To Spey or Not to Spey

Hi all,

This is my first posting here on this forum. I've been reading and learning quite a bit from you folks. I've been in a quandry for about a month and thought maybe you guys could help. Here's my problem, I started flyfishing for trout about 2 years ago and I really enjoy it. I want to start fishing for steelhead and hired a guide to take me out on the Sauk and Skagit and teach me some of the basics of casting for steelhead. I was getting ready to buy a Sage DS2 9'6" 8 wt. rod when the guide showed me how much water he could cover with a Spey rod. I've also been told that a Spey rod allows you to cast effectively even when you have cover on both sides. Whereas a single hand rod would be next to impossible in similar situations. I guess that price is a major drawback for me. Spey rods in general, seem to be more expensive than single hand rods. I want to take this to the next level but I don't want to go bankrupt in the process.

So I guess I'm asking for your input. If you could start over again would you opt for a Spey rod or would you use a single hand rod? Does it take a long time (years?) to learn how to cast a Spey rod effectively? Would it be wiser to first become efficient at casting a single hand rod (I still need a lot of work in this area) before I venture to a Spey rod? Are there situations where a single hand rod performs better than a Spey rod? Are there affordable Spey rods out there which are good/forgiving for a beginner to start on? Vexing questions to be sure. :HMMM

Thanks in advance for your help,


Old Man

Just an Old Man
What do I know---I'm just an old man

Well you can go easy on your wallet or hard. It depends what your in the market for. You can get a spey rod for as cheap as $150.00 used or you can get one out of Cabala's for $185.00 or a St Croix for $250.00 or A Gloomis for $375.00, or a Sage for double that. You can go on Ebay and see whats out there or the classified's in a few of these outdoor web sites. Thats just the rod the reels are something else but you can find bargains with those also. Ebay and classified like before. Then you need the line. A windcutter will run you back about $65.00 or if you want a multi-tip that will run you alittle more say $135.00 or more. I hope that I'm not talking you out of it.

Then of course you should take some instruction as Spey casting is not something that every body can do. And if you have any money left you still have to have flies. Of course regular steelhead flies will work,but if your going to do the spey thing only spey flies will work.

You can spend a little or you can spend a lot it's all up to you.

If I come accross as I'm against it I'm not. I tried it and it beat me up so I decieded to stick with my 9'6" 8 wt. I can't reach the other side of the Skagit or the Sky but I can do all right on the Stilly.


Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
One consideration to ask yourself is "what size rivers do I plan on targeting?". Spey rods become very valuable on big water and of no value on small rivers and streams in my opinion.

As you mentioned, they do cover the water better than a single handed rod in many situations and they mend line like no other. In the Northwest, river banks are often wooded which makes casting far into a river a bit of a problem with a single handed rod because of the room needed behind you for overhead casting. With the spey rod, spey casts (single spey, double spey, all of which are basically roll casts) cast efficiently in relatively tight quarters.

Another advantage of a spey rod is that your fly spends more time in the water as with a single motion(ok it is more than a single motion but for the sake of argument), your fly has been picked up and placed back in the water.

Single handed rods require stripping in some amount of line prior to casting, and then a false cast or two or three to get the line back out. This process usually ends up making your hands cold, especially during the winter months. With a spey rod, most people just leave out the desired amount of line, and so hands don't get nearly as wet or cold.

Another consideration is that of fatigue. Spey rods by nature of the casts are much less taxing on the muscles. Steelhead fishing requires many hours of casting between hook-ups. (This by the way makes you a great caster, either double handed or single handed)
So all that said, the choice is still up to you. You'll do fine with your single handed rod.

One option would be to take a spey casting class, which will usually teach you the basics within a day's session. That's not to say that you'll be an expert caster but at least you'll be pointed in the right direction. These classes usually run $60.00 or so. I know that Kaufmann's offers them from time to time. They usually provide a set of different rods in various weights and lengths to give you some idea of the differences. I'd highly recommend searching out something like this to see if you're interested before spending money on spey rods/lines/reels. As you mentioned, they do get pricey. Try before you buy would be my suggestion.

Spey casting is a style of casting that is NOT restricted to two-handed rods. Think of spey casting as just another style of casting that has its place in your arsenal of casting techniques. Learn to spey cast AND overhead cast with both your single-hander AND your two-hander (when you get one).

When I fish for steelhead wannabes (e.g., on the Yakima or the upper Snoqualmie forks), or summer runs on the Stilly, I almost always spey cast with my single-hander. Dennis Dickson, a guide who specializes in the Stilly, has developed spey-casting with single-handers to the point where he can sell you specific lines tailored for single-handed spey casting.

For me, spey casting with a single-hander is less tiring than conventional overhead casting (e.g., false-casting is almost entirely eliminated). Spey casting is also more useful when room to backcast is limited. The only time I use overhead casting anymore is when I need to execute a double-haul for distance. But distance is seldom a requirement when fishing for steelhead wannabes.

When I really need distance, I'll go to the two-hander. The two hander is longer and, because you are using two hands, you can really put some energy into the cast. Good 2-handed casters can regularly and easily launch 85 foot casts, with the occasional 100 footer when needed. Another difference that is really helpful here in the Northwest, is the ability to lift and throw heavy sink tips. Those big rods get those sink tips up and out of the water much more easily than the shorter, single-handers.

The bottom line is that two-handers are NOT required to spey cast. But, if you're going to fish for steelhead in the big waters of the Northwest (Skagit, Sky, Deschutes, etc.,), all things being equal, a two-hander will bring more fish to hand than a single-hander.




Active Member
Hey Kevlar

Personal opinion disclaimer. If you disagree... Well good for you! That's what makes it a horse race!

Skinny said something very important few people talk about when discussing two handed rods. It's the size of the water that determines your rod needs.

For a river like the Snoqualmie (my home water) I use a single hander because quite frankly I can cast across every section of that river THAT I FISH with a fast 9'6" six weight. A 14 foot rod on that river is absolute overkill. I can "spey cast" a one hand 9'6" six weight with a floating line, or a one hand ten foot 8 weight with a sinktip in winter and cover everything I want to.

Skykomish, Skagit, and other big water? Spey comes into play for me. It's not so much a distance thing either. I May cast 80 feet, but my first big mend pulls in 8 to 12 feet of line. Sure I'll use that extra line throughout the drift, but I'm still fishing 70 to 80 feet max. Anyone who tells you their spey rod lets them "control" their fly 100 feet out is full of it. It's impossible... These are the same people who have steelhead make 100 yard runs... Especially in Winter, the long rod let's me wade shallower and control the line better from slack water. It frankly keeps me out of life-threatening situations, and gives me wonderful fly control at realistic distances.

Yes there are times when the spey rod is too much. This weekend on the Sky (sultan to goldbar), I would have enjoyed a one handed rod much more. The river was low, and there were times when 35 foot cast is all that was needed. 15 feet is alot of stick to carry around when you don't need it.

Bottom line. Spey rods are effective, and if you enjoy challenging yourself and becoming competent at physical skills, it's one more thing to learn. They cost money, the lines cost money, and if you don't already own one, you'll have to buy a big-*ss reel. I love mine.
Anyone who tells you their spey rod lets them "control" their fly 100 feet out is full of it. It's impossible...

With all due respect, I couldn't disagree more with your claim. While casting 100', much less mending that line once it's on the water, is very difficult for most of us, it's not at all impossible.

I've seen it done.

In the spey class I took this fall, our instructor (Derek Brown) taught us to make reach casts with two-handed rods. As a demo, he cast and mended 120' of line perfectly. Moreover, Dec Hogan, Ed Ward, Mike Kinney, Dennis Worley, and other accomplished spey casters are able to fish this amount of line (>100') very effectively when conditions warrant.

It's simply a matter of good technique, lots of practice, and the right rod/line combo.




Active Member
As a demo, he cast and mended 120' of line perfectly. Moreover, Dec Hogan, Ed Ward, Mike Kinney, Dennis Worley, and other accomplished spey casters are able to fish this amount of line (>100') very effectively when conditions warrant.

It's simply a matter of good technique, lots of practice, and the right rod/line combo.
Hey Luv... Still in personal opinion mode here...

I've fished with some notables. I've seen mega casts... Heck, with my fast 15 foot ten, I can uncork 100 foot casts on a good day, as long as the water isn't deeper than mid calf :LOVEIT I've seen "mends" on these long casts. The word "perfectly" is what I would disagree with. Straightening your line, or getting a "bow" out of it isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about being able to use a 15 foot type 3 tip where other people can't touch bottom with a 30 foot type six. Those "2 percenters" you mentioned don't count in my opinion. They put their pants on 2 legs at a times! They are awesome. They have skills that we all would aspire to. But they have those skills because long ago they chose a career path that would let them develop them. We didn't.

I guarantee you that every foot over 50 feet away that you fish, you reduce your control. The top 2 percent of fishermen that you mentioned would readily acknowledge it. The difference is when you start with a big heaping bucket of control like they do (and like you may have), it's less noticeable than it is with me, and my little laddle of control. Yes there are pools that some call "straighteners", "butterbuckets", "self-menders", etc. where you can cast it and forget about it, where 80 feet is as easy to fish as 35. But they are rare. I once had a pool where I could cast as far as I wanted to a deep slot, and walk down the bar to fish the entire slot as my fly drifted along, and my line would never bow. It's gone now thanks to flooding:ANGRY Fishing the 100 foot cast is great shop talk for selling spey rods, but it isn't reality for 99% of the people on this board.

Thanks for the input! That goes for everyone! You're absolutely right about size of river I intend to fish. I want to use a Spey rod on the Sky, (I live in Bothell and the Sky is closest to me) Skagit, Sauk, lower Snoqualmie, and some Olympic penninsula rivers as well (haven't fished the O.P. rivers yet so I'm not familiar with their size). I live in Bothell and I fish the Sky most often. I fish the middle and South fork Sonquaumie as well but in this case I use my Sage DS2 9' 5wt. rod because I'm only going for trout. My casting skills are still rather lacking so my ability to cover even those sections of the Snoqualmie is minimal.

In addition, I would definitely need casting lessons so I'll have to factor that into the equation. I'm a firm believer that you get what you pay for and while it may be more economical to get a used rod via classified ads I worry about the lack of warranty protection. I could just see me breaking the rod in my car door and being S.O.L. about replacing it cheaply. :REALLYMAD

Thanks to all for the input, its been invaluable. Right now I'm leaning more towards getting a Spey rod, I just have to steel myself for the sticker shock.

Here's to tight lines!


Does Derek Brown or any of the other guys you mentioned above have a website so I might contact them about learning how to Spey cast. I've seen Mike Kinney's web site and I've hired him as a guide in the past. He is a phenomenal Spey caster but I don't think he does Spey casting clinics. I think its important to learn from an accomplished caster so I don't get into bad habits.

Thanks for the input,



Active Member
Hey Kevlar

There are great videos out there right now for spey folks. The "rio international speycasting" is the one that really did it for me, but I hear lots of folks say the same about the Derek Brown video. I like the rio one because it relies on principles as much as movement. Focusing on principles like "the loop behind you should be 180 degrees from where you want the cast to go" really works for my way of learning.

Picking a rod is another issue. Cast as many as you can without buying one. Hopefully the guy who runs the spey shop in Carnation will be able to have regular hours (I met his brother a while back and heard there were health issues, but I hear he's a great guy who is really committed to making the shop work) and you can try some rods from the shop right on the Sno! Other than that, go to the next Spey Mini-Clave that is announced on this list. Not only would you get to try different rods, you would get some instruction too! And lastly my personal opinion is save money on the reel, not on the rod.

You'll have a ball with it! And the rest of us will have a good laugh watching a first timer trying to land a fish with a 14 foot rod. There is NOTHING funnier :THUMBSUP
everyone has there 2 cents well here's mine. Absolutly the river dictates the size of the rod but its not the distance of the cast that is important to us maniacs of these fine rivers its the mending and line control that matters. If you cant mend to the butt end of your level floating section of your line system you cant change the swing or slow the rise of your fly so whats the most important? casting to the main channel or controlling the depth and swim of your fly it all depends on the river. I started spey casting because of the water that opens by not having to worry about what is behind me not just the distance that I can cast as to hooking fish 100' out sharphooks and water tension will hook some but they call them steelhead for a reason if you cant ansewer back that hook is probably coming back empty Ive been around the skagit for awile and can tell you that dec and ed caught a LOT of steelhead back when everyone fished with 10'IMX's One of the best benifits to learning to spey cast is crossing over to one handed trout fishing a single spey lets you fish trout water that you cant false cast and spend more time fishing instead of casting lastly I have to disagree
with the advice about spey flies all steelhead flies will swim on the end of spey line dont get me wrong I love them tie them fish them and covet ones given to me by friends and peers but? My fist 20lb fish was caught 35' feet out on a black bunny leech Justr go out and have fun fish with what you got or can aford learn the water release some fish and smile cause when you go two handed you'll fid that releasing a fish by yoursrlf with that big rod is kinda like the monkey and football thing

Derek Brown teaches thru Kauffman's StreamBorn ( He usually teaches two classes in the fall - A 3 day beginner and a 3 day advanced on the Deschutes (Maupin).

