2021 Trout Spey Gear Roundup

Troutspey

Our annual Trout Spey Gear Roundup is typically here to let you know about all the great new gear available! Because there’s not much to report on the “new Trout Spey gear” front, we debated publishing this. The Pandemic has all but eliminated R&D at most manufacturers, meaning little to no new product development or introductions. Global supply chain issues have made the availability of existing products very difficult as well. And the “Trout Spey” category – while incredibly popular here at Headhunters – is not exactly a “core” category in the industry, and is prioritized as such by most manufacturers.

But the trout don’t really care if you are using the latest and greatest, and we are experiencing our best late-summer/early-fall trout spey season in memory. Low and stable flows have resulted in very little weed growth and easy wading, creating great conditions for swinging flies. New gear or old, the fishing has been very good and we are still a month away from the best fishing of the fall. Anglers are definitely coming in the shop looking for Ultra-light Spey gear for the Missouri and elsewhere, and we are already running thin.

While this will largely be a review of existing gear, the real lesson you should take away is that all of this stuff will be very limited in availability for the foreseeable future. If you want it, get it. Some of the products listed below may be unavailable already.

NEW STUFF

We haven’t had a chance to play with it, but SAGE did manage to squeak out a new rod this fall called the G5 Troutspey. Built with Sage’s G5 technology, the new model comes in 3 and 4 weight versions, and will cost $650. We expect this rod to be a winner. It will be in the shop soon, and demo’s will be available.

With the help of the awesome crew at Galvan Reels, we put together a hybrid of the legendary Galvan Torque and the new Galvan Euro Nymph. The results is a full cage reel with the capacity for spey lines. The full cage on the new G.E.N. frame prevents skinny shooting lines from slipping between the frame and spool. These come in one size only based on the Torque-6 spool (6wt). Ask at the shop for the “Galvan GEN Troutspey “. We carry them in a few color combos at $445.

I still consider the Orvis Mission Troutspey to be new. The 3 and 4 weights were slowly released after the larger sizes, and did not get the roll-out they deserve. And then pandemic. So they really haven’t been in enough hands yet, but I expect this fall to change all of that. These are phenomenal rods, and I consider the 3 weight to be the best do-everything – and best performing – Trout Spey rod I have thrown.

RIO quietly added “3D” versions to their popular MOW/iMOW series of Skagit tips. These are not-so-slowly becoming the most popular Skagit sink tips in the shop. These come in I/S3/S4, S3/S4/S5 and S5/S6/S7 variations. The I/3/4 and 3/4/5 are money right now on the Mighty Mo’.

The new-ish Redington “Run” is a cast version of the popular Redington “Rise” reel. Our guide and shop staff love the Rise, but the spool is so shallow we could never get a proper Trout Spey set-up spooled on it. The Run solves that, with a bit more capacity, and at $119 for the 7/8 (perfect size) it’s a steal.

Hatch Reels are back in stock with the newly redesigned Iconic. While there are both internal and external changes from the previous Finatic, the reel essentially performs the same. The 5plus has always been one of our favorite and most popular Trout Spey reels (if it had an enclosed cage it would be perfect). We carry the MA (Mid-arbor) version so we have all the capacity we need for shooting lines and fat spey heads.

We don’t use or sell a lot of packs and bags on the Missouri River, but for Trout Spey fishing they are a must have piece of gear. The new Sling, Hip and Hip/Chest bags from Orvis are very nicely updated versions, and have a built in recessed tippet dock called the “Tippet Whippet” that keeps things tight and out of the way when you have shooting line wrapped around your head. Good bags.

TROUT SPEY RODS

While we use the term “Trout Spey”, we prefer the term “ultra-light” to describe these rods. These rods work great for most resident fish (not just Trout) that live in appropriate sized water. At Headhunters, we focus on 1-4 weight spey rods that throw lines from 180 grains to 350 grains. Our most popular rods throw lines between 230gr and 270gr. Rods designed for lines under 230gr are generally reserved for floating lines and smaller soft hackles. Rods over 300gr are generally used by those throwing very large, weighted streamers and heavy sink tips.


1 and 2 Weight Rods

The Sage HD Troutspey comes in both 10’9” 1 weight and 2 weight versions. The 1 weight is very popular and the 2 weight is not. But it should be. I think those who want to go light decide to go all the way to 1? Both of these rods throw a bit heavier lines that you might expect (210gr on the 1 weight), but are absolutely some of the best Ultra-light spey rods on the market. Expensive, but you won’t regret it if you’re a spey fanatic. Until the new ACR Nova II 2 weight arrives, there’s really no competitors in the 1-2 weight category. $1050 | PRO Awesome performance and build. | CON Spendy.

