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Switch Rods Have Changed My Outlook on Fishing

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April 26, 2012

Switch Rods Have Changed My Outlook on Fishing

By Kirk Deeter

I must admit to being slow on the uptake with switch rods. I guess I thought they were half-baked Spey rods. You might as well go the full 14 feet or so if you're going to fish in the two-handed style, rather than being stuck in between the standard 9-footer and a classic Spey rod. But now I've seen the light and have grown to appreciate the niche functionality of an 11-foot switch rod.

My first dedicated experience with casting switch rods happened when Conway Bowman (pictured here with an Orvis Helios switch), Chris Santella and I went to Kodiak Island, Alaska to fish on the Karluk River and film The Kodiak Project. The Karluk is a prolific salmon and steelhead fishery, but I was surprised to see that it's not that wide in comparison to other major Alaskan rivers like the Naknek or the Nushagak. To be honest, a longer Spey rod is almost overkill on the upper stretches of the Karluk, but I did appreciate that little extra oomph a switch rod offered when it came to making long roll casts with heavy streamers.  

I've since taken up fishing switch rods in Colorado, using a five-weight for trout. It's great for covering water with streamers, and I've also taken a shine to using the switch with nymph rigs — I feel more able to mend and control my drift effectively. And it's great for smart bombing small runs and pockets, where you want to lift your fly line off the current to avoid drag. Skittering caddis dry flies in fast pockets at this time of year is an absolute blast.

Another benefit of the switch rod is less fatigue. I have a friend who has bad arthritis in his dominant casting hand and arm. He's taken up the switch rod, and working his other hand into the casting motion has allowed him to fish longer and more effectively.

I'm not trying to talk anyone into buying a new rod, but I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has fallen for switch rods, especially those in lighter weights. These rods have changed my outlook on fishing for the better, and taught me to keep an open mind.

Comments (14)

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I assume switch rods are loaded with floating line, designed to be rolled off the water. Have always wondered how they would work on saltwater, or maybe with sinking line?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

KD, you are a hippie. 'nough said.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I've been considering getting a switch to chase stripers. In the past year or so I have noticed more and more of the dedicated striper guys on the water with the two-handers, and they all say they can cover more water with better efficiency. This also makes me want to try a switch for bass and carp on our family ponds, where the bank, brush, or tall grass limit casting room...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

For 4 years now I've toyed with the idea of going 12' for overhead casting and there was little in the way of advice, I sure wasn't going to drop the $$ on it with no info regarding how well it worked with a rod that wasn't necessarily designed to throw overhead. After seeing Theo at ColoradoSkies throwing a skagit head on running line, it was a done deal, I just have not pulled the trigger on a blank to build yet. I intend on my first one to be for streamer fishing, in the future, I could see a 11' 5wt in the arsenal.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from timromano wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Koldcut,

Do it man. I just got myself a Scott L2h 11 ft 6wt with a skagit head, and a bunch of MOW tips. It's really, really fun for swinging streamers - thinking it'll be a great mousing rod too... Now I just need to learn how to really cast it. ;)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kyka1865 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I am thinking about getting a switch rod, probaly a 11-12 foot 7 weight. I envision it being a good rod for chucking streamera, throwing smallmouth flies on Lake huron and occasionally chasing hybrid white bass/stripers int he river. I am thinking about either a T&T or Sage ZXL rod.
Does anyone have any opinions on whether a switch rod would be good or should I just go for a full blown spey rod?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Tim, it's a money issue, I had money slotted for one, then half of that went into lead pouring supplies to aid in my knuckle dragging club swinging baitfishing style. The other half built me a sweet 5wt...If I can sell a few more rods it will become a reality.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from zfisher wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I used a switch rod for the first time fishing the Kvichak (8wt). A joy for casting large streamers on a big river or heavy nymph rigs. I've now got to get a 5 wt. It's a great tool for streamers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Merkincrab wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Hey, Kirk, congrats on your new gig at Trout Magazine. They couldn't have picked a better guy to edit such an important publication.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Rohde wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

You want to truly gain a genetic'esque/nearly fraternal twin like relationship w/13'+ of fine Loomis graphite? Give Centerpin/'float fishing' a whirl. You'll then-post mastering a basic "Wallis-cast" have earned that level of proximal rapport.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sturner wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

I got my first taste of a light switch rod a few years back when a buddy let me try his out throwing mice for bows on American Creek. As soon as we got back to the lower 48 I ordered up a Sage Z-Axis 5110 and it rapidly became my favorite summer steelhead rod. In my opinion it’s the perfect rod for skating and/or greased line presentations, and yet it’s not so large that you feel way over-gunned if you happen into a decent sea-run cutt. A kick in pants and easy on the ol' bod!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Thank you merkincrab! KD

