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So the past few months I’ve been looking forward to but also trying to wrap my brain around the idea of not going steelhead fishing this summer. The past few years have been rather damaging to my steelheading ego, with two dismal back-to-back Dean River trips to get me grounded again. Rather than tempt the steelhead gods yet again, I decided that this would be a good year to return to my old haunts east of Banff. Besides, Bow River rainbows are supposed to be descended from California steelhead, so it really is sort of a steelheading trip anyways, only the glaciers won’t melt and landslides fill the river in, right?
I’m looking forward to the trip because I haven’t really fished the Bow for close to a decade. I’m looking forward to long days that blend into long evenings of dry fly fishing in an Alberta August; of early mornings launching a driftboat in anticipation of a blanket trico hatch, and of floating past pool after pool of prime trout water knowing you could get out and fish, but why? I’m looking forward to all of these things, but mostly I’m looking forward to seriously fishing Trout Speys.
Trout Speys. I’m not talking about 13ft rods that really need two hands all the time to manage properly; I’m talking about those 11ft – 12ft rods that you could cast single handed if you wanted to, but that are more fun casting two-handed because you’re a speycaster and that’s at least ½ the fun.
The Bow seems to me like a good place to get serious about the Trout Spey thing. First off, my good friend Pete Laviolette has been experimenting with them for the past few years, so he has quite a bit of insight into how they are likely best used on the Bow; second, Bow River rainbows (browns too) are some of the largest and strongest in North America, and the river itself is big water that screams spey rod. But those big trout are in the bankside water too, so if I’m going to be doing the spey thing I need a rod that will allow me to fish both in close and fine and far off.
What should a spey rod for trout be able to do? Well, that’s kind of a good question. I don’t really know that there has been a ton of research done on the subject. A few manufacturers have developed lightline spey rods that have come to be known as Trout Speys, but I’m not really sure that the full range of Trout Spey possibilities has really been explored. I cut my fly fishing teeth trout fishing on the Bow, so I have a pretty good idea what a fly rod needs to do on the Bow to be an effective fish-catching tool. You need to be able to handle a variety of presentation methods, and you have to be able to go from throwing a heavy streamer at the bank to fishing delicate dries at 30ft. In single handed rods a good 6 wt will cover it all, though I prefer a 5wt or lighter if I can get away with it. So in a spey rod, I need something that can do the same. I don’t think the streamers will be a problem for any two-hander, it’s the dry fly fishing that I’m most interested in. I’m going to be fishing an 11ft2in 7 wt, and I want to find out if I can be as delicate with this set up as I was able to be with my old 8ft3in 7wt single hander I used on the Bow in the late 80s. I’m not really sure if one rod can do all of it, and do all of it well (certainly no one single hander could), but I’m looking forward to finding out.
What is really intriguing to me is whether or not I can actually utilize speycasting techniques to present dries, or will I need to shift to overhead casting? Cast any trout-weight line setup soft enough and high enough and you’ll get a relatively delicate presentation, but I’m wondering whether all of the splashing about that sometimes is involved in “spray casting” will put a good fish down at 30ft? Underhand technique, laying just the leader down, should minimize some of this, but how accurate will I be with a spey versus an overhead presentation? If I can spey cast to rising trout I’d sure like to, but I wonder how realistic it is to expect to be able to do this under most dry fly conditions. Should probably keep a 3 wt rigged in the mackboat just in case.
Will I abandon my single hand rods this summer on the Bow, fishing only Trout Speys? Not a chance. The classic, evocative rhythms of flycasting to rising fish on my home river is something I’ll not want to miss after so many years away, but you can bet that I’ll be spending a good part of the trip determining for myself how effective and realistic Trout Speys can be, and in what situations they are best employed.
And you can bet you’ll read more about it here…