The myth of the Trout Spey - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 02:06 AM Thread Starter
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The myth of the Trout Spey

Instead of hijacking another thread about a specific tackle choice, I thought I'd post on a topic that I have been thinking about for a while: The Myth of the Trout Spey.

This is way too long, but many a trout fisherman has been known to indulge their hobby in crazy ways in the dead of winter.

The Myth of the Trout Spey.

If you are like me, you started out fishing for trout and other species with a single hand rod. You eventually started gravitating to the challenge of fishing for larger anadromous species like steelhead, salmon or maybe stripers, although you occaisionally like to pick up the light rod and fish for rising trout. On bigger rivers while fishing for the bigger anadromous fish, you might have started noticing the two hand rods showing up. The weird casts seemed foreign but intriguing somehow. However you never really got the bug to change. You could after all catch fish with the tackle you owned.

Then some flyshop person you trust, a friend, or maybe a guide or instructor, really presented the virtues of the two handed rod as a tool that would allow you to cast longer, farther, easier, with better control. The fact that the fly was in the water longer was added bonus. Frequent skunkings demanded that you consider new techniques. (At least this is how I got there!)

So you took the plunge and bought a 2 handed rod. Probably a 7-9 weight in the 13'-14 range. Initially you were shocked at needing new reels and new lines (at least I was) "What do you mean I can't use my 9wt OH line?" After some struggles and a lot of practice you started to get the hang of it. It really felt good when you could reach out 70 or 80 feet and then throw a huge mend to set up the swing. You learned new casts, bought new lines and really started to have fun. Maybe you caught some fish, maybe you realized that this was the funnest way to get skunked (that was me).

Then you got thinking...What about a super-light Spey rod that you could catch trout with? You closed your eyes and thought of swinging size small wet flys for rising fish, and that sounded fun. You looked around and surprisingly there were quite a few choices.

Well I bought one (a 12'2" 5/6/7 CND Spey Tracker). The lightness didn't quite give the feedback of the larger rod and the "casting window" seemed a little narrower, requiring more concentration, but I got the hang of it. Heavy tips and weighted flies would still prove to be a challenge though.

For me this was instantly my favorite rod. I could use it as 7wt single hand rod. The 12' length even made it work well for float tubing -It even balanced my heavy automatic reel, which was fun for a while. I soon figured a 9wt OH line gave it more power. I could cast it in the surf to small salmon and searun trout. I could easily land bigger fish too. I caught a 30" steelhead on a floating line with a size 8 fly and landed it quickly. I even caught a pink salmon on a skated dry fly (!) This was indeed a lot of fun.

But was it a really a trout Spey? I don't think so. Here's Why:

Some might fish streamers regularly for 30" trout, but thats not a common scenario where I live and small fish don't put up much fight on a rod like this. I like matching the rod to the quarry.

To increase success with trout I often fish light tippets 5x, 6x and small flies #16-18s often, #20s rarely. Presenting these delicately is a challenge with such a big stick.

Trout are where you find them. Sometimes they're rising to tiny BWO's in 2' of water 10' in front of my face. Sometimes they're on the other side of the river slashing at hoppers. Sometimes upstream, sometimes down. You need to adapt. Cast, swing, step (repeat) works sometimes but not always. Often I'm casting to a specific boulder or drifting down stream (trying to dead drift) under a willow.

Even streamer fishing, I am often stripping line in to the rod tip. A Spey line needs to be shaken back out for each cast...its do-able but not elegant.

Occaisionally fish over 20" are caught in my area, but 10-16" is the norm for sea run cutts in Washington and likewise most rainbow trout that are encountered in the NW. A few montana rivers might be the exception here. But in general a 5wt Spey is gonna feel heavy, like an 7 or 8wt SH rod, which are seldom used except in Trophy fisheries.


I find myself using an 8' 4wt more often then not, when I "go a trouting".

If I get a 20" fish I will really enjoy the tussle, but I won't dismiss the litlle guys either. AND here is the good news for all of us Spey enthusiasts...

I can still Spey cast! My techniques learned for a DH rod all apply to SH. Spey fishing allows me to access lies that overhand casters cant reach. The full arsenal of casts allow me to change direction and get my fly easily out there in the 40' - 60' range. I don't know if youv'e tried, but the current plays havoc on your fly beyond this range, and not many trout will easily come your way if you do indeed get it out there to such a distance. PLUS I can fish a short game with delicate presentations and light tippets when necessary.

So in my mind, the Trout Spey does exist - its not a myth. For me it just happens to be a Winston 480, over-lined with a 5weight long belly line. I can Spey cast weighted stone fly nymphs with (ahem) indicators or gently flip #20 dries with 6x tippets, crouching low to avoid spooking the fish.

I still love my 12' 5/6/7, In fact a new scandi line has got me itching to get it out to a river. But I now look on it as more of a specialty rod for heavy trout fishing or dryline summer steelhead. My 480 (trout), 696 (Lite Salt, streamers), 8130 (all purpose steelhead) get the nod more often for the conditions I fish.

