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While many anglers are bummed out by the arrival of cold weather, I feel like my favorite fishing season has finally arrived. I’m talking about steelhead season. And for me, the steelhead scene is as much about how you fish, as it is about what you catch.
Many years ago, I took a trip to Alaska where my buddy Tyler Palmerton tuned me into casting two-handed rods. I’ve been hopelessly addicted ever since, even if I am a long, long way from mastering the Scandi or Skagit casting techniques. There’s just something about making the snap-T, ripping the line across the water to load the rod (the white mouse), forming the perfect “D” shape behind you, and then letting fly.
Throw a mend, and swing that streamer through the riffle. And when Mr. Steelhead answers the call with an unmistakable thunk and run, you know you’ve done something special. Even when you don’t get a bite, the practice of casting a long rod is enough to keep you feeling focused and entertained, even if the wind is blowing sleet sideways, and your eyebrows are caked in frost.
But jumping right into the long two-handed casting game can be tricky, and admittedly, those rods are best used on big, wide rivers. A “switch,” like an 11-foot, 7-weight rod might just be the perfect compromise.
Do yourself a favor. If you have the chance to try a switch rod at your local fly shop, or maybe on a casting pond at one of the upcoming sports expos this winter, do it. Be patient. It’s a completely different game than what most of you are used to. But it can open new horizons that actually last all year long. I find myself swinging streamers at trout with switch rods in the dog days of summer.
I’m not going to give up the light tackle–like fiberglass 2-weights–any time soon. And sure, I’m already pining away for the mayflies of spring. But the two-handed and switch rod revolution is no fad. It’s here to stay.