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What is a switch rod?
There's single hand and two hand rods. The one in between should be the switch rod, right? This is how I see it
First of all, I want to make it clear that the below is based on my experience and opinion. But I would however like to know where other anglers and not the manufactures stand in today's switch rod design.
So, the switch rod is the one filling the gap between the single and double hand.
The single hand rod has its limits when it comes to spey casting on bigger rivers as well as with line control.
The spey rods makes it easy to cast with a forest or a steep bank behind you, has the power to send off big flies at long distances with a spey cast, and controlling the line is much better.
Jack of all trades
The ideal switch rod should be able to do both. Of course it can't do it as good as the specialized rods, but still.
A lot of my salmon fishing is done on medium sized rivers in Iceland and often there is a high cliff behind me making it impossible to do an overhand cast. The switch rod has been the tool that has made me very effective under these circumstances. With a single spey cast I can send off the fly at distance with a wall behind me.
It is very easy and does not take any effort.
You will not loose flies in the rocks, damage the line or get tired in you shoulders. At the same time, my kind of switch rod is so short and light so you can strip the fly in aggressively as if I was fishing a single hand rod.
When I'm not fishing in a canyon or with obstacles behind me, I often use the overhand cast. This can give even more distance and it's easier for me to cast into the wind. I also have more control over the cast and can fish more precisely.
All in all, I can switch from single to double hand with the same rod and fish very effectively.
A switch rod should have a certain handle design and rod length. The rod should be as long as possible for when using it as a double hander, but there is a limit to how long it can be for when using it as a single hand rod.
For me, the absolute limit is at 11 feet. You cannot fish a longer rod as a single hand, the swing weight and air resistance will tire your arm and hand in no time. It will also damage your wrist I'm quite sure.
I have fished a lot with a Sage ONE 11,6 feet #7 which is an amazing rod as a double hander but when I have tried to use it as a single hand rod, it has only been for a few casts before I gave up. The swing weight is too high and I can't make a crisp stop in the front and back cast so it does not work. I really like the Loomis NRX double hand rods but the NRX Switch is 12 feet long!
The next thing about the ideal switch rod is the handle design. Its a challenge to make a handle design that can be used for both single- and double hand fishing. Since switch rods are longer than regular single hand rods, I like to hold further up on the handle to get a better balance in the rod when using it as a single hand rod. When switching over to a double hander, I just grab the fight butt and use it as casting with a double hand rod.
This is in my mind what switching is all about.
Some rod companies have gotten away with some really practical handle designs.
They have designed their handles with two "bumps" giving two possible grips. The first true switch rod I had was one of them.
It was from the original Zpey team in Norway and made by Arve Evensen. It was called Zpey Switch - Reel Steel. This was a 10 feet single hand rod to which you could attach an extra bottom handle, turning it into a fully functional, light double hander.
Next followed an even better rod from from Zpey, the Z1 11 feet line 8. Because of the extra length, it handles spey casts with ease and is a pleasure to fish. One thing that I like about these rods and which also make them true switch rods is that they follow the casting weight classification of single hand rods. The US rod manufactures seem to follow the double hand classification.
Another rod that has a good functional switch handle is the Loop S1. It comes both in 10,7 and 11 feet so this is the perfect setup for a true switch rod.
Traditional two hand handles
My Sage ONE switch, which is 11,6 feet long has a traditional double hand rod handle. This means a long front handle without any bumps and a longer fight butt and lower handle. The same goes for the Loomis Switch design and rods many other rod manufactures. These handles are great for when using the rod as a two hand rod, but not as a single hand rod. There is no good bump/shape for you to hold onto when using it as a single hand. At least I get tired in my hand when trying to get a good grip and still the rod slips in my hands.
Like I mentioned earlier, many switch rods cast with the same weight as double hand rods now which I don't think is ideal. It is too heavy and clumsy when using the rod as a single hand rod. It will make the swing weight too high also, straining both your casting arm and the rod.
The future switch rod
As it looks to me, true switch rods might be disappearing. The big US rod companies, which I normally admire, are in my opinion making smaller double handers even though they call them switch. Why?
