One of the most common questions that my clients ask me is, what weight spey rod should I get to get started? Since a spey rod outfit is not cheap, a little understanding of the lines used will prevent you from having to purchase that second outfit because the first was unable to cast the fly you were using or wanted to use.
Considering the fly size that you are intending to use is probably the most important factor in determining what spey rod weight is appropriate. It’s even more important than the size of the fish you are catching.
Most West Coast steelheader’s from Northern California to Washington usually begin their pursuit for winter and summer steelhead that might average 3 to 10 pounds in size. The typical steelheader may fish the Trinity River in northern California, the Deschutes River in southern Oregon and the Grande Rhonde in Washington just to name a few in search of these summer run steelhead. During late summer into early fall water conditions on these rivers are usually at normal summer flows.
I find that casting large winter style steelhead flies in excess of 4 inches requires about 14 grains per foot. This is the job for a Heavy MOW tip. A Heavy MOW tip requires a Skagit head of 575 grains to cast it properly. To cast a 575 grain Skagit head you’ll need a very powerful seven or eight weight spey rod. If fishing winter style flies less than 4 inches in length, 11 grains per foot in a tip will do a nice job. The RIO Medium MOW tip would then be the choice. To cast a tip that weighed 11 grains per foot you’ll need a Skagit head weighing 475 to 550 grains. To cast the Skagit head of this weight you will need a powerful six, up to a medium seven weight spey rod.
In conclusion, a seven weight spey rod will allow you to fish more conditions however; it might be a little heavy for smaller summer run steelhead. A six weight spey rod will allow you a more enjoyable experience when fighting smaller summer run steel head however; it won’t be able to handle T-14 when fishing larger winter style flies. Hopefully you find this information useful when you walk up to a rack of fly rods to purchase your first spey rod.