A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Relax and Practice

29 September 2014
Comments: 1
29 September 2014, Comments: 1

I am currently sitting at just over a week away from heading out to Oregon.  Steelhead fever hasn’t taken me fully.  I am not sure it could until I actually hook a steelhead…but nonetheless I am focused.  I have been reading up on many preferred presentations; I have been studying the theories of successful steelheading; my gear is mostly organized with flies tied; and every free moment I have has been spent on the Animas river, attempting to improve my mediocre spey cast.

Redington Dually
Redington Dually Switch 5

Redington Dually Switch 5

Before I go any further, I am going to talk about a rod and I won’t even apologize about it.  If you don’t want to hear it; skip this paragraph.  I can’t say enough about the Redington Dually family of switch and spey rods.  Now I know; there are better switch and spey rods out there.  I have cast a few of them.  The Sage Method, ONE, and Z-Axis are incredible spey tools.  However, for the money, the Dually has made me a believer.  A believer in the fact that even I: a broke husband and parent of two with little to no dispensable income can get into and practice spey casting.  You could honestly spend more coin on a reel and line than you could spend on the Dually itself, and not because it is a piece of cheap junk.  It is a moderate action two handed rod that handles extremely well.  The moderate action also makes it easier to learn on and honestly less intimidating than a faster action rod.  I have been practicing my cast on the Animas with a Redington Dually switch 5 wt 11’ and it has made a huge difference.  Being able to practice consistently will pay dividends when I am actually on the water, with the prospect of steelhead at hand.  I personally did not want to try to figure it out once I was there.  It is also an added bonus that catching trout on the swing is extremely fun.


If you are like me and are planning on making your first steelhead trip, here is a tip: do some research.  Research the water you are planning to fish.  Research the fish and the flies and the necessary equipment.  Research guides, outfitters, lodges, etc.  Research everything you can.  Most importantly, research the life cycle of the steelhead and why steelhead numbers are declining.  Knowledge is power.  Here are a few links that helped me start my spey and steelhead journey:

Wild Steelhead Coalition – Steelhead 101

Deneki – All About Spey Fishing

Rio Products – Spey Central

Oregon Fly Fishing Blog – Considering a Spey Rod 

Internet research is a great place to start, but books also bring in an added voice that is not often heard anymore.  Looking to the steelhead angling authors from past and present oftentimes yields information rarely seen on the web.

Check out these books:

Spey Casting – Simon Gawesworth

The Complete Steelheader – John Larison

A Passion For Steelhead – Dec Hogan

Steelhead Fly Fishing – Trey Combs

Relax, practice, relax, and practice again.

Tom showing how a one hander can be used to practice spey casting.

I am finding that learning the art of the spey has three very important factors involved.  Obviously practice being one.  Keeping at it has yielded great gains in my cast (I am still not very good, but I have certainly improved).  The second is being able to relax.  Having a relaxed posture and grip on the rod makes a HUGE difference.  I have noticed my cast improves every time I remember to take a deep breath and relax.  Powering the rod too hard is actually a detriment to my cast and ends up wearing out my arms and shoulders over time.  Oh and keep your elbows close to your body, that is a great tip I keep receiving.

Frank Spey Lesson

A Spey castling lesson is a great way to learn the ropes.

The third important factor in improving with spey casting is getting a lesson.  Having an experienced guide or spey casting instructor show me the ropes has helped immensely.  Most often, I need someone else tell me what I am doing wrong; after all, I can’t watch myself cast.  Duranglers has a handful of great spey casting instructors available to help you on your way to greatness.  Oh, and you should also watch Rio’s Modern Spey Casting DVD set. This DVD will help you flesh out the fundamentals of every cast you are trying to figure out.  The benefits of this DVD cannot be understated.

Rio's Modern Spey Casting

On of the best resources available when learning how to spey.

Actually, above all things; get out there and enjoy this great creation.  Go with a friend and make some memories.

Previous A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading installments:

Part 1: A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Intro

Part 2: A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Advice

Andy McKinley
Andy manages Duranglers Flies and Supplies online store and web content. When he is not plugging away in the basement of Duranglers, he can be found in the shop talking weird flies, throwing spey casts for few fish, eating pizza, drinking coffee, painting, and raising a family in Southwest Colorado.

His fly fishing writings have been published on blogs such as the Daily Drake and Simms Wading Room.

One response on “A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Relax and Practice

  1. […] Part 3: A Beginner’s Journey Into Steelheading: Relax and Practice […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *