Switch Rods….WTF!

Look at this pile of graphite
Now I know that I am going to piss some people with this post, but I have to say something. Switch rods in my opinion are a super specialized and situational tool. In the nicest way that is all I have to say about that. I think they suck.
Now here is the problem with the switch rods (in my opinion). They are or become to heavy for true single hand casting, all day. The rods also are short right, this reduces leverage when spey casting. Now you don’t need a ton of leverage for floating line work, I agree. But when people want to cast Skagit lines with switch rod here is where things get weird. Most of the switch rods that I think have a nice casting stroke are soft. This puts them in the realm of 10.5′ to 11 feet in length and usually in the form of a 7 wt or lighter. Now that I have sacrificed all my leverage with a switch rod. I then need a heavier rod to cast a heavier Skagit line in order to cast the same sink tips and flies that I would cast on a full sized spey rod. A full sized spey rod in my oppion of spey rods starts at 13 feet. By condensing the rod length the rod must become stiffer. Making these rods become almost completely timing dependent. Taking away from the feel of the rods casting a fishing ability. Stiffer rods are tougher to cast plain and simple.
Now to make things even more confusing in the world of spey lines. A 7 wt spey line typically won’t work on a 7 wt switch rod. That’s nothing new right Sage’s 7 wts are usually 9 wts at least. The fact of the matter is now we have more lines on the market, more choices and for the average guy. I can see why and how they might be confused in the line world.  
Do I believe in tackle evolving?? Yes, but as new products come into play the manufacturer keeps the old typically outdated product as well and so now we have 2 or in some cases 3 lines in the same grouping by one manufacturer. This whole ideology for producing new lines while still holding on to the technology makes everything more complicated for us all.

Last but not least my favorite Switch Rod scenario!!! The guy how totally believes that he can buy one switch rod to fit 5 different fishing applications all with only the one rod and one line. I love this because just for steelhead fishing alone you need two. Then throw in overhead for bass, surf casting for stripers and, dry fly fishing trout. This just kills me. This person needs 4 lines at least and maybe even 5 to do all those things well with one rod, the fish ranging form 8″ trout to in the case of the strippers 20 lbs. This just can’t be done well with the current situation.

The last thing I want to say is that I have seen it a ton of times a guy wants to get into two handed fishing and thinks a switch rod is gate way. I always tell them that they will be back in less than 3 months to buy a spey rod. I don’t think that I have been wrong on this yet. What ever the reason, the person comes back and buys a spey rod and never picks up his switch rod for steelhead again. Remember all these posts are just food for thought. If you don’t like the post, that’s fine with me too.

Tight lines,
Travis

17 replies
  1. Robert West
    Robert West says:

    Well, I’m still on the fence about needing a Spey rod. Currently I have an 11′ switch rod and use an Opst skagit line. I’m still kind of new to this but I’m able to cast a long enough line 50′ to be able to fish with. I like the fact that Travis put it out there and spoke his mind. I find that many post information based on bias. I very well may buy a Spey rod just to see for myself if it makes my casting experience easier and I can catch more fish as a result of having my fly in the zone longer. Please keep speaking your mind Travis even if it provokes people. Good on ya

    Reply
  2. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    Dude really, you can cast big indicator setups 70 feet no problem. Mending and high sticking with an 11 foot rod is amazing. Not to mention with a quick spool change I can be swinging with a Skagit or Scandi. There aren’t to many rods that capable. Out of the boat fishing nothing can compare, single hand rods just don’t have the power. You obviously have a very limited experience with switch rods. I’ve been guiding with them for two years now and I would never go back. It definitely helps a new angler having the added leverage of such a large leaver. You should give them another look they are definitely a tool every serious angler should have in their arsenal.

    Reply
    • Travis Johnson
      Travis Johnson says:

      Well if it is working for you in the way you fish, keep doing it. I am not trying to stop you. Now if you fished where I do and how we fish our areas you would see things a bit differently. Keep at it and I hope you have a killer guide season. Best of luck Travis

      Reply
  3. dan mcgarry
    dan mcgarry says:

    thanks for the imfo. i have been spey casting with 13′ to 15′ spey rods for many years and was thinking about
    geting a switch rod . i read up a bit about them a bit and thought it sounded a bit of a gimic to sell more rods
    i will stick to my ( real) speay rods now
    d. mcgarry.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    For making 40′ casts when steelhead fishing from the river bank, as you suggest in one of your instructional videos, I don’t need a 13′ spey rod.

    Reply
  5. tinman
    tinman says:

    To each his own. I love my switch / short spey two handers for swung fly Steelhead,Trout and River Smallies deep to top water. I used to own “real 13′ + ” spey rods. They are great if one is using short or mid belly spey lines, longer rod buys you a longer line but, for spey shooting heads ~ ?

    To each there own. I look at the size rods some are still toting around these days for the short heads they use, the size rivers used on, size fish……………..and just shake my head.

    Reply
  6. trout chaser
    trout chaser says:

    Kens brother Tracy summed it up pretty well once. “If you’re gonna spey cast, get a proper rod and friggin’ spey cast.”

    Reply
  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Where can I surf cast for Strippers? I have fished Stripers many times, but I think I’d like to see some of these Strippers. Do you have a dollar bill pattern you like?

    Reply
  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Finally a voice of reason in the blogosphere on switch rods. Probably the one good benefit is that they have probably helped sustain rod makers who are on the edge of their survival.

    Reply
  9. BLUEANGLER
    BLUEANGLER says:

    WEll said!
    I totally agree with what you said! Travis
    my shortest rod is a 12′ … already feel “the switch spirit” in it, which have caused the lost of some leverage…but as you said, it is still a fun rod for particular and specialized fishing scenario… so I will echo your suggestion, buy a full length spey rod first! : )

    Reply
  10. Ken Campbell
    Ken Campbell says:

    Pretty insightful brother. I’m constantly amazed at the folks who look at my 15 or 17 footers and immediately make some snide remark about having to work so hard. The reality is that with a matched line and reasonably good technique…(you know how badly I cast) the leverage of the longer rod and the matched line REDUCES the amount of total work and makes it way easier to cast all day long. I have a small switch, but it’s a very specialized tool, as you point out. It’s not an all a arounder like a 13 for 7 would be. Or a 15 for 8 for that matter…..

    Reply
    • Joshua
      Joshua says:

      I guide in AK and I run switch rods rigged with Rio indicator over lined a weight. That setup is amazing when nymphing long leaders for gaint trout. Trying to land 15+ pound rainbows with a 10ft leader and a 9 ft rod is damn near impossible from the boat. As far as two handed casting their totally legit. Its not a 15 footer, well no shit but it’s still a joy to cast. Go at it with an open mind, an remember you can cast spey on any rod. Single hand or double, it doesn’t matter just have fun and drop bombs.

      Reply
      • Travis Johnson
        Travis Johnson says:

        Well like I said for specialized application they can work, but as an all around rod switch rods lack. Personally I would never indicator fish with a Spey rod or switch rod for that matter. 15+ rainbows are tough to land on any rod, landing fish has always been at the ability of the angler. I always try to keep an opened mind, if your finding success and having fun by all means drop those bombs. Thanks for reading

        Reply
          • Travis Johnson
            Travis Johnson says:

            Well I don’t fish Indicators for Steelhead, and when I trout guide I find myself using them less and less. If I was to become a “bobber” fisherman for steelhead I would just learn how to use a center pin. No need to get cute just use the best tool.

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