it all click with your pupil.
With every cast Ryan worked through, I could see it start to click. Every time I threw out a tip or correction, I watched him take in the instruction and make it happen

A new way of fishing was taking hold with Ryan.

Half way through the day I looked up from my own swing to see the start of a new cast. Ryan finished his previous swing and transitioned into the hang-down. The start of an on shoulder double spey began with a gentle lift and anchor placement. A brief pause gave him time to let the cast settle and into a sweep across his body and into the d loop. The 400 times that day I had reminded him to slow down and let the d-loop develop had imprinted as I watched a 60 foot combination of running line, Skagit head, sink tip, leader and fly gracefully land in the best cast of the day for my fishing buddy.

They spey torch had been passed.

On the way home from a fishless day, the talk shifted from casting techniques to the cost of Ryan’s first spey set up.

Later that night, the text came across my phone.

‘Want to go next weekend?”

I call that a complete success.

You can find more from Josh at his blog Chucking Line and Chasing Tail.

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2 Comments

  1. david says:

    I can’t wait to start spey fishing

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  2. Gerald says:
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    Thanks, Josh, for the lesson. I now have some vocabulary to articulate my questions. I’m armed and dangerous as I approach some unsuspecting teacher and potential mentor!

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