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Spey Casting Basics – Etiquette On The River

We here at Sportquest, often get asked a range of questions regarding fishing and one that gets asked about quite a lot is the etiquette invloved in fly fishing, primarily Spey casting. Although this is titled spey casting basics these guidelines below can and do equally apply to single-handed rods aswell.

The tips below come into effect when sharing a single piece of water, which is the case on a majority of destinations, as fishing tends to be based on 2 anglers to 1 guide. However, if you are lucky enough to be fishing alone what you do and how you fish is all up to you.

We’ll start with three rules of etiquette that are pretty well-known and used in many overseas destinations.  However, as normal these blogs are for discussion so I would love to hear your comments on the below or if you would like to add anything. Please feel free to add comments below.

Spey Casting Basics – Spey Fishing Etiquette

Don’t step in below anybody

This is the most basic rule.  All fish are almost always facing upstream, and when you’re swinging flies you’re gradually working your fly down towards the fish’s face.  If you step in below somebody you’re getting between the fish that they’re headed towards – basically, you would be cutting them off from any fish below them.  Enter a run at the top of the run, above the last other anglers.

Keep moving

We all move at different paces, and that’s OK.  But everybody should be steadily moving downriver at roughly the same pace, because otherwise it’s really hard to maintain adequate spacing between anglers which is very important.  Small differences and delays are OK, however big delays causes problems.  For example if I’m taking 4 steps each cast and you’re taking just 3 thats fine, I just need to be patient and wait a little.  If you get a small tangle in the middle of the run, fine I just wait while you untangle it and keep fishing.  But if you blow 5 casts in a row and haven’t taken a step yet that’s not OK as people behind you will be backing up and running out of space. Its time to move on downstream a good few steps to get yourself sorted and allow anglers above you to keep fishing.

If you hook a fish, you reel up and go back to the top of the run

Most people agree with this one but it is quite often the etiquette rule thats gets forgotten the most.  If you’ve had a solid hookup regardless if you land or lose the fish, you give the water below you to the anglers behind you. (After all it is usually your fishing partner that you have travelled with and it makes for a better holiday if you both are catching fish)  In general this only applies to a good solid hookup and not just a missed bite. Other people have the opinion that you only step out of the run if you land a fish, so what is your views on this one.

Do you think these points should be taught as Spey Casting Basics?

Its a very interesting topic so I would love to know what other points of etiquette do you believe in and should be taught as the Spey Casting Basics? 

Tight lines,


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  1. Marshall Garrett

    I agree with the first two and pass on the comments of an old scottish gillie re the last with which I agree: – If you have a solid take and are fighting a good fish you would expect other rods on the pool to reel in and give “Fighting Room”. They get to enjoy the spectacle whether or not you land the fish. Having landed or lost your fish it is then appropriate to reel in, check leader and fly and return to the top behind following rods to avoid any further delay to their progress down the pool. This has been the “correct” etiquette since the inception of salmon fishing. You may of course invite another rod to fish through if age infirmity or preference dictates that you cover a pool significantly more slowly.

    1. Marshall Garrett

      Re Above. Don’t start me on the canoeists though. Lead core shooting head at shoulder height if they don’t wait and ask permission to come through!


      1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

        Thanks for your comments and I agree with them all. But why do we find more and more people coming in to Salmon fishing who have the attitude of needing to catch a Salmon at all costs.

        Some of the old gentleman etiquette seems to be lost if you ask me.

  2. Cody Varza

    Means who get gets up early enough to get their spot first. Lol

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Cody, thats the fighting spirit….. Remind me if we ever fish together to slip some sleeping pills int to your drink the night before 🙂

  3. Luke Saffarek At TigerFly

    Like and a agree with the first two. Never heard the third, and I don’t think I agree with it.

    One suggestion I would give for steelhead fishing is that if two guys are fishing and one is fishing a dry and the other a wet, the guy fishing the dry fly should go first through the run.

    1. Peter Collingsworth Sportquest

      Thanks for your comments as that is the whole point.

      Trying to get as many peoples ideas on the basic etiquette as I think most will agree on the first 2 points but will have their own ideas about the third. Feel free to share to everyone lets try and get some good views.

      Tight Lines Peter

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