Spey crazy, be afraid — by Jay Nicholas

Rob Russell’s recent post on Spey Rods is over the top. Plain and simple, it rang so many bells that I couldn’t help myself. I should be mowing the lawn, or tying salmon flies, or sorting my threads. Hummm. Should I tidy spools in alphabetical or spectrographic order?

Anyway, here I am at my keyboard, hammering away in response to Rob’s post. Am I sick or what?

Please forgive me Rob. Think of it as a conversation we are having over beer and pulled-pork sandwiches at Papas. Only problem with that scenario is that I’m here at home and you, you fishin’ fool, are probably on the river, swinging a Silvey’s Spey on your 7133.

Here are some of the thoughts racing around in my head as I read and re-read your most excellent Spey Rod article.

1. Commit yourself – to the mental ward. Yes. If you fish for salmon or steelhead, get thee on the Spey Path, and get thee on quickly. I had several Spey rods leaning in the corner of my den for years. I bought them because I’m a gear junkie. I thought Spey fishing was a fad, a silly snobbish, unnecessary complication. I thought I was just fine, thank-you-very-much, fishing single-handers. Boy was I wrong. The first day I took a two-hander to the river I was smitten. Hopelessly in love. My casting sucked, but I saw the promise of what Spey casting could do to improve my fishing.

This is what to expect when you start Spey Fishing — pure crazy.

Jay's Spey Crazy

Understand what you’re getting into. One of the most telling characteristics of Spey Fishing addicts is regular participation in 12-Step programs. Hi, my name is (fill in the blank). It has been twelve days since I spent (grocery, mortgage, school loan, car loan, orthodontist, etc) money on (a Spey Rod, a Spey line, a big-ass reel, sink tips, ostrich plumes, or whatever).

2. Let go of your fear of big rods. Ditto to what Rob says. I love switch rods. (OK, I love all fly rods, DUH!) but a switch rod seems closer to a versatile single-hander than a Spey rod. Let go your fear? Hah! Like Yoda said to young Luke Skywalker, “You should be afraid.”

3. Purchasing two lines is the “gateway” to Spey. But let me ask you this – how many Spey fishers do you know who have only two fly lines? I bet the answer is – none. Zero. First you buy the Spey rod. And two lines plus tips. From that point on it’s a done-deal. More rods. More lines. More tips. It is, figuratively, the endless summer of fly fishing.

4. Do take a class. Not taking a class was my biggest mistake. My Spey casting sucked for two full years because I was so stubborn about learning to cast all by my lonesome. After receiving some good instruction, my casting still sucks, but less so, and more of my casts have the ring of truth because of the coaching I got. BTW, even though my casting was horrible, my line mending, amount of water fished effectively, and catch rates soared. (I caught three fish that season instead of one, so that’s like, three times more productive, right?)

Simon Gamesworth prepares to slap a Spey Casting student in a desperate effort to correct serious casting deficiencies.

Jay's Spey Crazy

5. Devote one morning or afternoon a week to casting. Rob’s right again. Weeks and months between Spey casting exercises don’t make the journey smoother. Try to cast often and master a small number of casts. I think the Snap T and Double Spey are a great way to start.

6. Debarb your flies and wear eye protection.
Yes, yes, yes! Listen to the man. He is telling the truth. I’ve had close brushes with serious injury. I buried the eye of a fly deep-into-cork. I’ve wrapped flies completely around my head on several occasions. I’ve had flies whistle within a hair’s breadth of my ears. Glasses and a hat are must-haves. Learn to watch your anchor point and don’t be afraid to abort a cast if your life is in danger.

Nice head wrap, but the barbless hook didn’t manage to even break the skin.

Jay's Spey Crazy

7. Big rods. Ooohh. Now you’ve got me going. Beg pardon. Rob’s got it right again. Know also that the largest flies and windy conditions call for comparatively heavier line-weights to achieve decisive lift and penetration.

Final disclosure: Rob is a great friend and, like, dude, a great Spey Fisher. I am a Spey novice. That said, I hope this babbling will give the average guy more confidence: Rob is spot-on – give Spey fishing a chance – you’ll be changed forever.

Hoss disembarks with a rare summer steelhead. Hat not for sale.

Jay's Spey Crazy


This entry was posted in Fly Fishing Gear Review, Oregon Fly Fishing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Spey crazy, be afraid — by Jay Nicholas

  1. Brent says:

    Thanks Jay, entertaining as always!

  2. Rob R says:

    Those photos caused coffee to burst out my nose. Add “comedian” to Jay’s long list of skills.

  3. Chris says:

    Ok. This is a general question. I tend to fish a smaller river. The wilson to be exact. I’ve been inclined to start spey fishing but think it may be a little excessive for my current needs. I use a pretty standard single handed rod and don’t have too much trouble working a river that I can walk across in most points. I guess I was wondering what you thought. Should I invest or give it some time until I make to some bigger water?

  4. Good stuff Jay!


  5. Kent Feldsted says:

    Thanks Jay. I will second the comment about an instructor/coach & regular practice. Absolutely recommended. Robs article was super. I sure would like to find the guys that will help me cast in return for beer/single-malt/food or whatever. Any ideas where to look?

  6. Rob R says:


    Definitely wait to hear Jay’s opinion, but I gotta chime in since the Wilson is one of my sweethearts. The Wilson is a perfect river for a 13′ to 13.5′ 7-weight rod. It has a ton of super sweet swinging water, and just about everywhere there is good swinging water, a two-hander is the ticket.

    Just about every effective single-hand caster hesitates to make the leap. You think “I can fish my river just fine the way I always have.” Sure you can. And you think “I don’t really need to drop $1,000 today on something I know nothing about that won’t really help me anyway.”

    It’s only natural. But you are delaying the inevitable, my friend. A couple of years from now you’ll look back and chuckle at yourself for dragging your heels.

    The reason we fish two-handers is because they make swinging a fly much more relaxing, much less effort. It’s not just about distance. That’s a bonus, and not really necessary on the Wilson.

    And as you learn Spey casting, your understanding of all fly casting will expand greatly. Even your single-handed casting will take giant leaps. Becuase Spey casting is all about conserving physical energy–getting more for less.

    You can borrow one of mine if you want…

  7. jay nicholas says:

    Thanks to everyone who enjoys the lighter side of fly fishing.

    My wife said i should mention that Spey Fishers with partners should consider themselves lucky any time they arrive home late at night and don’t find all their their tackle and fly tying junk dumped in the street. Was that a hint?

    Ya think?

    And Chris — Rob is on it again. I have even found a two-hander an advantage on the North Fork of the Alsea (keep it under 12 and a half feet though), for both swinging and nymphing. Go figure.

    And Rob — those photos are NOT meant to be funny. I am a most serious, manly, and photogenic figure on the river. So watch the coffee splatter, dude.

    Next up, “Jay does a face-plant in 6″ of water showing off his wading skills”.


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