With another two-handed (spey) clinic coming up this weekend, we thought we’d go over our lineup of two-handed rods. As two-handers get shorter and faster, we have constantly improving models available in that 6-7 weight range we like (385 – 450gr Scandi for Spey Trekkies).
Your First Spey Rod
We always like to preface talk of spey rods by reiterating that there are a ton of good and great rods out there. Pretty hard to buy a real dog these days. If you’ve never owned or cast one before, it’s unlikely that you will be able to tell much of a difference in action (you will with length, however). The most important thing you can do when purchasing your first two-handed rod is make absolutely sure that it is lined correctly, and that you understand what kind of line system you have.
While it is easy to purchase a good rod at a box store or online, it is hard to find knowledgable staff to help you with line selection. If the salesman you are talking to immediately suggests a “Skagit” line and nothing else (or worse just starts winding a line up), beware. Just like purchasing a line for a single hander, a salesman should begin by asking what rivers and species you are targeting, what time of the year, what kind of flies you plan on throwing, etc.
At Headhunters, we are more than happy to set you up with the right line for your rod whether you purchased it from us or not. Of course we’d love to sell you a rod as well, but we’d rather make sure that you enjoy your first two-handed rod. And catch fish. Whether your dropping big bucks on a US made rod, or buying an overseas “budget” model, if the rod is lined properly it should work just fine.
Headhunters Spey Rod Options
If you hang out at our shop, you know that we carry rods from Sage, Orvis, Loomis, Echo and Thomas & Thomas. Those brands also make some of the finest two-handed and spey rods on the market.
We generally stock Spey and switch rods in the 6-7 weight range, with a couple of 8 weights thrown in for those looking to head to some icy winter water. Faster action rods are our preference for both the Missouri and Summer Steelhead, and our selection leans towards Scandi models. Here are some of our most popular spey rods:
Sage has always been at the forefront of North American Spey rod design. They were some of the first two-handed rods I ever threw, and I still throw them. The new Sage Method is right in our wheelhouse. Very light and quick, it is the replacement for the stiffer (and damper) Sage TCX. I really liked the TCX, and still think it has a touch more power, but the Method is quickly growing on me. I like that it’s lighter in the hand, and livelier. These are perfect for the Missouri and interior summer Steelhead rivers like the Grand Ronde and Deschuttes. Hell, they’re pretty much perfect for anywhere in the right size, though I wouldn’t use them a Skagit specific rod myself.
We have demo rods available in 11’9″ #6 and #7, and 12’6″ #6 and #7. I really like that Sage is now offering a 12’6″ rod in several line weights. This length has become my go to size for Steelhead, and about the only size I use for dry line Scandi work. $875-975
New for this 2014, the Orvis Clearwater series. These “budget” rods might be the most versatile rod we carry, certainly at that price point. We have demo’s available in 12′ #5, 12’6″ #6 and 13′ #7. These rods have a compromise action somewhere in-between a stiff Scandi rod, and a mushy Skagit action. They remind me a lot of some of the original Sage 4 piece rods. Just nice and smooth. They’ll throw sink tip as well as floaters. If you’re looking for your first Steelhead rod, and you plan on fishing the Dechuttes in August with floating lines, and hitting the Olypic Penninsula in March with heavy tips, the 13′ 7weight might be the perfect starter kit. I’ve been using the 12′ 5 weight since last Spring and find it on the powerful side of 5 (really a 6) and it’s a great Missouri River rod. $325
Echo made it’s name as a “budget” rod maker, and they still have a strong presence in that market making several medium action models. The newer Echo 3 series is a little different creature. These are fast, powerful rods that remind me of the Sage TCX lineup. I love to cast fast action switch rods with Scandi heads, and the 11′ #7 Echo 3 is a perfect weapon for beating the wind and putting pressure on bug fish. In the Echo Spey lineup, the 12’7″ #6 is always one of the most popular rods at our clinics. Perfect for the Missouri and summer Steelhead fishing. If you need something bigger for sink tips, the 13′ #7 is perfect, and you can still use it for lighter duty. The price is a little steeper than some would expect from Echo rod, but still far less than some of our other offerings. The quality is there in both finish and performance. $525 – $550
Orvis Access Switch
This has been one of our more popular rods, and is second only to the much more expensive Orvis Helios as a true switch rod (using it for both single and two-handed casting). These rods are super light and a great value. Lightweight switch odds feel the most familiar to new two-handed casters, and that “comfort factor” can help your learning curve. We pretty much stick to the 11′ #7 model, as it has the right combo of power for big trout and light Steelhead duty. $425
Thomas & Thomas XF
Thomas & Thomas was in the two-handed game early on, and they have just finished revamping their entire lineup (many of their rods were still the traditional 3 piece design, which has become too difficult to sell). We carry two models in the XF line. The 12’6″ #7 is a superb rod if you primarily fish floating lines. It is very light, and surprisingly limber for a rod designated “Xtra Fast”. The softer action is easy on your body, especially on a week long Streelhead adventure. It also is a very sensitive rod with great feel both casting and while fishing. The strange part of the equation is that it generates tremendous line speed with little effort, and shoots a mile. The first day I fished with this rod, I was shocked on almost every cast. It felt like I was performing an easy mid range cast, yet the line just kept going. Nice.
Most of you know we are big fans of switch rods, but we only use them as “two-handed” rods. T&T is one of the few companies that makes a two-handed rod in a switch size, their fantastic 11’7″ 6/7 XF. T&T is adamant that this rod is a two hander, and it has a full size spey grip. The action has been designed only for two handed Scandi casts. This is a fantastic rod for the Missouri and light summer Steelhead. $960-970
Thanks John for the basics of spey rod selecting.
For first timers, it’s really tough to understand how important the choice of the right type of spey line is, much more than with single hand rods.
Thanks for this write up. Any chance you could also review line selection, pretty please? I’m in the market for winter Steelhead on the Rouge and Deshutes River. I’m new to the two handed spey and not sure if I should go switch stead but wish to commit & get it right. Any additional info is always appreciated. Thanks, again!