January 29, 2013
My first Spey rod was a 14-foot 9-weight with an action described as "Euro." At the time I bought it, it was probably the best-selling two-handed rod in America. I caught a memorable 20-pound, fire-engine red steelhead on the Suskwa River, and some June Atlantic salmon on the Gaspé Peninsula, and I believed it to be a fantastic rod.
Now it sits in a corner neglected, and unused. Technically there's nothing wrong with it except a few bumps and scratches. On the other hand, plenty is wrong with it, and I couldn't in good conscience give it away.
That's because today's new two-handed rods are light years from where they were when Spey rods first arrived North America. In general, the more popular models today are shorter and lighter, both in the physical weight of the rods and in the weight of the recommended lines.
Instead of using 9- and 10-weight rods to carry huge amounts of line, and create immense D loops, the most popular (and effective) rods in the US today are meant to throw relatively small D loops with a quick, compact stroke using much shorter Skagit and Scandi heads.
The trend toward lighter, shorter rods gave us switch rods, which are in name and theory small enough to switch to single-handed use. In reality though, most switch rods are rarely used with one hand except those rare occasions where you need to scratch your nose, or warm up one hand in a pocket momentarily.
Switch rods are two-handed rods 99% of the time, they are just sized down for smaller rivers, and gamefish that don't require a beefy stick. Switch rods are generally 11 or 12 feet, and are great choices for smaller Lake Erie and Lake Ontario steelhead streams, swinging streamers for smallmouth bass, or tidal salt ponds and surf fishing for striped bass.
You can use Spey techniques and two-handed rods for almost anything that swims in moving water. And while you may not at first catch more fish (or even as many) you'll find that merely casting is more complex, addictive, and more fun when you add that extra dimension, so get out there and try it!