I think my personal affinity to Trout Spey comes from the fact that I actually started fishing two-handed rods for trout before I ever used them for steelhead and salmon. It was the year 2000, and I was living in West Yellowstone, MT, surrounded by medium to large trout rivers that fish well on the swing. The idea of two-handed rods was new and exciting, and a couple of my older friends had one or two already that they used for steelhead – still a mythical creature to me at the time. I remember borrowing a 14 foot 8 weight rod with a long belly floating line from someone. Light Spey rods and shorter Skagit heads simply weren’t available then. I talked my friend Chuck, one of the guides from the fly shop I worked at who went on steelhead road trips every spring and fall, to give me a quick Spey casting lesson. In short order I was hacking out terrible double Speys and Snap T casts. But some of them were good enough, and at some point, I hooked and landed my first fish. A decent rainbow trout, caught on a 14 foot 8 weight, floating line, and a beadhead Prince Nymph. My rod was overkill, my casting technique was horrible, and my presentation and fly choice were unrefined. But I was having a blast, and that grab was just awesome.
Fast forward 16 years or so, and I still love fishing the two-hander for trout. My gear preference has changed to somewhat lighter rods and shorter lines, my casting has certainly improved, I’ve come to know and use a number of different and effective presentations with everything from large streamers and heavy sink tips to tiny soft hackles and floating lines. But I’m still having a blast, and the grab is still awesome.
What I would say to anyone who might be interested in two-handed rods, for trout or otherwise, is that you shouldn’t worry too much about having the perfect setup. Just get one from a friend if you can and give it a go. If you are deciding to purchase a Spey kit for trout, you have a lot of decisions to make. Again, I’d say try a few if you can. Everyone has opinions about what is best. I do too. Since I often fish some pretty big water for trout (maybe up to 100 meters wide), and because at times I do throw big flies in some wind, and because we have some nice big trout around here, I personally prefer a 6 weight outfit of over 12 feet in length. On occasion I will even go up to one of my 7 weight steelhead rods. Personally I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not fishing 5 weight or lighter two-handers. But certainly I can see where they might have their place. For lines, I like either a short Skagit with a variety of sinking tips, ideally with an integrated running line for bigger flies such as streamers. I like the integrated running line so I can fish a fly all the way back to the rod by stripping line and not worrying about the loops in the guides. A lot of trout come on short casts or when I bring the fly stripping into slow water where it can’t swing on its own. For floating line and smaller fly applications, I still love a mid to long belly line. It’s all about the casting for me, and certainly some of the short floating Scandi heads would be great. Throwing these longer lines is one reason I prefer a 12 foot rod or longer over the shorter, switch rod type offerings.
I don’t dare get into fly choices here because every river is different. But know that most wets and streamers will be just fine. If you can keep a team of wets from tangling while you Spey cast, that’s a great way to go.
For presentation, there are endless varieties of the classic down and across swing. It’s so fun to experiment and figure out what works. Some days, or on some rivers, the fish want it faster, or slower. Set up the swing and mend the line into or out of the belly accordingly. I find that rainbows seem to like a slower, smooth swing, while the browns like a more broad-side presentation with action imparted to the fly with the rod or by tugging the flyline. During a caddis hatch, you can go crazy and even work versions of the Leisenring Lift into your swing game.
Just get out there, have fun, keep casting and learning, and maybe up-size your tippet a bit in case a big one slams your swung fly.
Take Care and Fish On,