Cumberland fly shop

Small fly shops are all too few these days, and it’s a tough market even during good economic times(unlike now) but I’m happy to pass on that there is a new fly shop located in the comox region, more specifically the village of Cumberland.

http://www.cumberlandflyshop.com

Pop in next time your on the way up island, Peter and the rest of the crew are stand up guys, and the inventory is growing fast. Do yourself a favour, skip Cabelas and stop in at a real fly shop on your way to wherever on this little slice of paradise known as Vancouver island….and stop in at the microbrewery while your at it.

Advertisements

Matching lines for trout speys and switches

One of the most difficult things about lighter switch and spey rods (and indeed for two handed rods in general) is finding and dialing in adequate lines to match them. Overhead lines are one thing but lines for two handed casts are another all together. There is definitely a limited availability of lines, and even less people selling them with any clue as to what works. Even if you fish heads, they still cost 50-65 bucks each retail, and buying five of them to find one that works is a frustrating and unrealistic process.

Very generally most true 4 wt trout switches that I have run into are going to match up with either a 240 or 270 grain airflo compact scandi, but what if you hate scandi’s and want skagits? Somewhere between a 250-320 grain skagit is going to generally match up quite well. Hate skagits? What about mid or longer bellies? Things get even more tricky from there.

First of all what you need to do is really think about what you want to use or even need a trout switch or spey rod for. Do you really need or want one? Is it just a light summer steelhead rod? Is it primarily for chasing average sized trout? Big husky river browns and bows? Sea runs off the beach? Are you fishing deeper, cold water for coastal anadromous fish, stripping streamers or fishing warmer shallow water for wary small resident trout? Are you fishing far and fine and mending a lot? Nymphing? No one line or rod necessarily works well for all of these things. There are places and situations where these rods are probably more of a hindrance than a help. Before you even begin looking for a rod, think about where you want or need a trout rated switch rod. Then how long a rod do you need? If you fish small rivers that are 20 ft across or less, you are probably going to wish you brought a single hander instead. 10’6 is still pretty long if you are stripping flies or fishing small water. Your specific rivers and setting in mind, not far flung places you may never see, or places you don’t fish often, will give you the best idea of where to start. Figuring out what your preferences are is also key, especially what you like about other rods, eg. loading the rod deep, or casting off the tip. What is the action of the rod you have or are going to buy. You need to think about these things, not just plunk down a bunch of cash on a trout spey, and then expect to be casting 100′ with perfect loops.

If you have little experience with spey casting, then learning on a light switch rod is going to probably be quite difficult.

Switch lines: Snowbee switch (floating and intermediate) lines (to 200 gr.), Wulff ambush lines, and the Rio switch chucker (to 325 gr.) are all good choices for shorter switches. The Rio switch line only goes down to 375 gr. @ 55 ft making it useless for trout speys. They are general purpose short, beer can like fat lines with short tapers, similar to skagits but with more taper, typically they are poor for mending, delicate presentation and nymphing.

Skagits: Rio (skagit short to 250 gr. ,skagit max short and ishort to 200 gr.), Beulah (Tonic 300-325 gr), Scientific anglers skagit extreme( down to 280 gr.)(Airflo’s skagits only go as low as 360 grains which takes them into 5 wt territory) and probably others now all make light skagit or super short shooting head style heads some of them going down to around 200 grains these are probably the easiest to find of all light trout lines.

Scandinavian style heads: Vision (Vibe 65 a 21 ft scandi style integrated line down to 92 grains! designed for single hand rods, but will work nicely with shorter rods and conversions) Airflo compact scandi(240 gr-270 gr @ 29 ft), rio scandi body (down to 210 grains @ 23 ft), Beulah elixir (down to 245 gr grains @ 25 ft) These lines work very well as a general trout line but are usually fairly short heads and therefore poor for mending.

