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Spey Rod History – One Of Controversy & Unknowns

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  • Spey Rod History – One Of Controversy & Unknowns

    Spey Rods

    Where did the term, “spey rod” actually come from or originate? At first, when we think of the style of spey casting probably originating on the River Spey in Scotland, we might think that calling a fly rod meant for that style of casting also originated in Scotland. But this may not be the case.

    Originally, long rods were called salmon rods. Before we ever had spey rods, we had long rods that were used to target salmon species on big rivers. It is quite likely that it was on those original salmon rods that the style of spey casting began to develop. It would not have been until later that rods that were specifically designed to be used primarily for this casting that they would have been termed as such.

    We do know that George Kelson, in his book “The Salmon Fly” which was published in 1895, made reference to spey rods. Prior to that, there are references to “switch rods” in the 1850**8242;s fishing literature. It is most probably that what once was called “switch casting” is what later became spey casting.

    As early as the 1880**8242;s in Scotland, there were “double handed casting” competitions with the anglers using a variety of lines including sinking tips. Of course, the materials we have today are quite a bit different, but the concepts have remained quite similar.

    So, who coined the term, “spey rod?” Some even argue that the description originated in North America, but at this point, no one can say for sure. But if you get into a discussion with anyone who holds a strong opinion on the subject, be forewarned that you may be in for a good boisterous discussion!

    Many of these salmon rods of the 1800**8242;s were made of greenheart. Greenheart is a dense wood from an evergreen tree that is native to South America. Because of it’s properties, it was considered to be the best material in which to construct salmon rods from. In fact, there are even some today who prefer greenheart to split cane or graphite. It is claimed that the Scottish violinist, Alexander Grant, made himself a salmon rod from greenheart, and he set a casting record of 165**8242; with it. The well known “Hardy Brothers of Alnwick” made many of their rods out of greenheart wood which were highly prized.

    Today, most spey rods are made from graphite, and designs and tapers are researched constantly in order to get the best designs for optimizing casting and energy expenditure, while also being able to use a range of line weights called “grains.”

    Some will argue that two handed spey casting is the epitome of elegance when executed properly. And truly, much of this is enabled because of the length and design of the rod that is being used, along with matching lines and shooting heads.

    We’ll discuss more on these subjects soon!

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