Saturday, January 12, 2013

You Say Spey Rod; I Say Switch Rod

I wrapped up the 2012 Wisconsin fly fishing season with several days on steelhead water.  After much persistence that mingled with self doubt, frustration, and resignation, I finally managed to conquer the steelhead swing.  I came to the conclusion that I would prefer all my future steelhead to be caught by swinging a two-handed rod, which meant I would eventually need to procure my own rig. 

Being the frugal gal that I am, I hadn't minded borrowing friends' switch rods during my handful of steelhead trips the last few years, but after a certain point the guilt of being a moocher set in.  So when one of those friends (whose switch rod I had been borrowing) randomly sent an email suggesting he use his "good guy" discount to help me get a two-handed setup of my very own, I immediately took him up on his offer.  Either he believed I had become a "real" steelheader and deserved my own rig, or he was sick of loaning out his own steelhead rod to a sorry amateur.  Either way, the universe had spoken. 
I have very generous fly fishing friends.  If I were to list everything in my fly fishing arsenal that's been given to me by others, I'd appear to be a first-class mooch.  In most cases, people have had extra fishing gear or fly tying materials lying around and saw that I could put them to use.   My husband claims it's because I'm a girl, which I hope isn't entirely true; I honestly believe the people I fish with are just really considerate individuals. Fly fishermen end up accumulating a lot of fly fishing stuff over the years, and it probably feels good to spread the wealth--especially to an appreciative newbie. Hopefully I'll be in the position someday to do the same for another poor soul.
Back to the new steelhead rod........

The "good guy" suggested a new Redington rod and reel combo that he could get at a fairly affordable price, but as an alternative, I contacted another friend who keeps an eye out for used gear thinking he might know of some used switch rods that were available. He immediately sent me several links on some quality used switch/spey rods.  I like the idea of used gear; I feel I'm giving a second life to a rod that might be collecting dust in someone's closet or biding its time in the garage rafters.  After some research and contemplation, I settled on a real beauty of a used Beulah.  Beulah categorizes this rod as a "spey rod," though by most definitions it's a switch rod since it's under 12 feet in length.  Regardless, it's a two-handed 6/7 weight rod that should be great for swinging flies on Wisconsin steelheading waters. 

After deciding on the rod, the "good guy" ordered a new 9/10 reel that balances the rod pretty well, and I ordered some Miracle Braid shooting line and backing.  Once I had the rod, reel, backing, shooting line, and shooting head in my possession, I was then ready to start setting up my new steelhead reel.
I've set up reels before for my regular trout rods, but getting this particular reel set up presented new challenges.  All of my other reels start with an arbor knot to attach backing to the reel, then a nail knot to attach the line to the backing.  The line usually has a pre-made loop on the tag end, which makes the connection of looped leaders very simple.  With this new steelhead reel, I needed to create loop-to-loop connections between the backing and shooting line, as well as between the shooting line and shooting head.  I relied on my "Guide to Fly Fishing Knots" along with the handy-dandy internet.
I began by wrapping the Miracle Braid shooting line and the shooting head around the reel in order to estimate how much backing I would need.  I then cut the required amount of backing and used an arbor knot to attach the backing to the reel. If only all of the knots had been this easy.

I then had to create double nail knots on the tag end of the backing as well as on the end of the shooting line in order to make a loop-to-loop connection, which I had read was the best way to connect these two lines.  I haven't had to tie many nail knots--let alone double nail knots--so I ended up spending several frustrating hours attempting to get them just right.  I must have redone the knots over half a dozen times before I finally gave up.  The knots I settled with felt pretty secure, but I wasn't completely satisfied with them.  Luckily, the "good guy" had plans to stop by with his girlfriend for a weekend over the holidays, so I knew he'd fix the knots for me. 

My attempts at double nail knots.
Instead of folding over the end of the backing and using its own tail end to tie the double nail knots, he used a length of 1x tippet as the overlapping line. The knots ended up being much cleaner and tighter this way.  He repeated this knot on each end of the shooting line, which was then connected to the pre-made loop on the shooting head.  I still need to attach a sink tip and tippet to the shooting head, but the hardest part is over.

The improved double nail knots.
On a frigidly cold and sunny day in December, I rigged up the rod and trudged through the snow into the backyard. I spey casted on top of the 20 inches of snow that recently fell and visualized a cold, deep steelhead run.

1 comment:

  1. got your snap T, circle C, snake roll, perry poke, and your double spey down yet? ;-)
    I have your t-10 sink tip's too...btw.