Don’t Let The Two-Handed Rod Eat Your Brain

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Louis Cahill Photography

Louis Cahill Photography

By Louis Cahill

It’s like the zombie apocalypse out there.

When you pick up a two-handed rod for the first time, it’s pretty common to experience information overload. It’s like you pick this thing up, make one cast and discover that some bloodthirsty zombie has eaten your brain. You forget everything you already know about casting a fly rod.

If you’ve picked up a switch or Spey rod, you already know there are some major differences between two-hand and single-hand rods. What takes a while to realize is that they have more in common than they are different. Switch and Spey rods are fly rods and they work on the exact same principles as their smaller cousins.

They load and unload in exactly the same way. They collapse when they are overpowered and they send the line in the direction the tip travels. This means that like a single-hand rod, casting them requires a smooth application of power, an abrupt stop to form a loop and straight line path for the tip. Sound familiar?

Of course, those fundamentals are compounded with some extra steps, and the fact that there are as many Spey casts and head styles as there are phone apps makes the learning curve seem worse than it is. It takes a while to to master these complicated casts and in the process many casters forget what they already know.

There are three parts to most Spey casts.

Setting The Anchor

This first step determines the direction of the cast and creates the resistance needed to form a D-loop.

The Sweep

The sweep aerializes the line and creates the D-loop, which loads the rod.

The Casting Stroke

Exactly what it sounds like. This is the forward stroke which launches the line.

Warning: there will very likely be an uproar in the comments section from the casturbator about what a gross simplification this is and that’s exactly what I’m going for, a gross simplification. 

In this article I don’t want to talk about the first two steps. That’s what most of the talk in Spey casting is about. They are very important, and they are the first two steps so you have to learn them but we’re going to skip that for now and talk about the casting stroke, because that’s where your brain disappears.

Let’s take a moment for an exercise in visualization.

You’ve set your anchor, you’ve made the perfect sweep and you have a beautiful D-loop behind you. Your rod is high and loaded and you’re ready to deliver an epic cast. Ok, freeze! In real life you would never want to stop here, ever, but for the sake of visualization we’re going to.

If you are a good single-hand caster, you already know what comes next. A smooth application of power, a straight line tip path, and an abrupt stop to form a loop. That’s it. Exactly like a single-hand cast. Of course, there you are with two hands on the rod, so your brain disappears. It happens to everyone who picks up a two-hand rod. You make a big circle with your rod tip and your line piles up in front of you or you overpower the cast and tail your loop or if you’re really good, both.

So you know what you need to do, let’s talk about how to do it.

We are are going to give your hands new names. We are going to call your top hand, Stop and your bottom hand Go. Remember that. top hand is Stop and Bottom hand is Go. The Go hand handles all thing go and the Stop hand handles all things stop.

When it’s time to make that smooth application of power we are going to use the Go hand. Everyone wants to use the Stop hand, but you can’t go with the Stop hand. The Stop hand is a fulcrum which anchors the rod. That’s perfectly inside its mission of all things stop. The Stop hand is going to move a little during the casting stroke but it is not where the power comes from. It’s in charge of control. Think of it as being still and you’ll likely get it right.

The Go hand will apply the power. It will lever back on the butt of the rod, smoothly applying the power for the cast. Using the Go hand to power the cast is the only way to achieve a straight line tip path. Focus on levering back smoothly and you’re almost there.

All that’s left is the abrupt stop to form the loop. This is done with the Stop hand. I’ve seen a lot of anglers let go of the rod with their Stop hand. It’s surprisingly common, but you can’t stop the rod if your Stop hand isn’t there. Make a nice firm stop and remember, for a good straight line path you have to stop the rod high. Higher than you think, trust me. You can’t stop too high.

The only thing left to do is to keep the rod in this position as the loop unrolls. It’s tempting to let the tip drop, but that will take the energy out of your loop. Keep the tip high until the line straightens out.

If you’re new to Spey casting and you are struggling with making good loops, turning over the leader or casting in the wind, try thinking about your Stop hand and your Go hand. Your Spey cast will make a lot more sense and you’ll make some beautiful loops.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Don’t Let The Two-Handed Rod Eat Your Brain

  1. Excellent analogy. But I think you inadvertently reversed the stop and go hands. The bottom hand applies the power (go) and the top is the fulcrum (stop).

  2. Simple is good. I like the STOP/GO hand analogy.

    Funny thing about a 2 handed rod–For it to work, you have to use the second hand!

    I find if I focus on moving the rod TIP by moving the rod BUTT, the cast works better. As Meghan Trainor would say…It’s All About The Butt, ‘Bout The Butt.

  3. glad you didn’t give any broom stick analogies. I find it interesting that in single hand casting when we want a longer cast we move the rod through a longer stroke. Right? Makes sense. We move the rod in a longer horizontal stroke. It would follow that competitive distance casters would do the same. Do they? I’m not so sure.
    I’m really captivated that in 2 handed casting ‘fulcrum style’ all the effort is directed not in the horizontal plane but in a diagonal downward direction. Hmmm When you take it to it’s logical conclusion and look at the competitive 2 handed casters you see that their longer strokes are achieved by raising their starting ‘key’ position. If there’s anybody muttleing around with different “experts” take a look at Andrew Tofts casting videos.

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