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.