Spey and Switch Fishing for Trout – An Update

Trout Spey Water
Trout spey water.

Way back in the almost prehistoric year of 2009, we wrote a series of posts on our blog about spey fishing for trout – why you should do it, what gear you should consider, and some tactics you should use.  Those posts have turned into classics – they’re really popular with our readers, which always makes us happy.  Type “spey fishing for trout” into Google and you’ll see what we mean.

Anyhow, trout fishing with two handed rods has come a long way in the past three years.  We thought we’d give you a little update on the state of the art from our perspective, and the most obvious way to do that in our minds was to cover what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same.

Trout Spey – What Has Changed

  • Massive Selection and Broad Availability of Great Gear.  You can get yourself a really good two-hander designed for trout at any price point, from almost any manufacturer, with varying levels of finish, manufactured domestically or abroad.  A few years ago we felt like there weren’t many great choices.  Today there are lots.
  • Out-of-the-Box Skagit Heads for Switch Rods.  This is a massive upgrade.  Another super popular old post we wrote was this one which gave instructions on how to cut back a Skagit head to fit your switch rod.  Why did we write that post?  Because at the time there nobody made modern Skagit heads for switch rods.  That has changed – heads like the Airflo Skagit Switch have made it possible for you to actually walk into a fly shop and walk out with a head that casts great on, say, your 11-footer for a 6 weight.  Sorry, one less basement craft project for you!
  • More Versatility.  We used to feel like ‘steelhead type water’ was the only legitimate place you could spey fish for trout – big water with a long slow swing was the obvious wheelhouse.  Now we know that almost any water is fair game.  Some of the legends of the game – like Ed Ward, our head guide at Alaska West – have pioneered the use of heads as short as 16 feet.  That opens up a whole lot of new water to the two hander, like little side channels on rivers like the Kanektok.  Swinging is the obvious presentation [see below], but almost any piece of water works.

Trout Spey – What Has Stayed The Same

  • Switch Rods are Baby Spey Rods.  We’ve just never really bought the theory that “you can take this one rod to the beach or the lake and then throw a Skagit line on it for swinging”.  Skagit heads cast terribly overhead, and that’s how we like to line our two-handers.  You can call them switch rods if you want – we think of them as short spey rods and that’s what we call ’em.
  • Swinging is the Sweet Spot.  So yeah, we spey cast these rods.  The spey cast is fundamentally a change of direction cast, and that means it works best for swinging.  Yes, you can get a some dead drift out of a Skagit setup.  Yes, you can get some great action stripping your fly too.  But if you’re presenting a beatis dry or a dragonfly nymph, the trout spey rod is, in our opinion, not the best tool for the job.  It’s made for swinging!  Sculpins, leeches, mice, flesh flies that turn into smolts – this is the stuff that is really fun to fish on the swing, and the short two hander works awesome here.
  • It’s Really Fun and You Should Try It.  It’s a whole new way to look at trout water.  You get to work on your spey cast year round.  Hitting a great spey cast is like hitting a great golf shot.  It’ll make you a better spey caster.  It’s less monotonous than casting overhead.  You can cover more water more easily.  It’s really fun and you should try it!

Hey, guess what – we have a trout spey week running at Alaska West this summer.  If you want to get yourself up to speed on the state of the art as it relates to trout on two handers, you should drop us a line to learn about joining us.

More on Trout Spey


  1. Neil says

    Any advice on lake fishing with Switch rods. I use the 7 and 8 TCX swith for Salmon and Seatrout and wonder if the lighter 4/ 5 weight switches could work in a lake. I am like you guys and love to spey cast as much as I can
    Any advice appreciated

  2. Kevin Ford says

    Hi Andrew,
    I’m new to fly fishing and on a steep learning curve trying to take in all this information before hopefully a 2014 July trip to Alaska West.
    I’m thinking of the versatility of having an 8wt Overhead rod and the ability of adding the 7/8 Conversion Kit for a 2 handed switch rod.
    Would a TFO TiCr X 8wt be a suitable choice for Alaska West in Mid July?
    Is the 8wt too much or not enough rod when used with the conversion kit? It’s been suggested to me to run 510-540 Skagit line on it.
    Thanks in advance, Kevin

  3. andrew says

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks much for getting back in touch. We’re really looking forward to hosting you at Alaska West next summer.

    To be totally honest – this is the first time I’ve heard of the conversion kit. In single hand format that would be a great rod to target chums and sockeye in July. If it really throws 540 grains well in switch form, it could just barely be up to smaller kings in early July – and certainly would be good for the occasional early silver if you came up in late July.

    Feel free to drop Bryan a line with any other questions – we’re always happy to help.


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