Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Q&A: Whitney Gould and Spey-O-Rama 2010

Whitney Gould casting at Spey-O-Rama 2009

Whitney Gould won the 2009 Women’s Spey-O-Rama Championship. The women's division increasingly picks up speed as the women cast better and further each year. Whitney's winning casts last year were 117', 114', 102', and 117' for a total of 450. She is heading back April 9,10,11 to join the top competition casters in the world for Spey-O-Rama at the Golden Gate Casting Club in San Francisco. In between practicing in Portland, Oregon and chasing chromer steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, Rogue Angel Whit answered a few questions.

Rogue Angels: What is Spey-O-Rama?

Whitney Gould:
From SpeyPages and a post by Bob Pauli, here is a great description of what Spey-O-Rama is: Spey O Rama is sometimes defined as the US Open of Spey casting. It is a competitive event. There will be vendors there with Spey- and single-hand rods and lines for the public to try. When you arrive with your rod, there will be lines available to you. The vendors will assist your efforts, and you can make connections for lessons at another time if you are a beginner.
Spey O Rama will have demonstrations by world renowned teachers from every corner of the globe, and the bonus is they are nice guys and gals whom you can get with one-on-one. You will learn a ton as you see experts push themselves and their equipment to heights and distances unimagined five years ago. Just as in auto racing, Spey O Rama fly line designs, rods and styles trickle down to us mere mortals on steelhead and salmon rivers, enabling us to do very well.
But at its core Spey O Rama is about competition. It has interesting rules that make condition much like fishing: limited back cast room, limited rod length, large angle changes in four required casts executed from three-foot deep water with a time limit. A Spey O Rama winner is recognized world-wide as a true champion who beat the best.

RA: And how did you get involved with Spey-O-Rama?

WG: I joined the Golden Gate Casting Club when I was practicing with my single hand rod. It was 2006. I saw some guys practicing for the upcoming Spey-o-Rama; they put a spey rod in my hands.
Growing up fishing on the east coast I had not been exposed to two-handed rods. It was the first time I had seen a spey rod, much less casted one. Intrigued, I went to the 2006 Spey-o-Rama. I was shocked to see only one female competing, Donna O'Sullivan.

And the strangest thing is the guys actually forgot about her casting! She was casting after the men’s competition and there were two men tied for first place. The scene was thick with rivalry and they kind of well, forgot about Donna casting. But with she is fierce, determined, and tough-she went out there and casted anyway. She was the only woman I knew that had competed there.

RA: I can imagine watching Donna go out there and singly cast for the women’s division had a profound effect on you?

WG: Yeah it was awesome. Donna has done a great job as the Spey-O-Rama (SOR) chair person and as a women caster. She kept the women's division going when there was no one else. Her perserverance, inspired me to stand beside her the next year. So after the competition I promised the club that I would participate with her the following year. I began practicing 2 months prior to the 07 competition. I set a reasonable goal for myself; make all four casts and get the line to completely unroll.

RA: So this will be your fourth year competing, correct? Does having these other years under your belt provide you with more confidence?

WG: In some ways, yes! I know what I have to do to prepare for the competition but preparing for the experience itself is another thing. There are many things beyond your control, like unknown weather conditions. And there is the mental aspect that is within your control, but difficult. My personal weakness is self doubt. I practice with Brian Styskal and we definitely talk about the mental side of the competition. Together we have worked to better our mental game; controlling emotions when you are not casting to your fullest ability. When I am there I try not to think about what others are doing and I focus on doing the best I can given the circumstances. I compare myself to how I did the year prior and work to improve lacking areas of my casting. Easier said than done!

RA: How does it feel to be heading back to Spey-o-rama after winning last year's women's division casting competition?

WG: I’m excited for this year. There is a core group of women competitors. We seem to be growing as casters together. It should be an interesting year and I expect we will see better and further casting from this group of dedicated women.

RA: Who is this core group of women competitiors?

WG: Takako Inoue from Japan, Siv-Anita Eide From Norway , Donna O'Sullivan, Mia Sheppard, and myself-all from the States.

RA: Do you feel more pressure to perform or more confident coming back?

WG: I feel more focused on my life long goal of perfecting my casting. This goal has definitely humbled me and often leaves me feeling very green but keeps me trying harder. The pressure I feel is of trying to do your best in front of an audience. I think it was my second year and I still wasn’t able to cast with my left hand up. Imagine acknowledging that to not only yourself, but to 100 people who are there for a show! It is embarrassing, but you go back to why you are there and what your own personal goals are, and simply just doing the best you can.

RA: What is the competition cast and how do they judge it?

WG: Casters can use whatever cast they choose in four situations:
Line from the right – over right shoulder and over left shoulder
Line from the left – over right shoulder and over left shoulder
The best of each of the four casts is totaled. Highest total wins.

RA: So Whit, you spend a lot of time fishing for steelhead with a two handed rod- both winter and summer runs-describe your fishing set up: rod, reel, line.

WG: I use my Burkheimer 7133 year round. A 7 weight that measures out 13’ 3” inch in length. During the summer, I use a short Scandi head with polyleaders; Winter, a Skagit head with sink tips. I have a Loop Evotech reel with two spools. Both have running lines ready to go. In the summer I like to use .027 guideline LRL. Winter I use the same running line but thicker I think it’s the .034.

RA: Why the thicker running line in the winter?

WG: Its easier to hold on to when your hands are cold! Also the color of the running lines are different than from the heads-it helps in seeing your line.

RA: Okay, so then describe your competition set up: rod, reel, line.

WG: For Competition I use my Burkheimer 10150-3. Thats a 10 weight rod measuring out to be 15’, 3 pieces. I use a long line cut back to measure around 65’. The competition is set up so you need to make a 40 degree change of direction. In choosing a line length you want to make sure you choose a length that can make that corner. This varies amongst casters and depends on variables such as your height and experience. Personally I like to be on the safe side and use a line that is a little shorter than the other gals. For reels I like a large arbor so I go big- the MegaLoop.

RA: What did you mean by a 40 degree change of direction?

WG: You set your line up behind a marker then use a change of direction cast such as a single spey to drop the anchor in front then cast straight out landing on the side of a marker.

RA: Why does the shorter line help you be on the safe side?

WG: Shorter lines are safe in that there is less line to pick up and carry, for me it is more likley that I am able to control the amount of momentum into MY vloop if I dont have to pick up a lot of line. I have spent two years concentrating on developing an energized, compressed v loop.

RA: What is the difference between the two set-ups and why wouldn't you just use the same rod for fishing and competing?

WG: Length of the rod. I will use both set ups to fish, but it depends on the fishery. For example I used both set ups on the Clearwater last fall. It was so much fun being able to fish a full line at 90 feet and then pick up my 7133 to fish in close. Switching up like this helped me in preparing for the competition while fishing at the same time. It was like the best of both worlds.

RA: Any superstitions you have?

WG: Of course! Brian and I had a thing for Guideline’s pink running line when we first got started casting at the competition. Recently he found some old pink guideline running line in a dusty box. It made our day and it’s coming with us to Spey-O-Rama!
I also have this ritual where I go get a pedicure before I do anything big. I got red, of course.

Whit, thanks for answering our questions. Best of luck to you and the entire group of women casters. Have fun-Make us proud!
For more information on Spey-O-Rama or to attend, click HERE.

Whit's competition rod with pink accents made by Burkheimer

Some of the ladies from 2009 enjoying the sunshine at Spey-O-Rama