IS two handed and Traditional Spey Rod the same?

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by willapabay, Oct 22, 2005.

  1. I am not familar with all the various Spey Rod types.. I see mostly European Style , two handed and traditional.. What or which type of spey rod do most folks use who fish in WA. Rivers.. I assume European is not what we would buy or am I wrong? I see spey casters but never get a chance to ask them about their equipment/Rod. There must be some way to know if what you are buying is the right type of rod for our local waters such as the Deschutes or Cowlitz. Thanks for your time,

    Ron on the Willapa
  2. Ron, an answer to your question could fill up pages. Basically we have folks out there using rods designed for everything from Scandanavian "underhand (fast action for short shooting head) casting" to old school "traditional (british, slower action for long line) speycasting" and everything in between. Here's where it gets complicated. They aren't necessarily using them for what they were designed for! Just about any decent two handed rod out there will throw a Windcutter (or other 50 to 55 foot head line) or midspey (or other 65 to 67 foot head line) better than the person holding the rod can cast. Rods have gotten so good, down to the $250, or even lower level that if you don't care about image, you can get a rod that'll do just about everything the average fisherman needs for not much. Translation? If you pick a good rod, it doesn't really matter which rod it is, unless you plan to get really specialized... And plan to become a super caster. Then it matters. I'm sure lots of folks will argue with that statement.

    So, what rod to choose? It sucks to hear this over and over again, but try as many as you can get your hands on. Need one rod to cover all 4 seasons on big to small rivers? Start looking at 13 to 14 foot 8 to 9 weight rods. You'll use different lines throughout the year, but a 14 foot 9 weight is a killer first rod, and one of the rods experienced folks with 10 rods grab first often enough.

    Sorry for the not very specific answer, but a real specific one would take pages and someone more knowledgeable than I.
  3. check your PM's
  4. check your PM's
  5. Ron--

    European, traditional, or 2-hand labels of a rod tells you very little about the rod, which I think is some of what Phil was getting at. There are slow, soft European rods like the B&W Norway or Loop Yellow Series 2-handers, and there are fast, stiff European rods like the Carrons and the Loop Green Series 2-handers. Likewise there are soft, slow traditional rods like the Sage 9140-4 and fast recovering moderately stiff rods like the CND Specialist series or the even faster Loomis Greased Line series of 2-handers.

    And if you go to the UK or Norway, all rods used for spey casting are simply called 2-handed fly rods. In other words, all 2-hand rod means it that it is a long rod that has a rear grip and a long foregrip and that it is cast through using both hands and arms on the rod. We in North Amercica have taken to calling 2-handed rods spey rods, which they really aren't, instead of 2-hand rods because the 2-hand rod began its introduction in North America through spey casting. In Norway it is very common for folks to use 2-hand rods of 16'-18' for overhead casting 42' shooting heads out as far as 150'.

    And top even confuse people further, what one rod company calls moderate action, another rod company calls slow, and still a third company calls medium-fast. This is not because there is a conspiracy by the rod companies, it is because the terms used most often to describe rod action are so imprecise as to be nearly meaningless.

    For example, I happen to like fast recovering (rods that spring back from being bent very quickly), stiff (means just what it says, the rod is pretty resistent to bending), progressive (means the rods move the casting load down the blank in a very predictable manner with increasing stiffness from tip to butt) rods in both single-hand and 2-hand rods. A very good friend likes fast recovering, moderately stiff, progressive rods. And a third friend likes fast recovering, moderately stiff, regressive (means the rod loads quickly into the middle of the blank where most of the rod's power lies, and then the butt is softer than the middle). Obviously all three of these rods types load and cast differently. But all three are equally good at casting 100' or more for the caster who likes that action type.

    So, what does a newcomer to spey casting do to chose his first rod? First start with an "all around" one (one you can use both summer and winter) and almost without exception experienced spey casters recommend a 14' 9 (or 8/9) wt rods, with a 13' 8 (or 7/8) or 13' 9 (or 8/9) wt being the second most recommended rod; but the 13'er recommendation is far below that of the 14' recommended by percentage. The 14' 9wt is recommended by some 90% as the ideal, all around rod for a new spey caster, with the 13' 8 wt and 13' 9 wt making up about 8%.