The new switch rod trend:
11,6 to 12 feet long
Double hand rod handle shape design
Casting weights like double handers
These ARE double hand rod set-ups only! You can't fish rods like as a single hand and thereby they are not SWITCH.
Here is what to aim for in a true switch rod:
10,6 to 11 feet long
Specially designed switch handle shape
Casting weights like single hand rods
Here some rods that follow the switch rod recipe:
- Zpey Switch Reel Steal 11 feet line 7 - old model
- Zpey Switch Z1 11 feet line 8 - old model
- Loop S1 Swtich 10,7 feet line 6
- Loop S1 Swtich 10,7 feet line 7
- Loop S1 Swtich 11 feet line 7
- Scott T3h 10,6 feet line 4
- Scott T3h 11 feet line 6
For the Scott rods, I think the line recommendations from Scott are way too high but there is an ongoing trend in the US to heavily overload the rods. But by putting on a line that is 2-4 times too heavy for you rod, you will slow down the fine fast action of the rod and you will be throwing out the line, not using the potential of the rod.
As I started out saying, this is my opinion on switch rods.
But do the anglers around the world want what I call true switch rods?
Or do they want the longer ones with double hand design and heavier castings weights?
No matter what, I think it's wrong to call a rod a switch rod if it can only be used with two hands.
Line recommendation for the rods I use and why:
Zpey Switch Z1 11 feet line 8 and Zpey Switch Reel Steal 10 feet line 7
The original team behind Zpey, Arve Evensen, offered some new ideas to the fly fishing world on how to make a rod handle. One thing is the strange looking cranked bottom handle but they also made a true switch rod handle. This being a longer front handle shaped so you both can hold it on the lower part when using it as a single hand rod and in the upper part when using it as a double hand. Unfortunately, these handle shapes was changed back to normal short full wells handles when Arve stopped working at Zpey. One thing that also made these rods great switch rods was that you could ad on a longer fight butt making it more like a small spey rod.
These rods have a deep curve and lots of power. It can therefor work with both a WF7 and 8. Some like to go one size up for spey casting but then its not a good for when overhand casting. - It becomes slow and heavy. But that also a question of taste again.
Loop S1 Switch 10,7 feet line 7 and Loop S1 Switch 11 feet line 7
This rod is more delicate than the Zpey and Sage ONE. I tried it with a Loop Multi WF7F. The belly weighs 15.5 gram and has a length of 9,5 meters. This makes it a good all round solution for both over- and underhand casting. I also tried with a WF8F but this rod has not got the power to pull that much weight. The rod tip gets easily over loaded and the loops collapse.
When writing this article, I had the option of trying out the Loop S1 Swtich 11 feet line 7 which is a travel version in 5-sections. I found this rod much more in my taste. It has a deeper curve and more power in the top. This makes perfect tight loops with both overhand hand casting and the scandi style underhand casting like I prefer. - Close to the body, short acting stroke and tight loops.
If you are in a really tight area, the Scientific Anglers SBT WF7 or 8 line is the best short belly line I have ever tried. Again a WF7F works the best for me.
The front handle is made exactly like the original Zpey Switch rod except for the fight butt which is not changeable but it doe not matter on this rod.
Sage ONE 11.6 feet line 7
This rod I have fished a lot but as I mentioned earlier, I cast it like a light spey rod. But that is does better than any other. This rod is amazingly light, precise and the power is endless. It can fish anything from 20 gram all the way up to 27 gram. This rod does not "give up" when putting more weight on it, it keeps finding more power from the bottom and the tip does not just hang there like a dead elastic. Like most other Sage ONE rod, it has no vibration at all! Had it just been 10,7 or 11 feet and with a "switch" handle …
Try a Rio Scandi Short Versitip in #5 (21 grams). Then you have a good all round kit. I went up to #6 when I was fishing with a broken hand in hope of easier casting. That was no problem for this rod to handle. It could even pull a #7! Maybe that's because it is classified as a spey rod?