Trout Spey – you may have heard that term or others like “Trout Skagit” or “Micro Spey” thrown around. Too often, gear junkies unfortunately are guilty of putting this style of fishing on a pedestal. They turn it into a language more similar to Chinese Calculus rather than one of fly fishing. Well folks, I agree. I would like us to set aside the minutia and jargon for a moment and let anglers of all skill sets know that success with Trout Spey is totally achievable. Not only that but it is a ton of fun, and will help to make you a better more well-rounded angler. Here are 8 reasons why you should give Trout Spey a chance.
It’s still just fishing…don’t be afraid
In my experience, trepidation is very common among anglers of all ability levels when it comes to Trout Spey. I often think back to the first time I started fly fishing and the nervousness I had walking into fly shops and trying my best to hide my naiveté and speak intelligently about hatches and whatnot. Once I finally start accrue some success and knowledge, my days on the water became a pursuit of trying to replicate previous successes. This is a fine way to fish. But it wasn’t until I was invited on my first steelhead trip and thrust back to the days of hiding my inexperience and nervousness that I realized something.
It dawned on me that I had been wearing my accrued knowledge and experience like a safety blanket, rarely pushing to learn something new. This was a realization that changed my fishing forever. I stopped caring so much about replicating success and instead started to wonder: What other ways are there to catch trout?
Fortunately, there are many amazing products, educational resources, people, and places that can help. Opportunities where experimenting with Trout Spey can lead to fun and inventive days on the water. At the end of these days, I may or may not have had the same success by the numbers. But I was having such a fun time on the water it didn’t matter.
It’s not as hard as you think
I’ll let you in on a little secret, fish DO NOT care about how beautiful or ugly your cast is. They also don’t care how expensive and fancy your gear is. Trout Spey is more about technique than gear. While having the right tool for the job will help your angling, for sure. Most people I speak with are often surprised to hear that they don’t need a two hand rod to start fishing in a two hand style. As of the morning that I am writing this, there were 47,700 results on YouTube for “Trout Spey.” While I am not going to get into the particulars of casting or techniques, know that there are a lot of great products and resources out there to help us shed our safety blankets and get going in the world of Trout Spey.
Some of my favorite products and videos come from a company called Olympic Peninsula Skagit Tactics. (Otherwise known as OPST). These folks have some great products to turn a simple 9 foot 5 weight rod into a great Trout Spey set up. Often times when I bring the OPST setup out on the water with clients and friends, they are amazed at how easy it is to roll cast. From there, with a few pointers, most people get the hang of it very quickly.
You’ll catch fish in places you never thought they were before
It never ceases to blow my mind where the occasional bite or hook up may come from. Generally in dry fly or indicator fishing, we have all been taught to focus on certain types of water depending on what we are trying to accomplish. While it is true that trout favor different types of water throughout the year, Trout Spey has shown me that we may have been overlooking great fishing opportunities. Some of these instances have revealed themselves while trying to make a long cast to other side of the river. Instead of getting the bite on the bank, I’ve gotten the flash, bite, or hook up on in the middle of the fast water and even in rapids and wave trains. It has taught me to not only think about the surface currents but the depressions, currents, and structure underneath what we can see on the surface.
Change from a visual experience to a tactile one
Part of what makes fly fishing the amazing experience it is, is the fact we usually see and thus react to the fish eating. From a bobber jerking under the water quickly, to the slow analyzing bite on a dead drifted dry fly. Fly fishing puts visual stains on your brain. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Well…there is another way. I am not trying to take away from the visual awesomeness of techniques listed above. But there is something to be said to making a perfect cast and having your fly disappear in the dark depths. And then having the rod almost ripped out of your hand. Feeling all nuances of a bite, and how violent or subtle they can be, is an amazing experience no matter how you slice it.
Some may say, “well that is no different that fishing with a streamer” but I would challenge them to say it is because often times I am fishing with rods 1-2 rod weights lighter than most avid streamer fishermen prefer. Hooking up on a 20” fish on a 5 wt. on a large articulated streamer is a new experience in and of itself. While I love long slow dry fly eats as much as the next guy, putting the wood to a big fish on light tackle makes it hard to leave the river too.
It’s not as expensive as you might think, and you have options!
Don’t tell the rod manufacturers this but you DO NOT need another rod to get started in the world of trout spey. There are many great products being produced these days that will turn an average single hand trout rod into a great little Trout Spey setup. I prefer to start newbies with a Skagit style line system on a standard single hand trout rod. Starting at the backing, an angler will need to connect a shooting line (also called a running line), a Skagit head, a sink tip, and leader material. Most all products nowadays are connected with a loop to loop connection. Some of my favorite running lines are OPST Lazar Line, RIO Grip Shooter, and Airflo Super-Dri Ridge Floating Running Line. Some of my favorite Skagit heads are available in the OPST Commando Heads and RIO Skagit Trout Max Shooting Heads.
Once you have the shooting link and Skagit head chosen, the sink tip will be the part you change depending on the conditions, water level, and techniques used. Sink tips can range greatly and I recommend having at least two and preferably three tips to choose from. Some of my go-to’s are RIO InTouch MOW Tips, OPST Commando Tips, and Airflo Trout Polyleaders. To figure out what size you need in any of the products listed above, I would highly recommend calling our shop and speaking with our staff. It is important that the shooting lines and Skagit heads balance the rod you are trying to use and that sink tips match the size river you are fishing. This is where most people get frustrated and confused. I agree, the way the industry has gone about setting this up is not at all user friendly. If not us, please speak with someone with experience about your existing equipment, skill level, and the waters you aim to fish.
For those that may have some experience or want to fully immerse themselves in the two hand world, there is nothing quite like having the right tool for the job. Many rod manufacturers are building small two hand rods that are raising the game in Trout Spey. The staff’s overwhelmingly favorite rod on the lighter end of the budget has been Redington Hydrogen Spey Rod. For the money, this rod has been tough to beat and for someone looking to throw a real two hander without breaking the bank, this rod has been a home run. For line and reel recommendations for the Hydrogen Spey, please call, chat, or visit us, we’d love to chat fishing with you any time.
For the guy or gal that has the “buy it once, buy it right” mindset, the overwhelmingly favorite rod for Trout Spey has been the Winston Microspey. These rods were some of the first to be produced for this style of fishing and if you ask people who have been doing this for a while, many of them, myself included, will attest to their quality, action, and prowess as a real two handed rod geared down for trout fishing. Available in 3, 4, and 5 weight options, these rods behave and cast like their bigger brothers for steelhead and salmon but make catching even a 12” brown trout an absolute joy.
I have often found that some of the big rods that are available in 4, 5, or 6 weight switch or spey rod, are just too stiff and take a little of the fun out of catching normal sized Rocky Mountain trout. Again, you don’t have to spend top dollar to get into trout spey, but if you don’t mind, this rod does not disappoint. For line and reel recommendations, please reach out to us. We have put a lot of time into fishing these rods and can get you set up right the first time.
You’ll improve your single hand game
One of the many fringe benefits to putting some time and effort into learning how to spey cast is that most all of those casts can be done when you go back to single hand style fishing. I would even go as far to say that some of the two hand techniques work better than some of the single hand techniques in some scenarios. For instance, I prefer to throw large loops while indicator fishing. While working large deep runs, a Snap T style cast with a normal indicator rig and single hand line is now my preferred cast, usually resulting in less tangles and longer drifts. I’m not saying you’ll never need an overhead cast again but having more casting tools in your quiver is never a bad thing. To me, Trout Spey is another tool on my angling Swiss Army knife.
You will develop skills for fishing anadromous species
I realize not all people are going to get a chance or have the time and resources to fish for steelhead, salmon, or sea run browns but what’s wrong with dreaming? For those who do have the option or invitation, who would want to show up on a dream trip and want to start from square one in their own skill set? No one. Trout Spey techniques have mostly all come from the world of traditional spey casting. Having even a basic understanding of the fundamentals before you get on a plane is only going to amount to more time fishing rather than learning when you get to wherever and whenever you’re going.
Hopefully by now we have quelled a few insecurities and a little trepidation. Whether or not you are seasoned angler, or a novice just getting into the sport, Trout Spey is mind blowing, inventive, and all around fun way to spend some time on the water. While there will always be days where you be insane not to fish dry flies or other days where you just need to nymph em’ up, Trout Spey is useful tool and an investment in your angling skills. Dry or Die or Down and Dirty, just remember, the Tug is the Drug.
Guest contribution by Vail Valley Anglers Guide and Product Buyer Andy Leister, find out more about Andy here.