Tim Arsenault Wins 2024 Spey-O-Rama

The 2024 Spey-O-Rama, the world championship of spey casting, was held on April 20-21 at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club in San Francisco. 

Swing The Fly dialed up long-time Swing The Fly supporter, owner/operator of Bridge Outfitting spey lines, manager of Vancouver’s Michael & Young’s Fly Shop, and last but not least, our friend, Tim Arsenault, to walk us through his first men’s division title win after competing for more than 10 years.

Arsenault (left) with Duncan Gasiewicz Photo: Bruce Kruk

STF: What’s your history with Spey-O-Rama? How long have you been going, what’s your track record to date? 

Tim Arsenault (TA): My history with Spey-O-Rama (SOR) started in 2011. Like a lot of people, you fall in love with spey casting and you want to see what’s out there, what the next-level thing is. I started hearing about the competition in 2005, or 2006, and I got a video of it, it might have been called the Art of Spey Casting, and it was hosted by Lani Waller. I think it was a video of the first Spey-O-Rama. I saw all these people that I’d never seen before, I’d only heard of them, I saw the amazing venue, the amazing casting. So, I decided to go down there. A really good buddy of mine Tyler Kushnir lived nearby and really encouraged me to go and practiced with me a lot in the lead up to heading down there.

When I went down there, I quickly learned within moments of getting there, I was going to have to relearn everything I’d learned in casting and tear everything down I thought I knew and start again. 

That first year, 2011, I got 15th. My score was 511. I missed 2012, just life stuff, and I went back in 2013 . I remember my score was way higher, 588, but I was still in 14th!? I knew right then that not only had I got better, but the guys better than me were getting better too. It was really a great thing to see that there was a lot of work to do. That’s exciting to me, when there’s work to do. 

That’s really when the work started. I started practicing more, and having a higher output in my practice. 

In 2014 I made the finals the first time, I just slid into tenth place. From then on, I’ve been in the finals every year until 2019. In 2019, I simply didn’t cast that well and I missed the finals. It was painful at the time, but it taught me some lessons. Namely, to be a bit stronger, mentally and skill-wise, in adverse conditions. Then we kind of got into the COVID years, and travel restrictions were pretty stringent. It was tough for a few years. They ran it in 2022 but not a lot of folks were not able to make it.  

2023 was a HUGE step up, really raised the bar and it was great to have everyone back and then, yea, this year’s event, such a good turn out and everyone was casting at a really high level. I think the bar to qualify this year was 636, which is really competitive to qualify. Everyone was casting really well. 

STF: Including yourself! You won the Men’s Open Division. Congrats buddy. Did you do anything different this year? 

Tim: During the COVID years, I wasn’t practicing as much. Not to say I wasn’t casting, I was fishing, I was teaching, but I wasn’t crotch deep in a lake, which I usually am. I usually pick up the comp rod around New Years, let’s say, and I’m usually a short session every other day practice guy, that’s what works for me, and usually in a few weeks I’m feeling like I’m back in form. Back in 2023 (laughs) I realized I was REALLY out of practice. It was weird though, because sure, a lot of things I did well had fallen apart, but it was also a really clean slate because quite a few of my bad habits fell off too. It was a real hard restart. When I went in 2023, I still felt not quite right at that point. I had just reworked a lot of things and I think a lot of things I had worked on started to come together for me during practice leading up SOR 2024. 

I think a lot of that work ethic, and still being pretty fired up about getting bounced out of the finals in 2019, that pushed me to work really hard this year. 

STF: How much is it ‘the day’ and you’re just on and you nail it, versus how important is logical, step-by-step progress? 

TA: For me, it’s a combination. Usually, every year, there’s one or two things I feel like I figure out. Things I change, that I look back on the year prior and I realize “this year I learned (fill in the blank) and I’m going to adjust to do (fill in the blank.) That said, just, years of doing this, I’ve learned that literally from one session to the next, I’m a completely different caster every day. Some days I’m saying to myself “why are you even going? This is really, really bad.” and the next day I could win? 

For me, and I can’t speak for anyone else but me, I do watch a lot of videos, I watch people I admire their casting, I try to see things I’m doing they aren’t or things they’re doing I’m not. 

I did feel prepared this year. I focused on practicing in difficult conditions, and I think that added a level of confidence I haven’t had in the past. 

STF: Do you have a favorite/best cast? Any that you consider your weakest?

TA: James Chalmers once told me, “we all have a demon” when it comes to casting. Sometimes I feel like I have three demons and one that’s “eh,” (laughs) and I just hope that one’s good enough to carry me through. 

My left single still gives me fits, every year. Why? I don’t know. But also, there’s been lots of years where my weakest cast at home has ended up being my strongest cast at the competition.

There was one year (laughs) I was practicing with Tyler TONS at the lake and I was hitting myself with my left snake roll, every time. Every single time. He was trying to do anything to help me but nothing could. Down at SOR that year I had finished up all my other casts in my run and only had the left Snake Roll left. As I started that cast Tyler turns to Lisa over beside the pond watching, and says “Tim will be happy with this cast if he doesn’t hit himself with it.” 

That turned out to be my longest cast of the competition. 

It’s an interesting place, though. Weird things happen. When you get there, things I loved don’t work. Lines that didn’t work well at home can work there sometimes. Rods can be that way as well. You name it. 

STF: The mental aspect seems really intimidating. How important is mental control? Is that something you’re comfortable with by now? 

TA: Absolutely not (laughs) usually I’m a nervous wreck. I’m getting into the pond. Thinking way too much. My heart’s racing. I usually kind of black out, Don’t really remember what happened,but this year, I was a lot calmer. 

