to Scandinavian Casting
By Randy Kadish
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?
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.
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.
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 11½ feet (often called switch rods)
there are now even shorter-head Scandinavian lines.
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
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.
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
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
THE BACK SWING (OR
The End of Back
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
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
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 ½ 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
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
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
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
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.
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
This article is
a chapter from my Randys book:
"Long Distance Fly, Spin, Bait and Surf Casting"
Check it out at