If you’re like me and have a passion for swinging flies with a spey rod, you spend countless hours on the water in all sorts of scenarios! Big brawling rivers, slower deep rivers, basalt-bottomed rivers… you get my drift! Then, there are those perfect places where wading is easy and you can step downstream endlessly. More common are super slick, fast, deep and hard-to-wade locations that require full attention and great athleticism to stay upright!
As a guide, I’m always trying to make it easier on my clients to get into fishy water. As a result we often use the very effective technique of swinging from the boat, taking the hardship of wading out of the equation. When employing this method, there are a few things to remember:
More often than not, folks blow their anchors while spey casting from a boat. People are used to standing knee-deep in the drink where their anchor buries and creates the proper resistance to load the rod. When you’re in a boat, you stand high above the surface and tend to cast the same as if you’re in the water, which is often not effective. To combat the added height along with the reduced grip and get the advantage (of a boat), try hanging the head of your spey line a bit longer out of the rod tip than when you are wading. This leaves just a touch more line gripping the water on the transition from your sweep into your cast which keeps the sustained anchor in place for a beautiful turnover! Combine the small amount of extra line with a nice, low sweep and this too will help keep the line anchored. Another advantage is shooting (running) line management – you can coil your shooting line in the boat! With the reduced resistance you can reach ‘hero’ status as you watch running line disappear through your guides. As you work your cast to the point where you’re maxed out, drop back on anchor to cover new water. This can open up new territory where shore-bound anglers just cannot reach.
On one of my favorite pieces of water there is a classic riffle/pool scenario, but deep slack water on the inside keeps you from swinging down too far. It’s places like this that a boat can make or break your day on the water.
To be fair, I must admit that I prefer to wade while swinging. When you hook a fish there is nothing like feeling the run, having to chase it down river, and eventually bringing it to the bank. You can always pull boat anchor and fight the fish while drifting, but this takes some of that crazy heart-pounding pandemonium out of the equation that is really, after all, the best part. After hooking into a fish, pull anchor and ease the boat to the bank and then treat the fish like you always have from the shore! This puts some of the fun back into the fight that you may lose while drifting.
These days, there are so many fun spey rods on the market. I guide in Alaska and we swing for trout all the time. Now, it seems that two-handers are getting more popular on inland rivers, from Montana and Idaho to Michigan. Whether in a drift boat or a jet boat, these techniques can help open up new areas and find even more success on the water! Don’t be afraid to break from the norm and get out there!
Aaron Richter is an ECHO Pro Staffer and professional guide in Bristol Bay, Alaska. When not chasing fish in AK, Aaron can be found stalking trout and steelhead across the Northwest with his wife Michelle and son Kamden or getting creative at the bench. Instagram: @richteronthefly.