Please help me leave the gear rod at home

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by Cruik, Sep 5, 2013.

  1. I'm sorry if some of these questions have been covered in depth, but I couldn't find the info I'm looking for and I think I need a little direction from someone who's been in the same boat that I am. I'll start off by saying that for the last several years, I've fished for steelhead using gear and trout with fly. Mostly - at least most of the steelhead I've caught have been on gear. I'm looking to possibly change this and need some advice. I bought an 8 weight single hander and 8 weight spey rod a few years ago, hoping that I would transition these rods into my game full-time and phase the baitcaster out (not completely - but a bit more). That hasn't happened.

    I thought I would take to spey-casting and spend my days on the gravel bars of larger rivers. While I'm able to execute a sufficient spey cast, I just don't like the larger river, long line style of fishing. I enjoy the casting, but I don't like methodically working my way through large runs. I'm restless and like to bush-whack and explore. I've found over the last few years that I tend to enjoy fishing smaller rivers more. The rivers I fish are usually in the 300-800 cfs range. I've found I enjoy fishing the pocket water, smaller seams, and structure - calling my shots, essentially. These rivers can be small, bouldery, quick and have complex flows - not good spey water. My single handed 8 weight has definitely been a better tool for these rivers, but I find that the casting range, especially with tight, brushy banks and overhanging trees, is very limiting and after 10 hours of fishing, my arm is pretty tired. The result of this is that I tend to leave my fly rod at home and just use the baitcaster and fish a float and jig, since I'm confident in the versatility and effectiveness. When I do use my one-hander, I like to fish quickly, and will swing, nymph, or high stick without changing lines/rods. I like fishing with my baitcaster, but I enjoy casting a fly rod much more, and would like to get to the point where I can fish these rivers with only a slight loss of effectiveness vs. a float and jig. I just don't think that can be accomplished with a single hander.

    My questions then are:
    1. Does anyone else prefer to fish in this way, and what do they prefer to use?
    2. Would a switch rod be an effective tool? Would it alleviate some of my frustrations?
    3. Would a switch rod provide enough line management to be able to swing, high stick, and nymph without changing lines?
    4. A lot of the rivers, though small, can have big fish in the upper teens; would an 8 weight switch be too cumbersome to fish under the above conditions? I understand 6 or 7 weights are more common.
    5. Can anyone recommend a rod/setup?
    Ed Call likes this.
  2. 1) A short head line, Skagit style won't require such a long head to be carried in the air. A Scandi line covers the middle ground until you get long enough to be tossing that full/long line. I have a custom Skandit line produced by Steve Godshall, he works with Bob Meiser on rod and line design out of Maupin, OR. The Scandit is a pretty cool and effective tool, google R. B. Meiser and tour his pages.

    2) A switch rod works well for me in many situations, smaller water and two handed overhead casting from the beach. The more limited the backcast area, the more I like my switch, the more room, the more I like the spey. A switch rod will alleviate some frustrations, but cause others. The room for error in your casting stroke is a bit less forgiving with the shorter rod. See if you can find someone local with a switch and try one out.

    3) I think so, unless you are bombing out super long casts where keeping the line off the water is difficult to impossible.

    4) My first switch was an 8wt and it did just fine with the right line that would load it. I prefer lighter switch rods and although I'm not known for catching fish, much less big fish, the 5-6-7 switch will do that job if you do yours!

    5) There are a lot of combinations that will work, these are all just tools for the craftsman, right? What might your budget be, that may be a better starting point. I will tell you that I've cast a lot of switch rods and found each to have characteristics that I can't recall disliking a single one of them. My current favorite is a Meiser 5-6-7 both from the beach and from the tight banks on small to mid sized rivers. The grain window on the Deer Creek switch rods is wide and you can really toss a heavy payload a long way. The orvis helios line is quick, crisp and so very light. I have test cast a couple of Sage, Redington, TFO, Buelah and Loomis switch rods and could get decent line out with each.

