Standard vs. Spey

After focusing on steelhead the past few years, I've come to realize that covering lots of water and fishing with a few flies you have confidence in is what really counts. I rarely stray away from my half dozen favorite standard flies. But, I've decided to spend what little money I have on spey fly materials because hey - spey flies look cool, especially in Wheatley clip box.

Anyways, I'd love to hear if anyone thinks spey flies are more effective than standard patterns. It seems to me that spey flies create a more tantalizing motion to steelhead and resemble their saltwater entrees to some degree. I'd have to guess they fish well in soft water, but what about riffles or choppy water? Do you fish strictly with standard patterns, spey flies or mix it up?

It seems like a lot of fly fishing authors dig spey flies but every crusty old Obewonkonobee steelhead fly fisherman I've met swears by his one favorite skunk fly or leech pattern. I'm sure I'll come up with my own opinion soon enough, but I'd still love hear what anyone thinks out there. Thanks in advance.

Big K1

Large Member

If you enjoy tying and want to create some great looking flies then
tie up some speys. I do a little of both. In the summer there are 4 flies
I use. Each type I tie in different sizes and I tie them in tradional wet fly
and spey style. In the winter I use large articulated marabou flies in a
few different colors. Most of the time fly type doesn't matter. It is just being at the right place at the right time. Confidence is key and sometimes
it is in short supply.


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Personally speaking, I fish them for same reason you stated, they look cool. LOL. And REALLY agree, nothing better then looking at them in a Wheatley Simalloy. LOL.

But, don't think it really matters. I've caught steelhead on about any combo you can think of. For me, it really goes by my mood. I pull out my tried and true bunny leech (yup, old obewonkonobee fly lol). But sometimes I like using speys. Hell, I don't always put spey flies on my spey rod. I vary up depending on where I'm fishing and which rod I want to use.

So, if you want to tie them (I just love tying them, especially Dee flies like the Ackroyd), go for it. They're fun to tie (if you like a challenge). Plus, when you're sitting on the bank with your 12 year old scotch, you'll look really cool with your spey rod, wheately box, and barbour jacket. ;)
As far as speys go, they are great to look at and do look good in the water. But I believe there is something to be said as well about the look of a 3 to 5 inch waddington shank bunny fly in the water as it swims and seems to demand control over just about any run it faces. From my little experience with steelheading as well as 3 to 5 inch flies, just about any water handles the big boys, and they do catch when I believe others dont.
Spey fishing seems awsome. The only spey action i have personally witnessed was on the Yak this winter. I fished some good soft water runs with good buckets with Jack Mitchel who is a shop owner in eburg and knows the river as well as anyone and he wacked em'. Watching a guy launch a 60-70ft(give/take or Long) cast with a spey rod in to a wide slow strech and getting at least a tug every time was inspiring. It's no steelheading, but for me it was cool and someday would be fun to get into. Do many people use spey rods when steeheading? I'm sure it depends on the river, but still, do they?

I guess I'm with those who love to tie Spey and Dee flies. Yup, they look cool in a wheatley box, or any box for that matter. They also fish well, as well as any fly I've used for steelhead. I've also tied smaller versions for big Bows and they work well there too.

I'd also rather tie a Lady Carrington on a 1.5 Alec Jackson hook than a size 20 Adams any day.

Yes, a lot of steelheaders have taken up the spey rod in the last decade (or rather, returned to the spey rod, if your perspective contains several centuries of Atlantic salmon and steelhead fishing). It's gotten so that if you're fishing a single-hander on the Skagit during steelhead season, others look at you with a veiled sneer. Spey rods may not be essential anywhere, and certainly aren't needed where casts average 50 feet or less, but they're very practical as well as a hoot on larger streams. Lately, there's increased interest in shorter, light-line spey rods on larger trout streams like the Yakima. There's a new class of 11-13-foot "switch rods," usually built with somewhat shortened two-handed handles.
As for spey flies (which can be used independently of spey rods, and vice versa): the conventional wisdom is that they're best in slower currents. However, John Shewey, in "Spey Flies and Dee Flies," reports that they work fine in faster waters, and have done so in salmon rivers for many generations. I'm almost certain that to the fish, the most elaborate spey fly and a simple maribou spider are equally effective. But to be sure, spey flies look great in the water and in Wheatley clips.
I with Big K1 the jacket has to go!
There both in my Plano Box (Boxes tend to float down the river with out me some times) Spey flies look cool in the water Fast or Slow water. But a good old Bunny Leech has a soft spot in my heart! you can't beat it.:professor

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Well, I've been to the River Spey, and fished some rivers around there. Most seemed to have those jackets on wilst fishing the long rod. LOL. Only reason I brought it up. ;)
"Take nothing but pictures leave nothing but your tracks"

Converted to the spey rod three yeaers ago for steelhead and salmon and find it much more effective and efficient, i.e. more casts per day, and deeper drifts due to the increased mending abilities of the long rod, plus its easier on my body. No kidding it is after you learn the spey casting mechanics. Plus I do not have to wade as deep any more which is good at my age.

Recommend it especially for your large rivers and wet fly type fishing. I am not convinced the spey is the way though for dry flys yet.

Flys use bunny leeches, marabous, sculpin streamers and nymphs most of the time. Occassionally I put a spey fly on god knows I have enough of them but just don't seem to use them much.

Lately I have been trying to fish larger flys like the bunnys and marabou show girls etc..

Hey Jerry lost a pig on one of my new tube flys yesterday morning second cast of the day I was asleep at the wheel !