Four Essential Spey Fishing Tips for Beginners

From dry fly fishing to euro nymphing, fly fishing can be incredibly complex and learning each new method is often a steep learning curve for even the most experienced of fly fishermen. Spey fishing, however, takes the cake for being the most ridiculous. T-18 sink tips, versileaders, polyleaders, running line, scandi and skagit shooting heads, and the inordinate number of different spey casting techniques are virtually guaranteed to cause confusion for anyone getting into spey fishing.

We all have the "spey" face.
We all have the “spey” face.

We’re not going to go over the nuances and intricacies of spey fishing in this article; that’s another story entirely. However, we’re here to go over what we believe to be the most essential spey fishing tips for beginners: things we wish we would’ve known when we started spey fishing.

Tip 1. Focus on the swing, not the cast

When getting into spey fishing, it’s hard to ignore the number of casting techniques that are all over YouTube and the internet. However, remember this: the fish don’t see the cast, they see the swing. Put simply, the fish does not know nor care whether you had a perfectly executed, aesthetically beautiful cast. The only thing the fish will see is the fly and your presentation of that fly. Learning spey fishing gets a lot easier when you aren’t focused entirely on the cast. Instead of wasting time on the water practicing casting, learn how to manage your fly on a swing. The casting will come naturally.

2. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional

The team here at Fly Fever Magazine was on the lower Deschutes river last weekend, swinging for steelhead. What did we see? Spey fisherman after spey fisherman, all fishing floating or intermediate lines with classic hair-wing style spey flies. The number of green butt skunk and purple peril patterns we saw was dizzying. Truth is, Deschutes River steelhead are just as eager to eat an egg-sucking leech or a heavy intruder as they are a classically-styled fly. The Deschutes river example can be used on nearly any body of water; don’t be afraid to switch up your setup, be different, and catch fish.

3. Expand your idea of “swinging water”

Spey fishermen often have a very specific type of water in mind: slower, walking-pace tailouts and runs that are three to five feet deep, and generally are on the seam of a rapid or faster water. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’ll see spey fishermen congregated in this type of traditional swinging water, completely ignoring all of the smaller, craggly water that a lot of fish will hold in. Sure, swinging traditional water will pick you up a fish here or there, but being willing to explore some of the non-traditional and unfished water will sometimes be far more productive. Take your preconceived notions of swinging water and throw them out the window. You can thank us later.

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4. Invest in high quality materials

Whether you buy flies for spey fishing or tie your own, it’s very important to make sure your flies (and especially hooks) are of the highest quality, particularly for bigger fish like steelhead and salmon. Paying an extra dollar for higher quality hooks is always worth it when targeting bigger fish. Oftentimes, hook sharpness and quality will make the difference between landing or losing the fish of a lifetime.

We hope you enjoyed our tips for spey fishing for beginners. These are all certainly things we wish we’d known when getting into spey fishing, and maybe it’ll be able to help some fly fishermen who are new to the technique. Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed the article be sure to check out my website, Fly Fever Magazine.

See YOU on the Water!

Written by Carter Reschke of Fly Fever Magazine

Photos from @patperry @kblaine15 of @teamflylords.


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