Way Yin | www.flycastinginstructor.com
Way Yin recently joined the Cortland Pro Staff, and we’re proud to have him as a leading industry representative and adviser. Way started when he was 8 years old, tying flies and fishing his home-finished fiberglass rod for bass and panfish in Maryland. Over time his interests grew to include the technical aspects of fly casting — including line design, rod design and teaching fly casting — and guiding. He designed the first modern long-belly Spey line, was instrumental in the design of many groundbreaking Spey line tapers, and has been involved in the development of two-handed and switch rods.
Way’s fascination with the mechanics of fly casting and teaching led to the first “unified” theories linking the mechanics and physics of overhead casting to Spey casting. He is an FFF Master Certified Casting Instructor, an FFF Certified Two-Handed Casting Instructor and was the first American to be awarded the Association of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors’ Master Instructor Certification. And, he assisted the FFF in developing and administrating its Two-Handed Casting Certification program. He is a former U.K. distance casting champion, and twice placed third in the prestigious CLA Game Fair Spey casting championships.
Tell us a little about your background, I mean aside from the introduction above.
As a lifelong angler I enjoy fishing for Atlantic salmon in the rugged Kola peninsula in Russia, flats fishing for permit and tarpon in the Florida Keys, but mostly steelhead fishing in the Pacific Northwest. I am a licensed guide in Washington and Oregon, but I’m not full time. I graduated from medical school as a trained anesthesiologist and now am a practicing interventional pain management specialist. I also play guitar, have been in a couple of weekend bands, you know — blues and classic rock covers. And I am co-founder along with a Navy SEAL Team veteran of Discover Courage, a nonprofit created to help servicemen and servicewomen struggling with PTS (post-traumatic stress) issues. That being said, I still love teaching anglers how to cast or refine their mechanics.
As a self-described all-around angler, why are you so strongly identified with Spey?
A frequent misconception among the fly fishing public is that Spey casting is only associated with fishing a two-handed rod. The casts that make up the Spey repertoire can be applied to nearly all fly fishing scenarios, from spring creek fishing with a 2-weight fiberglass rod, to nymphing seams between weed beds, to swinging the biggest rivers using a 16-foot two-hander. Learning Spey casts is one of the fastest ways of becoming a better all-around angler.
When I started getting into Spey casting in the mid-1990s, it was considered an “art” and attempts to describe the fundamental mechanics of the cast were derided. So naturally, I had to do it since I like challenges. I guess one reason I’m more associated with Spey, beyond figuring out how the Spey cast works, has to do with products — developing lines, rods and some of the instructional stuff we did based on this understanding. It’s also easier to be a small fish noticed in the relatively small pond of Spey — there are so many awesome single-hand casters and instructors out there.
How would you compare Spey fishing in the U.S. to the various European markets?
Spey casting and fishing in the U.S. has seen rapid growth — and near-rabid interest — over the last 20 years, and the niche continues to grow. Of course, in the U.K. and Scandinavia two-handed approaches for Atlantic salmon have been around for a few hundred years. So by comparison, the whole Spey thing is still evolving and maturing here, which is good news for the retailers because a growing number of anglers are becoming more competent and wanting more products to feed their interests. And I think that the European markets, while selling less because this niche has fully evolved, have benefited from innovations that came from the U.S., including a new casting/fishing style (originating in the Pacific Northwest, commonly referred to as the “Skagit style”), the development of new lines (modern long-belly lines, Skagit lines), and the development of sophisticated and highly capable rods for two-handed fishing.
Is it a regional thing and if so, where has it or is it taking hold in the U.S.?
For two-handed Spey-style casting and fishing, the greatest innovations and interest started in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Using two-handed rods and lines swinging heavy flies and sink tips for winter steelhead was a real “Aha!” moment, if you previously struggled with a single-hander all day. Countless shoulders and backs have said “thank you two-handed” in the years since pioneers like John Farrar, George Cook and Dec Hogan — influenced by Scandinavians like Goran Anderson — first started playing with two-handers on the Skagit two decades ago. Since then, the two-handed style has naturally spread to other areas in the U.S. like the Great Lakes. The development of smaller, lighter rods has found a crossover for smaller rivers and styles like nymphing as well.
