Growing up as a kid, I have fond memories of catching fish using a twig pole, a piece of monofilament line and a worm. Playing on the shoreline and watching the wiggle of a fish, got me excited and kept me going back to rivers as a kid. Years later, I was living in Alaska and one day at a garage sale in Anchorage I found a Shakespeare single-hand fly rod with a Fenwick reel for $50.00. What a steal! There was a lot to learn about a fly-rod; the difference in lines, how to cast, how to tie on a fly, where to go and how to read water. It was intimidating, but achievable, and something new to learn.
A few years after my big purchase, I had discovered places to fish, how to catch trout and the basic principles of a cast.
I was fly-fishing.
One day I got a call from a friend (my future husband) who said he was coming to Alaska to fish. I was excited to take him to a river and show him a thing or two. On that day, I was fishing with my single-hand rod and he pulled out this big, long rod with cork above the reel and below the reel, and he called it a double-hand rod. He maneuvered it easily and there was no false casting. The fly would gently touch the water and the rod would bend forward, with the line following behind it. He called it, spey casting. He explained that all spey casts are roll casts with a change of direction. After watching him stylishly aerialize the line, and catch Coho after Coho, I was impressed.
I thought it was sexy to watch.
A year later I found myself learning to use a double-hand; my friend explained the benefits; it’s effectiveness for delivering a long cast, fishing heavier flies and sink tips, and they are relatively painless on the shoulders when cast with the right technique and great for bigger trout or steelhead. Also, they are sexy to cast! With that, I’ve been hooked ever since.
The first year, there was undeniable flailing; ripping line off the water, tailing loops, piled up anchors … my performance was far from graceful. A right minded steelhead would be high tailing it to the next piece of water.
Determined to hook a steelhead in the traditional sense; swinging, I never gave up. I’d been watching my friend hook fish and it looked like so much fun. This kept the ember burning. There was a passion about catching a steelhead, spey casting and swinging a fly that I wanted to experience.
After a couple more months of persistence and bad casting, the day finally came. I vividly remember the hard tug that felt like the line was hung up, followed by the reel spinning out of control, reeling fast and keeping the rod bent as the fish ran again.
This was how I wanted to pursue steelhead!
For me, the dance of a spey cast on the water is like standing on a mountain top covered in snow, ready to drop in and get first tracks. This is my backcountry. The constant movement of stepping down river and feeling the water around my ankles and knees: it’s an opportunity to become familiar with each rock under foot and learn what runs fish best at what water levels. There’s also the joy of looking around, seeing eagles fly over head, watching the red wing black birds eat berries, the redtail hawks swoop in on their catch and mule deer at play. The dance of spey casting, with the thrill of the take, catches me by surprise, every time.
It’s easy to be intimidated by the size and power of a double-handed rod but after the first couple tries, you embrace the efficiency of less casting and more fishing and the creativity of a spey cast. These rods are pure fun! A double-hander is simply another tool in the tool box.
Here are a few benefits:
Relatively painless on the body and shoulders: The principle of a two handed rod is that you use both hands. This distributes the leverage in the cast evenly and when executed correctly, the cast should be no different from the motions of a single-hand false cast… with the addition of using the bottom hand in every part of the cast. With the right technique, you will use less shoulder and arm muscle.
Effective for big rivers and longer casts: Everyone wants to cast a little further and fish big rivers at some point, whether it’s the Madison in Montana or the Skagit in Washington. A double-hand allows you to cover more water and reach the outer seams that are harder to get to with a single-hand.
Fish heaver flies and sinking tips with ease: The double-handed makes it easier to fish heavier flies and sink tips for everyone, due to the greater leverage from the use of both arms, with less physical exertion.
How do you get the right rod in your hands?
Ask yourself, what am I going to be fishing for? Buying a rod that feels good to you and matching it with the right line is essential for you to become a more confident caster and angler. There are so many rods out there to choose from with different flex patterns, weight ranges and lengths. Decide what time of year are you going to fish the most: summer or winter? If you’re mostly summer fishing for steelhead or larger trout, then a 4 to 6wt, 12’6 (6126) will work great. If you’re going to fish for Salmon or in the winter for steelhead, a good rod is a 7wt, 13’ (7130) or 8/9 weight. Your bigger rods are going to handle bigger fish.
When choosing a spey casting rod, try a few different sizes and types. Here are a few rod types to choose from:
Micro speys are small rods that are fun for trout, summer steelhead, and half pounders, smaller rivers, shorter cast.
A 13’ 7 weight is a great all around Pacific Northwest rod for winter or summer steelhead. An angler can also rest assured, it will handle a steelhead in B.C.
A 9 or 10wt 14’or 15’ rod is a big rod and great for bigger water like the Clearwater and Skagit Rivers or fishing for Atlantic salmon or Chinook.
Personal Rod Recommendations
My favorite lightweight rods:
Winston Boron III,
Micro Spey 5wt. 11’6
Echo3 6wt, 12’6, (6126)
Gary Anderson 12’5 5wt, (1255)
James Reid bamboo,
Summer Run, 6wt, 11’6.
My favorite winter rods:
Winston Boron III 12’9, 7wt,
Gary Anderson 7wt,13’, (7130)
Echo3 7wt,13’, (7130)