• Leigh Dowell

The Double Spey

The double spey is one of the traditional spey casts, I don’t know exactly who invented it, or when, but it was likely in the 1800’s and started off with an 18-22ft greenheart rod being waved in a crude manor to get a job done. Spey casting has evolved today as all things should and has many different styles to match different gear and tackle.

For me the double spey is a thing of beauty, the waltz of spey. It is possibly my favourite of all the spey casts. It is a cast I could watch being performed for hours. It is an easy cast to learn for beginners but has some technical stuff in its make up that I think can sometimes be ignored or overlooked.


A change-of-direction cast performed in two stages that positions the anchor and D-loop to the downstream side of the caster.

ANCHOR TYPE: Sustained or waterborne

WIND: Down stream

STAGES: Two stage cast


USES: Big flies, Skagit heads, Sink tips

WHY: Downstream wind, Slow tempo making it easier to learn, good 90 degree change of direction

WHY NOT: Upstream wind, very long belly lines, very windy conditions

BANKS: Left bank left hand up, right bank right hand up

Let’s take a look at my method of performing and teaching the cast. As always there are many variants and reasons things will change but this method is based on a mid-head spey line and is a base line. If you learn to control the rod and line you can make changes as required.

STARTING POSITION (left bank described) (opposite for right bank)

Left hand up, left foot aligned to target, shoulders square to target.

Rod tip to the water, right hand to right hip, tension to the fly.


90 degree change of direction

Stage one: Shotgun lift – Sweep upstream(start strong finish with bottom hand) rod travels through on an incline so the fly will land first, rod finishes pointing up stream and into the bank, rod tip on the water. Arms should finish in a crossed position.

(Hint. Watch the leader connection knot through the sweep)

Purpose of stage one: Re-position the fly for anchor alignment. The line and leader should land straight with a curve into the rod tip,(no slack).The fly should land approximately 1 to 1.5 rod lengths downstream from you and 1 rod length in front of you.

Stage two: Incline sweep back towards centre of the river and follow the line layout around to 90 degrees to your target, Accelerate back into the D loop stroke and circle up, make your forward cast, (smooth acceleration, correct arc size and stroke length, correct trajectory). Try to load deeper into the butt section of the rod when making the D loop stroke.

7 simple steps

Lift – upstream sweep – downstream sweep – accelerate into circle up – anchor – D Loop – forward cast

Key Points

Within all spey casts I think there are key points that you either get right and move smoothly through or get them wrong and need to make alterations through the following stages.

The first key point on all spey casts is your pre cast set up. Rod tip must be low this means 1mm above the water, you must have tension to the fly. If you aren’t starting this way you will struggle with longer belly lines because you will not have sufficient effective stroke length. One other point here is body weight transfer. In our starting position we should have weight on our front foot. This allows us to transfer weight as we move into a D loop stroke. The body is a strong slow muscle and we should start our movements this way. We should always start slow and strong. A really good exercise is to go through any spey cast and focus on body weight transfer, if your line momentum is going forward your body weight should have moved forward. To go through a 90 degree change of direction double spey your body weight transfer should go something like this. Start downstream-upstream-centre river-bank-centre river. This body movement for me comes from the knees.

Starting position. Weight forward with tension to the fly

Key point two- The initial lift sets the tempo of the cast and a nervous starter is always in a rush. With the initial lift we simple want to start the line moving and eliminate some line stick, if our rod tip is 1mm above the water and we have tension to the fly our very first millimetre of lift will be effective. Make this initial lift with your shoulders and arms. It’s like shrugging your shoulders. Then we start moving our body upstream continuing to lift the line out of the water. The rod tip is moving upstream with the line inclined. We should have picked our target to land our fly at the end of stage one. The fly and fly line should leave the water and glide into position.

The lift. It starts the lines momentum, eliminates some line stick and sets the line on an incline for the sweep.