The Redington Claymore is the newest 2 weight we stock, and it offers a great budget alternative to it’s cousins from Sage. This rod is no whimp, and you’ll be able to use it for more than soft-hackle fishing. This could be perfect if you fish small and medium sized freestones with soft-hackles and bugger. Not a premium rod, but at $449 it’s a great entry level rod and performs above it’s price point. $449 | PRO Price to performance ratio | CON Build Quality

Echo is most well known for it’s budget TR series, but the more advanced Trout Spey series brings lighter weight and faster action. The Echo Trout Spey 11’ 2 weight is an ideal Scandi rod, with a bit more power and length than other 2 weights. It’s got a fast action you can slow down by overloading it with a Skagit head, but I wouldn’t buy it if I was a sustained anchor disciple. Better at touch-and-go. Nicer build quality than you normally get from Echo, but at a price higher than you’re used to. $499 | PRO Sends it. | CON Action a bit too fast for some.

Charles at ACR reports that the replacement for the Nova 2 weight is in the works, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for it this fall. Maybe next summer? This has long been our most popular 2 weight, and at 180gr it is the perfect soft hackle rod. It also throws an integrated line nicely, something that many soft hackle nuts like. CON n/a


3 Weight Rods

The Sage HD 11’ 3 weight is an excellent performer, and will tackle most duties asked of it. If you’re a 50/50m Scandi/Skagit angler this is a great option. I would not recommend it for large, heavy streamers and all day sink tip fishing. It does love a Scandi head/versi-leader combo however. Great for shallow water fishing in the fall. (Note, we do not recommend the 10’3” 3 weight version, stick with the 11 footer). $1050 | PRO Scandi guy. | CON Price.

The Orvis MISSION 11’4” 3 weight is the most versatile Trout Spey rod available. Somehow, it possesses the power to boom long casts and relatively large patterns, but retains the ability to fish 5X tippet on a #14 soft hackle. It loves Scandi, and it loves Skagit. This rod is perfect for the Missouri River, where you can find yourself burying a heavy tip and weighted streamer in one run, and throwing long casts with Scandi heads and Sparrow’s in the next. Never feels too light and never feels too heavy. The only issue I’ve encountered is that newbie spey casters sometimes struggle with it, or at least like other rods better. As a high performance rod, that’s not really surprising. Same with single handers… and skis. $798 | PRO Best all around rod. | CON Not the best for Newbie’s.

The ACR (Anderson Custom Rods) Nova II series has been our most popular overall model rod for years. ACR is a small, boutique builder from Ashland, OR., and their rods are often difficult to get your hands on. That pandemic has only made getting a rod tougher. The Nova series offers great performance and build quality at a very reasonable price point. The 11’ 3 weight is an excellent do-everything model suited to small and medium sized waters and flies. Build quality is excellent. Perfectly fine for larger water like the Missouri, as long as you’re not seeking extra distance or depth. Up to a size 4 bugger? Yes. Giant articulated flies with lead eyes? Probably not. ACR rods lean Scandi, and this rod performs beautifully with a Scandi head or integrated line. $549 | PRO Great build quality and performance for the price. | CON Hard to find. 

G Loomis IMX Shortspey 11’ 11” 3 weight. This rod is a foot longer than than most 3 weights, and that’s the difference. We find that anglers either love that or hate the extra length. In general, if you put a lot of energy (too much energy?) into your casts, you’ll find yourself blowing the anchor all day. This can be especially true when you wading ankle deep, and we commonly are in the late fall. The solution is to either slow down, wade deeper or buy a longer head (the correct answer: slow down). Other than that, the IMX Pro has a great evenly tempered action that everyone really likes. The extra length means long casts and greater line control. Definitely a shop favorite. $605 | PRO Long. | CON Too long?

The Echo Trout Spey 11’ 3 weight possesses the same qualities as the 2 weight above. Fast and light, casters with a faster stroke prefer it more than the slow-it-down crowd. This rod is somewhat reminiscent of the old Sage TCX series. Build quality is very good. This rod kind of gets lost in the popular 3 weight world. Not often requested, but when someone likes it, they really like it. $499 | PRO Fast, powerful action. | CON Fast, powerful action.

Redington’s new Claymore series replaced the popular Hydrogen series of Trout Spey rods. The action is very similar, and if you were a fan of the Hydrogen you’ll like the Claymore equally well. The 11’3” 3 weight is a great all around rod, and the best Claymore model for most anglers. This series throws lines on the heavy side, so you probably wont find yourself under-gunned. Redington spey rods always lean Skagit (slower), and this rod is no exception. Perfect flat-brim, streamer chucker rod. $449 | PRO Price to performance. | CON Build quality.

The Orvis Clearwater 11’4” 3 weight is a great point of entry for those looking to get into the Trout Spey game. Easy casting, light for the price-point, and designed for smaller and medium sized rivers and flies. The Clearwater series has that nice curvy grip fore and aft that many spey casters like. Nothing really stands out with this rod, but there are no drawbacks. Just a fine everyday driver. Near the bottom in terms of price, but not quality. $398 | PRO No cons. | CON No pros.

Echo TR 11’ 3 weight. One of the rods that started the “ultra-light” spey rod movement, and still a popular model. The TR series throw nearly a line size heavier than comparable models, and are great Skagit/sink tip/streamer rods. They have a slower, classic Skagit action and love heavy overloaded heads. The TR 3 weight tosses Scandi heads as well, but probably would not be our choice for swinging soft hackles. You might outgrow it one day, but you might not. Our least expensive Spey rod. $379 | PRO Plenty of power | CON Action is a bit dated.

Sage G5 Trout Spey 11’ 3 weight. $650 | TBD


4 Weight Rods

Though I don’t use a 4 weight often on the Missouri, I really like the Sage HD 11’3” 4 weight. It’s a fantastic Skagit/streamer stick that has a nice wide grain window making it very versatile. I personally wouldn’t use this rod for swinging soft hackles, but it does throw a Scandi head beautifully, and is perfect for floating lines and streamers.  The Sage HD series are nicely built using high quality components, and you pay for it. This would not be my “1 rod” choice for the Missouri, but it might be for the Yellowstone. $1050 | PRO Fantastic performance. | CON Steep price for what might be a second rod.

The Orvis Mission 11’4” 4 weight is an incredible performing spey rod. Both of the Mission rods are incredibly smooth casters that move between Scandi and Skagit without blinking. The Mission 3 and 4 weight rods perform identically, which is not true of most other 3 and 4 weight models we carry. Like the Sage HD 4 weight above, this might be a little more rod than I need for the Missouri on a daily basis. But on days with big winds, lots of water to cover and medium to large flies and tippet it’s the perfect weapon. If I only threw Skagit/full sink tip/big streamer configurations, I would choose this over the Mission 3 weight. $798 | PRO Silky smooth big caster | CON Too much for your fishery?

The ACR Nova II 11’3” 4 weight is the oddball in the 4 weight category. It’s rated for 270 grains, not the 300-360 that most of these rods like. It also has a preference for Scandi floating line presentations. This makes it an ideal every day rod for the Missouri, but not the large streamer rod you might expect from a 4 weight. For some reason, it also likes integrated lines more than any other rod on this list. So if you’re looking for a rod that throws soft hackles and medium sized streamers, loves integrated Scandi lines, is light in the hand, has great build quality and can absorb takes on lighter tippet, this might be the perfect rod for you. This is a bread and butter rod during fall and early winter on the Missouri. $549 | PRO Price and performance. | CON Kinda whimpy for a 4 weight.

G Loomis IMX Short Spey 11’ 11” 4 weight. As mentioned above, the longest model on the list, but in the 4 weight the difference is not as drastic as the 3. This is an outstanding big water rod, great for swimming a Skagit head and sink-tip through a deep run. You’ll definitely feel the extra length and likely achieve more distance. Some casters find this rod feels too big. Especially true of smaller sized anglers. If youre’ looking for a lighter 5 or 6 weight rod for Steelhead or Salmon we highly recommend this series. $605 | PRO Big distance and line control. | CON Too long for some.

The Echo Trout Spey 11’ 4 weight is the shortest 4 weight we carry, and with it’s fast action makes a great rod for those with a quicker stroke. As mentioned previously, it’s a bit of an outlier, but very popular with those who prefer the solid, smooth power it has. This would also make a great rod for smaller coastal salmon rivers that hold Pink’s, Silvers and Sockeye. If you are looking for a Stillwater spey rod, this should be on your list. Probably the easiest rod on this list to overhead cast with 1 or 2 hands. $499 | PRO Nice build. | CON Non-traditional action.

There is something a bit different about the Orvis Clearwater 11’4” 4 weight. This rod has a quick, explosive action. I find that new casters really like this rod, as it is more reminiscent of their single handed rod. It performs compact, high-tip style casts like a champ. It’s a touch light for a 4 weight (it likes around 300-330 grains, and it will throw 270gr), which makes it great for the guy or gal looking for that 1 rod to do everything. Compared to the closest rods in price – the Echo TR and the Redington Claymore – it’s significantly quicker and lighter in the hand, and likes a tighter stroke. If that’s your style, you should try this rod. $398 | PRO Great for new spey casters. | CON Light for a 4.

