Updated
2015-04-06

Swedish version

 

An Introduction to Scandinavian Casting
By Randy Kadish

  What’s the easiest way for fly anglers to make long casts when they have little back cast room? Also what way can anglers make long casts without exerting a lot of energy and feeling exhausted after three or four precious hours of fishing?

  Scandinavian spey casting is the answer to both questions. And those are not Scandinavian casting’s only advantages. Because Scandinavian lines are so light, they’re great for making delicate, dry fly presentations. Finally, these lines are shooting heads, so we can easily make shorter casts than we can with long- or mid-belly lines. In addition, we might be able to save money on buying a new reel or spool. Scandinavian lines, on the other hand, like other Spey lines, have their disadvantages.

  DISADVANTAGES:

1. Because these lines are so light they’re not good for casting big or sinking flies, or for casting in windy conditions. Also, these light lines are prone to blown anchors. (More about anchors below.)
2. Because these lines have short heads, we’ll often have to retrieve many feet of line after each cast. This, however, can be a plus if we’re fishing stillwater.

  MATCHING SCANDINAVIAN LINES TO SPEY RODS:

  These lines are designed for spey rods that have softer tips and are 14 feet or shorter. For spey rods less than 11 feet (often called switch rods) there are now even shorter-head Scandinavian lines.

  LEADERS:

  They’ll consist of monofilament and of a poly (Airlflo) or versi (Rio) leader, a 10 foot one for most rods, a longer one for 14 foot rods. We usually want to use long leaders, though we’ll often have to experiment to know exactly how long. If we’re casting light flies, the leader can be up to almost twice the length of the rod. If we’re casting sinking flies and/or a sinking poly/versi leader, the leader should be shorter.

  If the leader is too short the anchor will probably land too far behind us and be too short. If the leader is too long, we’ll have trouble lifting the fly off the water during the back swing—more about that later—and/or the anchor will be too long. An anchor that is too short will not have enough water tension to load the spey rod at the start of the forward cast. An anchor that is too long will have too much tension and grip the spey line. In either case, the cast will be underpowered.


The Start Position

  A CHANGING GAME:

  Many spey casting techniques are not written in stone. Because there are different opinions about some of them, and because each caster is different, I believe that we’ll have to experiment on our own and see what works for us. Also, because fishing conditions change, we’ll often have to adapt our casting techniques. (For example, the deeper the water we’re standing in, the higher we will have to execute the lift.)

  To make my casting descriptions clearer, I’ll assume we’re casting right-handed and holding the rod with our right hand above our left.

  THE STANCE AND GRIP:

  We begin with our right foot forward. This closed stance helps prevent us from rotating our hips too far during the back swing. (More about that below.) The more forward we place our right foot, the more we will be able to fully rotate during the forward cast and generate power. I like to cast with the back of my right foot in-line with the front of my left foot. I bend my knees and shift my weight to my front foot.

  We hold the rod lightly with our top hand on the middle of the top handle. (Some casters hold the bottom handle with just their thumb and index and middle fingers.) Pointing the rod slightly downward, we tightly hold the line against the rod grip with our index and middle fingers, or with all four fingers.

  THE LIFT:


The Lift

  It doesn’t start until all slack is retrieved from the line, then the key is to use our arms, not our wrists, and to execute the lift vertically, slowly and smoothly. If the lift is executed too high and/or too quickly too much line will be pulled off the water, and the anchor will then be blown.

  If there’s a lot of line tension because of fast moving water, more power must be applied early in the lift. As more line clears the water and line tension decreases, less power is applied.

  We’ll usually lift between 9:30 and 10:30. If we’re going to execute the back swing by slightly but continuously raising the rod, we’ll execute a lower lift.

  All things being equal, the longer the spey rod, the lower we should lift. No matter how high the lift, as soon as it is finished the back swing is immediately begun.

  THE BACK SWING (OR SWEEP):


The End of Back Swing

  Many Scandinavian casters execute their back swing with their elbows—and the bottom of the rod butt—against their body. This will help them eliminate many swing defects, but I think it will also force them to then use a very short forward casting stroke that will limit their casting distance. I therefore execute my swing with my elbows a little bit away from my body. Also, I slightly and simultaneously raise them.

  I believe one of the keys is to executing a proper back swing is to think of our lower wrist and our top elbow as swivels. This will prevent us from breaking our top wrist, and/or sliding our elbows sideways, and thereby ending the swing too far back. This casting defect might land the fly in a tree or bush behind us. This shameful occurrence is called a “blown anchor.”

  We begin the swing by gently rocking back, and slightly rotating our hips and shoulders, and then shifting our weight to our back foot. This rocking back will help us lift the fly off the water, energize the D loop, and help us finish the back swing in position so that we can make a powerful forward cast. Also, it’s important that the rod is moved in-sync with our weight shift and body rotation. If we instead begin the swing by moving the rod, we will probably over rotate and yet again blow the anchor, or at least land it too close to us. The fly, on the forward cast, might then hit the rod tip, the line (the dire collision loop), even worse, us.

  As our weight is shifted, we move our bottom elbow up and away from our body. Keeping our top elbow in place, we swing our top forearm in a circular motion, and pretend that we’re using the rod tip to draw a half-circle in the sky. Because Scandinavian lines have short heads, the circle we draw will be relatively small, and most of it will be ahead of us. Drawing can be done in one of two ways. 1. Slightly and continuously raising the rod tip. 2. Moving the rod tip parallel to the water, then finishing the half-circle by slightly raising the spey rod, without changing its angle. This raising, often called an up-kick, will aerialize the fly, leader and line. (Unless we’re executing other spey casts like the Double Spey or the Snap-T, we ideally want to aerialize the fly and leader and set up what is called an airborne anchor.)