Mid and Long Bellies: At this point if you want to delve into this world you are going to have to do your homework, try different single handed lines, (different sized double tapers are a good start) maybe chop some lines or get a custom linemaker (Steve Godshall in Oregon my friends) to make you a line. There is simply no commercial interest in this at this time. I know a lot of people covet the 4/5 GPS lines but they are actually heavier than what most real trout rods can handle. Whatever you do, there is no easy out of the box line commercially available.

The first line I got with my first trout switch rod (a Beulah classic 10’6 4/5) was a 245 gr elixir scandi switch head. This line is recommended and designed for this rod. It was and is the worst line I have cast on that rod to date, now this is my own subjective experience and yet I’ve heard of similar complaints from others using lighter rods. You have to try these lines, not overhead but in wind on the water casting.

The best things you can do to match a line to your new switch or spey rod

1. Try other people’s, tackle shop guy’s, whoever’s lines on your rod at the river. Do this with rods too. Before you buy. Try as many lines as you can, DO NOT just compromise and buy what is immediately available at the shop. Try them with different leaders and different sized and weighted flies

2.Ask for advice on: two handed trout, skagitmaster forum or speypagesor other online resource, email people who post about these rods and see what they have to say. Do this before you buy.

3.Take all these things into consideration. You honestly have to love trout fishing to enjoy these rods. If you are casual about it and only really love steelhead and salmon then this stuff will probably not interest you. Don’t buy these rods if you feel kind of indifferent to the whole thing, save yourself the headache and hassle. It’s easy to read a bunch of articles and then get all pumped up about buying a bunch of shit. If you love fly fishing for trout, and all this stuff doesn’t scare you off, then proceed down this road.

In the end only you can decide what works and what doesn’t when it comes to lines. Good luck and have fun.

Mystic 11’3 8 wt switch rod review

There are many 8 weight switch rods on the market. There are also many cheap reviews that seem more concerned with the label and hype than for the quality and functionality of those rods. The truth is plenty of these rods are good, some are pretty mediocre, and a few are very good. My intention in reviewing this rod is just simply to give people an idea about a little known company that makes a good U.S. made rod. The blanks are made overseas, and they are assembled in the US (like virtually every other company out there that claims to be US made). The 11’3 Mystic 8 wt switch rod is very light, medium/fast action, crisp, powerful, simple in appearance and well made. In my opinion this rod rivals the TCX (and I love the TCX switches), Z axis, NRX, Helios or any other high end, expensive rod in performance. The rod is 11’3, 4 piece, comes with a black cordura tube with built in sock, decent cork, and larger handles than most switch rods. Solid warranty included as well.

DSCF7211

Antihype disclaimers

*Always try casting a rod before you buy it, with the lines you plan on using, because nothing is less indicative of a rods performance than wiggling it at the fly shop rod rack. If you do this (regardless of what the tackle jockey thinks) you will most likely end up with the rod you want (whether a Mystic or not) not a rod that you thought was something but different when you are actually fishing it on a river or beach*

* This rod (and no other either…yeah I’m talking about you sintrex) is not the second coming of fly rods, it will not make you cooler, grow a bigger cock, give you more rich friends, nor can you name drop Mystic. This rod however is a fun to fish 8 weight switch rod with very good value for the money.

DSCF7212

What it’s good for: Summer and winter steelhead, coho, huge trout, and any salmon except huge chinook and chum.

Grain window: 380-500

Recommended Lines: Shooting heads such as

420-470 gr. Airflo skagit compact

420-470 gr. Beulah elixir (scandi) or similar scandi line( RIO steelhead scandi, scandi, Airflo compact scandi etc.)

385 grain steelhead scandi for a lighter touch

450 grain Airflo intermediate skagit

I wouldn’t recommend: Chum, chinook, shark

DSCF7213

Price: Listed at $479.00 on Mystic’s website, I’ve seen them for sale for anywhere from $400 to $580, a touch cheaper than a Sage Method at a grand or so, eh?

