Learn to Spey Cast on a Tenkara Rod

Spey Casting is fun but often thought of as complicated and hard to learn. Like all things tenkara, practicing spey casting on a tenkara rod simplifies it. 
Yes that’s right. Tenkara rods are the perfect (and less complicated) tool for learning how to spey cast. In fact so much so that I was spey casting and I didn’t even know it. At least that’s what a guide in Alaska told me one particularly windy day while fishing for fresh silvers coming in from the ocean. I was struggling to cast this large and heavy fly out as far as I could on a long line tenkara setup, and I was casting almost directly into the wind. I was situated on a low bank with a high ridge behind me. Back casting was not really an option plus I had a very long setup – about 40 feet in total on my 12ft Kyojin Tenkara rod.
As the wind picked up more and more so did my level of frustration. The long line was challenging. The heavy fly made it more difficult and now the wind was kicking in to add to it all. During times like this I often prefer being left alone, not only to hide my grumpiness, but also to experiment freely without judgement or criticism or advise from others. I prefer figuring things out on my own.
And that’s exactly what my guide (and friend) did. He saw it was time for him to take a little stroll down the bank away from me and my potty-mouth outbursts and leave me alone. A short while later he wandered back up alongside me and asked me if I knew what I was doing. I said sarcastically, “Finally getting this line and fly out there”. He told me I was actually spey casting. At that moment I really didn’t care what you called it as long as it was working.
But from that moment on “spey casting” was like a small flea trapped in my brain. The concept stirred my curiosity and whenever I overheard someone mention spey casting, the word itself drew me in like a fly to you know what. It tweaked my interest. But I can be lazy towards somethings, and it wasn’t until my local fly shop here in Fort Collin, CO, St Pete’s, offered an on-the-water, full-day, spey casting class, that I sunk my teeth into it.

I will spare you reading what could fill an entire book but try to stick to the simple facts. Spey casting is fun and really not hard or very complicated particularly when you begin by learning on your tenkara rod. If you ever cast long lines on your tenkara rod you may even be spey casting already. I was and didn’t even know it. I was intrinsically using a Double Spey and a Snap-T Spey cast for years when casting long floating lines on my tenkara rod. The only difference – and I really mean, the only difference, is on tenkara there is no shooting of line. What you have is what you lay out. No more. No less. But the movements and parts of the cast are the same.
Further, because you aren’t trying to shoot more line during the spey cast, you can focus on the motions and the parts of the cast better and fine tune them quicker. Another reason it’s easy to spey cast using a tenkara rod is that tenkara rods are generally long. Tenkara anglers are comfortable handling 12ft or 13ft rods on a regular basis. Tenkara anglers are probably more comfortable also using a two-handed grip too, since they never have to worry about cranking a reel.
In general, there are 3 parts to every spey cast:
1. The Set up
2. The D Loop
3) The Presentation
The Set Up is just that. It’s getting the fly and the line in the proper position prior to beginning the cast. With spey casting you “anchor” your fly and line on the same shoulder you plan to cast off of. If you will be casting off your right shoulder you anchor on the right side.

The D Loop is a little trickier to explain without demonstration but essentially once your fly is anchored (for example) on the right, then you created a large “C” with your rod to deliver the line – kinda similar to a roll cast- to lay out on your left side. And then, drag while slowly lifting your rod up and back with two hands across the front of your body, pausing slighting in the up and back position – which creates the D shape wherein the line is the belly of the D and your rod is the straight back of the D. The part that always confused me when “looking” for the D shape is that in the cast, the letter appears backward or rather the belly of the D is behind you. This D loop is what builds energy and load the rod from the tension of the line on the surface of the water being dragged and then the bending of the rod.

Finally comes the Presentation. This comes after the slight pause in the up and back position (as in all casts), then the change in direction to bring the rod forward. With your two hands on the grip, the upper hand acts more like a steady guide while the bottom hand delivers more power to the cast through an upward flip or pop of it. As in tenkara fishing, the presentation on a spey rod should be higher. This allows for the softer spey rod to finish its flex and line delivery without directing the line too low and the line piling up too close to the rod tip …the same as on a tenkara rod.

This is a short and extremely condensed explanation of how to spey cast but for the most part, covers it all. On an actual spey rod, line would be pulled off the reel and held in your hand to be ready to shoot. Tenkara anglers don’t need to worry about that. We can focus on the basic movements to make them clean and accurate.
We’re hoping to get out on the water this summer and take some photos and video to better demonstrate the motions involved in spey casting on tenkara and a spey rod. They’ll be posted on our YourTube Channel which already shows some of this. Take a look and stay tuned for more. Remember, casting is casting (from our last newsletter) no matter what kind of rod you’re using.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *