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...