    Meiser Highlander 5-6-7 with anywhere from 425-575 grains with a Vosseler S2 really makes me smile!
  3. Maybe the root of your inability to leave the gear rod at home is that you like to catch fish too much? ;) If it were me and I was trying to find one set up to fish the types of water and methods you're describing, I'd go with a 7 or 8 wt. switch. The conundrum is whether one line could be used to cover all the bases (swing, high stick, nymph). If it were me, I'd probably carry two reels (or a reel with two spools), one loaded with a compact Skagit (for swinging, with a set of MOW tips) and the other with a Speydicator (or some other line that is good for nymphing with a switch rod - I don't use my switches for nymphing so wouldn't know what nymphing lines are best). Supposedly some guys using a Speydicator to throw tips - so maybe it's possible to get away with one line - but I've heard it has its limits in terms of that type of use.
  4. Cruik,

    I don't think your questions get at the salient issue here. You posted: ". . . I tend to leave my fly rod at home and just use the baitcaster and fish a float and jig, since I'm confident in the versatility and effectiveness." and ". . . I enjoy casting a fly rod much more, and would like to get to the point where I can fish these rivers with only a slight loss of effectiveness vs. a float and jig."

    Sorry, ain't gonna' happen, regardless of whether you use a single hand, Spey, or switch fly rod. Under most conditions, for all but a handful of experts, conventional gear will outfish fly gear 5 to 10 x to 1. That's considerably more than a slight loss of effectiveness.

    The way to leave the gear rod home and spend your time fly fishing is when you want to fly fish more than you need or want to catch a steelhead. As long as your need or desire to catch steelhead exceeds your desire to fly fish for steelhead, regardless of how much catching goes on, you're going to be disappointed in your steelhead fly fishing results. When you decide that you're going to catch a steelhead on a fly or not at all, that is when you will. A switch rod will not affect that equation. That's just how it is.

    Now, regarding the small streams you prefer fishing over larger rivers, a single hand or switch rod is generally going to be a better tool for that application. Unfortunately, those small streams are often not well suited to swung fly presentation, so you're screwed as far as traditional steelhead fly fishing goes, at least in the purest sense. Fishing small, deep, narrow, and sometimes swift flowing slots and pocket water is better suited to the nymphing game, so by most accounts when you do catch a steelhead from that water, most serious hard core steelhead fly fishermen will still call it a "gear" caught, rather than "fly caught" steelhead anyway, just in case the prospective bragging rights are something you give a damn about. Or not.

    What you will be able to do, however, is effectively fish a variety of small stream water without constantly changing lines. A long belly line on a single hand rod or Speydicator or similar on a switch rod is all you need, along with a spool of leader, and a tube or zip lock bag of BB split shot. 8 to 10' of level, not tapered, leader, and 1 to 4 split shot, and the nymph or egg-sucking leech of your choice will effectively fish almost 100% of the potential steelhead holding water in the small streams you describe. The only problem, if you think it's a problem, is that you won't be fly fishing. And for those who really enjoy fly fishing, casting weighted flies or lines with split shot on leaders, basically sucks. Which is why, after 40 years of fly fishing for steelhead, and after making a trip to AK specifically to learn about creek nymphing for steelhead, I have yet to catch a WA state steelhead by nymphing technique. YMMV.

  5. In smaller streams I like to fish floating lines and heavy flies--it's far more versatile than sink tips. Remember there is no shame in stack mending to sink a fly--even when you're swinging. Most of the holding lies in smaller streams are going to be small, and often deep, you can cast upstream and sink a fly by mending and swing the flies out. This gives you a very short presentation, but will work from time to time.

    As to gear, I would suggest something like a Rage line on an 8wt switch rod. Long leader (10-14') and a heavily weighted and super wiggly fly. In smaller streams, it is imperative to keep fish out of structure once hooked. A lot of my wintertime small stream work is done with a 9wt single hand rod. And again, there is no shame in sinking your fly!
  6. So don't use a heavily weighted fly or split shot - use a Paintbrush tied on a heavy iron hook and you can be a traditionalist just like Bill McMillan in the old days. (He just didn't call it "nymphing," although I seem to recall from Dryline Steelhead that he speculated the Paintbrush worked so well because it looked like drifting roe.) Then maybe the "serious hard core fly fisherman" won't look down their noses at you. If you go by Salmo's logic, you wouldn't fish the type of water you're describing. Which would make the classic swing water he and I prefer more crowded. So just ignore him. ;)
  7. Thank you guys for the awesome feedback. I'm kind of thinking that I might like to try a switch. It sounds like a 8 weight might not be too much rod.