Another good source of info is Lots of the pros hang out there, including Simon Gawesworth, the Rio line designers, etc.,

Yet another source is John Hazel and Dec Hogan run this guide service on the Deschutes. They specialize in guided/teaching spey casting trips. If you're into golfing, you might appreciate the fact that Tiger Woods and Mark O'Mera learned to spey cast from these guys (Dec, actually) and fish there every chance they get.

Finally, I would recommend that you contact Aaron Reimer at the River Run Anglers in Carnation ( His shop only deals with spey equipment (rods, lines, flies, lessons, etc.,). His shop is right next to the river and he'll let you take rod-reel combos out to the river to cast. You should try to cast as many different combo's as you can before plunking down the $$. Get something you're comfortable with and can be successful with from the get go.

Caveat: I am NOT associated with any of the aformentioned commercial enterprises. I have patronized every one and have had very good service from them.


P.S. If/When you get your spey rod, give me a shout. I live within 30 minutes of the Ben Howard boat launch. Maybe I can show you a few moves to get you started and then we can go nail some steelhead.

Matt Burke

Active Member
I don’t know about breaking Spey fishing down, like the others have on this thread. I am new to it and learning from anyone that likes to teach. Michael(Luv2spey) has been a major part of my learning curve. Beginner lessons with Nathan at Avid, another. Getting out on the water with the right equipment is the last piece.

Lift-2-3, Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, Plop. (on a good day)

The best part about Spey Fishing seems that with overhead casting I would be in the water 50% of the time and the rest …I’m still in the air, false casting. With Spey casting, I’m in the water 95% of the time. One cast and boom…fly is back on the drift. Exhibition casting will come with time.

Just do it. It works great on the Skagit. I was there this morning. No catching, just fishing.

Lift-2-3, Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, Plop. (it was a good day)



Active Member
Lift-2-3, Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, Plop. (it was a good day)


We all have the not so good days :THUMBSUP Lift-2-3, Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, "Dang it!" Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, "Dang it!" Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, "Dang it!" Back-2-3, Thrust-2-3, "crap!"

One has to know when it's best to just let it drift downstream and start over :CLOWN
Hey Michael,

Thanks for the info and the web sites. I was surfing them all last night. So I've made my decision, I'm going to buy a Spey rod then file for Chapter 11. I've kinda narrowed the selection down to either a Sage VPS 9wt. 14' rod for $493.00 or a St. Croix 10 wt. 14' rod for $250.00. I have a Sage DS2 5 wt. 9' rod I use for trout and I'm happy with it. So I guess I'm leaning more towards the Sage rod. From what I've heard Sage's turnover time is better for repairs than St. Croix. Now that may be due to Sage's location (Whidbey Island) vs St. Croix's location (Wisconsin). I know some of the sites you listed offer to build the custormer a rod but since Xmas is coming I already sent out my wish list to my family basically saying a gift certificate to either Creekside Anglers or Avid Anglers would do me fine.

I do plan on casting a few rods before I purchase but seeing as I haven't Spey cast before it'll be difficult to know which rod is more comfortable to me. :DUNNO But as Mao Tse Tung would say I'll have to make the "Great Leap Forward".

Yeah, that would be great, I could use as much help as I can get. When I get my rod I'll e-mail you and maybe we can set up a time at the Monroe (Ben Howard) boat launch to practice casting. Now whether I'll nail a steelhead on that day is another story. What I envision is watching you haul in a 20 lb lunker as I desperately flog the Sky. It'll probably won't happen until after Santa delivers my rod. I'm hoping he'll stuff my stocking with a Tioga 12 or a Ross Cimmaron 4 reel and a Multi Tip line and a ..... and a ...... and a ....... I better stop there cuz my fly fishing equipment wish list is about a mile long.

Thanks again,