Choosing a line for your switch rod Part 3 the RIO Switch and Skagit Short reviewed.

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On a couple of steelhead trips last year I wound up fishing with borrowed rods. They were switch rods, a Winston and a Ross, and I had the chance to fish them for both summer and winter steelhead. I really liked the feel of these short Spey rods and decided that I needed one. I have no use for my long Spey rods when fishing at home in the southeast and I liked the idea of a two hander I could use for trout here at home.

I chose the Scott L2h 1106/4, an 11 foot 6 wt. It’s a great rod and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s light and well balanced with plenty of power and a nice feel. The rod really talks to you when you cast it, so you know when it’s loaded.

I chose to set it up with 2 reels. A Nautilus FW7 which I loaded with the RIO Switch line in a 5/6 wt and a Bauer CFX-5 Spey that I set up with RIO slick shooter and a 425 grain Skagit Short head, also from RIO. This set up gives me the flexibility of fishing the Switch line for nymphing or changing reels to fish any Spey line I like by changing heads via the loop to loop connection. For now I chose the Skagit Short. You could use one reel with 2 spools but I had these in the line up so that’s what I went with.

The RIO Switch Line

The power of this line combined with the switch rod came into sharp focus the other day. Kent and I fished a North Carolina tail water while the dam was running water. We were both fishing 3 fly rigs with more or less the same patterns. There was a run with a bit of soft water in a pocket surrounded by fast, high current.

Kent fished it hard with his 9 foot single hander and got nothing. I fished behind him with my 11 foot switch rod. The switch rod allowed me to fish a 15 foot leader with more weight and gave me better line control, allowing me to cast farther up stream and still maintain my drift. I caught 3 fish from that pocket in 5 casts.

The RIO switch line turned over that long leader and 6X tippet with 3 weighted flies, split shot and a thingamabobber with ease, casting with either one or two hands. It mended well and floated high. What’s more, from that spot under a tree with a high bank behind me, I used a double Spey cast to fish a run on the far bank some 70 feet away. Kent was green with envy. I think I sold him a switch rod.

The Switch Line is a very effective tool. Here at home it is likely the line I will use the most. I have found only 2 shortcomings. First, I am used to mono shooting line on my Spey rods. By comparison the switch line is a chore to shoot. That’s the nature of coated running line and the price you pay for being mendable. That said, the 55 foot head means that you don’t need to shoot a lot of line. I can easily make an 80 foot cast and nymphing at 80 feet is generally a wast of time. It’s kind of academic.

The second issue has to do with that long head as well. 55 feet well exceeds the ideal 3:1 ratio for head length to rod length. This means that in order to aerialize the head I have to speed up my sweep. If this becomes a habit that carries over to casting my long rods, it will result in a lot of blown anchor placements. This is something I will need to be vigilant about. Otherwise, I love this line.

The RIO Skagit Short

Though not as versatile a tool as the Switch Line the Skagit short is beautiful at what it does. It’s the only line you need to swing flies to steelhead. Combined with the RIO slick shooter and MOW tips it’s a dream to cast and deadly effective. The 425 grain head loads my Scott 6 wt nicely and it gives me great distance and the power to turn over heavy sink tips.

For trout fishing here at home, it is limited to streamer fishing but it does that well. I like it for swinging unweighted streamers on a sink tip. Not long ago after nymphing a run with no success I switched to skagit head and sink tip and tied on a wiggle minnow. I caught a big rainbow on the first cast where nymphs had failed to produce.

No downside to the Skagit short. The 20 foot head is perfect for the switch rod and in 425 grain handles sink tips up to T14 with no problems. I will fish this line a lot.

I hope the information in these three posts has helped to demystify the host of line choices for the switch rod. As I add lines to my arsenal, I’ll let you know what I like. Since there are many great lines that I have not had the chance to cast I welcome your suggestions. If you have a line that you like on your switch rod, please post a comment and tell us what it is and why you like it.

If you have a switch rod gathering dust in your closet, pull it out and get the right line on it. It’s too good a tool not to fish.

I’d like to say a big thanks to my friend Simon Gawesworth at RIO for all of the information he provided for this post. There’s lots more great info at RIO’s Spey Central.

Read – Choosing a line for your switch rod  Part one: Understanding lines and line tapers

Read – Choosing a line for your switch rod  Part 2: Choosing a line

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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31 thoughts on “Choosing a line for your switch rod Part 3 the RIO Switch and Skagit Short reviewed.

  1. Thanks Louis for a great series! Have you heard anything about the Orvis Switch line? With a 33′ head, I wonder if it would kind of bridge the gap between the two lines you are using. The only line I have used is a Wulff Ambush, which works well, but it seems to be more of a Skagit line – very thick and spashy. The Orvis line I’m thinking might make for more delicate presos when the water is low or I could go to more of a Scandi head it seems from your article.

