Two-Handed Fly Casting Fly fishing book reviews 

Two-Handed Fly Casting: Spey Casting Techniques
by Al Buhr
Softbound : 79 pp.
Amato Books Publications    $22.00
ISBN   1-51788-395-9
Two-Handed Fly Casting by Al Buhr

I should make it very clear from the start. I don't own a spey rod, so I was a little reluctant to review this one. I have played with spey rods, mostly at trade shows or when one showed up on a fishing trip, but I've never gotten the hang of it. Usually, I end up thrashing the rod around my body and splashing too much water out of the river. So I happily continue fishing with my 9 1/2 foot single-handled nine weight for the bigger fish. But going through the pages of Buhr's fine book, I began to suspect that I might be able to use some of these casting gyrations in my own fishing.

Get ready to evolve your roll cast. Remember how you used to flip and curl the fly line around in a playful moment on the river, maybe after seeing A River Runs Through It?  Occasionally, you would wrap the line around your head, or maybe rip it out of the water loudly enough to wake up every fish within four counties, then, during a rare moment, see the line sail for a very long distance not knowing exactly how you did it. This is spey casting, except that the rod is typically longer, has two handles, and, until you get the hang of it, feels like you're trying to cast a garden hose.

In time, though, the line comes under your control, with graceful circles, curves and spirals at your command.  Actually, the shape of the line is more like D's and V's and T's, which are also part of the jargon of the sport, along with such interesting phrases like circle-ups, crescent lifts, shotgun lifts, Snap-T, Snap-Z, snake-roll, chip cast, perry poke, cut cast, contrived loop cast, torque twist, snake roll cast, and circle cast. Learning the colorful names of all these casts is part of the fun of Buhr's book.

The snake roll and circle casts are my favorites. I actually invented these casts about 35 years ago when I cast my first fly line. The first thing I did was twirl the line around my head in random and pretty loops and spirals, catching tree limbs, lawn weeds and my cat in the process, while trying to listen to my dad extol the virtues of casting a straight line. Little did I know there would be names for these movements.

I've leaned, too, that these movements are not limited to the spey rod, as Buhr makes clear in this well documented and presented book. Half way through the book, I spent an afternoon on a local river with my nine weight rod. In no time at all, my usual roll cast began to work in new ways. Ways that were fun and efficient. Tight casting positions became more manageable. Roll casts became much longer. I even found myself shying away from expansive gravel bars to find a new tight corner of the river that I had tended to avoid.

Even my 6-weight double-tapered dry line with nymph, weight and indicator began to move in ways that for me were entirely new, interesting and efficient. Dangling the line downstream (which is called, surprisingly, the "dangle" in Buhr's books), I would cast everything upstream with a spiral flipping movement (that would be my weak description of it, anyway). With the line now oriented up stream, I would wait for the indicator to float downstream to where it was in line upstream of my cross-stream target, then roll cast out, followed by a mend cast that resembled another, smaller spiral cast upstream. Would this be a spey mend or spiral mend or spay nymph mend? Hard to say.

The point is, not only was I getting all this gear out there more easily than the usual overhead cast, I was having a lot more fun discovering new ways to twist and turn the line to fight the conflicting currents. I also began to realize that there are interesting and effective ways to get a nymphing rig out 50 and 60 feet, against the usual logic that nymph and indicator should be cast only short distances. After all, if you see a big fish move 50 feet out, you should stretch the rules and stretch your potential and go for it. To be afraid of the distance, to be afraid of spooking the fish, to be afraid of tearing a rotator, simply isn't the right attitude. I suspect that someone watching my contorted movements and spiraling line with a nymph rig would have some interesting things to say at the club meeting about what he or she saw on the river that day.

Don't get me wrong, though. This casting takes a lot of practice and patience. More than once I wrapped myself with the line and nearly impaled myself with a kamikaze fly. Fortunately, there is an excellent book to get you through the trials and tribulations of the dynamic and always evolving spey cast. You might even find yourself inventing new casts and colorful names to go along with them, such as the "flamingo flip" or the "rising phoenix," or the "helix flip."

--Toney J. Sisk


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