The Redington Claymore 11’3” 4 weight is a big, powerful, sustained anchor spey rod that’s perfect for throwing heavy Skagit heads, T-8 tips and articulated streamers. It’s relatively inexpensive, and has those weird rubber sections on the grip that actually work (they are aid in pinching your shooting line). If you want your trout spey rod to feel like a winter Steelhead rod, this is a great choice. $449 | PRO Powerful | CON Too much for smaller freestones.

Echo TR 11’3” 4 weight. There are anglers who don’t really care about all of this spey stuff. They throw streamers and they fish on foot. The goal isn’t to impress with their casting, but to catch big trout. They use big flies and cover a lot of water. Those guys – or gals – often choose this rod. It’s affordable and gets any size fly and sink-tip out there. We’ve sold a bunch of these over the years, and while they’re getting a little long in the tooth, I’d bet they’ve accounted for as many big trout as any rod listed here. It likes 360 grains, and is arguably a 5 weight. $379 | PRO Affordable and performs. | CON More like a 5 weight.


I’ll address OPST rods by themselves, as it’s apples to oranges to compare them to the above rods. OPST Micro Skagit rods are a) way shorter than the rest, and b) use a single handed line rating system. They blur the line between single and two-handed rods, and that’s intentional. They definitely have OPST genes… they love mono shooting line and short heads. I recommend subtracting 1 or 2 lines sizes when comparing them to the other rods we carry.

OPST 9’9” 3 weight – This rod compares with the 1 and 2 weight rods above. It’s a soft hackle swing machine, perfect for a guy who wants to move between single and two-handed casting. $599

OPST 10’ 4 weight – maybe compares to a 3 weight above, but just barely. Pretty similar to the 9’9” 3 weight, but capable of throwing slightly larger flies. Still a very light rod more suited to smaller freestones. $599

OPST 10’ 4” 5 weight – a rod that compares to many of the 3 weights on this list, and none of the 4 weights as it’s a foot shorter than most of them. This is the road we’ve sold the most, and it’s a great little shooter. Light in the hand and really fires it. Big enough for the Missouri, but totally at home on the Bitteroot. $599


 TROUT SPEY REELS

The only attribute we would define as “spey” when it comes to reels is a full or closed cage on the frame. This means you line runs through the frame, and can’t slip out betweeen the frame and the spool. While this is not a hard feature to find in reels from 8 weight and up (Many Saltwater anglers prefer this type of construction as well), it can be difficult to find in the 6 weight size we typically use for Trout Spey applications. Reels we carry that have full cages include the Headhunters exclusive Galvan GEN and the Lamson REMIX HD. While we don’t consider this to be a mandatory feature, it is nice. Other reels we commonly use are the Orvis Mirage and Hydros, Hatch, Nautilus and Galvan Torque’s. Some crusty old guys at the shop like to buy older Hardy’s on eBay for Trout Spey applications.


TROUT SPEY LINES & TIPS

Trout Spey lines are already difficult to find, and I expect that will only get worse in the coming months. Nothing new has come to the market this year, so we have nothing exciting to report. The Scientific Anglers Spey Lite series is our most popular, and we have been out of some grain weights for months. Will they be in stock soon? Likely not, according to SA. Trout Spey lines from RIO are similarly thin, but RIO does produce some of their traditional Steelhead spey heads in lighter grain weights that may offer alternatives.  These will be noticeably longer than the Trout Spey models. Not necessarily a bad thing. Airflo has one model we carry, the “Scout” Skagit head and availability seems to be good. We currently have a good selection of OPST Commando heads in stock.

Skagit tips and sinking leaders will also be somewhat limited this fall. The RIO iMOW and MOW tips are out most popular, followed by the Scientific Anglers TC Tips. We use a lot fo sinking leaders on our Scandi lines in the fall, and both the RIO Freshwater Versileader and Scientific Anglers Sonnar leaders work great. Make sure you get the 24 lb. core versions, not the 12 lb. core!


CONCLUSION

Pretty quick and not much new, but there it’s is if you’re thinking about getting into the sport or upgrading you existing gear. As stated, I’m concerned the availability of products in the ultra-light Spey category will be tough, and continue well into next year. We will try and keep you updated with any changes or new products in the pipeline. I do know that exciting stuff was on the horizon pre-pandemic, and we hope to see some of those products introduced next season.

If you have any questions give the shop a call at 406-235-3447.

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