The highlight for many spectators is the Snake Roll, in which the caster loops the rod through the air in a circular motion, animating the line above the water, before drawing back and shooting it forward.
â€śYouâ€™re making these beautiful sweeping motions that are extended through the rod and the line,â€ť said tournament chair Libby Wolfensperger.
â€śWhen itâ€™s done right, it just becomes a physical extension of the person, and itâ€™s just astounding.â€ť
When the clock times out, the longest of each of the four types of cast are tallied into a single score.
Prizes â€” which this year included glass trophies, handmade fishing reels and bottles of aged Scotch â€” are awarded for total score as well as the longest cast in menâ€™s, womenâ€™s and senior divisions.
This yearâ€™s menâ€™s champion Gerard Downey of Ireland picked up his sixth Spey-O-Rama title and made the longest cast of the tournament at 191 feet.
Senior division champion Martin Kiely broke the tournament record for ages 55 and up with a cast of 169 feet.
It’s Not Just Old Guys
Tournament officials say they’ve seen a growing interest in fly fishing in women and young people in recent years.
This year’s event included a record number of female entries with nine, and the ages of competitors ranged from casters in their early 20s to those in their 80s.
Wolfensperger says the beauty of Spey casting is that with enough practice, anyone can learn how to do it.
â€śIt takes skill. Does it take a lot of strength? No. So the women are competing and really, really as good as men,â€ť she said.
Kara Knight, who finished third overall in the womenâ€™s field, had the longest individual cast in the division, hitting 136 feet.
“Itâ€™s becoming more accessible to ladies,” she said of the sport. “It’s great to be out here and show other people they can do it.”
But it’s about more than just competition. Knight, who made her sixth trip from British Columbia for Spey-O-Rama, says the camaraderie andÂ sense of community is what draws her back each year.
Warming up for the tournament, rivals can been seen giving each other tips and comparing gear.
â€śEveryone wants the best for each other, even among the competitors in the same field,â€ť Knight said. â€śIt is like a family.â€ť
When Knight isnâ€™t in the water competing herself, she said she’s a fan, like the estimated 200-300 spectators who came to Golden Gate Park to watch the tournament over the course of the weekend.
â€śThese people are the best in the world at what theyâ€™re doing. They set records every year it seems, so itâ€™s pretty neat to watch.â€ť