Spey Casting With The Non-Dominant Hand on Top

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By Jeff Hickman

“The results were amazing! By day two he was also shooting more line than ever before.”

Last Summer I was on the phone with a good friend and regular client catching up. He was bummed to not be able to fish during his favorite Fall season due to a major shoulder surgery he had on his dominant right shoulder a few months previous. Extensive physical therapy was helping but he still had a lot of pain and his doctor suggested he hold off on fishing for several more months. Being the steelhead addict that he is, I knew that taking the season off would not be good for his mental health. So I told him to come out for a three day Deschutes camp trip and I would teach him to cast left handed which would give his right shoulder a much easier job.

He, like many guys that I fish with, had learned to Spey cast back in the days of the 14ft 9weight and Windcutter with unnecessary cheaters. This era of Spey fishing engrained many with a fast, erratic and borderline violent muscle memory. He had always struggled to sweep and cast slow enough for the modern short Scandinavian and Skagit heads to work properly. With his right hand on top, his fly needed frequent removal from the bushes behind him despite my nearly constant pleas for him to slow down.

So when he showed up for his trip he remained skeptical that he could learn to fish left handed or effectively fish without hurting his shoulder. But I made it very clear that he was to only fish left handed and he was not allowed to risk further injury by putting his right hand on top while casting. For backup, I claimed that his doctor had called me to make sure of this.

With no muscle memory with his left hand on top, I started my instruction from the ground up, walking him through the most important casting steps on both sides of the river and from both his left side and his right side. The results were amazing! After the first day he was already casting much cleaner, consistently and with much less effort than I had ever seen him cast right handed. By day two he was also shooting more line than ever before, getting much more distance and best of all they were landing straight and turned over perfectly every cast. All of this left handed! The clean relaxed casting allowed him to fish water he was previously unable to fish right handed and he caught lots of fish without ever hurting his right shoulder.

This got me thinking. If it worked so well for him, could it also work well for others who struggle with consistent casts without shoulder injuries? I have since tried to encourage people to cast and teach them to cast with their non-dominant hand on top. It’s not easy to get people to switch if they have been doing it one way for long. Those that stick with it become good quickly. But I have been able to consistently teach first time beginners right out of the gates this way. The results are impressive. They have been much less likely to over power their cast with too much top hand. Too much top hand is a plague that I see all too often, it’s what I like to call the “wood choppers syndrome”. It could be the most chronic spey casting problem the world is faced with. With the non-dominant hand on top, people aren’t easily able to over power it. They can focus on using their dominant bottom hand to pull in for casting power and using their top hand to stop the rod tip high resulting in effortless tight loops. I suggest you give it a try.

Jeff Hickman
Gink & Gasoline
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One thought on “Spey Casting With The Non-Dominant Hand on Top

  1. Wow, this was really great information for me. I am just starting with an 11′ 7wt switch. Now, I want to be able to cast with either hand up. Also the info that being too powerful with the dominant hand is a major problem. Thanks.

    If you find time to answer a question, I am thinking about using a Scandi line/head on this rod. Yes or No?

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