Controlling Running Line

One of the key aspects of modern Spey casting is that great distance can be attained by casting the head with enough speed and force to pull the running line that has been stripped from the reel through the guides of the rod. Practicing the forward Spey provides the perfect time to work on shooting and managing running line. When performing the setup for all Spey casts I pinch the running line off with the index finger of the top hand against the cork. When the rod stops after completing the forward stroke the index finger is lifted releasing the running line and shooting the head with the running line trailing.

When making relatively short casts the momentum of the head will pull the running off the surface of the water. However, when making longer casts the surface area of the running line resting on the water along with the pull of the current can cause enough tension or stick to prohibit all the running line from going through the guides and effectively shortening the cast. The solution to this issue is holding some – or all – of the running line off the water’s surface.

The bottom hand is utilized in managing the running line. There are a few options when it comes to the actual process or technique. One approach uses the pinky finger that hangs off the bottom grip. Loops are formed by the stripping hand as line is retrieved for the next cast. The loops are maintained between the pinky and the ring finger of the lower hand while being formed. Once the running line is retrieved and loops are formed, the bottom hand takes its position on the lower grip with the pinky pointing up, so the loops stay in place, or lightly touching the cork to pinch the loops.

With the running line pinched against the cork with the index finger or index and middle finger of the top hand, when the rod stops on the forward stroke the running line is released by the top hand and the loops released from the bottom hand. Depending on how the loops are positioned in the bottom hand there may be a need to loosen the grip of the lower hand to release the line. When forming the loops, the first should be the largest after five or six strips and then each additional loop should be smaller. Two or three total loops is generally sufficient.

Forming, maintaining, and releasing the loops may feel cumbersome at first. An approach that some casters may find easier is by forming loops in a similar manner as above but using the index or middle finger of the bottom hand to form the loops.  When the loop is formed, pinch the running line off against the bottom cork with the index finger. When the rod reaches its stop point on the forward stoke the line is released by the index fingers on both the top and bottom hands, simplifying the approach. Managing running line typically loosens the grip and creates a smoother casting stroke.

A simple approach to managing the running that I frequently use doesn’t entail forming loops while stripping in line. When all the running line has been stripped in it hangs in a big loop in the current below position. By grabbing the long loop of line with the lower hand at the approximate midway point with the thumb and forefinger, the running line is then pinched against the lower cork during the setup.  The running line is released by both the upper and lower hand as the rod is stopped on the forward stroke. This approach commonly removes most of the running line off the water’s surface and what remains usually doesn’t impact distance. However, this simple approach may not work best when long lengths of running line are in use since it can be difficult to keep enough line off the water. For longer lengths I use one of the methods previously described.

I always use the lower hand for managing running line. The loops can be maintained during the cast by the upper hand but there is a much greater tendency for the loose loops to tangle around the rod or reel during the setup of the cast.

This article was excerpted from Modern Spey Fishing by Rick Kustich and appears with the permission of Stackpole Books. Grab your personalized, autographed copy today from Swing the Fly.