Spey Clave on the Sandy River
Woodstock for Fly Fishermen
by Klint Borozan
I can only assume that John Keats was talking about spey casting as he pronounced, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” If you are a stalker of the Anadromous, especially in the Northwest, you likely know about the great fishermen this area has produced, as well as witnessed them cast. I am far less of an artist and more of journeyman when it comes to spey fishing.
Left to my own resources, I can catch just about anything. That has been my focus. But my focus has changed forever. As my life progresses, I want to become more the artist. When you see a truly inspired spey caster, it is that “joy forever” that never passes.
Enter the gentlemen of the sport: Steve Rajeff, Simon Gawesworth, Mark Bachmann and Charles St. Pierre.
Like many, I joined the ranks of spey casters as my need to cover more water became top of mind on the really big rivers in the Northwest, where the Steelhead and Salmon take over every year. Books are good, but only if you have a good starting point of reference and a solid foundation in “sustained anchor dynamics.” If I am going to do something, I want to really go after it, and measuring against the best is the only way to live. I love to practice the things about which I am passionate. Spey casting is one of those things I can and will do all day. On the big rivers, I don’t stop for rain or lunch. Other than to learn something special, from someone special; the only thing that stops me is to watch a true master, gently, but powerfully, rolling 100 feet of line across the river. A thing of beauty it is.
So let’s shift gears. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s fun. And yes, these folks are gentlemen of the highest order. But it’s very cool. And it’s not just for men. But… what specifically do you do to move it forward in your arsenal of attack? You go to the Woodstock of Spey Fishing: The Sandy River Spey Clave. This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the event spawned (no pun intended) by Fred Evans and Mark Bachmann. At the initial event in 2000, it had about 50 attendees. In 2010, over a 3 day period, it likely had over 400 to 600 people per day casting and testing the newest rods, new line technology, poly-leaders and more. Spending some real time with many different rods and line set ups on the very fine water of the Sandy River is a treat well worth the trip all by itself. But what is it about the format that is the really exciting? Very simple. I can articulate the formula very succinctly: You show up. You go to real-time, live, on the river clinics, from the best players in the world. You go try a set up from Echo, Sage, Winston, G. Loomis, Burkheimer, or Loop, and get free advice and lessons from the world’s best, all day long. It is basically cultural immersion training over 3 days. It is great for people of all abilities, especially beginners, and even experts. And most importantly, it’s very constructive. Not one soul there laughed at my D-Loop position!
My sampling of the clinics to took me to everything from dealing with very long sink tips, the new MOW systems, traditional long belly casting, summer run steelhead dry fly presentations using long bellies, and a wonderful assortment of the Skagit Casting models for every possible situation from guys like George Cook, Mike Kinney, and Mark Bachmann. The only person unaccounted for from previous years was Dec Hogan, but he moved to Salt Lake City to be with the love of his life. I think that deserves a hall pass.
Friday began early with the ladies running the agenda. I expected pink waders and hats from the Kentucky Derby. But honestly, the women’s presentations were as professionally done as any I have ever seen. They were great communicators and very kind, giving lessons and critiques to both men and women tirelessly until it started to get dark on the river. If you ever get a chance, Amy Hazlett, from Deschutes anglers, is truly a fine teacher of all aspects of both Skagit and Scandi casting styles, as well as an outstanding, best in class, guide for Steelhead. She worked with me extensively on cleaning up my Single Spey. I don’t use it as much unless I am in Oregon chasing summer run steelhead, and it needed fresh coat of paint. That was my first day.
My favorite encounter came on Day 3, where I was able to secure the precious time of Simon Gawesworth. Again, I consider myself a spey orphan who can fish. But Simon has both the soul of an artist and the ability to produce casts that rival the art in the Louvre. As the head of line design at Rio, he is also a brilliant technician, but most of all, a very kind teacher. One look at my single spey, and he reduced the errors to very simple things that really made a difference in distance and accuracy. The key take-aways will be things I practice forever. To get this kind of instruction on casting, equipment, and line set ups for three days would cost quite a bit for equivalent instruction. To get it for free: priceless.
If that is not enough, the food is supplied gratis by a local restaurant that rivals any place I have been. It is far and away the friendliest event you will go to all year. If you go to the website, www.flyfishusa.com/spey-clave.htm you can see the agenda and the entire format. It really is not comparable to a trade show, given its level of personalization. Having it all demonstrated, with help provided to remove the quirky stuff people bring into their cast, on a big and beautiful river like the Sandy, is a very special treat.
I think their theme statement on their brochure says it all: “If you are a big stick, spey casting mojo, you will be welcomed at the Sandy River Clave...
You will be even more welcomed if you are also a humble teacher. At this Clave, beginners are as welcome as experts. We all learn from each other. Here the two-hander is a common bond...to be shared.”
On that day, the fraternal order of fly fishermen got bigger and better.