A Beginners Journey: Trout Spey

I was first interested in Trout Spey in the spring of 2017. At the time, I had visions of twirling beautiful loops in the sky with my single hand 5WT weight and tossing them miles into the air to land across the river for the perfect swing. I was convinced this was they way to go and I invested in what I thought was the right OPST line for my rod and got started. I quickly discovered that I either had no idea what I was doing or I had purchased the wrong line. Looking back on it it now, I can without a doubt say it was both. I won’t lie, I did catch a few fish using that line, but it was launching overhand bombs into lakes and retrieving wooly buggers and leeches. I never ended up catching a fish on the swing with that line, and was also never able to spey cast it in anyway. Needless to say, I was bummed on the whole thing and ended up parting ways with the line and decided the whole Trout Spey thing wasn’t for me.

However, the 2017 season was almost gone and I was on my final trip of the season fishing with my brother. As usual, we were exploring and trying to find new pools downstream of a river we had fished a few times before. The bull trout were slowly migrating down the tributary after spawning and making their way back to the main river. We had seen only one or two that day, but figured we could find more. Our exploration had taken us all the way to the mouth of the tributary where it entered the main river. We deployed are usual tactic of running a nymph under an indicator. We hooked up on a few, but nothing too amazing. I honestly expected there to be a lot more fish there collecting to feed from the tributary. We were close to packing up and making the walk back up river when I remembered I had a few Mini Intruders from Aqua Flies in my box. I tied one of them on and proceed to cast across the run and let them swing. To my surprise I had a strike almost right away. Furthermore, I was a little too surprised as I failed to set the hook at all. Over the next couple swings I landed two and missed quite a few more. It was fairly clear at this point that my hook setting skills on the swing were horrible but the fire was reignited that day and I knew I had to swing.

So what exactly is Trout Spey you might be asking yourself? I will admit, I kind of had it wrong myself when I first starting looking into it. Much of what is written out there on the interwebs will have you believe there are special rods with magical Trout Spey properties that you need in order to start spey fishing for trout. This is simply not true. Though some of the gear designed for Trout Spey can be a lot of fun. Trout Spey is simply catching trout on the swing utilizing modern or traditional spey casting techniques. Much of what is written out there tends to point people towards 2, 3, or 4 weight rods and I will admit I ended up with a 4 weight. This decision was based on the waters that I fish for the vast majority of my season and the fish that are likely to live in these systems. I have made friends with a Trout Spey master that fishes the Columbia River here in British Columbia and he uses rods as high as a 10 weight. That might seem a little extreme for most people reading this, but the rod is perfectly suited for the size of river and the absolute monsters he catches. There would be no way to reach the runs or land the fish with the lighter rods that are normally recommended for Trout Spey. The real point here: it’s about the techniques used to catch the fish, not the weight of the rod.

When it does come to choosing your weapons it really does come down to what rivers you will be fishing, what flies you will be throwing and the size of the fish you are likely to catch. Most of my season I spend in the tributaries of the Kootenay River up here in British Columbia and the river size can vary from 10 feet across to probably 150 feet across. I knew I wasn’t going to be launching bombs to the far side of the bigger water, but I did know I had the potential of getting into a Bull Trout or two while out on the water. I personally decided on a 4WT Redington Hydrogen Trout Spey. I did a fair amount of research and found that this rod would land the bigger fish if I ended up hooking into one, would throw bugs on the larger side, and came nowhere near breaking the bank account. Now, if you are looking to spend a little more money and still stay in the lower weight classes Sage makes the One Trout Spey rods as well. I can only speak for my rod and thus far I am extremely happy with it. Another option for lighter spey rods are the Echo Trout Spey and TR. Again, I haven’t used one myself, but have heard great things about the rods. If you know you are going to be getting into the big boy rods then there are a ton of options such as Sage, Redington, Echo,  and Loop. If you are buying your first two hand rod for any application, speak to the guys at Fishwest and see what they would recommend. I bombarded Carlin with questions until I finally pulled the trigger on mine and I am totally stoked on my decision.

With the fire burning in my fishy soul once again, I was now armed with the right tools to swing flies high and low through the water. My days off had finally lined up with my brother and the weather was playing nice. We decided to return to where it all started and hiked back down to the mouth of the tributary where I got hooked. Spring runoff had started, but the inflow of the tributary was creating a clean channel of water in the main river. Honestly, I had ever seen anything so fishy looking in my life. I had a dream a few nights before that a pheasant tail soft hackle I tied was going to be the fly to get the job done. I approached the run near the head knowing that after a swing or two I would start taking steps downstream to cover all the water. I stripped the head of line out of my guides and let the current pull it tight. As it dangled in the water I began to make my sweeps as I perform a very mediocre double spey. It wasn’t pretty, but the fly did get to where I wanted it to go. As the fly left the dirty water of the main flow and entered the cleaned channel of the tributary I felt a strange tug on the line. At first I had thought I must have skipped over the bottom or a branch in the water, but the tug came again and the again. Next thing I knew there was the familiar weight of a fish on my line and putting up a decent little fight. Before I knew it, I had speyed my first fish and it was pretty freaking awesome.

I plan on documenting my progress with more on my Trout Spey series as I get out on the water more and gain further experience speying trout. I hope to bring you guys more details on line choice and what applications they are used for. I like to get my hands on stuff and actually use it first hand before writing and giving my opinion about it. Just remember, in fly fishing nothing comes easy. The next time you want to try something new, don’t let your frustrations overpower your willingness to expand your horizons. Spey fishing, like other types of fly fishing, has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s better to have a full arsenal of knowledge rather than relying on the basics. So the next time you see that spey rod on sale, do yourself a favor and pop it into the cart. You’ll never know when you need to bomb a cast out in the center of the river, or 80 feet out in a lake. Besides, the feeling of zinging those flies out for miles is unbeatable. Until next time, tight lines everyone!