spey fishingby Melissa Norris

Spey fishing advantages are numerous and fishing for trout and salmon this way could easily become an addiction. The very first time I learned the basics of casting Skagit style for rainbow trout with a two handed fly rod was on the Naknek River on a trip to Bear Trail Lodge. It is there I met Kate Crump who was fated to become one of my besties. Their head guide at the time, Kate was charged with teaching me how to cast. Now Kate and her husband Justin run Frigate Adventure Travel based in King Salmon, Alaska offering trips on the Naknek and Nushagak rivers plus various daily fly outs throughout Bristol Bay. To watch Kate cast a spey rod is fascinating. She throws a huge amount of line, making it look effortless. But not only is Kate a heckuva fisherman, she is also a loving and kind individual who makes learning fun.

Since that first time on the Naknek I have spent a little more time learning to spey fish. There is something about landing brute force trout and king salmon on a fly rod that enhances the experience. Casting a 13-foot fly rod took less physical effort and the long rod also provided better line control—making hook ups easier. Also, most people can cast a spey rod much further than a traditional fly rod, which is a necessity to catch fish sometimes. Plus, I don’t know about you, but as I get older I feel inflammation in my deltoids, and teres major and minor in my dominant shoulder and it seems like my body lasts longer with the spey rod. Even better is switching up your casting styles so that you give the shoulder breaks and that is also doable with the spey rod once you learn. When you are talking multiple days of fishing in a row for 8 to 10 hours on your trip of a lifetime, it starts to count. 

The truth is I don’t totally dedicate time to learning this way because I fish a variety of ways across the state every year. From jigging up halibut in the saltwater to fishing soft beads for kings, I love it all. But spey fishing has a piece of my heart and it is something I want to enjoy more of.

One afternoon, while chatting with my friend Linda Leary, who owns Women’s Flyfishing and Fishewear in Anchorage, we made the connection that we should co-host a trip to bring ladies who fly fish together to learn more about spey. We couldn’t think of a better first go at this than to connect with Kate and fish the Naknek. Women’s Flyfishing offers classes and trips for female fly fishers and is dedicated to teaching women the sport in a supportive and non competitive environment. The anglers who sign up for the trip this October 9-13 will get to target trophy-sized rainbow trout with the chance to hook and land an elusive 30-plus-inch beast the Naknek is famous for. Attendees will receive three days of hands on instruction from Kate and her team, learning the basics and improving on their existing knowledge. They’ll also get to be featured in an article I produce for Fish Alaska magazine, and maybe even appear on the cover.

spey fishing

Spey fishing has many advantages and is ideally suited for big water like the Naknek River where bankside trees and other obstructions make overhead casting a challenge. There are other rivers in Alaska well suited for spey fishing like the Kenai, Kanektok and more. With spey casting, distances from 75- to 140 feet can be achieved without a back cast once you get the hang of it. The spey is well suited for throwing heavy sink tips on the swing or tossing streamers for fattened fall trout.

The nature of the longer spey rods is to present flies with more precision and achieve greater line control once cast. Mending is easier, keeping your fly offering on the dinner table for longer than a traditional fly rod. I am a fan of Skagit-style top water line loading to aid my casting. 

Our group will become familiar with the principals of various casts like the Double and Single Spey, Snap C, Snap T and Snap Z, fishing from river right and river left. They’ll also get the lowdown on gear selection. 

What an amazing opportunity to experience Alaska in all of its glory on the Naknek River with these respected women anglers in a nurturing and fun group. A group of this kind has never been assembled. It’s quite an opportunity so grab one of your girlfriends or spouse and come join us in October. Guests will stay at the King Salmon Lodge on the banks of the Naknek River and be guided daily by Frigate Adventure Travel and hosted by Women’s Flyfishing and Fish Alaska magazine. If you would like to learn more about this spey fishing trip, shoot an email to info@womensflyfishing.net.


Melissa Norris is Publisher/Founder of Fish Alaska since its inception in 2001. She has had the extreme pleasure of fishing all over Alaska employing a wide variety of techniques to target our state gamefish.


spey fishing