You have a recently published book titled Single-Handed Spey Casting: Solutions to Casts Obstructions, Tight Spots, and Other Casting Challenges of Real-Life Fishing. What inspired you to write this book, and how does it expand on your previous work?
My first book, “Spey Casting”, was dedicated to learning to Spey cast with a two-handed rod, and while more anglers do Spey cast with a two-handed rod, there is a growing interest and trend to mastering Spey casting with a regular trout rod. That, plus the fact that I am totally addicted to Spey casting with a single-handed rod, and have really dug into it and studied the physics, created new casts, and had a ton of fun doing so, made me think there might be some interest in a book on how to.
Of all the Spey-inspired flies you have tried around the world, do you have a favorite? How about a Spey-inspired fly you have designed yourself?
Not really. It depends if you mean for trout, i.e., on a single-handed rod, or for a general Spey casting with a two-handed rod. If the latter, what species? If we are still continuing with the single-handed theme, then I would say that the spider, or soft hackle, as it is called in the US, would be the “style” of fly I love the most. I love the grab when swinging a soft hackle, so that fly would get my thumbs up each time. I am not much of a tier, so haven’t created anything that gets me too excited.
Which river do you consider to be your “Home River” (or rivers)? Pick one in the UK and one in the Pacific Northwest.
In the US my home river is now the East Fork of the Lewis – a beautiful, small river with a limited run of steelhead, but they are all wild, and average a good size. It is only a mile from my house, so I can go down there before work and swing for an hour or so, and be in the office for the start of the work day – not a bad situation!
In the UK I would say the River Spey for salmon, but my home rivers would be the Taw, Torridge and Bray – rivers in Devon where I grew up and learned to fish. They have wild brown trout, a half decent run of sea trout (sea run browns) and a few Atlantic salmon. I very much miss those rivers – even if the fishing is pretty poor these days.
Which river that you have never fished before would you most like to try?
The Alta in Norway – no question about that!
What is your favorite two-hand rod, and what line do you most like to use with it?
Believe it or not, my favorite two-handed rod is a small trout Spey rod that Sage put out, in their Trout Spey HD series. I love the 3wt, but most enjoy the 2-weight, a 2109-4 rod that pairs amazingly with a light 210 grain RIO Scandi. It is so light, so perfectly balanced and so much fun on rivers like the Missouri, Madison and South Fork of the Snake – especially with a couple of soft hackles on the end 😊.
What is your favorite memory from your times on the water?
I have so many and am sure that question would be hard to answer by anyone who has spent so many years on the water. A few stick out in mind – working a sea trout on the river Bray for hours with numerous fly changes until I caught it on a size 16 pheasant tail nymph – still my biggest sea trout in the UK. It could be my first fly-caught Atlantic salmon, which I caught when I was 16 on a 3lb leader while fly fishing for trout. Maybe it was one of the good days I had competition fishing in the UK, or in the World Championships, or maybe it was just the days teaching and casting with my dad on the Devon rivers where we had our school. For sure, being with my son when he caught his first steelhead on the Deschutes river at first light on a September morning is a very fond memory for me, as was seeing the joy on the face of both my son and daughter when they caught their first fish in Idaho all those years ago. So many wonderful memories…
You’ve had a long list of contributions to Atlantic salmon fishing, Pacific Northwest steelheading, and two-hand casting. Is there one you’re particularly proud of?
There is so much I am proud of accomplishing over the years, but I think the thing I am most proud of is seeing other casters, instructors and demonstrators using the casts and terminologies I have come up with – particularly in the Spey world. The Snake Roll, for example, and Spey casting terms like “the bloody L”, “the dreaded dip”, “point P”, “V-loop”, cack-handed”, “collision loop”, to name a few…
What is it going to take to conserve wild fish?
A massive shift in the thinking of farmers, politicians and anglers – not just thinking, but actions and spending. To be honest, I think wild fish are doomed and have no chance in the future – not with global warming, water abstraction, the massive use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers on land that leads to “healthy” river systems, the draining of marshlands and bogs, and the disgusting apathy, or “couldn’t care less” attitude of the average person towards the environment.
As a dedicated fan of the English Premier League in general, and the Liverpool FC in particular, what is your favorite football memory?
The miracle of Istanbul – when Liverpool came back from 3-0 down to win the Champions League Cup in 2005.
What are your plans for the next five years?
Fish and cast more, work a little less!