Compatible reels: Light switch rods call for fairly light reels for balance, so any of the 80 series sage reels, the Speyco switch, Hardy marquis salmon 1, Ross cla 5 all balance well. My favorite is the sage 1880.

http://www.mysticoutdoors.com/

Skagit lines for trout

These days there is a lot of interest in trout spey and switch rods. While scandi style lines are a pretty obvious and effective line choice these rods also are a lot of fun with appropriate skagit lines. I’m not talking 600 grain fire hoses, but 150-320 grain skagits. Before we go any further nobody has pushed the envelope more than Ed Ward, who has written very extensively on the use of micro skagits on skagitmaster forum, 2 handed trout, and speypages(all on my blogroll). His singlehand conversion rods and sliced and diced skagit heads to match them are explained in minute detail. The guy has revolutionized two handed casting, line development, and fly design, so even if you don’t like him, he’s worth listening to.

So, why would you use a skagit on a trout rod? First of all you don’t need one at all, it’s just a different, specialized way to open up water to swing flies in. If you fish these conditions with a single hand rod and standard sink tip line and find no problem that’s fine, I’ve just never been there. I find micro skagits a lot of fun, your mileage may vary. When fishing rivers with lots of streamside brush right at your back, and water that is up and pushing hard such as many rivers on the island (and the coast) a single hand rod with a standard sink tip line isn’t going to get you out there very far. I’ve never found them to be workable in these kinds of conditions. A lot of times on such rivers you may not be able to fish each side of the river and seams and slow spots may be out on the other side of the river or the river is just wide. fast chutes that change into deep pools quickly, and where access restricts ideal approach. Fishing these spots requires getting down beneath fast surface water, casting farther out and good line control. There are lots of areas in rivers with fast surface current but slower (read trouty) water beneath the surface. Slowly swinging or stripping flies through these lies effectively are the scenarios where a skagit on a trout switch, spey or even a single handed rod comes in handy.

I’m not talking about chucking t-14 or huge intruders, hell you can’t really chuck T 14, and I’m talking about using regular trout streamers anyway but lighter tips like the heavy polyleaders or T-8 that used correctly get your fly into the zone for swinging flies. I don’t know about you but where I fish for trout whether sea run or resident my back is up against the bushes a lot of the time, or I am casting across faster water to get to individual seams or boulders. A dry line in this scenario is useless. Unless you think that swinging your fly on the surface downstream at 100 mph is a good way to hook trout. This is where the utility of a small skagit on a trout rod (be it single or doublehand) shows. A skagit allows you to cast a tip in tight quarters and still acheive distance, slowly swinging lies on the other side of the river, something a single hand sink tip line in the same scenario doesn’t usually excel or even work at.

Dialing in lines is an entirely subjective task, especially for some reason with skagit lines so this is only a line guide based on my experiences. You will most likely have to slice and dice lines if you go lighter than this, or to dial in particular rods, or for individual preference as some fast 10′ 4 wt rods are stronger than 9′ med action 6 wts. These recommendations are based on fishing with 10′ 5-7 IPS poly leaders and T8 and flies up to large streamers and smaller intruders.

9′ 5 wt med action singlehanders will take a 220-250 gr skagit or similar

9′ 6 wt  fast action singlehander = 20′ 300 grain skagit is a perfect match for me

4/5 switch rods(Echo/Tfo/Beulah) = 300 grains again is a perfect match on the rods I’ve used

Skagit lines are not for every trout situation, or river but for those places where standard lines seem to lack they can be incredibly fun and efficient.

Beach switch rod technique

When it comes to switch rods I havent delineated the techniques I use at the beach for sea runs at all, so here goes.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional casting instructor, nor am I Ed ward, but I do fish these rods a lot. If you don’t like switch rods or the idea of them, the techniques apply completely to single hand spey casting as well. If you are a beginner to these fisheries, or just want to catch some sea runs I honestly would just start with a singlehand 6 wt rod and a 40+ line. From there you can move into singlehand spey casting by purchasing a few extra lines if you are interested, and then only if you are still interested move into experimenting with switch rods. Going this route is expensive (the cheapest trout switch rod/reel/line combo I could go and buy right now is about $400) and it is a super tiny niche of fly fishing, it’s not cool, it isn’t for everybody, and it probably isn’t the best way to go about it either.

