fly fisherman Spey casting with a single hand rod in pool, Tongariro River, New Zealand
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Trout Spey :
Single versus Two Handed Rods

Trout Spey is practiced with both two handed and single hand rods. Two-handed rods have a different line rating to single hand rods, and to compare them directly one has to add the number 2.5 or 3 to the single hand rating. A 2 wt double hander would therefore cast a similar line weight to a 4.5 or 5 wt single hander.

Single Hand Rods

An advantage of Spey casting with single hand rods is one is able to execute a line haul with the free hand to generate addition lift and speed. Simon Gawesworth refers to this as a turbo Spey.

One can Spey cast with any single handed rod, but those best suited for this purpose have good flex through the tip and mid sections, with fast recovery - a combination made possible by recent developments in technology.

Single hand rods with this action load easily during the sweep and then quick recovery and reserve power in the butt section combine during the forward delivery, to launch heavy tips and flies prodigious distances with minimum effort. This action is well suited to all three head types I discuss in 'Fly lines'.

For small to medium sized New Zealand rivers I like to use 150 to 200 grain heads on 9 and 9.5 foot 5 wt single hand rods. Lighter heads have better presentation, and the advantage of single hand rods is that with shorter heads (more grains per foot) and a haul I can cast much larger flies and longer/heavier sink tips than are possible on 1 wt, 2 wt or even 3wt double handers. I have also more control when stripping streamers, which I can strip closer.

Lastly, I am better able to control large fish on account of the stiffer butt sections of single hand rods. And it is easier to bring decent fish to hand with a 9 ft rod when wading deep at night than it is with an 11 ft double hander, especially when swinging dries and emergers on relatively light tippets.

Two Handed Rods

I have often read and heard it said the terms ‘Trout Spey’ and ‘Switch Rod’ are synonymous. Although both are short double handers (<12 ft long), they are nowadays designed for different purposes. Switch rods are intended for use with one or two hands, and for both overhead and Spey casting, and they are often used for indicator nymphing. They consequently have a similar flex profile to a single hander.

Trout Spey rods, on the other hand, have a more progressive taper with more flex in the lower section, allowing the rod to load fully and to transfer more feel to the angler during the relatively slow stroke of a water loaded Spey cast. They are therefore easier to cast with both sustained anchor and touch and go casts, than are switch rods.

Two and 3wt Trout Spey rods, usually 10.5 - 11 ft long, are great tools for swinging soft hackles, dries and small streamers on wide rivers where flow rate is moderate and the fish no larger than about 3lb. Rivers of this description are, however, uncommon in New Zealand.

Four weight and 5 wt Trout Spey rods of 11 to 12 ft long are incredibly effective tools for New Zealand’s larger rivers. Longer rods and heads cast further, they require less stripping, they are much easier to mend, and they cast 300-400 grain heads and heavy tips with minimal effort. Spey casting Skagit heads more than 250 grains and heavy sink tips with a single hand rod is more chore than fun.

My 11.25 foot 4wt Sage Trout Spey HD is the perfect tool for fishing streamers on the majority of New Zealand’s medium to large rivers, especially the lowland reaches and estuaries. This rod, together with three heads and a handful of sink tips, allows me to fish anything from small unweighted soft hackles and wet flies to fairly large weighted streamers in a wide range of water depths and flow rates. The 4wt Trout Spey HD also has the power to deal with considerable wind, especially when combined with an appropriate head and tip.

While not too much rod for fat 2 lb trout, which bend it to the cork, my 4wt Trout Spey HD will comfortably handle fish upward of 5 lb in average flow conditions.

When it comes to fit fish of 5 to 10 lb in big strong water - think trophy sea trout in large South Island braided rivers and fresh run rainbows in the Tongariro in winter - a 12 to 13ft 5 or 6wt double hander is a better option. Apart from additional distance and pulling power, a 12+ ft 6wt would also better handle T-14 sink tips sometimes required to get down deep in big water, and would cast large articulated streamers and Intruders when required.

What is Trout Spey

+ How it all began
+ What is Spey casting?
+ Fly lines
+ Sink Tips for Skagit Heads
+ Single versus two handed rods
+ Effective Spey flies for New Zealand Trout and techniques for fishing them
+ Favourite Trout Spey outfits
+ Conclusions

Single Hand Skagit - Science behind the magic

+ Where it all began
+ Head design
+ Sink tips
+ Casting heavy sink tips
+ Running lines
+ Reels
+ Rods
+ Intermediate heads
+ Favourite outfits
+ Conclusions
+ Casting Notes for 12 Skagit Heads I tested
+ Table of Sink Tip Recommendations
+ Table of Lengths and Weights of Sink Tips

Single hand Trout Spey : Getting started with a 9 ft 5wt rod

+ Getting started
+ Rods and Skagit heads
+ Sink tips for Skagit heads
+ Tippet for Skagit heads

Intermediate Skagit heads

+ Hybrid heads
+ Floating tips for Skagit heads
+ Running lines
+ Cost effective approach
+ Learning to Spey cast
+ A final word

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