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Your Multi Spey Rod Strategy

By Jon Hazlett

As you build your quiver of two-handed rods, you get a sense of where each rod falls in the line-up: which one is your favorite summer steelhead Scandi rod, or your work-horse winter steelhead dredging outfit. As you entertain the idea of getting a new Spey rod, ask yourself, what hole am I trying to fill? Do I need another 7-weight or should I consider a 6 or an 8? You get the idea. If a Spey rod is a tool, which one is the right tool for the job? To develop your multi Spey rod strategy, you must answer these questions.

So, what is your multi Spey rod strategy? Let’s start with what you are trying to accomplish, as this will determine what your strategy is. Based on water conditions and water type, you present the fly accordingly. Speed, depth, and angle are critical when presenting a fly to a steelhead. You can control the speed and angle with any rod, but depth is where having the right tool for the job is key, because to get depth, you need a rod with the appropriate amount of horsepower to propel a line heavy enough to turn over the appropriate sink-tip and fly.

Your multi Spey rod strategy is having two, three, or even four rods rigged with various line/leader/sink-tip combinations. This allows you to grab the right setup for various water conditions and types that you encounter over the course of the day. By doing this, you save valuable time by not having to swap out sink-tips or heads as you move from spot to spot. That doesn’t mean you won’t change out systems on occasion. But, the result will be less time rigging and more time fishing. To get to this point though, figure out which rod likes what; which rod is the best tool for the job.

To illustrate, here are some region-specific examples of a Multi Spey Rod Strategy.

pacific northwest summer steelhead strategy

1) Sage IGNITER 6126 w/ a RIO Skagit Max 475 and 10’ of T-11

2) Sage MOD 6130 w/ a RIO Scandi Short 390 and a 10’ RIO VersiLeader

3) Sage X 7120 w/ a RIO Skagit Max 525 and 10’ of T-14

4) Sage X 7130 w/ a RIO GameChanger 525 and 10’ of T-11

You might fish the MOD all day if conditions are right. For a little extra horsepower and pep, the new IGNITER 6126 plays bigger than a normal 6-weight. If fish aren’t looking up or you just need to get down a bit, grab the 7120 with 10’ of T-14 and get some work done. And while everyone else is taking their mid-day nap, grab the 7130 with the GameChanger and enjoy the deep cutting, slow swinging capabilities of this sweet combo.

pacific northwest winter steelhead strategy

1) Sage X 8110 w/ a RIO Skagit Max Short 575 and a Heavy MOW 5’ sink/5’ float

2) Sage X 7120 w/ a RIO Skagit Max 525 and 10’ T-14

3) Sage X 7140 w/ a RIO GameChanger 525 and 12.5’ T-11

4) Sage X 8130 w/ a RIO Skagit Max 600 and 12.5’ to 15’ T-14

The 8110 X switch is your small water rod. When paired with a Skagit Short and 5/5 MOW Tip, you can probe the slots, pockets, and creases. The 7120 X paired with 10’ of T-14 sees a lot of playing time for me. It’s the Aaron Rodgers of Spey rods, as the Deathstar (TCX 7126) was Brett Favre, and retirement is still pending. There will also be those runs where you need the Gamechanger. Spey fishing is a game of inches, and the 7140 X paired with the GameChanger and a long chunk of T-11 gets you in the zone quickly and keeps you there. When it’s time for the mega sink-tips, it’s time to bring out the big guns. The 8130 X is the right tool for that job.

british columbia steelhead strategy

1) Sage MOD 7130 w/ a RIO Scandi Short 480 and 10’ RIO VersiLeader

2) Sage X 7130 w/ a RIO Skagit Max 525 and 15’ Type 6

3) Sage X 8120 w/ a RIO Skagit Max 575 and 10’ T-14

4) Sage X 8130 w/ a RIO GameChanger 600 and 12.5’ of T-14

As with any of these examples, BC has a vast array of fisheries. You are going to want a Scandi set-up for skating dries and traditional flies. The silky-smooth casting MOD is a great option there. My pick for an “all day rod” would be the 8120 X. It’s incredible with a 575 and 10’ tip. BC guides seem to really love the old school 15’ sink-tips. I personally love the way they cast. The 7130 X at 13 feet in length lifts those longer tips out of the water with ease and doesn’t flinch when it comes time to launch it. And, of course, when the dredging bell rings, your answer is the 8130 X and GameChanger.

Obviously, these are just examples. You might not have three or four rods at your disposal. Not to worry - you can get a lot done with two rods, so just make the best of what you have. The point is, figure out what each rod is good at and make it that rod’s job. Sure, some rods can do several jobs well, and as seasons and venues change, you may have to shuffle the line-up.

Ultimately, Spey rods and the lines we pair them with are “fly delivery systems”. Casting a well-paired Spey setup and the joy experienced by it often blinds us of this. And that’s OK, because it’s those magical casting sessions that help fill our soul’s void while we wait for the Unicorn to appear. Nevertheless, you must remember that a fly rod is a tool, and each tool has a job to do. Grab the right tools for the job, head to the river, and who knows, you just might happen upon something special.

featured rods

  • X Spey Two-handed

  • X Switch Two-handed

  • MOD SPEY Two-handed

  • IGNITER SPEY Two-handed

about the writer & photographer

jon hazlett

Jon's guide career started in 1998 with at Rainbow King Lodge in Alaska. Over time, he developed a year-round program which included guide venues in Northern California during trout season, the Upper and Lower Rogue for steelhead and fall chinook, and the coastal rivers and Applegate River for winter steelhead.

Jon first picked up a Spey rod in 1999. Since then, he has been dedicated to the craft of two-handed casting and angling. He has had the opportunity to teach hundreds of fly-fisherman the merits of two-handed casting through guiding, Sage endorsed clinics, private instruction, and regular appearances at the Sandy River Spey Clave. Most recently, Jon worked for four years at the Ashland Fly Shop under the title of “Angler at Large”, conducting classes, teaching private instruction, writing articles, and guiding local waters.

Jon is a Sage Elite Pro and continues to guide local waters in the Rogue Valley, teach private instruction and conduct classes. He resides in rural Medford with his wife, daughter, son, and too many pets. To learn more about Jon, his casting instruction and guided fishing, visit his website here.

marcus mattioli

Marcus Mattioli is an outdoor and landscape photographer and avid steelhead fly fisherman based in Ashland, Oregon. Growing up in Montana, he always had a vision of himself living on the West Coast and chasing steelhead. Now he manages the Ashland Fly Shop and exclusively swings flies for steelhead throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California. 
Follow Marcus on Instagram or email him at marcus.flyshop@gmail.com.