Mike Kinney

Spey fishing is a fad

As I mentioned in the previous Weekly Drivel, I received comments from a reader suggesting that fishing with a Spey rod is “like Tai Chi”. Another interesting comment was also made:

“I find the whole fad a little curious…”

For the sake of argument let’s just agree that this statement is inaccurate. Fads are short-lived crazes that gain widespread popularity and then quickly and thankfully fade away (fad = fadee).  Yes, sometimes they tend to linger like the smell of dead fish but eventually they go away and become nothing more than laughing stock for future generations. Nearly always we will look back upon fads and feel ashamed of our participation.

The way of the Spey has been around for a very long time. It may have seen a more recent spike in popularity in some areas as folks have come realize the merits of the two-handed rod and Spey casting techniques, but this gradual discovery seems to me more like enlightenment than fad.  The Pet Rock didn’t last long and thankfully neither will Justin Bieber. Let’s look at a few other fads from recent history just for giggles:

  • TV trays
  • Bean bag chairs
  • Leisure suits
  • Streaking
  • Disco
  • Sea Monkeys
  • Yahtzee
  • Shag carpet
  • Tang
  • Space Food Sticks
  • AMC Pacer (and Gremlin)
  • Pop Rocks
  • Earth Shoes
  • Pukka shell necklaces (someone please tell Kenny Chesney to let it go)
  • Water beds
  • Swatch Watches
  • Izod shirts (collars flipped)
  • Leveraged buyouts
  • Parachute pants
  • Gigapets
  • The Clapper
  • Reality TV shows (like a kidney stone, we pray that soon they will pass…please, God)
  • Crocs

Well, you get the idea. I am neither a historian nor an accomplished Spey angling person, so I thought it best to consult some pedigreed anglers bring in a couple of the big guns from the world of Spey for their thoughts on the matter.

Simon "Speybro" Gawesworth

Simon Gawesworth needs no introduction. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on Spey casting and has taught and demonstrated Spey casting around the world. Simon’s thoughts on the “fad” are as follows:

“According to my dictionary, the definition of “fad” is: ‘1.  an intense but short-lived fashion; craze , or 2.  a personal idiosyncrasy or whim.’ Many of those that indulge in the art of Spey casting do so with extreme intensity, that much is true, but considering that the roots of Spey casting date back to the mid 1800’s, it is most definitely not ‘short lived’. The duration is irrelevant, even if Spey casting had evolved from the 1990’s the tremendous advantage that anglers have with Spey casting techniques – both in fishing and casting disciplines – ensure that this is an integral part of the sport of fly fishing, and long will remain so.”

Mike Kinney, the "The Skagit Godfather" (photo by Rich Schaaff)

Mike Kinney, a legend when it comes to fly fishing, has been at the cutting edge of fishing with a Spey rod in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years.  During that time Mike has become highly respected for guiding, instruction and rod design. When asked his thoughts on the matter of Spey casting being a fad, Mike had this to say:

“I started over twenty years ago. It became popular over ten years ago here in the US and has been around over 150 years in the UK. A fad usually does not last 150 years. While certain trends in two handed rods, spey casting, and spey fishing will probably go away over time the actual use of long rods for change of direction dynamic roll casts and enhanced line control will definitely gain favor as time goes on.”

There seems to be a common thread here, and if I were an authority on the Way of Spey I could not have said it any better myself. Thanks, gents, for weighing in with your thoughts on the matter. In my less-than-experienced assessment, the Spey thing is less like a fad and more like evolution of fly fishing (something Charles Darwin would have embraced).

To cite an article by Rob Kolakowski in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, “Spey casting is not just a passing fad, it’s around for good.”

Case closed. No further arguments.

Ode to April

I recently returned from a trip to British Columbia where I spent two weeks fishing the Skeena system. I hit every river on my BC bucket list, and can now die a happy man.  For those not in the know, the Skeena River is the second largest river in BC, and has a list of tributaries that read like a Fantasy Wish List: The Kispiox, Bulkley, Morice, Copper (yes the Copper River – the mere mention of which causes people to drive out of their way and spend ridiculous sums of money when the infamous King salmon from this river hit the Pike Place Market each year). If you’re not familiar with the area, the Skeena system is an all star lineup. Beautiful country, too.

kispioxbulkley

The chance to take a trip like this could be considered the pinnacle of one’s fishing career, and catching a monster steelhead from this river system might well be the ultimate feather in one’s lucky fishing cap. But for a guy like me it was just another few days on just another river, or two, or four: no big deal. I opted to forgo a professional guide, instead saving my pennies for daily filet mignon and 12 year old Scotch and the finest of Cuban cigars, which I enjoyed from the comforts of my brand new Earthroamer XV-LT, which I purchased specifically for this trip. Paid cash, too, since my royalties from book sales are astronomical ever since making Oprah’s Book Club and the New York Times’ Bestseller list. The Earthroamer is capable of going almost anywhere, and its offroad capabilities came in handy because I hit some weather on the drive north.

Earthroamer

As one might imagine, this vehicle garners a good bit of attention, and I had many curious folks ask to come aboard for a looksee.  While enjoying a beautiful early evening along the banks of the Kispiox, a rig pulled up and a very attractive young lady wearing an Olive the Woolly Bugger t-shirt and Goretex waders emerged from behind the wheel. I assumed she was stopping to eye the river and perhaps do a bit of fishing, but she actually stopped for the sole purpose of asking about the Earthroamer. Now I’m no dirty old man and this young lady was young enough to be my daughter (and Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler is reading this), so I didn’t invite her to stay for long.  But since she was already geared up, we decided to fish the run right below camp together. She was struggling a bit, so I gave her some casting and presentation instruction, which resulted in her hooking up with this cute little 17 lb hen.  Moments later I humbly landed one of my nicer fish on the Kispiox (a 40.75 lb buck).  Before she left, the young lady angler and I exchanged autographs, and I’ll be honest:  April Vokey looks even more beautiful in person than she does on the internet.  As she drove off I patted the fender of the Earthroamer and thought to myself, “Owning this thing is better than walking a puppy in a park on a summer day.” I’m sure I’ll have to sell it now that Mrs. UA has read this.

april_vokey_steelieAprilFools

I won’t bore you with the details of the fishing, but suffice it to say it was stellar. Actually, it was gluttonous. I quite honestly got sick of catching steelhead: 12 fish days were common, though on one day in particular I lost count after 23. By the end of the trip my hands were heavily calloused and I’d just about worn the cork off my Sage Z-Axis 7136. And speaking of the rod, the best thing of all on this trip was that my Spey casting was flawless – it was as if I was magically transformed into a gifted caster of masterful status. One morning another angler watched me from afar and snapped this photo of me in action. When I’d caught every fish out of that run and was making my way back to camp for a break, he waved me down and showed me the photo, which he later emailed to me.  “Don’t I recognize you from somewhere?  You’re Mike Kinney, aren’t you?”  I chuckled and replied, “No, but I get that a lot.”

Picture 141

Tightlines to all – I hope you’re enjoying this first day of April.