I'll jump at the chance to use the Tracker though when the conditions are right.

See you on the river...

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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 02:40 AM
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Great post

I've got a number of spey rods that have fallen under the 'trouter' designation at one time or another. I'm narrowing to one rod in that range where I had 3-4 before.

For a real 'trouter' I'm thinking of those 10' single hand 5wts that the belly boaters use. I might have to get one modified or custom built with a full wells and a small lower grip. I imagine mostly being able to cast single handed, but having the option to pull that lower grip for a little extra line speed in place of a haul.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 12:46 PM
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I suppose it is all about the type of fishing you do for trout and the opportunities in the area you live. I personally am MUCH happier chucking streamers on my 5110 sage and a skagit head than launching the same bugs with my 9' 6 wt that I commonly used before the two hander. A day of wanging steamers with a 200 grain sink line on a singlehand rod is enough to mek me take the rest of the week off of fishing. With a skagit line it is FUN. Strip retrieves are just fine with a short skagit head and running line and trout eat the hell out of it on the swing, so I don't often have to strip. The only time I fish streamers on the singlehander anymore is when casting from a driftboat and I happen to live really close to a few larger rivers with decent size trout. For swinging soft hackles on a fairly sizable stream there isn't a more pleasurable way to with than with a light trout spey, a long leader and a floating line. Luckily, for a month and a half there are lake run trout that want to eat soft hackles on the swing about a 2 minute drive from me.

As far as fish being more pleasant to fight on a single hand rod I would have to disagree. My go to rod is a 590-4 XP. I can whip fish faster on this rod than I can on my switch rod that is far softer and more forgiving to light tippets that I really never use. Fish feel heavier on the longer rod due to the added length. If you are fishing 6X all of the time you are probably fishing dries or nymphing spooky technical fish, both of which you really don't want a two hander for.

I don't fish dries on my switch and it is a serviceable nymph stick, but I prefer my XP for indicator work as it is lighter for high sticking and makes more crisp and precise mends. This is the bulk of my fishing. However, for the other 30 percent of the trout fishing I do, a light spey rod makes fishing MORE FUN AND ENJOYABLE while enabling me to practice spey casting.

Just my perspective.....
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 01:49 PM
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I've got (though I'm in the process of selling) the Winston BIIX 11' 7wt, Sage 5120, Loomis Metolius 13'4" 5/6, all of which have been considered spey 'trouters.' They are all steelhead grade rods in my mind. I would like a little 2-hander that makes a 12-15" fish feel scrappy. I'm sure it's out there, it just seems like a lot of 'trouters' are pretty beefy when it comes to playing smaller fish. I think back to my old Sage DS 5wt and all the 12" fish that I had a blast with on that rod. I'd like to recapture that feeling without a back cast.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 02:45 PM
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I've been thinking heavily about a trout spey for about a year now. And with W's tax rebate, this might become a reality. My first and--so far--only spey is the Snowbee Torridge, rated a 6/7, considered more of an 8 by some, is an ideal summer steel rod, and ideal for silvers off the beach. Though heavy for trout, it has not prevented me from using it for swinging streamers on the Yakima. It's grain window is large, from 340gr shooting heads (like the AFS), to the 400+ gr belly of CND's GPs line. Recently I tried a 400 gr Skagit and sink tip on it and it was smooth and easy. Many of these lines can work on a lighter rod, too, so my outlay for a trouter would--at first--only be for the rod itself. But as we all know, the temptation to buy or build another line can be overwhelming.

The few trouters I've tried are so light that single-handing them is not out of the question.

The question now is: which rod? Spey Tracker? 5110? 5112 (is there a 5112?) 5126? The new Deer Creek 4/5/6 (or is it 3/4/5)? A Meiser? Or a shorter switch?

Such are the joys of two-handed fishing!

But to respond ChrisW's thread, I don't believe the trout spey is a myth. Yes, I will always use my Sage DS2 5 wt (and a nod of agreement to you, Trevor), but I spend so much time swinging streamers and soft hackles that a light spey makes perfect sense. Besides, it's too much fun not to!

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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 04:23 PM
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Definition issue

To me a 5/6/7 spey is a steelhead or bass rod, and in fact is my favorite for both. I think this whole rod development game is more an evolution than a revolution. From where I started ten years ago, the demand for better and lighter rods has been met by makers with awesome products. I do agree that most of the currently labeled "trout speys" are a whole order heavier than our one handers for trout.

To me a trout spey is lighter and enjoyable to fight cookie-cutter trout of 8-10". There are small but growing numbers of rods and lines in this category, and I think we'll see a few more for those of us who like a bottom handle and continued evolution toward lighter sticks.

I think I could make a better case for the idea that a trout spey is a rod that you use to make spey casts to trout. I don't see why that couldn't be a 7'6" 3wt, but an 11' AFTMA 4/5wt (accurately rated, not just mislabeled) would be fun. If it doesn't exist yet, I bet it will soon...and I'll fish one.