My strategy this year was to practice so much that I could add to my confidence. I tried to practice in adverse conditions to try to make me feel comfortable no matter what was happening out there. This year I went out of my way, more than any, to practice in the worst conditions, those were the most important. Going on the calm days is obviously how you see what your cast actually is and that is important as well, but, I didn’t want to be surprised by anything. I had done so much practice I wasn’t asking my body to do anything it hadn’t done before. 

To be in the top tier, the mental part is absolutely the hardest part. I think I’ve been a decent caster for quite a few years, but being a good competitor, that’s a different thing and something I have had to work hard on. 

STF: Do you have a strategy when you step into the pond? Feel free to pass if you’ve got any trade secrets you don’t want to reveal. 

TA: No (laughs), I’m cool to do it. Mike Tyson had a great quote, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” The conditions can do that to you there. Generally, my strategy is to build confidence. I don’t want to start with my weakest cast, so I won’t start with that, because if it goes bad, which it often does, I’m in my head about the next cast. I’ll usually try to start with my longest cast and I work towards my weakest. But, you can have some really great laid out

plans, but, if the wind shifts and it’s coming from the other side, you have to be able to adjust. I just try to not do anything else that is going to make me feel any worse than I already am about my casting at that moment. 

STF: Did you know you won when you made your casts? Bring us onto that moment 

TA: I’m not that great at math at the moment. I knew I had a couple casts over 180, a few over 170, I knew it was a solid score. It is never over until it is over though and there were several casters to go still before the competition was done. 

STF: How did it feel to win it after all these years of trying? 

TA: It’s Incredible! It’s something I always wanted to happen. It’s been a long road, it’s been a rewarding road. A fun road, which is great, makes a long road much more manageable. Hard to explain, really. It was my tenth year going. Incredible humbling. A feeling of accomplishment, but quickly remembering that not long after, the work begins again. 

STF: How big was the night out after? 

TA: Nahhhhhhhhhh (laughs) I tried to keep it mellow. We had a great dinner at a local irish pub near the club with a lot of the competitors that night. James Chalmers , who I shared the podium with this year and has been a supporter and a friend of mine since day 1 was there, it was a really fun night. 

STF: How is it being a part of the Canadian sweep? 

TA: Yea that’s crazy! (laughs) I didn’t even know Jeon Lee was Canadian until Kara (Knight) and I were taking a picture with the flag, and Jeon ran up and was yelling “I’m Canadian, I’m Canadian too, I want in!” 

STF: We all know folks love talking shop. What was your setup this year? Rods, lines, etc etc. 

TA: CND C1. Not a bad day to be the CND rep. It was a Canada sweep, but a CND sweep too. I used the C1. It’s the fastest of the C-series, the Gravity series competition series. A little stiffer. That’s what I used, and what John used. And Kara used the F1, which is the BVGT series (laughs) Try to say that 5-times fast. She used that, which is a rod I had used the year before. 

STF: Any line changes?

TA: Nope. Gael Force since day 1. Always James Chalmers lines since Day 1 for me. He makes awesome lines, and I’ve never felt the need to use anything else for competition. With James’ lines, I don’t really ask questions. I cut it to the proper grain weight and if there’s a problem with it not turning over, it’s user error, not the line. I’ve never doubted their lines and I have total confidence in them since I started using them in 2013. 

STF: What lessons could an average, non-competitive caster take away from going to Spey-O-Rama? 

TA: You’d definitely get to see where the limits are? For sure (laughs.) For me, distance casting is less of a strength and speed thing, more of an efficiency thing. The ability to cast far, more than anything, you’re removing inefficiencies from your cast, and those things, are good to – how do I put this – there’s not a lot of uses in fishing for a 200 foot cast, but, the only way to make a 200 foot cast is to remove all the inefficiencies from your casting. Those same refinements that make you ABLE to cast really far, make you better at 20, 30, 40 feet, at any distance really. It’s a lot about avoiding slack, maintaining tension in any part of the cast you can, and those are good things for anyone, anywhere. 

STF: So, you hit 717 combined this year. Any new goals for next year? 

TA: I’d love to cast over 190. Hell, I’d love to cast over 200 (laughs.) But really, though, when I think about it, I just want to do better than I did this year. I want to keep getting better. I want to have a journey that results in me becoming a better version of myself. This isn’t’ the sort of game that someone can come and dunk on you. You’re the only one you’re playing against. When you’re in the pond, it’s you, the pond,the conditions and your mind. The goal is to do better, by one foot, twenty feet, thirty feet, it’s just about becoming a better version of myself through the process. 

STF: How does someone know they’re ready to compete in SOR? 

TA: They do have a pre-qualifier. You’re not going to get in if you can’t hit 120 with all four casts, so, that is a bar, but outside of that, the only prerequisite there really is, is that you love casting? 

If you love casting, if it’s a huge part of what you love about fishing, you’re part of our tribe. Anyone that really cares about casting, I know we already have a lot in common and I think you, me ,and a lot of people at SOR would enjoy spending some time together. You can come down and hang out, too, just watch and learn and enjoy, you’ll know when you’re ready if you want to compete. That’s really up to you. 

Mens Division winners. Photo: Duncan Gasiewicz

Congratulations to all of the winners and competitors of this year’s Spey-O-Rama at Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club. To see a complete list of the final results, visit https://www.ggacc.org/sor-results

Photos contributed by Bruce Kruk, Duncan Gasiewicz, Tim Arsenault.