    Salmo, this last winter, I brought my fly rod one day and forgot my flies. That day I landed a nice steelie swinging a pink worm dangling off a 1/4 oz. jighead hook. I'm not worried about the purist police. I really do enjoy hooking fish on a dry-line swing, though. I understand that I'll never be as efficient fly fishing for steelhead as I am with one of my baitcasters and I can accept more than a slight reduction in hookups. I just didn't want to stir the pot by proclaiming gear-fishing supremacy. :D

    Generally, I'm looking to explore new water with my baitcaster since I can cover water much quicker, and I plan on fishing familiar rivers fly-fishing. I feel like one of the reasons gear rods are so effective is because they can cover water much faster because of longer, linear drifts, allowing you to fish more spots. If I'm fishing a familiar river where I know where fish might be, then speed becomes less of an issue. The reason why I'm looking at fishing a switch rod is because I'm tired of downstream nymphing great swinging water or having to fan out a piddily roll cast and feed line to get in the sweet spot when I have brush behind me. Or, skip over great pocket water with my spey rod. I think the biggest motivator for me to leave the fly-rod behind is situations where I find great holding water and don't have the right tool.

    I move a lot on the river and fish quickly. I'm trying to avoid the hassle of changing spools, line, or rods. The idea of a quick change from nymphing to swinging, possibly without changing the fly, is really appealing to me. Derek, I totally agree with long leaders and weighted flies, I've had a lot of luck with that sort of setup in the past being able to swing deep and high-stick where need be, as long as I have fluoro on. So the question is: if I generally don't throw sink tips, but use weighted flies, would I be able to effectively lay out enough line to swing with a speydicator or similar type of line? Ed, I'm looking to spend around $500 or $600.
  8. I'd give Anil @ PSFC a bell as well. I fish some of the same water/methods, and have been using a SA Titan taper on my Echo classic 10' beans on that set up.

    If you like fishing jigs, then do like I do and tie your faves on jig hooks (size 1 Gami w/ tung head FTW), green butts, nightmares, drowned Octo caddis, you name it mang; use a bead or smaller nymph for a trailer and cast away...
  9. Cruik,

    Allen fishing has 10' 7 and 8 wt single hand rods and I think a switch that fits that job application at a reasonable price. Reels too, for that matter. Not sure about lines since I haven't gone far down that path.

    Oh, and listen to O. mykiss and ignore me.

  10. if its the most fish youre after, continue nymphing and gear fishing. fish the swing when you get bored with that.

  11. Just because I am on a kick....centerpin. Fly rod enough so you don't feel too dirty, yet hook ups more common than swinging.
  12. Regarding swinging a speydicator. I'm able to get 60ft with a speydicator when using poly leaders and an echo sr 7 wt switch rod. Not sure if that's enough for your scenarios but I'm certainly no hero with the spey casting.

    It is a big line and might be a tight fit on some reels.
  13. I am certainly no expert, but my local waters are all small. I too got tired of nymphing with a single hander, as it seemed to be a lot of work. I then switched to a 5 wt Scandi short on my 8 wt single handed rods. Because the taper of the tip (floating) is a bit delicate for some of the junk I toss, I often use the head with no tip at all, and just level leader. This allows me to use roll casts almost exclusively all day. And it is much less work.

    On very small waters I can simply flip the line upstream from a downstream hang in a single motion. This makes for a very easy presentation. Most of the small waters I fish have absolutely no backcast room at all, literally have my butt in the bushes much of the time. To be sure, what I am doing is micro-drift fishing using a flyrod and line.

    I can also nymph using a high stick method (rod is 10'6) and the French/Euro nymphing style (slightly leading the fly downstream, not casting at all really).

    I never change lines in this context. I do use the same setup in the fall to swing tips on certain sections of some of the small waters, usually T-14 (there is no time to let the presentation sink, because the hole is too small, swift and shallow). It's an odd arrangement but it works. And I like doing it. I've also used dry line setups at this time/place (long leader, and small flies).

    After a chat with a friend last year, I'll be expanding my use of the float. I've never really used one, but I have some locations where I think it would be useful.

    The long and the short of this is I think a switch would work fine, but I think a Scandi short might solve some of your issues. I imagine a properly sized Skagit short would work fine as well. For my fast-ish 8wt single, the Scandi short I use is a 5wt listed as 320 grains.