    Now the next question is what type of action should I get? The best thing to do is get a 2-hander with an action similar to what you like in a single-hand rod. If you like fast single-hand rods, look at the fast 2-hander from T&T, Loomis (the GLX's), Loop Green Series, Carron, Redington, Sage TCR, or Meiser Highlander Series. If you like a more moderate, medium action (or what Orvis call mid-flex) single hand-rod, look at the moderate actioned St. Croix, Sage European, Loop Blue Series, CND Specialist, Meiser MKS series, Loomis Greased Liner series, Scott LS2 series, Burkheimers, Lamiglas 5-piece models, Winston Derek Brown or DB series, Anderson 2-handers, or TFO. If you like slower, softer easy bending single-hand rods (like the Winston and Orvis full-flex single-handers) the Winston, CND Custom and Expert series, Echo, Sage Traditional, Cabella's 2-handers, most Orvis 2-handers, or Lamiglas 4-piece models.

    Then you need to choose a line. I personally think the best line for a beginning spey caster is one of the mid-belly spey lines (those with a belly of 65' give or take a foot or two). The RIO MidSpey, Airflow Long Delta, and SA Mastery Spey are all of this type. The mid-belly requires you to develop good technique or you won't be able to cast it very far, while not being the very long so-called long-belly lines (that I prefer and use) with bellies of 80'-100', which should only be used by those with very good technique or they will prove a study in frustration.

    I am very aware that there are a lot of folks out there saying that new spey casters ought to buy a short-belly line (RIO Windcutter, SA Short, Airflow Delta) because the 55' belly of them makes it easy for a beginner to cast 55'-65'. And because the short-belly lines are "more forgiving" of "casting erros" (read poor technique). Although both of these are true, if the long run the short belly will actually increase the length of time it takes a new spey caster to learn how to spey cast will precisely because casting faults are covered up.

    Hope this long-winded post by an experienced spey caster (13 years) is of help to you and others thinking of getting into spey casting.
  6. Thanks for the great informaiton, suggestions and your willingness to share your knowledge.. it was helpful, Ron
  7. looking for some clarification from the spey gurus...

    the term spey refers to a type/style of casting and is often used broadly when refering to two-handed rods. there are rods specifically designed for spey casting but not all two-handed rods are spey rods. is this accurate? thanks.

  8. The name "Spey" is the name of a river, a type of cast made with a two handed rod, a type of fly pattern design. Just like with fly fishing, two handed rods have and are going through a growth spurt; a change of sorts. To try not to complicate things, one can use a two handed rod in lots of different ways. One can obviously cast overhead with a two handed rod (mainly rods under 13 feet). One can also do what is often referred to as a spey cast. There are many different types of ways to spey cast, each with a different name. To name just a few there is perry poke, single or double spey, circle cast, snake roll, snap t. Just as there are many different types of casts one can do with a double hander, there is an assortment of rods as well as lines that one can choose from. Just like with single hand fly fishing there is floating lines, sinking lines and sink tip lines. The same goes with two handed rods.
    A very popular style of fishing currently used in Europe is using a full sinking fly line and a heavily weighted tube fly. A few very proficient casters came up with a type of casting used to cast heavily weighted flies with sinking fly lines. We call this technique underhand casting. When you hear the name "European style" this is what they are referring to. "Traditional" style is usually referring to the type of two handed fishing that we grew up with. A floating line traditional spey flies or even dry flies and a using more taditional spey casting.
    Generally speaking a traditional spey rod you will probably feel the flex of the rod down even into the cork of the handle. A european rod is progressive, and usually you wont feel the flex as much into the cork. The problem with the terms European and traditional is that they are not very specific. As the lines get more specialized so do the casts and the rods. The craze now is increasing the modulous in the rods so that the recovery is quick, and yet one would get a very deep progressive taper in which you would feel the load all the way down to the cork. The best of both worlds.

    To answer the question of which rod we use in the northwest one first needs to know what species and where specifically you are fishing.
    Rods used in the summer on the Grande Rhonde are going to be a bit different than the rods used on the skagit during march. If going for winter run steelhead, a sink tip line is primarily used. A 14-15 foot rod #9 with either a skagit head, or windcutter would probably be the most common set up used during the winter. If you prefer fishing small rivers in the winter, then drop the length to a 13-14 foot rod. For most summer run steelhead in the northwest a floater is preferred. Rod length usually dictates casting distance. in other words a 12-13 foot rod does quite well from about 50 feet to 85 feet. A 14 to 15 foot rod usually does well from about 65-100 feet.

    For years two handed rods have been on the steep side as far as price. For this reason many people have only been able to budget for one two handed rod. To be able to be the most versitle on all rivers of the northwest both for winter and summer a 14 foot taditional rod seemed to fit the bill. For example Sage 1409 traditional.
  9. Tyler,

    To answer your question in simpler and easier to digest terms. Yes, spey casting is a type of casting usually, but not always, done with 2-handed rods. I've often spey cast with a single-hand rod, and if fishing a smaller river/stream (one under 40'-50' across) I will use a single hand rod and spey cast with it and a salmon/steelhead single-hand line with sink tips looped on it when I need to get down.

    There are also 2-handed rods designed specifically for overhead casting with standard shooting heads or single-hand saltwater lines. Such rods are designated as overhead rods and they are not able to carry the amount of grain weight in a line as the vast majority of 2-handed rods. T&T makes one (the 1212), CND makes two (11' 11 wt and 12' 12 wt) and Robert Meiser makes several from 11' to 13' in length.

    To illustrate what I mean by not being able to cast the same amoung of grain weight take the T&T 1212. It is designed to cast an 11 or 12 wt salwater line or 12 or 13 wt 30'-36' shooting head. Such line weigh about 350 grains. My 1611 T&T (16' 11 wt) is designed to cast between 850 and 1200 grains of line weight. Obviously a 12 wt overhead 2-hander is very different than an 11 wt spey casting 2-hander. Heck, even the light 6 wt 2-handers designed for spey casting are built to cast short-belly (50'-56' belly length) spey lines that weigh in at 450 gr.

    This doesn't mean that you cannot spey cast with a rod designed expressly for overhead 2-handed casting. But it doesn mean you have to come down at least 3 and probably 4 line sizes to not overload the rod. Likewise, you can overhead cast saltwater lines or shooting heads with a 2-hander designed for spey casting, you just have to go up 3 or 4 line sizes in order to load the rod properly.

    However, 2-hand rods for spey casting are very capable of overhead casting with a short-belly, Scandanavian, or Skagit spey line.

    Fortunately, we now have some pretty good 2-hand rods suited to spey casting on the market for between $250.00 and $350.00. TFO, ECHO, St. Croix, and Redington all make them. The ECHO is a slower more flexible rod like the Sage traditionals, the TFO is a more moderate, moderately fast recovering rod, the St. Croix a more moderately fast rod, and the Redington a medium fast, fast recovering rod.

    Like I stated in my prior post, a person new to spey casting here in the PNW would be best served by picking a 14' 9 wt that has an action similar to the type of single-hand action he likes. This holds whether he is going to buy one of the lower priced ones, or shoots the moon and gets one of the premium brand, high performance, high priced ones. Personally, I think a new spey caster is best served through one of the lower priced brands because it will take several years before he has the casting technique and ability to utilize the performance built into the high end, premium brand rods.
  10. FT,
    I agree with everything you've said, but fall into the group of people who would recommend going a rod weight or two lighter. I believe that in most circumstances, a 9 weight rod is just a bit heavy, but that again is somewhat subject to debate depending upon the manufacturer. That said, somewhere in the 7-9 weight, 13-15 foot rod is always a good choice.
  11. To me, the line weight of the rod is all relative to the type of fly being used. If most of your steelheading is done on size 2 to size 8 then go with a 13-14 foot rod #7. If you are using weighted flies, or big rabit fur flies from 3/0 to 2 then a 14-15 foot #9 would be the ticket.

    With watever you decide on, I believe that getting the right line for the rod is paramount. I have seen way too many people not happy with their first set up because the line is not working for the type of rod or cast that you are doing.

    I would also reccomend that you spend a little time with a certified casting instructor. For most steelhead rivers in the northwest, overhead casting really isn't the most productive cast, and a casting instructor would be able to help in learning more productice casts for your rod. The instructor would probably be able to match the proper line for the rod, which I feel is far more productive that going off of the reccomendation of a shop employee.

    I think all would agree that although 2 handed rods can at times get a bit confusing with the terminology, it is a very fun an effective fishing tool.
  12. Michaeldeg,

    The only problem with taking casting lessons from an FFF 2-hand certified casting instructor is that there are very few of them. I'm not sure if anyone has recently passed the FFF 2-hand certification test in the Puget Sound area; but as of August I know there weren't any. The closest FFF 2-hand certified instructors I'm aware of are in BC (Dana Strum and the owner of Whistler Fly Shop, Brian Niska are the 2 I'm aware of in the lower mainland of BC), and there is Leroy Teeple, Al Buhr, and Bill (I can't recall his last name) from the Portland, OR area.

    Like I said, unless someone has passed the FFF 2-hand certification test since August these are the only 5 2-hand certified instructors I'm aware on in the northern Oregon through lower mainland of BC area.

    There are quite a few FFF certified instructors, and several FFF certified master instructors in the area; but these are not 2-hand certified. The FFF 2-hand certification is a completely different test that is addition to requiring that the person taking the test is a FFF certified instrucor, the candidate is tested on his proficiency in spey casting (including casting 80' without shooting line for three spey casts with the right hand up and the left hand up, and casting 100' with both the right hand up and the left hand up with the same three casts from each side). There is also the requirement to be able to explain what is wrong with a spey cast and how to correct it. The other two FFF casting certifications (certified instructor and master instructor) are not even close to the 2-hand certification.

    There are several other very good spey casters, who are very good instructors with 10+ years of experience spey casting in the area who you can get good, solid casting instruction from. Just be aware that they are not 2-hand certified casting instructors. Believe it or not, there are very good spey casters, who are also very good instructors, who do not wish to go through the 2-hand certification process. People such as Aaron Reimer or Carnation, Brian Styskel of Maple Valley, Mike Kinney or Arlington, John Farrar of Seattle, Ed Ward of Silvana, to name of few, are excellent spey casters and instructors who have not desire to become FFF certified instructors. There are other very good spey casters around who will gladly teach a person how to spey cast who are not certified and who have no desire to become certified because they don't plan on being professional casting instructors. But they will give a person good solid instruction if they are sought out and asked for little or no fee.
  13. I do believe that we have one in carnation that is a certified as a two handed rod instructor. I am not opposed to getting a guide like Mike Kinney or John Farrar, or JD Love, or anybody else for that matter that is very accomplished at spey casting.

    Many times I enter a fly shop and hear some dumb ass employee giving adivise as to what line rod system will work the best for their customer. I overhearing this, and often knowing that the system they reccomend will not balance or load correctly just makes me cringe.

    When purchasing a rod that costs a few hundred bucks or more combined with reel backing and $100- $200 fly line is quite an investment for most. These same customers try their hardest to master spey fishing by watching videos or reading a book, and then going straight to the river. They try a few times and then get frustrated, only to then go to a proffessional that will only make them more frustrated when they learn that it will cost an additional $200 or more before they will even be able to cast the rod.

    This compounded by the lack of fish actually being caught many will give up and quit. I personally am self taught. I have spent probably close to 1000 hours just in a field perfecting the spey cast. Being self taught has probably helped me as well as hindered me in certain areas. My first rod and line combo really did not load well, and at first did cause a bit of frustration. At that time there really wasn't anybody I could talk to because everybody basically didn't know very much.

    With todays rod technologies and line developments, it should be much easier to have success with this sport. I still reccomend that you get a person that actually fishes with two handers and can help in getting the right combo, as well as giving that person the right advise and training to cast the rod. I do not reccomend talking much with shop employees that spend most of their week in the store as opposed to spey fishing.

    I have actually learned a great deal myself from a few guides that I have had the opportunity to fish with. On many occassions I can cast further and prettier, but not more effective.
  14. you followed this comment up with some remark about "dumbass shop employees". well if you knew anything about two-handed rods, you would know that it is the line that casts the fly, not the rod. i rarely fish anything larger then a #8 rod and more often then not fish a #7 and have no issues fishing 1 1/2" long brass tubes on the #8 and fishing massive intruders on the #7. and quite often, i have allowed beginers to play around with my setups, and they can the big old flies without a problem.

    it is because i am fishing a short heavy line that has the mass to move the big and/or heavy flies through the air. it is not the rod!
  15. his name is Dana Sturn
  16. Michaeldeg,

