before you do anything rash like spending hundreds of dollars on a spey rod you might not like in a few months, go to River Run Anglers in Carnation and talk to Jack, or better yet, go on a Saturday morning to the Tolt/Snoqualmie confluence and try them all, pick a few you like and go from there. In just one morning up there, I learned more about spey casting and rods than I ever thought I needed to know. I was about to purchase a St Croix spey, but after that morning, I decided to wait until I found my perfect rod for the type of river/casting/season that will be most beneficial to me. I am now saving up for a good rod, and am planning on spending quite a few saturday Mornings down there before I make any decision.
I give full props to "Saturday Morning on the River." It really opened my eyes to the different types of spey rods there are and the many types of casting that you can do with rod that fits you.
I just picked up a 14ft 8/9wt Loomis GL3 off of EBAY for a pretty decent deal.....about 100 bucks off the regular price of one. Those that I know that know a WHOLE LOT more about it than I do say its a sweet rod. I seem to see quite a few other folks out there on the water that use Loomis speys. I dunno. I wanted a Sage, but couldnt pass on a good deal. I am confident that it will work just fine for the steelhead that it will pursue.
Andy makes a very good point about going and trying out a number of different rods before you decide what is right for you.
While spey casting uses the same basic techniques that a single handed rod uses (spey casts are just dymamic roll casts), the casts are sometimes intimidating to those first starting out and it can be hard to determine what rod weight/action/length will best suit your needs. Spending some time learning how to cast, trying different rods/weights/actions and lines will pay off. Spey rods and lines can be expensive and I believe you'll save money in the long run if you do your research ahead of time. Head to the shop mentioned and spend a few saturdays learning before you make your decision.
No..I have a St. Croix but I came across the GL3 when I was shopping and the local shop had GL3's but both of them had the fuji plastic reel seat which I (at the time)
didn't like or think was appropiate for an high end rod Co. (and still think the same today....Sage, G.Loomis. Scott, Winston, etc. .....should not have those reel seats.
Don't buy anything your not going to want to keep later as your casting improves. Go see Aaron and Jack at River Run Angler. They will let you try every rod on the market with any line you can think of. You should spend weeks with them down on the river before you decide to buy anything. Yes, they will help you get started on your casting. Carnation may seem far, but if you don't do it, you will be kicking yourself in the ass. Not to slight anyone that has bought anything from ebay, because I have bought a few things there too, but look at the Spey rods people are trying to sell. The names you don't see for sale are the ones worth keeping. For instance, It's not often you will see Loop, CND, Burkies and T&T's. Everybody and his mother owns a Sage because everyone buys the name without trying others.
There are a ton of things to consider and you will need to narrow your focus with the help of those who have been there, otherwise you could spend years trying to find the right combo for what you need, wasting time when you should be learning to cast. Aaron and Jack are selfless when helping those that ask. If there was ever a shop to qualify as a non-profit organization, River Run would be it. Their bookeeper must hate that job, but you can't put a price on kindness. Just don't be in a hurry because you can't learn to spey cast overnight.
I also must endorse Avid Angler and Kaufmanns in Bellevue. But either way, you're going to end up at River Run.
Also, another aspect of spey fishing is of course the tying of spey flies. Aaron and Jack run a round table on Thursdays, right in the shop. You will really be far ahead of the curve with all that they have to offer.
Mattzoid is entirely correct about the helpfulness of Aaron Reimer and the folks at River Run Anglers. In fact, the whole spey community - and it is that - is remarkably helpful and generous with time, advice, and companionship.
A minor quibble: although spey flies and spey rods have historical connections, they are not directly connected. Spey rods are two-handed fly rods intended for use with spey casts: various water-anchored, change-of-direction roll casts. Spey flies are distinguished by very long, soft hackles. Spey anglers use flies of all types.