    As for fish in the teens, I would be plenty willing to take a 15# fish on an 8 weight single, with a proper reels and sturdy leader. Especially on tiny water. I think a 5wt Switch would be roughly equivalent.
  14. i got a 280 skandi compact for sell eh eh
  15. Sorry if this comes off a little "preach-y" but the decision to leave (or quit completely) the gear stuff home isn't about you entirely...even though it is yours alone and no one can make that decision for you..

    Yes, if you decide to challenge yourself and if you are thoughtful and "aware" enough that the cast itself becomes pleasurable and part of what you seek for a day on the river, fly fishing can be enormously satisfying and gratifying...and fun.

    But the choice to fish the fly exclusively is about more than self-gratification or catching fish, it is about giving the fish a sporting chance..."sport" being the operative word there. And embodied within that ethic of "sportsmanship" is a measure of deliberate, mindful behaviour.

    Choosing to fish the fly is choosing to challenge live a conscious life in harmony with nature rather than one that is wholly exploitative.

    It is a choice that transcends our own immediate and often selfish, self-indulgent desires--placing other concerns and other lives ahead of our own. Both in origin and in effect.

    But it is your choice...if it doesn't come from you, from within, it cannot be borrowed.
  16. You must remember that squidros, hevi beads and dick nites must be avoided if u truly fly fishing other wise u will just be catching on a fly rod

    Sent from my VS840 4G using Tapatalk 2
  17. During the summer, I fish a lot of the type of water that you described in a manner similar to how you like to fish. Anyhow, I use an Echo 5 weight switch rod with a 24’ long, 350 grain Ambush triangle taper shooting head. (I should probably mention that I would not use this set up if I was expecting to encounter fish that weighted in the mid – high teens.) As Derek mentioned, a long leader and a lightly weighted fly can be pretty effective, and I find myself using that a lot of the time. (As a side note, I also use traditional flies.) One of the main reasons why I prefer this method is because I find myself focusing more on line control and where the fish are holding, rather than worrying about my sink tip, etc. For pocket water, I like the 10’ long M.O.W. tip with a 5 foot long section of T-8. If I need to get a little bit deeper, then switch to a M.O.W. tip with a 7.5 foot section of T-8. But as others have mentioned, you are not going to build up your confidence until you leave the gear rod at home. I hope that this helps.


  18. throw this line on your single hander, it sounds like exactly like what you need
  19. Sorry, how much did you gear fish for steelhead? Sporting chance? Everyone gives gear this "you're catching tons of fish" label. Guess what? a 10%er is a 10%er. It's not the method they're using, it's just them being on the water. There are plenty of gear guys who've never caught a steelhead. In the end, a "sporting chance" isn't given always by fly vs. gear. Even Salmo G would have to admit that just because you're using "bait" doesn't mean certified gold either. Guys who can't cure, or use a bad cure, can have zero luck (saw that first hand as a youngin growing up fishing bait for steelhead). And yes, you'll have less luck with a flyrod......or will you? Again, I know some 10%ers who catch as many fish with a one or two handed fly rod as they do with their gear rods. And they catch as many fish with bait as they do with hardware as they do with jigs. For fishing to be "satisfying" it means you put your soul into it while you do it. The key is are you out there to put a fish on the bank or out there to enjoy the experience and the fish is the biproduct? I know too many gear anglers who barely catch fish, but truly ENJOY the experience. They're just as sportsmanship minded as any fly angler.
  20. By the way. Who cares if you bring a gear rod. Do you enjoy using it? Who's been giving you grief about using one? Only thing unethical about using one is using it illegally (snagging, flossing, etc). Just leave it in the boat. I'm just as happy swinging a spoon as I am swinging a fly for steelhead. I ALWAYS bring both with me. Only did it once (not bring gear rod). Worst trip. Why? Not because I didn't catch a fish (I didn't). It's because I didn't even GIVE myself a chance to get one. Water was running so hard and heavy was hard to get the heaviest flies with heaviest weighted flies down, let alone if I had mono with a heavy spoon. I enjoy being out there. But at same time, it's nice to know there IS a chance. But I'm never disappointed if I'm skunked for the day.

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