    • I’ve not fished the Orvis line. If the running line shoots well it could be really good. The problem is often that the floating running line shoots poorly, limiting distance. In that case I like the longer head. You can always cast less of it.

  2. Pingback: Fantastic article on the Switch rod, please read!

  3. Hi Louis,
    For lighter applications I also use and really like casting the rio switch.
    But when it comes to heavy sinking tips I prefer the airflo skagit switch to the Rio skagit short head. It shoots easier for me when using coated running line.

  4. Great series of posts of switch lines. Love the blog. Any chance you might do something similar on how to select or choose a switch rod in general/getting into two-handed with switch?


  5. Guys: Keep up the good work. I’m in the SE as well and fish for trout and bass. Would you recommend a switch rod for streamers and/or bass (to throw poppers) – say a 6 or 7 wt? Thanks.

      • I use my Beulah 4/5 switch for damned near everything, now that I have it lined correctly! It is a blast to throw poppers and streamers for bass on stillwater. Works great, and you can definitely feel that “stop” when a bass hits a streamer!

  6. Just found these posts and it’s been very helpful! Although I am worried now that the line I bought for the PacBay Quickline 7wt switch I wrapped up is too heavy. I got the Rio Switch in 7/8 which is 575gr and I went and looked at the rod specs and it puts it’s rating at 425-500gr. is 75gr over going to be a big problem?

  7. Would love to get into the spey thing, but I am on a budget and just got an 8wt for Christmas. Can we use the Rio Outbound or Wulff Ambush with the same effect as the switch rod?

    • You can use some Spey cast with the single-handed rod. A double taper line works best. The outbound would be the exact opposite of what you’re looking for. You need to wait further back in the belly.

    • Depending on the Ambush that you have, it can be a killer line on a two hander. For an 8 weight, you will probably want a 10 or 11 Ambush to properly load the rod when Spey casting. I have the 10, 400 grains, a bit heavy for my 6 switch, but castable, and pretty nice on my seven.

  8. I’m surprised your 11′ 6wt switch has the beef for T-14 tips and Pacific Northwest steelhead fresh in from the ocean. I too use the Rio Skagit Short, but a 575 grain on a Beulah 7 wt spey rod which is 13′ 2″. I can cast T-20 tips if need be. It’s a real sweet set-up for winter. For summer steelheading on smaller waters I have recently moved to Rio’s Rage line on my 12’6″ Anderson 6wt spey. Rage is a cross between skagit and scandi and allows me to skagit cast (water-borne ancor) a lighter line all summer vs switching to and from touch-and-go casting with the seasons. Not to add further complexity to the myriad of choice here, but I’m also starting to experiment with mid-belly spey lines. Great series, thanks!

  9. Hello how are you?
    That combination of lines and tips on Switch, Skagit and Scandi would you recommend me for a sage Method Switch 6119?
    Best regards and thanks.

  10. Hello how are you? I congratulate you on your description of the fly lines, it is an excellent study !. I write from the northern Chilean Patagonia to consult you which combination of lines and tips on switch, Skagit and scandi would you recommend me for a sage Method Switch 6119-4? Best regards and thanks.

  11. Pingback: Fly Lines for Shad | Shad on the Fly

  12. Thanks for three great articles. I have the Scott L2h 1106/4 this has made line choice so much easier. I will predominantly use it for fishing big rivers here in NZ, swinging streamers and indicator nymphing.

  13. Pingback: Choosing a line for your switch rod Part 2: Choosing a line | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

  14. Pingback: Making the Switch to Two-Handed Casting | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

  15. High Louis.

    I feel like the last but maybe most important step of choosing the correct line was missed. That is matching the correct grain weight line to the rod. For example, I see posts above about people choosing the shooting head for a rod they are building before they are finished building the rod. There are so many variables to what weight head will work with each rod, and the only way to really know for sure is to try them. That is why I think the best scenario is to find a fly shop that will let you borrow or exchange heads to test out on your rod when it is ready to go. Even the evolution of a person’s casting can change what weight shooting head will work best.

    Case in point: I bought a 6wt 11ft switch rod a few years ago. My local fly shop was kind enough to allow me to borrow and try different weight heads at the time.I took them to a lake a couple miles away from the shop to try. I settled on a 425gr skagit short, which worked great at the time. Since then, my casting has improved vastly and now I’m ready to switch that to a lighter shooting head.

    This is all important since these lines are not cheap. And being off by one weight size line will cause frustration and the rod will probably be stored away and not used, as you mentioned in your article. And we fisherman need more gear we don’t use stored in our houses like we need a hole in our heads.

    Awesome article.
    Best Regards

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