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All About Switch Rods – Interview with George Cook

Posted on October 09 2014

George Cook with Rainbow Trout
Geo doin’ work with the 4116-4 ONE. Photo: George Cook

We love fishing switch rods at our lodges in Alaska and British Columbia. For the most part, we think of them as ‘mini-spey rods,’ and use them when swinging flies for everything thing from dolly varden to king salmon.

We get a lot of questions from our guests and readers about the use and practicality of switch rods compared to full spey rods.  With switch rods growing more and more popular each year, more options are available than ever before, making it confusing to many newcomers trying to get into the switch/spey game.

Therefore, we reached out to George Cook for a little ‘question and answer’ session on all things switch! George is the Northwest rep for Sage, Redington, and RIO (among other well known outdoor brands) and has been fishing two-handers in the Northwest before two-handers were cool. Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about two handed rods and we were excited for his take on today’s switch rods. Take it away George!

KS: Okay, we know you’re a spey guy, but do you fish SWITCH rods often?
GC: Mega, I Love ‘em! I use them for big bow bows, steelhead , sea run dollies, sea run browns and all salmon.. Including Kingy!

KS: What would you say the advantage of a switch rod over a full spey rod would be?
GC: There are several ways to look at it.. Tight quarters is the obvious one here but my way of thinking is that small ball (switch) is incredibly fun and there are plenty of places where Ol’ Switchie bats first!. I will fish a switch almost anytime I can based on just flat ass “fun factor” consideration.

KS: What’s your take on ‘overheading’ switch rods?
GC: It has its place. Lakes and the beaches of Puget Sound are two prime examples. If you want spinning rod type distance, go with a RIO Outbound Coldwater Intermediate (37.5 Length Taper) and you will cast at ranges you thought only a Buzz Bomb was capable of!

KS: Many people think of switch rods for smaller species like trout, what about larger switch rods, such as 8 weight sizes and up?
GC: To be sure, the 7 thru 9 weight switch rods can play a far bigger game than one thinks. 7’s for a multitude of task like steelhead, sea run browns and dollies, plus big time Alaska bows. The 8’s really hall the mail for that same group and Kings sub 25 pounds. The 9 weight Switch, our 9119-4 METHOD otherwise known as the “Chrome Crowbar” is a King weapon of the first order, go forth and slay!

KS: It might be a bit like picking your favorite child, but what’s your favorite switch rod for trout? Steelhead? Salmon? 
GC: For trout, I like the 7116-4 ONE but my sleeper stick is the 4116-4 ONE , a rod that plays way bigger than you think. In fact my largest Alaska rainbow to date fell to this stick. A 33.5 x 17 Naknek beauty! Steelie wise, any of the 7’s or 8 weights. I simply love the 7116-4 ONE as the 7 weights are the .30-06 of Switch! For Kings, the Chrome Crowbar as spoken of above.

KS: What’s new in the ‘Switch’ game these days? Lines? Tips?
GC: The last couple of seasons have brought forth some incredibly good lines that truly dial the switch game up to the next level. The Skagit Max Short is a fabulous line for the sink tip and MOW angling enthusiast. The Switch Chucker has truly provided the switch enthusiast be it swing guy or an indicator artist a “One Line Fishes Best” set up that in conjunction with MOW Medium tips is the ultimate all around performer. The RIO Scandi lines provide a solid summer run Steelhead performance that can double as a wicked overhead line on beaches and lakes.

KS: To the readers that are considering buying their first switch rod, what types of things should they consider?
GC: The number one thing to consider is whether you want a switch rod that is a true “switch” stick or do you want a “Baby Spey” weapon. If a true Switch is your desire, stick to a length between 11’ and 11’3″ as this length range can readily play single as well as two hand cast formats. Once the rod hits 11’6″ plus, it rolls over into largely the “Baby Spey” category where spey casting is the norm with the longer switch rod offerings.

KS: Should an angler new to spey casting start out with a switch rod or full spey? What would be a good rod to start out with?
GC: No doubt here get a SPEY rod and probably a 7 weight at that. Something in the 12’ 6” to 13’ 6” in a 7 weight is pretty much the perfect medicine to get started with. All in all. a new angler to the game will jump up thru the learning curve at a much faster rate with a 13’ 7 Weight Spey versus a 11’6” Switch rod, no getting around this. The Sage METHOD 7126-4 is a laser of a Spey rod that casters of all levels can harness and perform at high levels with. The Redington 7130-4 Dually is quite possibly the best price point Spey rod ever offered at a mere $250.00! The performance attributes are simply scary good here.

KS: In one sentence, why should anyone add a switch rod to their quiver?
GC: A switch or a spey rod provides some major advantages that a single hander simply can’t muster. Anadromous fish like steelhead require a mental and physical commitment to casting, you better be in love with casting ’cause you are going to do a bunch of it! On another front, aside from simply a more effective format of casting, spey casting with switch or spey is simply a MORE INTERESTING way to fish! For an angler who has years and years of single hand experience behind him the change over to the spey game is akin to going from archery to rifle hunting in terms of efficiency as well as effectiveness.

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