The combination casts.
The secret is the “date” between your leader and the water surface; with this meeting as the basis, anything is possible for the fly fisherman.
When you have learnt all the spey casts and the Snake Roll variants, you can start playing around with the fly rod. Add an “air” technique to both these casts, and life at the end of the fly rod is great. The spey cast is the most important cast to learn. Using this cast you can fish almost everywhere on the river and by learning to cast with both the left and right arm you will become an effective caster. But every now and then even the spey cast will fall short, and for the fishermen only casting from one side of the body the spey cast alone will not be enough to solve all the casting challenges you will meet throughout a season. Then it is great to be able to combine this cast with all the Snake Roll variations.
It is easier to learn a new technique using the arm you normally use, than to learn a new technique using the arm with which you normally do not cast.
The Spey cast.
The alternatives are normally: double spey or single spey casts. If you master both these techniques from both sides of your body you will be a very good spey caster, and you will be able to cope with most fishing situations you encounter. The only thing that will create problems for you will be strong winds and tight fishing spots.
The inwards phase of the cast.
During the inward phase of the spey cast you have to lift the line fairly slowly off the water, this is important in order to control the leader and the initial cast. Using too much power during this “lift-off” phase of the cast you will not be able to control the cast very well, and this is just the issue when you are directing the back cast upriver and the wind is blowing downriver. As the leader often lands just next to the body, the leader will tangle with the line when you angle the cast out towards the river.
The wind often howls both upstream and downstream and if you cast using either arm when casting you just swap the casting arm. This means that if you fish from the side where the right arm is upstream and the wind is howling downstream you will swap to the left arm which will be pointing downstream, and use a double spey cast. This can be tricky enough in strong winds, as you still have to put the line upstream against the wind before turning, moving the rod downstream and in the correct position in terms of the position of the body against the wind. If you only spey cast with one arm you will constantly be faced with this wind issue.
In this situation, the “air” inwards cast will save the day like a knight in shining armour
The ”Air” technique.
The “Air” technique can be used both with spey casts and snake roll variants. This variant is not as difficult to perform as you might think. The difference between the “air” technique and the normal lift-off out of the water is that the initial phase of the cast comes from the air and not from the water. This means that that first you will have to perform the initial phase of a spey cast or a snake roll, then the forward cast (the initial phase of the “air” cast) must be performed in a calm fashion with a high line exit point, making the line calmly roll outwards. When the line is on its way outwards and hangs in the air you will start the inwards cast before the line hits the water in front of you. You will now be able to use more power for your inwards cast so that the leader hits the water at a higher speed. This will load your rod a lot more, so that you will cast further in windy conditions or in tight spots. A real advantage of starting the cast with the “air” technique is that you more easily can cast the line towards the wind, as you can allow yourself to push the line harder upstream in the initial phase of the cast.
The problem often arising is that the line will often get a strong drift-off due to the wind, using the “air” inwards cast will ensure you will achieve a better “take-off ramp” for your cast in relation to the wind. Using different combinations you can establish an “air” inwards cast helping you to get a 45 degree angle of your line regardless of wind strength at the last phase of the cast, this means that a bit more drift-off is perfectly acceptable in comparison to an ordinary inwards cast. This can be combined with the backhand spey, or snake rolls such as Opposite air snake and all the variations of the double snake roll, and of course these can all be done using either a single handed or a double handed rod.
Living is mastering a “Back hand Air Spey”.
A useful combination cast for use for right-handed casters fishing off the ‘correct’ side of the river with single spey casts when the wind is howling downriver is the Backhand air spey.
Double handed rods; start off with a single spey cast using your left arm, start the cast downstream of your body, this space is the best place in which to start the cast (best wind direction in terms of your body position). Then you create a calm, high exit of the line during the forward cast. As the forward cast is hanging in the air you will swap arm position so that left arm now holds the bottom part of the handle, ordinarily this is performed as a single spey cast using your right arm. I swap arm position as I then can achieve a sharper change of angle at the start of the “air” cast, minimising the line below you drifting off in relation to the wind and the angle. Then, when the leader hits the water, I can send the cast off as I please using my right hand technique.
A right-handed caster using a double handed rod fishing off the ‘wrong’ side of the river with the wind blowing downstream should start with the left hand at the top handle grip and lift the inwards cast upstream. Then, when the “air” inwards cast hangs in the air, you change your position so that the right hand is placed at the top handle grip and then you shoot the line from the side of your body facing downstream. If you’re better at casting with your left hand this must be performed in the opposite fashion, both in terms of the wind direction and which side of the river you’re fishing from.
Single handed rods; This is performed in the same fashion with the same challenges, but it is easier to use an original backhand cast using a single handed rod. You don’t have to swap hand position as you can more easily angle the line out towards the river, so that the start of the air cast will come in correctly without drifting off to much based on the wind.
In this short video clip, you can see an example of backhand air spey performed with a double-handed rod. Notice the speed of the fly line as it shoots across the river. As I always say: anything is possible with the “date” between the leader and the water surface as the basis for the fly cast.
See the clip here.