There are a few issues you will run into when fishing the beach or any other areas with slow or non moving water, and because spey and switch rods were designed primarily around swinging moving water you have to adjust your technique. Honestly over a long day at the beach casting the longer rod can be cumbersome and it can become tiresome to repeatedly roll cast your head back out for anchor setup before you cast, but with a bit of adaptation switch rods work quite fine at the beach. Below is a simple description of how it works for me on the beach.

Two hand overhead-(single hand overhead with a switch rod is honestly not worth bothering with for most rods) The technique is simple once you’ve dialed in the appropriate line. The best lines are usually a short floating scandi style head like the elixir switch, or airflo scandi compact, etc. not because a longer belly wouldn’t work but because typical beach technique is stripping the fly in close.

Note: Skagits are usually a poor choice for the slow moving shallow beaches because they make a lot of surface disturbance, are imprecise, and spook fish that are cruising in crystal clear, shallow water. I have also yet to find a beach like this that required T11 or 14 to fish properly. There are however areas (like chester allen describes in his book) where rips flow quickly and on the downtide side there is significant depth, I can see skagits being used as a specialty line here, but as a general beach line I would avoid them.

Strip your fly in to where is comfortable(on the beach for me that’s about 15′ away, the point where any fish that’s following the fly in usually sees me and bolts). Usually you will have stripped the head in past the tip already at this point, so what you need to do is get the head back out of the tip with a quick couple of roll casts or a poke. Many people don’t like this process, and if it sounds stupid well be forewarned before you go buy a switch rod for the beach, but it’s fairly quick and simple and not all that different to a getting a singlehand line back out. Rollcast your head back out past the tip (most suitable heads are 20-30 ft long) and then its a simple two hand single backcast and shoot, in what is usually a quick compact motion that takes all of a couple seconds. Once you get this dialed in it can be a very efficient and quicker way to get your line back out. An easier way that skips roll casting is to strip the head partially in so the fly is close but not all the way to the tip and then use a couple of false casts to get the head out, and then shoot your line. This is a good remedy for when it is weedy.

The lines that are suitable for these fisheries are usually heavy, short, and shoot far and are actually quite efficient at achieving distance once you get the hang of it. Another thing these lines are good at is casting larger poppers and other bulky flies used at the beach. Control of your running line is paramount as it is with single hand casting so if fishing a weedy area or somewhere where there are lots of snags or brush, a stripping basket is quite handy. Weed snagging your coiled running line sitting in the water or snagging your fly while you set up the anchor will usually destroy your cast. Be it single hand or not there are times in the year where I honestly will call it a night because of continuous and immediate fouling from massive amounts of seaweed drifting by on the tide.

In short where the switch rod technique excels is at long distance casting, and then stripping in to about 15-20 ft away. If you need to strip the fly right in, and you don’t need to cast far then the singlehand rod is usually a better call.

Spey casting on the beach

If you are stripping your fly in this is exactly the same as two hand over head until you start the cast. Without moving water you have to actively set your anchor, usually best done with a simple rollcast out in front or to the side “down” or “up” stream (parallel to the beach shore) depending on the cast and wind direction. I find a circle or double spey are go to casts and the snap T useful for getting weeds off the fly.  The biggest issue here on the beaches is wind and weeds, if there is lots of flotsam on the surface your line and fly will often come up fouled due to the mechanics of setting and moving so much of your line in and across the water. The best solution here is to cast overhead. Another issue people have with switch or spey rods at the beach is the head loop or (poly)leader loop catching in the guides as they strip in. There are lots of integrated lines out there(no loop between head and running line), and the type of knot you use for your leader can definitely have an effect, but essentially it’s just part of the game. I have the same problem with my singlehanders when stripping flies in. I find spey casting at the beach efficient in terms of distance, and can offer versatility where there is no back cast room, especially where the is less wind and weeds. Then again sometimes I also use a single hander at the beach. Your mileage may vary.

