We’re pretty shameless about the fact that we love spey fishing for steelhead, and spey fishing for king salmon, and more recently, spey fishing for trout. We fish in some places that are perfect for the two-hander…and two handed rods are fun!
There’s been a lot of buzz in the past couple of years about switch rods – lightweight double-handed rods in the 10 to 12 foot range that are designed for both two-handed and overhead casting. To be honest, the switch rod thing seemed to us to be a little gimmicky – until we spent some time with one.
Based on extensive research completed over 5 days at Alaska West on the Kanektok, we present to you some reasons that we think you should try a switch rod, if you haven’t already.
- Switch rods are really fun. Most switch rods live in the 4- to 7-weight world, and small rods mean little physical effort. Add light weight to a multitude of different spey-oriented and overhead casts, and you get lots of variety and lots of fun.
- Switch rods are effective for more than swinging. The classic sunken swung fly presentation works great with a switch rod, but so does a dead drift with sculpin/flesh fly/egg-type patterns. Switch rods are great tools for fishing mouse and hopper patterns on floating lines. The extra length of a switch rod means incredible line control, whether slowing down a swing, steering that flesh fly into and out of a snag, or skittering that hopper all over the surface of the bucket.
- You can fish small water with switch rods. You already know that we think spey casting is fun, but full-on spey outfits, even in light weights, are just too long for small rivers, side channels and small tributaries. A Sage 5126-4 spey rod (12.5 feet) plus a 400 grain Skagit line (27 feet) plus a short tip (7 feet) plus a short leader (3 feet) still lands a fly 50 feet away from you – not the best call if you’re fishing a 20 foot wide side channel. 5 weight switch rods like the Sage 5110-4 love heads as short as 16 feet and tips as short as 5 feet – making your fly swim beautifully 25 feet away.
- Switch rods will make you a better spey caster, because you can do it more. Great, you fish a spey rod for a week in June on the Kanektok and then for a week in September on the Kispiox. What about the rest of the year? If you live near decent-sized trout water, you can fish a switch rod for a lot of the year. Making those spey casts year-round will make you a lot better at it.
- Switch rods will make you a better spey caster, because these little rods are unforgiving. There’s no two ways about this one – it’s a lot easier to spey cast a 14 foot for a 9 weight than it is to cast an 11 foot for a 5 weight. You don’t want to learn spey casting on a switch rod. So why is this a good thing? Mistakes can be overcome with those big, long traditional spey rods. If you’re fishing a lightweight switch rod and you pull your anchor, or leave too much line on the water, or try to over-power a cast, or commit any one of a number of other spey casting sins, the cast just won’t work. Yes, it’s hard at first, but fishing light, short switch rods will definitely make you a better spey caster, because you pay for your mistakes.
Michael sigalet says
Thank you for this article. I can hardly wait to fish with a switch rod. Most of my fly fishing is on lakes. Rainbow trout from 2 to 8 pounds.
I love fly casting. What switch rod and reel and line would you recommend?
Mike Sigalet. Vernon. British Columbia Canada
Jim Kim says
Hi Michael, A switch rod on a lake should be a hoot. Our experts recommend getting a 5wt switch rod, either a Sage X or the Echo SR are both good choices. As for lining the rod, The Rio Outbound WF7/I or Rio Coastal WF/7I would be good choices for sub surface fishing and a Rio Outbound Short WF7F for top water fishing. In terms of a reel, get a reel that will balance out the rod, typically on a 5wt switch a 7/8 wight reel is a good size. the Sage Trout, Lamson -5+ or the Redington Rise should work. If you get a chance, go pick up a few rods at your local fly shop to get a feel for the weight and balance. Hope this helps and let us know what you end up getting.