As fly anglers we are not generally disposed to do things the easy way. Our sport isn’t generally about efficiency. Part of the draw is in the difficulty of the doing rather than the attainment of the goal (such as it may be). Whether we choose the presentation of dry flies as the epitome of our art, dragging streamers for the drug of the tug or drifting bead heads under bobbers we tend to choose our preferred technique based on personal preference rather than efficacy. At least more so than other forms of angling. If all we wanted was to catch fish a worm would do nicely.

Spey rod fishing on the Madison RiverLearning new ways can also scratch the challenge itch. Maybe you’ve caught the Czech nymphing bug (yes, of course, pun intended). Maybe you’ve played around with Tenkara or started tying triple articulated, hair wing streamers. Maybe you’re in the throws of the double haul dilemma. There is no shortage of ways we can choose to keep our sport more continually engaging.

There are also some things that, at first glance, can seem overwhelmingly complex and out of reach for the average angler just wanting to get out and throw a fly and maybe catch a fish or two. Casting and fishing with a spey rod is one of those things.

There has been a fairly recent and growing interest (outside of a few counterculture types hiding out in the dense steelhead jungles of the Pacific Northwest) in various forms of spey casting and with it a bewildering assortment of rods, lines and nomenclature. Spey casting originated in the 1800s in Scotland…most probably on a particular salmon beat on the river Spey, to solve a particular problem; presenting flies to salmon over the breadth of a large river unsuitable for wading.

It has since been modified, adapted and bastardized to suit many regional styes and needs. Most recently Skagit and Scandi styles have developed on the west coast to present large, heavily weighted flies to deep lying steelhead in swift water or smaller, lighter flies with little backcast room respectively.

Madison River Spey ClassIf you’ve seen an intrepid angler out on your local stream attempting to maneuver an overly long rod and thought that it might be fun to check out and, upon reading some “advice for beginners” article propounding line grain weights, shooting heads, Poly Leaders, Perry Pokes and such, thrown up your hands in eye rolling disgust, you’re not alone. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Casting and fishing a Spey or switch rod (and understanding the difference between them) isn’t, or at east doesn’t have to be, rocket science. As in most things in angling and life, you can choose the level of complexity you’re comfortable with. There is no reason you can’t march into your local (knowledgable) fly shop, tell them what you want to do and have them set you up with the appropriate rig; a rod, reel, one line, maybe a sink tip, a leader and even a fly or two. That’s really all it takes other than learning a couple new casts….and that’s the fun part.

Why? Why pick up another set of gear and spend some time and frustration learning something new (other than for the challenge and interest of it)? First and foremost it’s another tool in the box. Can’t have too many of those; you’re on foot in a deep, fast, unwadeable run and you see a frickin pig slurping salmonflies against the far bank, bushes behind you preclude any semblance of a backcast…too far for a roll cast. Got him. You’re a streamer junkie who loves nothing more than toking the tug on a tight line. Cover the whole run tip to tail at every depth and every speed. You blew a rotator cuff ballin the Glory Days…chunking and mending that leaded bobber rig brings you to your knees after half a day….use both hands. Need I continue?

New needn’t be intimidating. We all threw our first fly cast, tied our first clinch knot or blew our first dry fly drift at some point. Don’t take a spinning rod on those extended saltwater trips just in case? Why not? Expanding our knowledge and skill set only leads to greater expansion of opportunities and, hopefully...success.

~Mike Lum

Join Mike Lum for a half-day Madison River Spey clinic on Sunday May15th. Mike will teach the basics of Trout spey gear, casting, and tactics. The cost is $75/angler and space is limited so contact us today! Shop (406) 682-5150 or

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