Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

Switch Rods

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about switch rods so I thought a blog entry on the subject might help clear things up a bit.

First, what is a switch rod? It’s a rod in the 11’ range that has both a top and lower grip, that can be cast with either one or two hands. Some people think it means a rod that can be cast overhead or Spey, but that’s a meaningless distinction since any good double hand rod can be cast either way.

Was the switch rod invented about a decade ago by a well known west coast custom rod builder? No, he coined the term ‘switch rod’ but this type of rod has been around over 100 years. In one of my books, I have a picture of A. H. E. Wood casting what we would call a switch rod, back in 1923!

Is there more than one kind of switch rod? Yes, and the class roughly breaks down between those that are designed as big single handed rods (usually European) and those designed as small Spey rods (usually American). The European style usually comes with a single hand, AFTMA rod rating and often the lower handle is removable. The upper handle is an elongated full wells that facilitates a single hand cast. The American style usually comes with a Spey line rating and its handle looks like a reduced size Spey rod handle. Note that I have constantly used the word ‘usually’ as there are exceptions.

Can I use a single hand line on a switch rod? Yes, and that is easy to do on a European style as they are usually made for single hand lines. Single hand lines can be used on American rods, but they usually need a line weight at least three line weights higher than what is printed on the blank.

Which style of switch rod is best for me? The European style casts and fishes like a big single hander while the American style is really just a smaller Spey rod. If you plan on doing a lot of two handed Spey casting with Spey lines then use the American style. If you plan on a lot of indicator fishing and utilizing a lot of single hand casting, then go with the European style.

Can I indicator fish with an American rod and Spey cast using two hands with a European one? Most definitely, it just takes the right kind of line on the rod.

Should I start off with a switch rod as my first Spey rod? Generally no, though there can be cases where this would be a good idea. Contrary to what one might think, it is actually harder to learn two handed Spey casting on a switch rod, as the rod is so short. A longer Spey rod slows the process down and the feel of the line loading the rod is often more obvious. I usually start beginners out with a 13’ or 14’ rod. In the UK, a beginner is likely to start with a 15 footer!