Shooting line with a Spey cast
- Fly casting long distances with a double handed rod.

Spey casting and salmon fly fishing school
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How to hold and shoot line to Spey cast further

Shooting running line (or shooting line with a shooting head) is the most practical method of making long distance Spey casts. Shooting running line is relatively easy if it is nicely coiled in a line tray but it is much less easy when you are wading deep in a fast flowing river. There a line tray would be an obstruction and an excuse for a ducking so another method has to be used. The running line can be allowed to hang downstream in one large loop. This minimizes the opportunity for tangles but the drag caused by the current acting on the line and the chances of engagement with herbage, debris etc. are a big problem. It is amazing how quickly a leaf caught in the loop can spin the line into a birds’s nest! The words "shooting line" and "running line" should be read interchangeably in this article.

Holding multiple loops of line.

The method described below is the best method that I have found for holding and shooting line during the past 30 years. I cannot guarantee that the shooting line will never tangle, only that I have found it to shoot better and tangle less often by this means whilst wading.

stripping line stage 1 The recommended "line finger" is always the middle finger as shown in Figure 1. This allows the first finger and thumb to hold the rod and prevents the line being drawn in between finger and cork. This is the same means of stripping line that would be employed whilst fishing and for all line retrieval. In practice three of four draws of the line can be recovered before holding the first loop of line around the ring finger as shown in Figure 2. The number of loops chosen depends on the type of running line and the amount of drag that the current might impose on it.
stripping line stage4 After holding the first loop continue to strip line usually making successive loops slightly longer than the first loop to help avoid them tangling as they dangle downstream in the current. Making the first loop smaller also facilitates better shooting of the the line during the furthest part of its travel because the small loop is more easily pulled out by weight of the head. At this point using a large loop would impose a large braking effect. If the largest loop shoots first (whilst the line speed is high) performance tends to be much better and distance is more easily achieved.
stripping line stage 5 Finally the last loop can be held around the middle finger or the index finger but if you choose the latter you will have to let go the rod butt. Alternatively you can hold several loops in turn over the ring and an middle finger. This may sound like a recipe for disaster however in practice it is not too difficult. The shooting line's tendency to tangle depends very much on the type chosen. Fairly thick lines (0.035" or 0.040" diameter) resist tangling best but they are heavy and do not shoot as easily as light lines. This resistance to shooting however assists turnover.
stripping line stage 6 Lightweight shooting line such as 30lb BS mono shoots very easily but is much more prone to tangling. Elliptical section mono does not so easily tangle but it tends to "grip" the water and emerge in jerks which cause disruption to the flow of the outgoing line, especially if you wade deep. Once mono starts to misbehave the inevitable kinks afterwards cause it to tangle very easily and the best solution is to replace it before it drives you crazy! Shooting line light weight line has to be carefully handled and manually "braked" to ensure good turnover at extreme distances.
To use this method of holding and shooting line the rod must be held lightly and correctly, see Figure 4. If you hold the rod using index finger and thumb of the top hand the the same fingers reversed using the bottom hand to hold similar to a typical "ball and socket" connection the bottom hand is not forced into contortions during the casting movement. The lighter you hold a rod the better "feel" you will have and the more "feedback" you will receive from the rod enabling you to cast better. To shoot the line simply stop the rod and let the line go. It can be "feathered" if necessary by encircling the outgoing line close to the first stripping guide.
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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.