Key point three- The end of stage one is critical and sets up a good stage 2 and forward cast. Stage one is an accuracy task and you should always have a target for your fly to land on. Pick a rock or something but have a target, never just hope it lands somewhere. Take a look at the fly position at the end of stage one in the attached diagram. The fly wants to land just short of the target line but it will depend on current, tackle set up, the direction you want to cast and your style of casting. The key here is to understand where you need the fly on the day with the equipment you’re using. If you focus on this and practice you will be able to move the position as required. Once you understand it is where the fly lands that’s important you can gauge that position by your leader connection knot which is a lot easier to see as your fly may sink, it could be a small dull fly that is hard to see. So through the upstream sweep we can be watching our leader connection knot as a sighter. The other position is the distance in front of us and again this can vary but we have to be able to control it. My base position is one rod length in front. This means when I make my stage two sweep I am peeling line off from directly below the rod. The other important thing is when I complete my D loop and have a straight anchor, point P is just in front or level with me. If I get that line in stage one to close to me I will get a very small anchor and will most likely blow it out. If it is too far out I will get a large anchor and it will require more effort to pull it out.

Stage one complete. Arms finish in a crossed position, rod tip on the water, line is slack free.

Key point four- Our acceleration along the target line (the orange line in the above diagram). In any casting we should only be accelerating along the target line (to and from our target). Accelerating the fly line is going to move it in that direction. Any other movement I call transitioning. So from the end of stage one I need to transition my rod tip around to the target line, this is a lifting of the line slowly peeling the line off the water. The rod tip moves with the line on an incline. When my rod tip reaches the target line I accelerate it straight back along this line. Take a look at the diagram and visualise accelerating the rod from the start of stage two. What do you see? I see a windscreen wiper, a large dome shape with the rod tip. In overhead casts we call this a none loop and it’s not desirable. Now visualize you transition the rod tip to the target line and start your acceleration, but instead of stopping the acceleration on that line you continue to accelerate around the circle up and pull the rod tip and line behind you. You have moved the line in that direction. We must start and stop the acceleration on this target line to achieve a perfectly aligned cast. In this acceleration stage along the target line we want to also move the rod on an incline this will give us an inclined anchor and fly leg. Again this is variable and with varying tackle and environments we may want to change the incline. If you find yourself blowing the anchor, then maybe look at the incline.

Up stream sweep. Weight transfer, initial movement is to center river (target stroke), peel the line off the water.

Key point five- The key position is our forward cast starting position. It is the start of our casting stroke on the forward cast. We know we required a certain casting arc for the giving amount of rod bend so this is the time to set it. How much bend will I place on this rod during this cast? Again this is a variable so our key position will vary. I want to be able to stop in the same position for my forward cast so if things like line mass, energy input or resistance on the rod changes I will change my key position angle. Changing the overhang or the mass profile of a line will also change how the rod bends. I would suggest playing with the key position and understand what happens and again if you control it you can make changes as required.

Circle up into the key position. Weight transfer, Rod angle is set.

Key point six- The forward cast is your final key point and here we need to accelerate along our target line again. If our anchor, D loop and forward cast are all aligned the cast should go out straight. If you have focused and successfully executed all five key points through the cast you should be seeing a good cast. There are of course many other finer points in a spey cast but I think focusing on these five will have a big impact on your casts.

Forward cast. Smooth acceleration, high rod stop

Rod tip accelerations

In this graph we can see the rod tip accelerations. While I except the scales may not be correct it’s my attempt to show the acceleration and deceleration of the rod tip. Through stage one and two we have slow increasing rod tip speeds. When the rod tip reaches the target line we accelerate to form our D loop along the target line. Our rod tip decelerates through the circle up to the key position and then accelerates through our forward cast.

Faults & Fixes

Fly too far downstream after stage 1: Make a higher lift or more acceleration to start the sweep

Fly too far up stream after stage 1: Lower lift or less acceleration in your sweep

Bloody L in anchor: Due to poor fly placement in stage one, poor acceleration in D loop stroke or the dreaded dip through the downstream sweep. Focus on stage one fly placement, get that consistent and then focus on correct acceleration in D loop stroke.

Line crossing over on forward cast: Make sure we have 180 degree alignment so our anchor, D Loop and forward cast are all on the same line.

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