Mystic 9’3 6 wt M series fly rod review

It is suprising to me that many people haven’t heard of Michigan based Mystic fly rods, as every one of their rods I have cast have been exceptional and have great value.

Antihype disclaimers

*Always try casting a rod before you buy it, with the lines you plan on using, because nothing is less indicative of a rods performance than wiggling it at the fly shop rod rack. You will end with a rod you want (whether a Mystic or not) not a rod that you thought was something but different when you are actually fishing it on a river or beach*

* This rod (and no other either…yeah I’m talking about you sage one) is not the second coming of fly rods, it will not make you cooler, disappear your paunch or halitosis, make you more interesting, nor can you name drop Mystic. This rod however is a fun to fish 6 weight fly rod with very good value for the money*

I have used this rod, side by side with my trout switches (including a really light Mystic 4 wt switch rod) for much of the year targeting sea run cutthroat, browns, rainbows, and even occasionally coho both in the salt and fresh water on Vancouver island. It is the best by far out of the bunch of 6 wts I have owned for what I use it for which is small to large streamer fishing for aggressive trout from 12-24 inches. The cork after about a year of straight up salt and freshwater abuse DSCF7209

It is a medium/fast action four piece fly rod with a nice cordura tube (built in inserts no sock) with an understated grey/black/silver pinstripe appearance. It has a very strong tip, now no one is going to call this rod a “lightsaber” or moon unit or any other stupid name, it’s a simple rod, which I like. It has good quality cork, a nice decorative reel seat, the best shaped handle I’ve ever used, quick recovery, alignment marks and a small fighting butt. Two quad leg titanium stripping guides and stainless steel snake guides and tip round it out. Listed at around $450 off of the website I would say the comparative value of this rod is significant. I have used this rod in the salt for a season and there isn’t any sign of corrosion or performance issues related. Of course I do rinse it after every trip. DSCF7201 This rod is a powerful medium fast rod better suited for streamers, however with a nice double taper line, some fairly delicate presentations are possible. However it is however a six weight, not a spring creek buggy whip

DSCF7204

Recommended overhead lines: Snowbee XS XD 6 wt line (excellent for both roll casting and distance casting, handles mono and small polyleaders very well) matches the best of any line I have tried with it.

A 6 wt scientific anglers GPX, or Rio gold will cast just fine on this rod.

Recommended single hand spey casting lines:

Beulah elixir 245 gr. head a scandi head that touch and go casts small flies very well on this rod, less clunky than the snowbee, pairs well with mono or 7′ poly leaders.

Beulah tonic 300 gr. head (skagit) for single hand skagit, will turn over heavy poly leaders (10′ 5.6 ips and 10′ 7 ips) and smaller sections of T8, fun in tight brushy spaces. This line casts very well and accurately on this rod, which can mange distances of 80′ in tight spaces, an impressive pairing.

Snowbee 250 gr switch line (25 ft head) good all around line, it will cast large flies but is more clunky than the other lines mentioned, pairs well with 7-10’poly leaders

Other lines in the 250 to 300 grain range should cast well on this rod, such as the 240 or 270 airflo compact scandi, or any of the light skagits from rio or airflo, my favorite lines are the beulah and snowbee’s.

What it’s good for: Trout between 14″-25″, can distance cast well, light saltwater use for sea run cutthroat and coho jacks, windy conditions, single hand spey casting, stripping flies, overall a forgiving and easy to cast, versatile trout rod.

DSCF7208

I wouldn’t recommend: Larger coho and other salmon, summer steelhead, while it could handle smaller specimens no problem, I think a ten pound coho or summer would have it’s way with this rod.

As far as I know the only shop that carries them here on the island is the Nile Creek Fly Shop up in Bowser, but many shops carry them in the east. If you are looking for a new rod, check them out and give them a try, I highly recommend them.

http://www.mysticoutdoors.com/

Sea runs on a switch rod

So I like fishing for sea runs with a switch rod. I find them more useful in some situations and conditions than a single hand rod.