Is the niche so small that Spey anglers have to special order their rigs or do retailers have them covered?
Spey die-hards have always been a very detail-oriented lot. Back in the day, before specialized equipment was widely available, we would splice lines together from bits and pieces of production lines to make our own tapers. My prototypes for the original XLT, for example, were spliced from six to seven parts from different lines, one of which I had to order from the U.K.
These days, there are good lines from a number of manufacturers that fit most of the two-handed fishing applications. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. As the fishing public matures, and gets better at casting these rods, I believe there will be migration to better line designs that will allow these anglers to fish even more effectively than they are currently.
What should retailers be stocking for the holiday season to address anglers' Spey fix?
Most two-handed anglers, especially beginners and intermediates, feel most comfortable fishing short-belly shooting-head lines, such as those commonly marketed as “Skagit” or “Scandinavian” heads. Although these lines are quite limited from a fishing standpoint, they are pretty easy to cast normal fishing distances (50-80 feet).
Do you have a favorite species to stalk?
My favorites would be big early season Atlantic Salmon in the Kola and steelhead fishing in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a lot cheaper for me to fish steelhead, so that’s mainly what I do; looking forward every year to the fall run. My next favorite is flats fishing for permit. For me, it’s like steel heading, only sicker.
I have a singular outstanding fishing memory, do you?
Not singular, but many wonderful memories vividly etched in my brain. The most recent involved fishing with Special Operations members though Discover Courage, the nonprofit organization I co-founded.
Any favorite spots to fish you wouldn't mind sharing with us?
Croix Pool on the Rynda and also Wet Spot on the Deschutes, but I’m not telling you any more!
You've also been involved with R&D from time to time. Where is technology taking the fly rod market in terms of both performance characteristics and pricing?
Advances in the rod market will likely be influenced by developments in nanotechnology in the resin side of prepreg, and continued refinement of mixing different modulus materials to achieve the best balance between energy release and dampening. I don’t think there are going to be major changes in the use of graphite fibers for a long time.
On the line side, tapers for most applications have largely demonstrated convergent evolution. Until there are significant changes on the rod side, tapers will continue to be refined and performance differences will be incremental. I believe there are huge “out of the box” material combinations in fly lines that may jump performance significantly — and I am excited to be looking at some of these ideas with Cortland.
How important is the Internet to anglers and to Spey fishermen in particular?
The Internet is an awesome thing. You can get access to terabytes of data and an answer to any question nearly immediately. Unfortunately, that answer might not be the right one; this is the down side of instant and easy access. The old saying of “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) has never been more important than in the Internet age. When personal responsibility (and therefore credibility) becomes anonymized some crazy stuff gets posted, which is unfortunate because there really is a lot of great stuff out there.
The Spey market, being relatively small but composed of a lot of real-compulsive gearheads, is uniquely susceptible to pedagogy. As the legion of two-handed fishers matures, however, I believe that the disproportionate influences from a few market “thought leaders” will dilute, and more folks will get the best gear for their needs in hand.
Do you see any change in their buying habits?
Hmmmm. Have to think on this more.
Cortland is about to celebrate 100 years in business, what do you think about that?
Awesome. Definitely want to help add to Cortland’s legacy of product innovation and quality to ensure it lasts through the next 100 years.
Which Cortland products stand out in your mind?
The 444 and Micron.
How do you see technology impacting the fishing line market?
I think novel applications of existing technologies will exceed novel materials’ technology in the short to moderate term. If a real-game-changing material comes out I’m guessing it won’t be for a number of years.
Do you do any sport fishing?
I grew up chucking bait and gear, but my interests (and time) now are pretty much focused on fly fishing.
Your thoughts and hopes for the "new Cortland"?
Cortland has always been known as a line company. I hope the future focus will be back to making the absolute best lines for specific applications in the fly and the sport markets, and driving market innovation in this space.
Any other parting thoughts?
A drunk stumbles out of a bar. Surprised on the street by a nun, he punches her in the face and knocks her to the ground. Tottering over her, he says, “Take THAT Batman!”
Wow, I didn’t see that one coming, thanks.