    I know exactly what you mean about shop employees or owners who know little or nothing about spey casting selling rod and line combos that I know just don't work well. I've even witnessed a shop owner tell a fellow who just bought a spey rod from him that a salmon/steelhead line he had in stock was just the ticket to make the rod sing. I spoke up at that and pointed out that salmon/steelhead lines are not spey lines so it wouldn't even come close to loading the rod and told the customer what spey lines would work best for him, which the shop didn't have in stock in the proper size. After the customer left, I was invited to never come back into the shop by the owner because I cost him a sale. When I tried to explain to the owner that th customer deserved getting a line that actually worked with the high end spey rod he just paid a fair bit for, the owner informed me that he had to sell the lines he had in stock and besides since spey casting is nothing more than fancy roll casting, pretty much any line of the same weight should work. I haven't been back to his shop since and that was 5 years ago. I feel sorry for his customers because he knows nothing about spey casting and only fishes single hand rods in lakes for trout, yet he freely dispenses advise on spey rods and lines to unsuspecting folks.

    We are very fortunate in Puget Sound because Aaron in Carnation is a very accomplished spey caster who will provide excellent advise and who will not sell beginning spey casters rod and line combos that don't work. Additionally Aaron does his Saturday morning spey clinics on the river and he takes many of the 60 or so spey rods he has in stock down to the river for folks to try. A better deal than this where you can get spey casting instruction for good spey casters and try rods and lines without having to buy is something I'm not aware of anyone else doing in the area.

    There are some other shops that give good advise and have good spey casters as owners or employees Dave over in Port Angeles, Patrick's in Seattle, Kaufmann's in Bellevue (but unfortunately not downtown) has a person knowledgeable in spey casting behind the counter as does Creekside in Seattle.
  17. YAK,

    Thanks for catching my mispelling of Dana's name. I know better than to do so since he is an aquaintence of mine (has been for 5 years) and I just got to see and talk to him at Aaron's Speyfair this past weekend.
  18. It is true that the line carries the fly. It would also be true that the rod casts the line. However if you feel that is in some way not the case, then feel free to take your reel of line and your heavy tube fly and go down to a river and start casting with no rod at all and see how you do at casting your big flies accuratly.

    On the subject of lines, head length, weight, and taper all play a very important roll in spey fishing. Technique and ability would also play a roll. The rio skagit spey which with tip the head measures 42 feet long which holds most of the weight. Even with the 450 grain version I could cast easilly any big honkin fly I own. Now start adding cold freezing rain with a good dose of northwest wind, I would be lucky to hit the broad side of a barn 80 feet away, and that is after stripping in all the running line up to the start of the head, risking of course cutting the running line on wet frozen guides.

    In the above example lets say that now I am using a full sinking line, or even a sink tip line that weighs say 550 or 650, maybe even 750 over say a 65 foot head. I would have to strip in far less line, and the line certainly has the ability to cast a larger fly longer distances in the wind and rain. However now we start running into what type of rod would best be used to load properly this amount of line plus friction and weight of the water on the line without breaking or buckling from the weight.

    I do know a great deal about 2 handed rods, as well as the lines used. Short heavy heads definatly have their place, and I would not argue that compared to larger heads, do have a tremendous amount of energy. However full sinking lines with a 65 foot head, or a straight floater with a 75 foot head is just as important if not more. With these larger heads, the length one can cast a heavily weighted fly accuratly comes down to technique, length of rod, and the power of the rod.

    So the comment I made about rod selection holds very true. I do not personally care if a rod says it is a #7 or a #10. I do think that knowing the grain window on a given rod is paramount. I usually pick the line I will use based on the flies I will be using. Knowing what length of head, what size of fly, and how far I will be casting, as well as what type of fishing I will be doing all goes into which rod I choose.
  19. In northern Idaho there is the Red Shed fly shop. The guy there specializes in everything Spey. You might not want to travel there but he could recommend a rod and lessons.
  20. Right on Michaeldeg!

    That is precisely why I use 16' and 18' 11 wt rods and long-belly spey lines with a plethora of sink tips in winter. They let me cast to 100' more or less with a long-belly 11 wt line (for those not used to spey terminology these line have belly lengths of 95'-100') without needing to strip any line at all. And if I want to reach to occasional lie that is 120' or so distant, I simply shoot some running line.

    As you said, I don't have to worry about icing up my guides, stripping umteen feet of running line, or having the wind blow and stop the short head well before it reaches 80'. I noticed you left out that with the longer belly lines, we can still fish the 50'-65' casts with ease.

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