*Switches or speys are not at all required to effectively fish sea runs or resident trout, but some find them fun. You may not like them once you get one on a river and fish them, so my best advice is to try these rods before you buy them. You may find they are not for you, and that will save you buying a bunch of gear. A lot of people don’t like them for stripping flies as the head connection catches the guides, and then you have to get the head back out of the tip every time you cast. Casting a rod before you buy it will help you avoid getting into something you don’t like.*

Most often I use a trout switch for swinging and stripping small flies on rivers at low to moderate flows, rigged up with an appropriate 250 grain switch line or scandi head. Trout switches are often too long a rod if you are on small or really small rivers, but if you have a bit of space then they’re perfect. I’ll even throw large streamers/small intruders on this setup, as large cutthroat have been known to eat intruders rather readily time to time.

One of the better uses I’ve found is using the rod for nymphing egg and flesh patterns, usually rigged up with a small tip and a light skagit at 300 grains. This can be a very effective way of catching sea runs (and any other type of trout (big browns?) in the vicinity) in the fall and early winter.

Two hand overhead casting at the beach makes it far easier to cast farther than with any reasonable single hand trout rod, especially in the wind, and especially if you fish windy beaches often, I know my wrist thanks me.

While I’ve owned a bunch of trout switches the rod I’ve settled on is the Beulah classic 4/5 10’6 switch rod. It is the best all around sea run cutthroat trout switch I have fished, and is fairly reasonably priced. I don’t target 10″ trout on spring creeks and therefore I don’t use a rod that matches up with those conditions. It is a bit beefy for small fish in the 8-12″ range but is perfect for sea runs from 14″-18″ and will effectively handle fish all the way up to surprise fish into the four or five pound range. It’s also a bit heavier than some of the rods but it’s tough, or at least I beat the crap out of it for two years now with no problems.

If you are looking for something that is perfect for the smaller trout that average in the 8-12 inch range, the mystic 11’3″ 3 or 4 wt switch, Anderson 11’9 2 wt, Meiser custom rods or speywerks 11’2/3/4, echo SR 3 wt, are the rods you should look at. Most of the other rods are more powerful and better for larger trout.

There is absolutely a use and niche for these rods, just look to sites like 2handedtrout, the interest in building single hand conversions on the skagitmaster forum, and all the queries on spey pages. The interest is there, and there is gear as affordable as anything else.

DSCF7021

Single hand spey casting for trout

I live on the west coast and spend pretty much all of my recreational free time sea run cutthroat trout fishing. These fish are not often like east coast resident trout at all, they are more like a mini steelhead so take everything I write with a grain of salt. If you’ve read anything else I’ve posted you’ll notice a bias towards trout switch rods, but I have spent a great deal of time on really small log filled rivers with tight drop bank, treed, brushy banks where roll and steeple casting, bow and arrow casts and whatever flop, poke abomination that got the fly out there was required to catch fish. It was not a place for any switch rod. This was with a 9 ft 5 weight older St Croix imperial (a rod that I miss and now resides on the bottom of the Cowichan river, but that is another story) and standard true to aftma 5 wt lines. This setup could get it out there but it wasn’t always the most efficient tool, but I caught plenty of cutthroat along with quite a few coho and the odd spring, and had a great time. This was before myself or any of the local flyshops locally had ever heard of so called “single hand spey casting” and spey casting was something alien to most anglers. After those formative years I have spent time learning how to spey cast (badly) and swing flies for steelhead, bought and sold a few spey and switch rods and experimented within the abstraction of a niche called trout switch rods. Inexorably this exploration has also led me almost full circle back to single handed rods with no backcast room on small rivers. After years of mucking about with these rods it seems to me that both switch rods and single hand spey have an equally valid niche where they shine.