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Koldkut...I gave you advice...forget overhead casting with a 12' rod. Way too much leverage, and fatigue! I fish big water for trout, and have an 11 1/2 ' switch rod for spey casting. A 6/7wt. and works fine for swinging my softhackles. But I can also do it with my 9' 1/2 6wt. one hander, and now I can forward cast by hauling given the off hand is free to haul with. Much of your initial coverage of a run, or riffle is short distance casting at first. I can do it easier with a shorter, one hander. I asked the exoerts at the flyshop thinking I knew the answer before I asked it about overhead casting with switch rods.....the guy shook his head NO before I finished the question. You don't want to cast overhead with a switch rod,..only the exception once in awhile. The big key is the need for added grain wt. BEHIND YOU in the "D" loop. You have a static, dead line, and you need to have grain wt. to load the rod. It isn't like making an overhead cast with an active line. My single handers get it out there ok, but not like a spey line can get it out there. And the finest trip I ever took was on the Karluk...floated out of the lake to the mouth.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Sayfu, You also told me I would never be a good fly fisher because I'm a knuckle dragging bait slinger. I'm going to overhead an 8wt switch rod....because I'll never be any good at this anyway:rolleyes:

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from badsmerf wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

KD, you are a hippie. 'nough said.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from timromano wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Koldcut,

Do it man. I just got myself a Scott L2h 11 ft 6wt with a skagit head, and a bunch of MOW tips. It's really, really fun for swinging streamers - thinking it'll be a great mousing rod too... Now I just need to learn how to really cast it. ;)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I assume switch rods are loaded with floating line, designed to be rolled off the water. Have always wondered how they would work on saltwater, or maybe with sinking line?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ckRich wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I've been considering getting a switch to chase stripers. In the past year or so I have noticed more and more of the dedicated striper guys on the water with the two-handers, and they all say they can cover more water with better efficiency. This also makes me want to try a switch for bass and carp on our family ponds, where the bank, brush, or tall grass limit casting room...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

For 4 years now I've toyed with the idea of going 12' for overhead casting and there was little in the way of advice, I sure wasn't going to drop the $$ on it with no info regarding how well it worked with a rod that wasn't necessarily designed to throw overhead. After seeing Theo at ColoradoSkies throwing a skagit head on running line, it was a done deal, I just have not pulled the trigger on a blank to build yet. I intend on my first one to be for streamer fishing, in the future, I could see a 11' 5wt in the arsenal.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kyka1865 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I am thinking about getting a switch rod, probaly a 11-12 foot 7 weight. I envision it being a good rod for chucking streamera, throwing smallmouth flies on Lake huron and occasionally chasing hybrid white bass/stripers int he river. I am thinking about either a T&T or Sage ZXL rod.
Does anyone have any opinions on whether a switch rod would be good or should I just go for a full blown spey rod?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Tim, it's a money issue, I had money slotted for one, then half of that went into lead pouring supplies to aid in my knuckle dragging club swinging baitfishing style. The other half built me a sweet 5wt...If I can sell a few more rods it will become a reality.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from zfisher wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I used a switch rod for the first time fishing the Kvichak (8wt). A joy for casting large streamers on a big river or heavy nymph rigs. I've now got to get a 5 wt. It's a great tool for streamers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Merkincrab wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Hey, Kirk, congrats on your new gig at Trout Magazine. They couldn't have picked a better guy to edit such an important publication.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Rohde wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

You want to truly gain a genetic'esque/nearly fraternal twin like relationship w/13'+ of fine Loomis graphite? Give Centerpin/'float fishing' a whirl. You'll then-post mastering a basic "Wallis-cast" have earned that level of proximal rapport.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sturner wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

I got my first taste of a light switch rod a few years back when a buddy let me try his out throwing mice for bows on American Creek. As soon as we got back to the lower 48 I ordered up a Sage Z-Axis 5110 and it rapidly became my favorite summer steelhead rod. In my opinion it’s the perfect rod for skating and/or greased line presentations, and yet it’s not so large that you feel way over-gunned if you happen into a decent sea-run cutt. A kick in pants and easy on the ol' bod!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Thank you merkincrab! KD

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Koldkut...I gave you advice...forget overhead casting with a 12' rod. Way too much leverage, and fatigue! I fish big water for trout, and have an 11 1/2 ' switch rod for spey casting. A 6/7wt. and works fine for swinging my softhackles. But I can also do it with my 9' 1/2 6wt. one hander, and now I can forward cast by hauling given the off hand is free to haul with. Much of your initial coverage of a run, or riffle is short distance casting at first. I can do it easier with a shorter, one hander. I asked the exoerts at the flyshop thinking I knew the answer before I asked it about overhead casting with switch rods.....the guy shook his head NO before I finished the question. You don't want to cast overhead with a switch rod,..only the exception once in awhile. The big key is the need for added grain wt. BEHIND YOU in the "D" loop. You have a static, dead line, and you need to have grain wt. to load the rod. It isn't like making an overhead cast with an active line. My single handers get it out there ok, but not like a spey line can get it out there. And the finest trip I ever took was on the Karluk...floated out of the lake to the mouth.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Sayfu, You also told me I would never be a good fly fisher because I'm a knuckle dragging bait slinger. I'm going to overhead an 8wt switch rod....because I'll never be any good at this anyway:rolleyes:

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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