The first time I'd ever seen a Spey rod in action was on the Deschutes River in in the late 80's. For those of you who don't know the Deschutes, it is a huge river especially by eastern standards.
The big water of the Deschutes
I went steelhead fishing for the first time in my life with two brothers, one of whom I'd met at a Kaufman's Streamborn fly shop outside of Seattle. His brother had guided in Alaska with the same group of guys that I guided with a year or two prior to my time up north. We hit it off pretty well and they invited me to fish with them for three days in October. One of the brothers fished a spey rod. I'd heard of spey rods, but I have to admit that at the time I thought it was ridiculous to use such a rod when I could double haul an 8 wt. all day long for three days and not have my arm fall off. Let's just say that youth brings with it lots of flexibility physically, but not necessarily intellectual flexibility, at least in my case.
The first Spey rod I ever saw in action.
I got this shot because I wasn't crossing the river with them this time. I fished on the unproductive side instead and didn't have a coronary crossing the river.
We didn't always have a ton of backcast room but we fired long casts all day with our single handers. We sure worked hard for our casts.
We fished hard for three days with nary a bite. I had a lot to learn about swinging flies for anadromous fish. After this outing my confidence in this method was just a tad weak. After guiding in Alaska all summer one was supposed to catch fish lots of fish, not three days of casting practice. Oh well it was time to go to New Zealand and I didn't think about swinging flies for two more years.
My next opportunity to swing flies was in Nova Scotia. My buddy Steve and I headed north at the end of September for a week of fishing. We brought tents, rods, tying gear and clothes. Mind you only single hand rods, as that was all that we had. We ended up fishing the Margaree River, which is beautiful, easily waded little river. There was no need for two handed rods. In this neck of the woods the only acceptable manner with which to fish is to swing flies. If someone is in the run you want to fish, just wait in line at the head and jump in when it's open. Everyone works their way down a step at a time. Just leave enough space between you and the person below so your line doesn't get near them and life is good. It is a great way to fish and one can feel very relaxed about access as everyone gets a turn.
There is a salmon museum on the banks of the river. When we went there, I saw a fly that reminded me of a pattern we used in Alaska for silvers. That pattern was like crack to the silvers. The Alaskan flies were weighted which was a big no no in Nova Scotia so we tied up some unweighted versions and hit the river. Low and behold we started catching fish on the swing. We didn't really know what we were doing so we tried everything, casting slightly upriver, casting down river, mending, not mending. Beginners mind can be a beautiful thing. One of the things that I learned on this trip was to believe that a fish is going to hit my fly. Having a positive attitude is more than half the battle when swinging flies for migratory fish, at least that what I came to believe. We had a blast and the salmon were not shy about letting you know they wanted the flies as they hammered them. One fish broke me off on the take and I was using 15 lb. maxima!
One can see the fly stuck firmly in the nose with the hook point coming out above the fly and the thick brown maxima.
This one was hooked perfectly in the corner of the mouth.
After two falls of fishing up there opportunities to swing flies didn't happen anymore. My buddy Steve moved to Montana, I entered graduate school and life took me in a different direction. For a number of years fishing took a back seat and the fishing I did do was all local in western Massachusetts. Up next my Spey awakening.