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9 Questions About Spey Fishing You Were Afraid to Ask

Posted on September 13 2013

Skagit Casting
Skagit casting on the Dean River.

We love spey fishing.  We also know that spey fishing can be a little intimidating when you first dip your toe in.

It shouldn’t be!  Spey fishing is just another fun way to fish.  It’s not better or worse or harder or easier or simpler or more complicated than ‘normal’ fly fishing.

Today we present the answers to 9 basic questions about spey fishing.

Got any other questions?  We’d love to help – leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to answer.

9 Questions About Spey Fishing You Were Afraid to Ask

  1. What is Skagit casting?  Skagit casting is a type of spey casting that was developed on and around the Skagit River in Washington State.  Skagit casting uses fairly short, fairly heavy lines that are good for casting big flies in big sections of river.  In the Pacific Northwest it’s the most popular form of spey casting, as of 2013 at least.
  2. How do you say ‘Skagit’?  The ‘a’ is short and the ‘g’ sounds like a ‘j’.  Start with the word ‘scab’.  Drop the ‘b’.  Then say the word ‘jet’ but replace the ‘e’ with a short ‘i’ sound.
  3. What’s a polyleader?  It’s a coated, tapered leader used mainly in Scandi casting (more on that right below).  They come in different sink rates, just like sinktips do.  ‘Polyleader’ is the term that Airflo uses; ‘Versileader’ is how Rio says it.  More on Polyleaders here.
  4. What is Scandi casting?   Scandi is short for Scandinavian.  It’s a type of spey casting that generally uses lines that are a little longer and a little ‘thinner’ than Skagit casting, and it’s more appropriate with smaller flies.  More on the difference between the two here.
  5. Which hand goes on top?  Usually, right handed casters have their right hand on top.  Some anglers (who are more coordinated than we are) can fish with either hand on top.
  6. What’s a ‘Poke’?  Poke is short for the Perry Poke, which is a Skagit-style spey cast.  It involves ‘dumping’ your line on the water in front of you before you cast, so it looks pretty strange the first time you see it.  Here are a couple of clips of the master of the Perry Poke, Ed Ward.
  7. Why do you make all those extra moves in your cast?  Most spey casts involve a couple of steps and it might seem like there’s a bunch of wasted time and energy compared to just a simple forward and back cast.  The early steps in a spey cast are just there to get your line and your fly in the right position for the final forward stroke in the spey cast, which is really just a big roll cast.
  8. Why are you always talking about ‘grains’?  Different types of spey casting use different weights of lines, even on the same rod.  There’s also a lot of personal preference in which weight line goes on which rod.  So it’s often not as simple as saying ‘Buy a 7 weight Skagit line for your 7 weight rod’.  Lots of modern line systems – especially Skagit systems – have totally abandoned the idea of calling a line a ‘7 weight’ or an ‘8 weight’.  Instead they refer to the actual weight of the head, in grains (15.4 grains is 1 gram).  It sounds more complicated than it is – it’s really just a simpler way of talking about lines, by saying how much they actually weigh.
  9. Should I try it?  Yes, you should.  It’s really fun and there’s no reason to be intimidated.  We’d recommend taking a casting lesson on your first day – both to learn the fundamentals and to make sure your rod and line are set up right.  If you’d like a recommendation on who to contact about a lesson in your area, leave us a comment below and we’ll point you in the right direction!

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