Purchasing a Spey rod in today’s market is not an easy proposition. Each rod manufacturer now produces anywhere from 3 to 23 different Spey rods with varying lengths, line weights and rod actions. With so many options, determining the rod that is best going to fit your fishing needs can be terribly difficult. So how does one go about sifting through the barrage of rods now available? Deciding which rod is best suited for your fishing style, the rivers you fish, and the conditions you are typically fishing in can be narrowed down by asking yourself a few basic questions. This article poses those questions in hopes that the answers will help you narrow down the search and guide you toward the perfect rod for your needs.
What river or rivers are you planning on fishing? Are these big rivers or smaller rivers? Determining the size of the river you are fishing will help to determine the overall length of the rod in which you are interested. For example, if I plan on fishing the medium size rivers I will probably want a rod between 12’ and 14’ in length. If I plan on fishing smaller rivers, I will probably look at rods that are between 11 1/2’ and 12’ in length. If I plan on fishing both I would split the difference and target an 11 1/2’ to 13’ rod. You certainly can fish a longer rod on smaller water and shorter rod on bigger water, but we are looking for optimum fishing efficiency. Ultimately, you may end up with a quiver of rods each specific to the places where you fish. Using the right tool, or rod, for the job leads to an all-around better experience on the water.
Can you characterize the fishery or fisheries in which you’ll be fishing? Knowing this will also help determine what line weight you are looking for. On a fishery that typically has smaller fish you would probably want a 6 or 7 weight rod. (A quick side note: the weight rating on Spey rods is not as easy to establish or definitive as singlehanded rods. The added length allows an angler to have more leverage on a fish with lighter tackle. For instance, a 5 weight Spey rod will have substantially more backbone than a 5 weight single handed rod and can be confidently used for salmon fishing in the right fishery.) If the river boasts big fish you would be better off looking at a 7 or 8 weight rod. Ideally you want a rod that allows the fish to fight but also allows you to land it in a reasonable amount of time. Rods in the 8 and 10 weight range are typically reserved for Atlantic salmon fishing, Chinook Salmon fishing, and some steelhead rivers in British Columbia.
On the water you are planning on fishing are you primarily fishing floating lines, sink tips, or both? Are the flies you’re using large or small in size? Most Spey rods, with the exception of a few, will cast either floating lines or sink tips, but there are certainly those rods that do both well. The rods that do both well provide good versatility and allow you to fish anywhere, anytime. There is certainly something to be said also of having a rod specific to where you’re fishing as it allows you to have exactly the right tool for the job. If you plan on fishing a floating line most of the time, look for a rod that is light in your hands and that is fun to cast. Rods in the 5, 6, and 7 weight range are wonderful floating line rods because or their lightweight feel and typically shorter length. A light floating line rod will also typically have plenty of backbone to throw big casts and fight fish without the extra weight and effort while casting. If you plan on fishing a sink tip the majority of the time look for a rod in the 7 or 8 weight range with a nice deep bend in it. The deep bend in the rod allows you to catapult sink-tips and large flies with ease. A 6 weight rod can certainly cast sink tips, but you typically have to work harder to do so. If you plan on fishing both floating lines and sink tips look for a solid 7 or 8 weight rod that is light but has a fairly deep bend. If you plan on fishing for larger fish look more towards the 7 and 8 weights; if you are fishing smaller fish then lean towards the 6, and 7 weight rods.
What sort of price range are you targeting? In as many different Spey rods as are available, you will find a wide range of prices as well. Quality entry level rods tend to go for the $250 range while the high end rods these days go for as much as $1000, and there are all sorts of prices in between. The difference in prices reflects in part the quality of the materials used. This includes the graphite used in the rod- a higher modulus graphite lends to higher performance, and a higher price tag. Consider also the quality of the cork used in the handles, the quality of the reel seat, guides, finish, etc. The higher end rods will also reflect more engineering, ingenuity, and fine tuning when it comes to the taper and casting action of the rod. Which isn’t to say that some of the more economical rods don’t cast well- there are certainly those rods that are more affordable and offer great performance, but you’ll have to seek these out. The quality of the craftsmanship in a rod typically reveals itself even to the untrained eye just at a glance. The total package doesn’t stop just at the rod either. Spey reels and lines add more to the equation, but this shouldn’t be a deterrent from getting the rod of your dreams. On the one hand, if an affordable rod is your first purchase and you upgrade later it provides you with a backup rod which is always a good thing to have when fishing for anadramous fish. On the other hand, some people will prefer to go straight for the higher end equipment and forego the eventual upgrade. The bottom line is there are great Spey rods available at every price point. Establish first the type of rod that will suit your fishing criteria as described above, then review all the options that are available at different prices
Once you have addressed the questions above and narrowed your choices, now it is time to get in touch with a professional who can help answer specific questions about individual rods. Be sure that the person you speak with is a competent caster and is familiar with the rods in which you are interested. Be sure to get a good idea of the capabilities of each rod: i.e. action of the rod, length, weight, and how it casts sink tips and floating lines. Determine if these capabilities suit your type of fishing, then move forward confidently with the purchase of that rod. And remember, for the most part there are no bad Spey rods- just bad rod/line combinations.