There are several pros and cons of both light switch rods and single hand spey casting first of which is cost. There are quite a few relatively cheaper options (used or budget options like building your own, amundson, ARE, etc) when it comes to trout switch rods these days but most people who fly fish will already own one to several 3-7 weight single hand fly rods of varying quality and matching reels. Most factory budget switch rods still run $300 minimum, add in lines, perhaps a reel, and tips (not to mention any other gear you don’t have) and this gets expensive fast. Not pebble beach golfing expensive, but for those of us on a tight budget dropping 500 dollars to merely try something out is not practical or advisable. While not great for every approach the good news is that single hand spey casting allows you to try spey casting out within a budget and if you like it then you can spend the money. If you already own several single handers then all you really need is a single appropriate line and maybe a poly leader and then you can start spey casting. What’s more is that you may already own a 40+ or outbound or similar and then you don’t really need to buy anything.

A lot of people these days are looking for lines for single hand spey casting, so here are the ones I have used.

wulff ambush line- in both trout sizes and steelhead salmon sizes one of the most widely used and widely available, clunky but will throw tips and big flies, like a mini skagit. 20-29′ depending on the head

snowbee switch line-similar to an ambush but better for slightly lighter tips and smaller flies. 25′ head with attached running line

airflo 40+ the regular line features a 35′ head so not the best line for skagit type casting, attached running line

SA singlehand skagit line

Beulah tonic switch (skagit) as a grain guide the 300 gr tonic switch is perfect for a 9′ 6 wt single hander with 10′ of  T8

Beulah elixir switch (scandi) 245 gr for a 9′ 6 wt single hander with a 10′ intermediate poly tip) the switch versions are quite short and fish very well with single hand fly rods. Avoid the spey sizes for best performance

There are others such as the vision vibe, rio skagit shorts and the new scandi body, rio trout LT double taper for a more delicate presentation, and even regular fly lines work, but for best performance going a line weight or two heavier works better

What situations do trout rated switch or spey rods shine? Some would argue none but that is not even remotely true. On medium sized rivers where there is limited backcast room and longer casts are required for swinging flies there is no better tool. Swinging bushy trout wakers or other larger flies is another. Windy conditions, or where you are wading deeply while casting. Nymphing. Fishing with sink tips of any kind in rivers is far superior on a switch rod. The beach for me is also a preferred venue for switch rods, but you’ll find that opinions vary. Not because you can’t do any of this with a single but because of efficiency.When I look at that list, I see that really there are quite a few conditions covered.

What situations beg the use of single hand spey casting for trout? Well sea run cutthroat, and pretty much any other species can be targeted. Small rivers with lots of brush or obstructions for one, anywhere where you may need to strip or swing flies but also throw upstream dries in the same day and cant bring two rods, not having a lot of money, fishing for coho or cutthroat where stripping in flies is the primary approach and 11 foot or longer  rods are just too long, having an perverse and impractical hate for switch rods. Casting larger flies for smallmouth and largemouth around docks and laydowns from boats is a fun way to practice challenging anchor placement, as well as have fun with this technique.

Comparing the two requires going to a river, with appropriate setups to somewhere with moving and still water, not sitting on your ass oggling fish porn on the internet, but here are my observations on the difference between the two. Single handed spey casting like all fly fishing requires the right lines…airflo’s 40+, wulff’s ambush or triangle tapers, the lighter beulah elixirsand even tonics, SA single hand skagit, snowbee switch lines , and some of the lighter shorter skagits eg. SA Skagit extreme or rio skagit shorts (and others) are all good for the purpose, as they feature shorter length heads.

