Step, step, and step again

img_1901.jpgOne thing I have often seen while guiding spey fisherman is that they just wont move. I’m not talking two-stepping here but simply working a run in a methodical and timely manner.  Under most conditions I prefer to move three to four feet between casts which has several benefits.

1) By steadily working your way through a run you will cover more water throughout your day than the person who only moves a couple feet every few casts.  Remember, we are looking for players, the fish who are aggressive enough to eat your fly on the first pass.

2) Constantly fishing new water it is simply more interesting and I tend to stay more focused as I move though a run.

3) We are not trout fishing – you will not find a steelhead river with 2-6 thousand fish per river mile, so covering water is the key to finding fish.


I do slow down for several reasons.

1) If I know fish are in a certain area and I feel that they are not willing to move far to a fly, I will slow down my pace and work the fly with different presentations.

2) If I feel a grab but don’t hook up I will cast back to the fish, trying a couple of presentations. If this does not work I will mentally note where the fish was holding and make another pass with a new, smaller fly.

DSC_0707By maximizing the amount of water you cover in a day you will swim your flies through more holding lies. When searching for winter steelhead covering water can make the difference, it only takes one fish to turn your day around.

Can your rod go both ways?


6wt Switch

We use 6wt switch rods for large trout and steelhead. These are light enough in hand to stack mend all day without tearing your shoulder apart, but strong enough to swing smaller flies and poly-leaders and turn big fish in heavy current. You will find it a little under gunned for heavy sink-tip fishing applications, or if you try to throw a large nymph rig to the far side of the river.


  • Beulah 10’4″ 6wt Platinum – extremely light, basically a 10’4″ single-hander. killer indicator stick and summer dry fly rod.
  • Redington 11’3″ 7wt Dually
  • Echo 10’10” 7 wt SR
  • Sage 11’6″ ONE – at 11’6″ we call these “mini-speys.” you can indicator fish them without too much issue, but we find ourselves wishing the rod was at least 6″ shorter to be a better indicator stick.

7wt Switch

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The 7wt switch seems to be the most useful of the switch rods, with the power to throw heavy indicator setups and sink-tips in the T-11 range.  These rods are ideal for the angler fishing for summers on the swing and winters on the dead-drift. The Echo SR 7wt 10’10” is a great entry level switch rod, although it is a little on the heavy side, it makes up for it in fighting power and durability. This is a great rod for small to medium sized water – such as the North Fork Alsea.  A lighter, longer 7wt option would be the Sage ONE 7wt 11’6” switch – this rod falls into the small spey rod category, light enough to single hand, but excels with the swung fly in situations where you need a compact D loop and casting stroke.

8wt Switch


These are the brutes of the switch rod world, capable of fighting large steelhead, silvers, and even chinook.  We use 8wt switch rods for tidewater salmon fishing, swinging big heavy tips for winter steelhead and nymph fishing the heaviest of rigs. Most 8wt switch rods are too heavy in hand for the average angler to fish all day as a single hand rod, but when you need the power it is there.


  • 11′ Beulah Platinum – excellent winter swing rod and indicator rod, but lacks lifting power for Chinook
  • 10’10” Echo SR – heavy, durable, stout – what more needs to be said?
  • 11′ 3″ Redington Dually – able to fish it all without breaking the bank (249.99).
  • 10’6″ Beulah Classic 8/9 – short, stout, and discontinued. these make a killer estuary salmon rod and winter stick for all purposes – a little short for larger winter systems, but small creeks beware.
  • Sage 11’6″ ONE 8/9 – the mini spey – this is an excellent winter stick for swinging and awesome estuary salmon rod

Testing Spey Lines and Rods

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Unlike single hand rods, spey rods have very different line matches depending on the type of line, fishing, and above all, casting style. Because of this, we try to get out every few weeks and throw different lines with different tips on a lot of different rods.

The key to making this successful and not wasting your time changing and prepping lines, is having two or three other buddies there. This allows you to work two rods at the same time and switch lines much more efficiently. You also can keep better notes and organization during the trials, which is the most important part of this process.

This is a fun process and great way to improve your skills. Especially if you can cast with anglers who are better than you. So get out there, tune your sticks and find some fish.

Two-Handed Spey and Switch Rods at Cascadia Fly Shop

Angler options in two-handed “spey” and “switch” rods – and the lines they cast – have exploded in recent years. In the not-too-distant past, most two-handed rods were big sticks of 14’ and 15’ long. To many anglers, such big sticks conjured up thoughts of Paul Bunyan throwing choker cable with a telephone pole. These big sticks are still around, and with practice still command the water on the biggest and broadest of rivers.  However, for many fly fishing enthusiasts, they were just too much. And so they didn’t really catch on.


Fast forward to today. Two-handed rods are shorter and lighter than ever before, making them easy to cast and fun to fish. Today, a 13’ 7 wt is the typical all-season “spey” rod, and a dedicated summer angler may even prefer a 12’6” 6 wt. On smaller streams, a shorter 10’6” – 12’ “switch” rod can usually cover the water, and there are even 3 – 5 wt two-handed rods designed especially for trout. The modern revolution in two-handed rods has followed directly from shorter specialized lines, so that today’s setups are feather light and responsive for easy, relaxed casting.

Given that many anglers have a closet full of single handers already, why bother with two hands at all?  First of all, they’re an incredibly fun way to enjoy fishing, and give a thrill akin to discovering fly fishing all over again.  They also provide special perks that make them great fishing tools. We can now make casts in tight places and reach impossible lies, using even more impossible flies. In summer, these rods will send a waking muddler or soft hackle wet far across a long gentle glide, with no backcast, and with utmost stealth.  In winter, they’ll effortlessly launch huge monstrosities on sinktips, fishing where no fly has gone before.  And at any time, they can control a dead-drifted fly through deep seated slots to find the most difficult fish. They melt away the hours, and make the last cast as fun as the first.


We have been building our selection of two-handed fly rods in the shop, in both standard “spey” and shorter “switch” rod sizes. Our goal is to bring more versatility and flat-out fun to your days on the water. Over the coming months, we’ll cover some of the basics of two-handed rod and line types, how to set them up, cast them, and fish them. And as we bring new rods and lines into the shop, we’ll post a review or two. We’ve already got a great selection of rods, ranging from no-nonsense tools to the very finely refined, in lengths and weights that are best suited for our fisheries. And since we only carry rods that we like to fish ourselves, we’ll give hands-on reports and experienced line recommendations for each. Join us in the fun.