Instruction Booklet

Tournament Casting

Tournament Videos

Tournament Takeaways

Half Out and Go

Half Out and Go FAQs

Spey-O-Rama 2011-17

Spey-O-Rama 2018

  

Tournament Casting

Observing the technique of tournament casters yields important lessons for the rest of us.  Here we analyze the technique of Gordon Armstrong, a Scot and one of the world's finest long-distance spey casters.  The side-view photo sequence below documents Gordon's cast of 153' (in the rain!) at the Jimmy Green Spey O Rama 2007 (Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, San Francisco).  This cast was one of the best, if not the best, of the entire tournament.  At the bottom, there is a second sequence showing Gordon's technique from behind. Both are instructive. For rhythm and tempo,  download the video footage from which these sequences were taken.
Start Position for Gordon's 153 ft Cast
From his starting position, note that Gordon has his right foot forward when casting with right hand up.  This is typical of the great Scottish casters, but is the opposite of what most American spey casters do.  The advantage of this position is that the hips can't turn much but the shoulders can, so the back cast winds up the torso (like a spring) as the D-loop forms.  This wound-torso position at the top of the back cast provides Gordon with extra power on the forward cast, with no additional effort, as his torso spring unwinds and releases its energy.

By way of analogy,  golf is the same.  The most powerful golfers turn their shoulders much more than their hips on the backswing -- creating a similar torso spring. For example, examine Tiger Woods' golf swing.  In particular, at the top of his backswing, note how much Tiger's shoulders turn, and how little his hips turn -- the combination of which is a wound torso spring that delivers extra power on the forward stroke.

In contrast, the left-foot-forward stance (typical of most American spey casters) is comfortable for short-to-medium length spey casts.  But it is less athletic, and sacrifices the extra power advantage that Gordon's right-foot-forward stance provides.


Low rod tip with significant power going back
Note the path of Gordon's rod as he starts his back cast.  The rod path is low and flat rather than vertical, with the rod tip going back just above his shoulder.  In addition, note how much his rod is bent.  Gordon is applying significant power at this point.
Rod at nearly 3 o'clock, parallel to line
The low, relatively fast rod action going back produces a low, fast, and pointed D-loop (which is more like a V-loop) and an unusually powerful position at the end of the back cast.  Note that both hands are above his head, that his rod is nearly horizontal (almost to the 3 o'clock position), and that his fly line -- both forward and back -- is nearly parallel to the rod.  This line-parallel-to-the-rod-in-both-directions -- narrow V-loop -- position ensures that his forward stroke will apply maximum power directly to the line. (This is in contrast to a high-rod-tip, 2 o'clock, position with a wide D-loop, which most American spey casters

use for comfort, but which is a much weaker position when casting for distance).  In addition, with hands above his head, Gordon is positioned to apply maximum power with both hands (pulling down with the left and pushing up and forward with the right) on the forward stroke.


Rod loaded with narrow V-loop
As Gordon begins his forward stroke, note that the fly is anchored about 20 ft in front of him (the splash in the water shows where it is), and that his V-loop is so pointed that it appears that the line might tangle.  This is a "power position" at its best from which to complete a forward cast.  The apparent "line tangle" problem is only an optical illusion in this case because the line nearest the camera is several feet inside the line farthest from the camera -- as shown in the "behind" images below.
Both hands apply power, rod tip moves straight
Note that as Gordon applies his power, his rod tip moves in a straight line.  This line is tilted slightly upwards (about 20 degrees above horizontal).  Rod tip moving in a straight line when power is applied -- and parallel to the fly line --  ensures a tight forward loop and maximum transfer of the rod's energy into the fly line.  This is true in all forms of fly casting. Finally, on his forward stroke, note that Gordon uses both top-hand push and bottom-hand pull to apply power.  Neither top-hand only nor bottom-hand only would do as well.  Using both hands together provides maximum leverage.

The combination of these movements generates enormous line speed, especially given the heavy 1100+ grain line he's using.  Between this frame and the previous one, his rod tip moved about 16 ft in 0.133 seconds, which translates to a line speed of 124 ft/sec or 84 mph.
In the "Behind" view below, image 1, note how low Gordon keeps his rod tip on this back cast. In this image, his rod makes an angle of only 35 degrees with respect to the horizontal -- in contrast to the 45 degree (or greater) angle used by most spey casters. This smaller angle leads to a narrower, more pointed V-loop. In image 2, note that his pointed V-loop (when viewed from the side as above) actually has several feet of horizontal space between the inside and outside portions of the line.  So there is no danger of tangling.  At this point, he has made a positive stop with the rod to enable his V-loop to form.  In image 3, note that Gordon is well into his forward stroke before setting the anchor (no part of the line or fly is on the water at this point). This rhythm, which is faster than the usual "splash and go" technique, is a necessary complement to the low-rod-tip, pointed V-loop back cast.  Also in image 3, note that his rod angle is steeper on the forward cast than the back cast (65 vs 35 degrees).  In image 4, the anchor sets.  In image 5, as Gordon completes his forward stroke, the inside and outside portions of the line are roughly parallel to the direction of the cast.  This is an excellent illustration of the parallel railroad tracks principle that Simon Gawesworth teaches so beautifully.  The result, image 6, is a long, straight cast. What can the rest of us take away and apply based on the above?  Here are our thoughts about practical takeaways
1 - Low takeaway
2 - Positive stop at top of back cast
3 - Forward stroke underway
4 - Anchor sets
5 - Forward stroke complete
6 - Finish