One of the most complicated aspects of two-handed rods is line selection. There is such a wide variety of choices for switch and Spey rods that the process often leaves fly fishers feeling confused and discouraged. And if you don’t have the right line, the best two-handed rod in the world won’t do you a bit of good.
There has been a rapid evolution of lines for two-handed rods in the last ten years. Historically, Spey lines were designed with a long belly and a taper that was similar to a double-taper line. This style of line was mainly used to fish a fly on or near the surface, and to be cast using a long two-handed rod with slow, methodical casting movements.
Today, lines are manufactured for more specific fishing situations. Head lengths are generally shorter and designed in a manner similar to a weight-forward taper.
Top Spey Line Options
---Rage Compact – 540 grain $55 The Rage varies in head length from 28' to 32' depending on grain weight. The objective of the Rage Compact is to create a Skagit line for floating line/surface situations. I would consider this more of a hybrid line between Skagit and Scandi. The Rage has an aggressive front taper creating significant power on the forward casting stroke. I found the Rage capable of precision, and tight loops. It can handle a floating leader or tapered sinking-tips, making it a good choice when depth isn’t the key consideration.
---Skagit Switch – 450 grain $55 With the increasing popularity of switch rods, it is natural that lines designed specifically for them are being offered by many manufacturers. The Skagit Switch has the characteristics of a full Skagit condensed into a head ranging from 18.5' to 20'. This line allows a switch rod to cast with power and distance in confined areas. I found that slower rod movements in the setup and forward stroke allowed this line to fully load the rod, and create a smooth delivery with either light or heavy 12' tips.
---Delta Spey Multi-Tips – 8/9 $150 The Delta Spey has a midsize head that delivers casts with power and control. Its head length ranges from 52' to 56' and it has a smooth front taper that is capable of precision tight loops even with heavy Type 8 tips. The length of this head reduces the amount of line stripping you’ll do when compared to shorter head lines, making it ideal for covering big waters—especially in the winter. The Delta Spey has an integrated running line with a built-in marker to indicate the best point to load up the cast. rajeffsports.com
---Precision Switch Line – WF7F $65 Cortland’s Switch is a versatile line that can be used for almost any trout and steelhead fishing you can think of. It is an effortless line to cast overhead with one hand, and also performed well with a variety of two-handed Spey casts. The oversized front taper turned over weighted flies on a monofilament leader, and also handled sinking leaders without any problems. I like the stealthy blue color of the head and the rear and running section of the line is white so it’s easy to mark the head transitions with a Sharpie. cortlandline.com
---Multi-Tip Spey Line – 8F, 525 grain $160 The Orvis Multi-Tip Spey line is a midrange length line with a head, including the exchangeable tip, ranging from 45' to 55'. The 8-weight with a grain weight of 525 is 55'. The line is packaged with five 15' tips ranging from floating to Type 8 sink. This was easiest to cast with the floating tip, but it also handled heavy tips. It is high-vis chartreuse, but a single color throughout with no indicator for the transition from head to running line. This would make the lines easier to use, and you can add your own using a permanent marker or heat-shrink tubing. orvis.com
---UniSpey VersiTip Shooting Head – 8/9/F, 600 grain $90 UniSpey VersiTip is a midlength line with a head length varying from 52' to 60' depending on line weight. It is designed for long casts and for efficiently covering big water with minimal line stripping at the end of the swing. It favors a compact casting loop, and handles a floating as well as medium-weight sinking tips. The head has a rear loop to attach to a running line. I like this concept as it allows for an easy exchange of lines.
---Switch Line – 7/8F $90 The Rio Switch line is an all-purpose tool with an integrated running line. It has enough mass to Spey cast nice loops with a sinking leader, and is light enough to effectively cast with a single-hand rod. This a great line that works well for anglers who truly want full capability out of their switch rods. This line easily accommodates two-hand and single-hand casting as well as rigging for swinging flies and dead-drifting techniques. rioproducts.com
---Scandi Extreme Head – 480 grain $54 The Scandi Extreme Head varies in length from 31' to 41' depending on grain weight. The line is dual color with the rear a bright orange for visibility, and the front a light blue for a stealthy approach. In my case the orange rear portion clashed a little with my running line, but marking the rear loop with a black permanent marker gave me a clear indication of the junction point. The Scandi Extreme is a great-casting line capable of significant line speeds using an underhand cast. When Scandi casting, I prefer to use a single Spey from either side of the river, and the Scandi Extreme seemed to pick up easily from the water, which aids greatly in setting up the next cast. scientificanglers.com
---Ace Skagit – 550 grain $80 The new Ace Skagit varies in length depending on the grain weight, and ranges from 22' to 27'. The box announces that it contains “A package full of kick ass” and it’s not far from the truth as it’s effortless to cast with a slow, deliberate casting stroke and is capable of tight, efficient loops. Not bad coming from the homeland of Scandi lines! The line is packaged with a T-14 tip, which it easily handles with a weighted tube fly.
---Ace Shooting Head System Multi Tip – 477 grain $125 The Ace Shooting Head System provides for versatility and options. The taper is a Scandi design with a smooth-feeling tip. I cast a floating head and it generated good line speed using a short rod and an underhand stroke. The head is manufactured with a rear loop but it’s up to you to add your own front loop or tie a leader directly to the line. The Ace Shooting Head is referred to as a “system” because the head comes in short, regular, or long versions. These heads all vary in length depending on grain weight. The short head is designed for tighter fishing situations and the long head allows you to strip less line for greater efficiency on bigger water. The heads are available in intermediate, sinking-tip, and full-sinking versions. visionflyfishing.com