Choosing the best spey rod for trout

Choosing the Best Spey Rod for Trout Fishing

Spey fishing for trout is one of the fastest growing niches in the world of fly fishing. These days, you can find two-handed rods in a variety of sizes and lengths that will cover just about any trout spey fishing situation you can imagine. With all of the choices available, it helps to consider the rod’s taper, line size, and length when trying to find the perfect spey rod for your needs.

Spey vs Switch for Trout
While both spey rods and switch rods look identical, the reality is they have radically different actions with radically different performance attributes. To understand the difference, let’s first look at the actual taper or flex of each rod. A true Spey taper will possess a powerful tip and a relatively more moderate mid and butt section. That’s not to say spey rods can’t be fast action, but typically there’s some bend in the middle of the shaft. This taper allows the caster to easily make a sustained anchor cast, like a snap-T or double spey, without the middle of the rod unloading too quickly. In contrast, a switch taper bends more like a standard single-hand rod. It’s usually fast through the butt and mid sections and has some flex in the tip section. This allows the caster to easily make an over-head cast in situations like beach fishing and works well for nymph fishing with strike indicator rigs. In summary, a spey taper will excel at making spey casts while a switch rod will do better with overhead casts. While you can perform a spey cast with a switch rod, due to the faster butt and mid sections wanting to recover quickly (go straight) the caster needs to use more line speed and the timing must be spot on. Consequently, switch rods are not the best choice if you’re learning how to spey cast.

Trout Spey Line Size
If you’re new to the spey game you’ll notice that a #4 weight Spey rod is considerably heavier than a #4 weight single-hand rod. The reality is they’re not even close. A good rule of thumb is to consider the power of a spey rod two line sizes heavier than a single-hand rod of the same line size. For example, a #4 weight spey rod has a similar power to a #6 weight single-hand rod.

Knowing this, there are three questions you must ask yourself when choosing a line size for your new trout spey set-up. First off, how big are the trout you’re chasing? If you’re here in Oregon, chances are you’re going to be swinging rivers like the Deschutes, McKenzie, and Yakima. In general, our average fish ranges from 12” to 16” in length. Consequently, a #3 or #2 weight is ideal. Rocky Mountain trout tend to run slightly larger necessitating a #4 weight on many rivers. Finally, if you’re headed to Alaska, the average fish size on many rivers is 18” to 24”, which demands a #5 or #6 weight. (There are places up there that call for a #7 weight spey) The second question in choosing the best line size is what are the tackle requirements for your fishery? Will you need to cast large, heavy streamers? Does your river require heavy sink-tips?  While your average fish size may dictate a #3 weight, you may need to jump up to a #4 weight if heavy sink-tips are required on your river. Conversely, if soft hackles and caddis pupa are on the menu, #2 and #3 weights are better for protecting light tippets and small flies. The last question you need to consider is what are the average environmental conditions on your river? Large, open tail waters here in the West often offer up some fierce wind. –This element should also be considered above and beyond the size of your fish and tackle requirements as well.

Trout Spey Length
Choosing the length of your trout spey is the easiest part of the equation. Put simply, the longer the rod the longer you can cast. -The shorter the rod, the tighter you can be to the bank, brush and overhanging trees. While shorter rods in the 10.5’ to 11’ range clearly have an advantage in small rivers and creeks, longer rod in the 11.5’ to 12’ range have a few clear advantages on bigger water. First off, they’re easier to learn on if you’re new to the game. Secondly, a longer stick makes casting sink-tips way more efficient and fun. And finally, the additional length is ideal for line control and mending, especially on medium to large rivers. 

If I Only Had One Trout Spey Rod
Admittedly I’m a gear whore… When swinging for trout on my home waters of the Deschutes, the inside of my drift boat looks a lot like the deck of a glittery bass boat you might see in a tournament on the Outdoor Channel –Rods, rods and more rods! I’ll have a #3 weight rigged with a floating line for soft hackle fishing. Often times I’ll have a second #3 weight rigged with a light sink-tip and smaller streamer. I couldn’t leave the boat ramp without a #4 weight donning a heavy sink-tip/streamer combo, which I have an additional floating line for just in case I need to swing caddis pupa in the evening wind. And finally, waiting in the wings is a #5 weight that I only use for throwing heavy streamers on the windiest of days. Each tool has a specific fishing purpose in mind. That being said, you can get pretty crazy with this sport. However, if I was going to recommend one trout spey rod that can handle the widest range of casting conditions, fish size and tackle requirements, I would go with the G.Loomis IMX-PRO 11’11 #4 weight. This rod has a true spey taper which gives me that smooth, groovy feeling I love when two-handed casting. Additionally, it’s light enough to fish soft hackles and caddis pupa with 5X tippet on a dry line, yet it has enough in the tank to cast 10’-12’ of T-10 sink-tip and a weighted streamer. While this rod is medium-fast action, the tip is powerful enough that I can put some heat on it when I need to blast through a stiff wind. More so, I love the 11’11 length –Weight wise it feels like a shorter rod in your hand, though the additional length commands big water in the distance and line control departments. Finally, not only is the 41111-4 IMX-PRO a great trout spey choice for the rivers here in Oregon and Washington, it’s a perfect stick for many of fisheries I love to visit in the Rockies and Alaska.

Wading through all of the techno-mumbo-jumbo of spey fishing can be a little intimidating at first. Hopefully the points above will help you narrow down your search and get you going down the right path with trout spey. The good news is the staff at Northwest Fly Fishing Outfitters is always happy to help answer your questions, set you up with the right rod and make sure you have a balanced line for your new outfit. 

Tom Larimer

Posted by Jack on 04/06 at 09:28 PM in (0) Comments

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