Rods are what Spey casting is all about. Now, much has been said and written about the relative merits of various rod actions for Spey casting, but I can honestly tell you that you can Spey cast with virtually any fly rod. I know I’ll probably be run off the river for saying this, but if you combine the right rod and line you can Spey cast even those “overhead” rods that so many people say won’t handle the Spey.
Okay, so what? So how do you go about selecting a Spey rod? Well, there are two methods:
- You can solicit the advice of a trusted friend or your fly shop’s resident Spey guru (every shop has one!)
- You can take a little more time, do a little more research–including test casting several rods–and make your decisions based upon what feels right to you.
Trust your instincts
Remember your first few single-handers, how you test cast several before you made your choice? My guess is that, apart from the recommendations of friends and sales associates, you selected those rods based upon how they felt when you cast them. Each of us has a particular casting style, and different rods will suit different casters. Trust your instincts–go with the rod that feels the best when you cast it.
Don’t believe the hype
Be wary of the “true Spey rod” hype that’s out there! More than anything else, this is a marketing tactic that to me makes about as much sense as claiming that a Cadillac is a true automobile. If you want a true Spey rod you’re going to have to find someone who wants to sell you one of the classic and highly prized Greenheart rods made in the 1800s and early 1900s.
So what is a spey rod?
Just like everything else in today’s world, what constitutes a Spey rod is pretty much up to individual interpretation. These days “Spey” refers to a method or methods of casting, not so much to the rods used. You can Spey cast with a single-handed rod as easily as a two-hander, and accomplished casters will be able to pick up any rod, Spey or otherwise and, after a few casts, get dialed into the rod and be firing out reasonable Spey casts. That said, I should note that certain general rod design characteristics lend themselves to Spey casting. Many (but not all) of the overhead rods, for example, have tip sections that are so light that it becomes a real chore to change a wide angle of direction without the line crashing into itself on the forward cast (caused by the outward deflection and subsequent recovery of the light tip during the casting stroke). However, you will see this problem even in the so called “true Spey rods” of a few of the major manufacturers. The best way to determine if this is a problem with a particular rod is to either cast it yourself or watch an experienced caster move it through a big change-of-direction cast, such as a single Spey.