Last edited by Carl; 02-09-2008 at 04:31 PM. Reason: Dreaming about summer.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 07:23 PM
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Great post CW. I agree with you mostly.

For those looking for a light trout spey- don't forget about the TFO professional 11' 5wt. I guess it is technically a switch, but it overheads well with a 5wt line and speys with a 7. I'd say it's definately more of a trout rod than others like the sage 5120 and the loomis 13'4". I've caught normal sized trout (10-12") in the salt and they have felt like they were worth catching.

I'm not sure how practicle it would be on an actual trout stream, as you were saying Chris, but I am pretty sure that if you did catch them you would not feel too overgunned for fish 10" and up.

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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 08:33 PM
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quick question to the op..why do you overline a winston 4wt
Most of my trout fishing is on rivers 30' wide or fishing a two hander is impractical..spey casts however are the best thing ever in ultra tight quarters.
I have the 11' 7wt BIIX, and it works great on our <10lb Lake Superior steelhead on smaller rivers...and I hope to give it a work out in Montana this week as well with a skagit and some big junk.
Trout spey is another useful approach in the fisherman's arsenal....
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 10:44 PM
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Add a lower grip to a mid-9-foot SH rod for a "troutier spey". I performed this operation on a Scott 4-piece 9'6" 6wt eBay purchase. I stick with a 6wt. line. No reason this couldn't also be done to a 4-5wt.

Lacking shop space or time... give your favorite builder a call. Living in the Portland area, I'll pimp Burkheimer.


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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-09-2008, 11:28 PM
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Best of both worlds

This rod will convert from a 12' , 4pc. 3 weight spey rod , into a 9' 3pc 4 weight single hander .

I use a 5 weight Airflow 40+ as a spey line , and although the rod won`t make 100ft. casts (at least in my hands) , it is comfortable out to about 70 feet . I`ve taken trout up to about 6lbs. with the rod , and it`s a blast , but it`s also fun with the more typical 14 inch fish .

And no , it is`nt for sale .

I submit first of all that there is no such thing as sport without ethics ~~ Roderick Haig-Brown
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by kweetech View Post
quick question to the op..why do you overline a winston 4wt

Its a 4 wt 8'0" Ibis, and with a 5wt Orvis wonderline EZ mend (long belly) it allows me to load quickly for short casts. It also roll casts and Spey casts extremely well, doesn't feel overpowered when I have a lot of line in the air, and still makes delicate presentations. I also have a DT 4 spooled up, but use it less than 10% of the time.

I also have a 6wt 9'6" BIIX and I do not overline this rod- the action totally deteriorates when overlined.

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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-10-2008, 01:29 AM
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ahh, gotcha...when I think 4wt winston I think WT
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-11-2008, 02:53 PM
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Trout spey

I have read all the posts. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have two rods I woud consider a trout spey a meiser 4/5/6 12'6" highlander, It has plenty in the backbone department I have caught hundreds of small to large trout with this rod and one suprice 37 inch stelhead last fall. It handled the big fish fine but was also lots of fun with little fish. The other is a Meiser system 2 that is 10.5 feet long and big step down in grain weight from the highlander. It is in my a opinion a true trouter. I took it up a small creek near my home that I usually fish with a 8 foot 4 weight. I still had a ball. I caught fish I have never caught before by simply pulling in all the line poking the long rod deep in to the far bank bushes and dabing the fly. something I could not do as easily with a 8 or 9 foot rod. The rod is still light and performs great in long range indicator fishing. I have used it with tippets as light as 5x with no problem. Bottom line is don't shy away, a trout spey is not for everyone but I am starting to see them crop up on rivers throught the west. Flatfoot
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-12-2008, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
I've got a number of spey rods that have fallen under the 'trouter' designation at one time or another. I'm narrowing to one rod in that range where I had 3-4 before.

For a real 'trouter' I'm thinking of those 10' single hand 5wts that the belly boaters use. I might have to get one modified or custom built with a full wells and a small lower grip. I imagine mostly being able to cast single handed, but having the option to pull that lower grip for a little extra line speed in place of a haul.
The above is what I did for my first 'trouter.' An altered Reddington rod (Bob M. put on the extra bottom handle for me). I was almost in tears when I broke that rod ... worse yet, Reddington didn't make the rod any more so I couldn't replace/'remodel' and get whole.

That said, I just (few days back) had the opportunity to cast his 4-5-6 and it was a total joy. Gather he's working on a 3-4-5; that I'm going to drop the dime on sight unseen.

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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 02-12-2008, 01:56 PM
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One last bit....An eight inch trout is an eight inch trout. No 12 foot one weight is gonna make that fish feel like a real fish. 8 to 12 inch fish just aren't going to put up much of a struggle with any fly tackle, spey or not. Sure you could be one of the hordes of anglers that overplay these small fish (that is a whole other can of worms!) but if you reef hard on a small fish, it is going to come in quickly. It doesn't matter if you hook it on an 8'4 wt or a 14 foot 9 wt.
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