The rods I have played with the most are a cheap generic fast action amundson rocky mountain nine foot five weight, (a rod that I will probably be adding a lower handle to soon)and a moderate redington CT nine foot five weight, as well as an nine foot six weight moderate fast echo carbon and a light fast action mystic M series 9’3 6 weight. The five weights like a line at about 180-200 grains, as such I have cast my 200 gr snowbee switch on them both. When you first go to cast them it seems kind of ridiculous but even the five weights can chuck an impressive amount of line easily. Ive also tried 7 and 8 wt single hand lines but the taper is usually too long. The six weights like a line from 240-300gr, and as such I have cast a 245 gr elixir, 250 gr snowbee switch line, and a 300 grain snowbee switch and tonic(skagit) on these rods. All of these setups have exceeded my expectations and are a lot of fun to play with. When trying to dial in an appropriate line, sometimes we end up buying the wrong one and then can’t return it once it’s used. This is a common issue with all spey and switch rods. The clerk’s (or random internet) opinion of what works and you’re own preferences are often different. For example with my 6 wt 11’9 TCX I have seen line recommendations that run from 340 470 grains, so I picked up a 340 grain AFS scandi line and to me it was WAY too light, but the shop won’t take the line back even if you only cast it once. If the line you are using seems too heavy, you have three different options, buy a new one, strip some of the head of the line in past the tip and varying the amount each time until you find the sweet spot, you can then mark the line for reference, and either just strip it in to the mark everytime or cut and splice the line (line building however is a whole different topic.) If it’s too light well you can buy another line, rod, or trade somebody for a more suitable line. I find that it is a good idea to hold on to lines rather than sell or trade them, as you will often come back to the same lines in a roundabout way as you pick up different rods. Most of my favorite lines cast better on rods other than the ones they were intended to be on initially.

As far as performance goes 50-60 ft distances in tight cover were fairly easily obtainable, bordering on effortless, especially when you start experimenting with a haul. It was noticeable when wading out a bit deeper to my waist that the leverage the 9 ft rod gave me was lacking and it became tougher to cast. There seemed to be little room for error (a common issue with light switch rods as well) on the setup of the cast but I could turn over intruders no problem. Setting up for the haul takes a little getting used to, but a well timed haul helps overcome some of the issues with this style of casting like timing and distance. The snap T, double speys, single speys and the circle cast are all easy to do. Most of the lines these rods pair with are easy to overhand as well. The only thing I can sy is I wish I had these rods 10 years ago.

If none of this makes sense let me try to give you more of a direct comparison between the two. I recently took my 11’3 4 w mystic switch ( a light moderate soft rod that bends to the cork on 18″ sea run cutthroat) and my 9’3 6wt mystic single hander ( a moderate fast and light powerful rod that could handle coho and pinks no problem) with the same 250 gr snowbee switch line to a small brushy mid island river with fairly low flows for a couple of hours to see what the direct differences were like. This river is 20 to 40 ft across and has excellent sea run cutthroat and resident rainbow populations by island standards. First the switch rod got put through it’s paces in a variety of water and around obstructions followed by the single hander in the same spots. This comparison led to some surprising semi conclusions. The switch rod was definitely better when wading up to the waist or chest, and for line control on longer casts. They were both equivalent in terms of max. distance and the single hander was better for almost everything else. Fishing in tight cover, close in casts, The mechanics of casting the two are noticeably different even with the same lines in the same places. This is definitely the type of river where single hand spey comes into it’s own. Take those same two rods to the beach in a breeze with 6 weight overhead lines and the 250 switch line and the switch rod shines. The efficiency of the switch rod makes it a night and day comparison. Each has it’s niche, neither is useless, or universally useful.

As this is a discussion slicing niches into mini niches I thought the last word should be on single hand fly rod to switch conversions. Ed Ward one of the pioneers of the spey casting/skagit revolution in fly fishing has done some experimenting with adding small back handles to existing single hand rods (some incredibly light 3 and 4 weight rods) and then splicing lines to make small skagits for these rods. Very good and detailed discussions of these conversions can be found on 2handedtrout and the skagit master forums as well as spey pages and possibly some other sites. With the recent explosion of trout switch and spey rods on the market, this probably represents the utmost extreme of pushing the boundaries of two handed fly casting, and opens up more possibilities in this world. Can you imagine throwing small intruders on a 7’6 3 wt switch rod with an 12 ft skagit line? It is also another low budget option for the trout spey world as there are many lower end rods collecting dust in closets (including my own)that would be good candidates for this kind of conversion.

Like all things fly fishing, the only way to know is to get out and try it and if you don’t like it then don’t do it. Feel free to drop a comment even if you disagree.

All this or you could just go fishing.