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Switch Rods & Streamer Rods
Letís talk a little bit about switch rods, streamer rods and the correct lines that correspond to the particular fishing situation at hand. I donít claim to know everything, but I will share what I have learned through my experimentation with several different outfits over the last year.
From what Iím gathering, the fly fishing industry is marketing shooting lines as their staple product for effective casting of streamer patterns. The fly casting concept has always been about making several false casts before shooting line, but now it seems to be about making one false cast and then shooting the rest. In other words, get your fly out there as expediently as possible. This new method is an improvement when burning (stripping) streamers along the banks because an angler can make more casts over the course of a day. The same holds true with respect to the switch rod. This type of rod was designed for allowing anglers to make huge, swinging presentations in the current with streamers and that allows one to cover lots of water very quickly. They are several other ways to fish with a switch rod, but for productively fishing on the White River Basin fisheries, I like using them to make expansive swinging presentations. Also, because of the way the outfit balances out, I really donít notice the weight of the fly like I would if I were throwing them on floating, weight-forward fly line.
This new concept with respect to shooting heads is like a spinoff of conventional fishing where the weight of the lure will carry the line out. Switch rod lines have a shooting head, which is thicker on the front part of the fly line, while the rest of the running-line is skinny. Of course, you must learn how to shoot line effectively in order to understand the fundamentals of applying this new concept with respect to utilizing a shooting head. The trick is to NOT apply the same amount of power on the forward and back casts like you do when false-casting with a conventional technique and a floating line. Now, itís about a soft back cast and then putting all the power on the forward cast Ė this will result in a lot more line going out and subsequently, a longer cast. This different technique will really change the way you look at casting big flies and you will not get nearly as worn out when doing this over a course of several days. To me, shooting lines on a switch rod make fishing streamers a lot easier and if you really get to understanding the load time (with respect to when to come back the other direction with the rod), the line will shoot like a rocket.
My experience teaching those who have never tried this new technique is that most have difficulty figuring out the right projection-angle to maximize the amount of line they shoot. This new way of casting is more about shooting the line in a way so that the projection is upright, like if one was shooting a cannon in the air.
Rod weights are always an important thing to consider when outfitting correctly. I have several rods that I throw streamers on and the most important thing is to find a rod that will equal out the balance of the heavy weight grains that are available. I have found that for a 275-grain head, I would want a 7- weight rod; for a 350-grain head, I would use an 8-weight rod; and for 450-grain head, I would want a 9-weight rod. I am sure that some people would disagree with this theory, but take it from me; I have broken several rods from throwing too heavy a line on a rod that could not handle it.
If youíre wondering what a really good streamer rod is that is not a switch rod; well, there are plenty out there. But for me, Iím not going to spend big money for a rod that is pretty much just a broomstick, and most of them are just that when you get into 8-weight sizes and higher. I throw a TFO Axiom rod, which has a great action Ė itís stiff which is just the way I like my rods. If youíre throwing rods that have give in them, there is not enough backbone to penetrate the hook in the fishís mouth during the set. Plus, once a brown gets over 25-inches, their mouths becomes really hard, so you need a stiff rod to penetrate the hook. The Axiom is plenty of rod for that. The other rod Iím throwing is a 10-foot Jim Teeny rod. Both rods are great rods and both get repaired as fast as any other rods in the industry if they must be sent back.
Switch rods are also worth considering and I will explain what situations I like using one. I really donít use mine for spey-type casting, but if I am doing a lot of roll-casting, or I need to get my line out there in a hurry, I will pick this type of rod every time. I also use a switch rod for throwing big shad patterns on the surface. These are a fun rod to play with if you want to venture into a different style of fly fishing than what is the norm. If you are fishing a large, wide river and want to cover a lot of water with a baitfish or large profile pattern, a switch rod will do the trick. I donít own a fly shop, so please do not think that I am trying to sell you something. Rather, I just wanted to share something new with you that will display how the industry is changing. If you would like to know the best places to get one or more of these rods, send me an email. Also, let me know if you would like to go out on a trip and learn more about fishing a switch rod and shooting fly lines - it will expand your horizons and change the way you think about fly fishing.