Trout Spey Fishing - Tackle and Techniques
For some reason, biologists who studied the Deschutes River before the year 2000 came to the conclusion that the native redband trout didn't eat sculpins. Pretty much everyone accepted that they knew what they were talking about. Only a few lucky mavericks knew the difference. Most of these folks had fished through the predacious management of the 60's and 70's, and had performed more than a few stomach autopsies. It had become apparent that native redband trout eat a lot of sculpins and crayfish during certain parts of the year, especially while water temperatures rising during the spring, then while water temperatures are dropping toward the fall. High water temperatures during summer can also generate higher metabolism and some fish can desire food in larger bights. In some rivers nocturnal brown trout feed on bait fish all night long.
It is a revelation to some, and twenty-year-old news to others, TROUT SPEY IS HERE! I started fishing streamers for redbands in the 1990's. While fishing for summer steelhead with single hand rods and lines designed by Jim Teeny, there were days when I caught fair numbers of large trout. Earth tone Woolly Buggers were especially productive. After the introduction of Skagit shooting head systems during this same period, covering water at depth became much easier. The Spey outfits at the time (mostly 9-weights) were too large for most of the steelhead we encountered, let alone the average trout which felt tiny. Possibly the first company to really address this situation was G. Loomis, who brought out a rod that was a 5/6 weight. I used mine quite a bit for both summer steelhead and trout. It was a pretty good trout rod, but the Spey lines at the time really didn't do it justice and the rod didn't catch on. Then around 2004, G. Loomis brought out the RoaringRiver series of rods with over twenty different models. One of them was an 11' - #5 rated for a 350-grain head. Scientific Anglers brought out a series of short Skagit heads made for short, lightweight two-handers. It was a marriage made in heaven. A couple of my employees adapted to this new tackle, and I used my new outfit quite a bit as well, but at the time we were all so in love with steelhead that trout didn't get as much attention as they should have. Trout Spey was still ahead of its time. The biggest reasons were that a 5-weight Spey rod is still a little large for Oregon trout, and anglers of the era were pretty much hide-bound to nymphs and dry flies.
Even though fly fishing for trout with two hand fly rods has been practiced by old hands for more than a decade, it remained a novelty even to us because the specialized equipment wasn't available. Now Spey rods are being made by several manufacturers in sizes #2, #3 and #4 weight. These rods average 10' 6" to 12' in length and they are designed specifically for trout fishing. And even more importantly, the lines to go with these rods are also available from the leading manufacturers. The Skagit Scout Line from Airflo and the RIO Skagit Max Short are two of my favorites. M.O.W. Tips and Flo Tips give decided advantages for fishing streamers.
So, why use a two-hander for trout? There are several reasons: it is a lot of fun, it is very productive, and you can cover masses of water very efficiently. A two-hander will give you a brand new view of rivers that have become too familiar.
Trout that can take their food in bigger bites, grow faster and larger than trout that spend their time eating tiny insects. One crayfish may equal more nutrients than a thousand midge pupae. These trout are often much stronger for their size than their insectivore counterparts. Even 18" fish can get many yards into your backing. Twenty-inch trout can go a lot further, and the occasional steelhead you will encounter in many of our larger local rivers can stress your 3/4 weight Trout Spey outfit to the max. Be sure to have a reel large enough to give the larger fish some running room. Thirty-pound test gel spun backing can be the equalizer against very large fish.
Selecting the right reel will affect the performance of any fly rod. When selecting a reel for a single hand #5-weight rod, you would normally choose a #5-weight reel for line capacity and to be the right weight to balance with your rod. Long rods need larger reels to form balanced outfits. A rule of thumb for any Spey outfit is to jump up three sizes on the reel. The picture above illustrates a #3-weight rod combined with a #6-weight reel. My current favorite G.Loomis 41111-4 rod is combined with a 6000 Hardy reel and is nimble and perfectly balanced for fatigue free performance for trout from 12" to 20". The reel holds the proper size line and a full hundred plus yards of backing. Here are some guidelines: #2-weight Trout Spey rod needs a #5-weight reel, #3-weight Trout Spey rod needs a #6-weight reel, #4-weight Trout Spey rod needs a #7-weight reel, #5-weight Trout Spey rod needs an #8-weight reel.
There are a number of rod makers that offer Trout Spey rods. The rods in the links below are what we think to be the best Trout Spey rods by manufacturers who can deliver product and warranty service with a minimum of distractions. In the world of fly rods, you get what you pay for, and if you think otherwise, you will be sadly disappointed. We still build the best fly rods in America (period). There are, however some very practical fly rods designed by reputable local manufacturers, which are built beyond our borders. These rods are lower priced than the ones built here, and the companies still employ a high number of US citizens.
You get to choose, and no matter what your choices are, you win.
Trout Spey Rods