Dec In The ZoneI have a couple of questions for all of my two-hand rod wielding brothers and sisters:

  1. Would you rather spend the day sending out 85-foot tight loops where perfect execution of each and every cast is required , or would you rather spend the day sending out 85-foot tight loops with very relaxed casting motion and dynamics?
  2. Would you rather fight a fish with a rod that decreases your chances of landing a fish, or one that actually gives you a stark advantage in an increased hook-to-land ratio?

I’m confident I can easily predict your answers. If you’re like me, I want to cast effortlessly without much thought to perfect execution. My true focus is making that fly do its fishy business. And there isn’t one of us who wouldn’t like to land more of the fish we hook. Safe assumption? I think so.

Overhead LandingWhere am I going with this? As this two-handed game evolves I’m seeing a trend towards super stiff, ultra fast rods and I’m not sure why. My aim is not to analyze the “whys” here, but to spread the word about the wonderful virtues of medium action, deep-flexing rods. I realize that one’s preference for rod action is very subjective. Just because I like something doesn’t mean you will. However, when we are relative newcomers, how can we truly know what we like? Although two-handed spey-style casting is theoretically simple, there is a bit of an arduous learning curve to arrive at that “non-thinking happy place”. A rod that loads quickly with a deep bend will get you to that happy place quicker. On the way you will feel the rod load, bend, unbend etc. Simply put, you will get more feedback from the rod/line/stroke relationship. This feedback is often referred to as “love.”

“That rod has a lot of love.”  or  “This rod feels sterile – it’s got no love.”

Phrases I’ve used – and have heard used – many times over the years.  It’s a rare day that the word “love” is synonymous with a fast, stiff two-handed rod.

dec loopMany years ago when I was young and over-brimming with testosterone, I briefly gravitated to fast rods. If I generated a lot of tip-speed and made a hard, very abrupt stop I could send the line across the river with a laser beam loop that nearly pulled me out of my boots. It was fun, supercharged casting! The electric joy was short-lived however. At some point during my fishing day fatigue would set in. At that point, I wanted to relax and simply fish my fly. Try as I might, that fast rod wouldn’t let me. I was forced to cast with controlled aggression if I wanted the thing to deliver the fly the way I wanted. Then an even bigger heart breaker began plaguing me. It took me a while to figure it out but I was losing more fish than usual. Even worse, I was losing them shortly after the grab. At first, I chalked it up to the nature of tangling with the awesomeness of steelhead. You win some you lose some, and streaks can (and do) occur on either side of the equation. After countless lost steelhead the lights came on, and I realized that my fast rod had very little “cushion effect”. It did not absorb the shock of a twisting, turning, bucking, thrusting, running, jumping, pissed-off steelhead!

Caster 2That was enough of that. I went back to my trusty deep-flexing medium action rod. Instantly, I was reunited with the love that I was missing. I could relax and let things happen. I felt the line through the rod and was beautifully connected to the energy of the swing like never before. When that first steelhead eventually grabbed, I instantly knew I had a better tool in my hands. The fish desperately tried to make the big plays. My stick answered back by bending deeply to counter every violent maneuver. The steelhead was mine. Many more were, and continue, to follow. Of course I still lose a fish now and then, but never because of the rod itself.

Something else to consider: most of the avid hot dog steelheaders I know, including countless guides, cast and fish with a medium action deep-flexing rod.

Just sayin’…

See ya on the river! – Dec

Dec’s book “A Passion for Steelhead” is one of the top volumes on Steelhead fishing history and techniques. He’s a master spey caster, expert casting instructor, and all around great guy. Please click here for more info on Dec.