My Cart


Switch Rods, Scandi Heads and Polyleaders

Posted on October 05 2010

Not where you want to be casting, but we'll take it.
Not where you want to be casting, but we'll take it.

In the world of spey fishing there seem to be three types of gear that generate a lot of confusion – switch rods, Scandinavian heads and polyleaders.

Here’s our quick-and-dirty, way-oversimplified primer on each of the three.  Look down below for a video from an actual expert, with an example of a situation where all three play really well together.

Switch Rods

What They Are

Switch rods get their name from the fact that they’re designed to be cast overhead like a single-handed rod, or spey cast, like a true double-handed rod.  They normally have handles like a double-handed rod (allowing for a good grip with your bottom hand as well as your top), only shorter.  They tend to be between 10 and 12 feet long – in between single-hand rods and spey rods in length.

Why You’d Fish Them

Lots of anglers like the versatility – yeah, you can cast them overhead or spey cast them.  Some anglers like them for beach casting – their longer length means that, compared to a single-handed rod, you can huck ’em!  They throw a long ways when overhead cast.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we tend to think of them mostly as ‘little spey rods’.  We spey cast them more often than not, and we prefer them in situations where we’re swinging flies, but in smaller water that doesn’t warrant a true spey rod in the 13-foot+ class.

Scandinavian Heads (Scandi Heads for short)

What They Are

Scandi heads are relatively short heads designed to be spey cast.  They’re generally longer than Skagit heads but much shorter than long-belly lines.  Compared to Skagit heads they have longer front tapers – the front section of the line tapers down in length over a longer distance.

Why You’d Fish Them

Scandi heads are great for fishing with polyleaders (more on them below).  Their long front tapers can produce beautiful long casts and tight loops.  They come in different sink rates, from floating to intermediate and faster sink rates too.  They’re good for situations that call for smaller flies and don’t require massive sinktips (translation: they don’t work well with T-14 and huge flies).


What They Are

Polyleaders are mono-core leaders made in varying sink rates and various lengths.  Compared to actual sink-tips used in spey casting, their grain weights are much lighter and vary a lot less.

Why You’d Fish Them

Polyleaders tend to cast and fish great with Scandi heads.  The combination can deliver beautiful tight loops and soft presentations.  Using a single Scandi head, you can change out your polyleader to achieve different sink rates and different presentations, without changing much how the whole system casts (as opposed to Skagit-style systems, where changing tips can change the load on the rod a lot more).

Got it?  Good.


At IFTD in Denver this year, we asked George Cook to talk us through a sample situation where a switch rod-Scandi head-polyleader system would work well.  Here’s what George had to say.

NOTE: If you’re viewing this in a newsletter or a reader, click here to see George talk switch-Scandi-poly strategy on YouTube.

More Spey Stuff

Join our Mailing List

Sign up to receive our Newsletter!

My Cart

Subtotal: $ 0.00

Your cart is currently empty.