  If the rod is raised too much, the D loop will be wide and weak. Also, most of the anchor may not land flat or with a slight incline.

  After I begin my swing I watch my fly, that way, as soon as it comes off the water I stop raising the rod.

  Six casting defects will cause us to lower, instead of raise, the rod tip during or at the end of the swing, and then prevent us from lifting the fly, leader and line off the water. Also, these defects might cause us to land the anchor too far behind us.

1. Rocking our back shoulder down at the end of the swing.
2. Moving our bottom elbow and forearm too far up and away from our body. (Keep in mind: The lower we execute the lift and swing, the farther up and away we lift our bottom elbow and forearm at the start of the swing.)
3. Breaking our top wrist.
4. Executing the up-kick by moving our bottom arm before we move our top one. (This will force our top wrist to break.)
5. Breaking our wrists during the lift. (The rod will then be pointed too low during the swing.)
6. Lowering our elbows. (This often happens at the end of the swing.)

  If none of these defects are committed, but the anchor still lands too far behind us, we can try to draw a smaller half-circle in the sky.

  Finally, the swing is ended when the rod has been swept 180 degrees. If we don’t quite finish the swing, the anchor will probably not point at the target, and when we then execute the forward cast we might yet again get a collision loop. Also, because the rod is not back far enough, our forward casting stroke will be too short to generate a lot of power.

  At the end of the swing our top forearm points to between 12 o’clock and 12:30. Our knees should still be bent. If they’re not, we won’t be able to fully use our legs to rotate our body and therefore to generate maximum power on the forward cast.

  Next, we must watch the anchor land without turning our shoulders any farther and then inadvertently moving the rod backwards. (This will help prevent us from landing the anchor too far behind us.) The front of the fly line should be in-line with us or a little ahead. The anchor should be at least a rod length rod away. If the anchor is too long, we probably swung back too slowly. If it’s too short, or blown, we probably swung too quickly.

  THE FORWARD CAST:

  After the back swing is completed, some casters will pause a split second to allow the anchor to fall and, ideally, “kiss” the water and land flat or with a slight incline in the front of the line. Pausing too long, however, will cause the D loop to start to collapse and weaken, and the anchor to get stuck on the water. In fact, some Scandinavian casters will not pause.

  We begin the forward cast by not breaking our wrists, but rotating our hips, shifting our weight forward, and accelerating the spey rod. (This is the loading move.)

  In what plane should the forward cast be executed? Some casters execute it with the spey rod pointed close to, but not, vertical. (If any wind is coming from your top-hand side, I recommend lowering the plane of the swing and landing the anchor farther away from you.) Most casters execute the cast in the same plane they executed the swing. Experiment and see what works best for you.

  Keep in mind: The more vertically we are executing the forward cast, the farther away from us we should land the anchor.

  Next, aiming parallel to the anchor and slightly upward—the more line we are shooting the higher we will aim—we tighten our grip and we begin the power snap ( really more of a power flick) by quickly pulling our bottom hand into our chest or stomach, moving our top hand forward, and breaking our wrists halfway. Because most of the power is applied with the bottom hand, Scandinavian casting is often called Underhand Casting.

(Some right-handed casters cast better holding the rod with their right hand on the bottom of the handle.)

  Finally, we squeeze the handle as hard as we can, and abruptly stop the rod at about 10:30 and let go of the line. If the rod points slightly to the right—we’re still casting with our right hand on top—we might yet again get a collision loop. If we finish the cast by moving our top hand too far away from our body, we will stop the rod too late. It will, therefore, not unload all at once—the way a drawn bow is when the arrow is released—and the cast will not have enough power.

  As the cast unrolls, it’s important that we do not lower the rod tip from the target line.

  One of the most common faults is “creeping” our hands and arms forward before we begin the forward cast.

  Another fault is aiming the forward cast too low and therefore lowering our elbows and the rod tip. This fault will weaken the D loop.

  TO CHANGE CASTING DIRECTIONS: TO CHANGE CASTING DIRECTIONS:

  We ideally want to lift the fly, line and leader a little higher off the water. Some casters feel that using a Snake Roll or even a Perry Poke is the easiest way to do this. Other casters use a Single Spey, but with a higher lift and a longer back swing. In either case, we might want to begin the cast by retrieving a little more line than we usually do. Before we begin out lift, we turn our body and point our front foot at the new target. We land the anchor pointing at it.

  CASTING SINKING FLIES (AND/OR LEADERS):

  Scandinavian lines are not ideally suited for casting them, though we still can as long as the fly and tippet, especially after they absorb water, are not too far underwater, and therefore cause a lot of water tension at the start of the forward cast. (The fly will then lag and cause the loop to badly tail.) So, to execute an airborne anchor cast, we must bring the fly close to the surface. To do this, we can execute a higher lift, or first execute a Snake Roll, a Snap-T, or a Roll Cast.

  To execute a sustained anchor cast—many casters prefer this when casting sinking flies—we slightly increase the acceleration of the swing and the height of the up-kick, forming a high D loop with a short stick.

  In either case, it’s important that we don’t lower our elbows and the rod tip at the start of the cast and allow the fly to sink.

  IN CLOSING:

  Even the best casters make bad casts, especially in the wind, so please wear sunglasses to insure that the fly doesn’t land in your eye.

By Randy Kadish 2015

This article is a chapter from my Randys book:
"Long Distance Fly, Spin, Bait and Surf Casting"
Check it out at Amazon

 

 

 

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