Published Apr 30. 2017 - 6 months ago
Updated or edited Oct 3. 2017

Microspey rods

An article about how spey style casting can be performed with rods rated for single hand, and how to build and line up your own microspey or micro Skagit rod.

This article was first published in December 2016 on the Romanian site Musca13.ro

Fly fishing is among the most versatile style of fishing. By fly fishing you can fish anywhere in the water column and catch all kind of fish, no matter where they are usually feeding - on the bottom, in the surface or anywhere between these two. This also includes the predatory fish.
With a carefully chosen rod and equipped with the proper flies, a fly fishermen can fish anywhere from mountain streams to the rivers or lakes in the lowlands, easy adapting his or her style to fishing different species.

Cliffs and trees
Close quarters
Limited space
Mircea Hasmasan

Chub in close quarters

In Romania the fly fishermen, besides the usual trout and grayling, are also targeting chub (Leuciscus cephalus or Squalius cephalus) - an omnivorous fish, which is very interesting and also challenging to catch on a fly. One of the popular names of the chub is the fish with a thousand eyes, due to it’s extreme caution. Some fly fishermen think that fishing for chub requires more fishing skills in terms of approach and casting knowledge. The equipment suited for fishing for chub is usually a single hand rod, 9 ft, 4 or 5 weight with the proper line and reel. Regarding the flies, wet flies, foam flies or streamers can be used.

A lot of fishermen consider that the greatest disadvantage of fly fishing is the space required on the back cast. This is true especially on wild rivers flowing through the hills and plains area. Among the obstacles a fly fisherman meets in these areas are trees or other dense vegetation growing right down to the waters edge, high banks or other obstacles, which do not allow for the classical single hand cast, thus limiting the fishing spots, which can be fished. Spots which in most cases also hold the biggest potential catch.

In such places a fisherman has two options: either to limit the fishing to the spots which permit classical casting or to use single hand or double hand spey casting techniques. As far as the double hand rods go, the usual spey rod has too much power to be used for this fishing. Besides this, the length of the rods, even in the lightest classes, is usually too long to be suited for this kind of river. The weight of the line is also too great to offer the right and delicate presentation needed for chub. This is where the microspey or micro Skagit rods come into play.

Here is a a video where you can see the possibilities - and the beauty - when using this type of rod and cast.

Chub
Chub
Chub on lightweight microspey rods. Notice the difference in the handles.
Mircea Hasmasan

This is where the microspey or micro Skagit rods come into play.

Spey weight windows
Spey weight windows
Mircea Hasmasan

What are microspey rods?

The microspey name was first used by Ed Ward, a pioneer of the skagit casting style, and it designates rods with a handle designed for two hands, but which are rated and lined up with lines built after the AFTMA single hand standard. These rods - if they are properly lined - allow the fisherman to benefit from all the spey casting advantages in terms of limited need for back cast room and distance reached.

Microspey rods are not standardized and cannot be found in the rod manufacturers portfolio. They were born by anglers' necessity to be able to fish in river locations with dense vegetation, where classical casts are difficult to perform. The rods still needed to maintain the sensibility and to offer the necessary finesse in the presentation. They should also to be able to allow fishermen to enjoy the drills of fish that are smaller than what's usually caught on two hand rods.

In the last few of years there has been a trend in the spey world to go lighter, and manufacturers of this kind of equipment are quickly adapting to this trend. Most manufacturers are now building lightweight spey rods and they are advertising them as trout spey. However, some manufacturers chose to advertise the same type of rods as microspey.
This is however not fully corresponding to what fly fishermen envision to a microspey rod. The major difference between these two types of rods is that the trout spey rods are being built for lines rated after the spey line AFFTA standard. That means that they are able to cast heavier lines. The rod length is usually 10 feet or more, while the microspey rods are usually between 8.5 and 10 feet and typically built on blanks rated after the AFFTA single hand standard. The weight of the microspey line rarely reaches 20 grams (318 grains). Basically a microspey rod would be equivalent of an ultra-light spey rod.

Building a microspey rod

As previously mentioned, microspey rods cannot be found on the market in the rod manufacturers lineups. If a fisherman wants to have a microspey rod, he or she has to build it or transform an existing rod - or find a rod builder to build it to specifications.

Chub
A chub caught on the typical microspey rod with its extra bottom handle
Mircea Hasmasan

Either way the steps would be the ones described in the following.
First the rod weight needs to be chosen. This is established based on the targeted fish and the fishing conditions - especially the wind conditions - where most of the fishing will be take place.
If chub is targeted, a 3 or 4 weight rod is enough. If larger fish are targeted - like asp for example - than a 5 or 6 weight would be more suited.
If you want longer distance to be cast, heavier weights need to be chosen.
Also, if you want to fish with sinking poly-leaders, the line class of the rod must be also greater.
You must try rods for several line weights before you can establish clearly what are your microspey rod needs are and which suits your usual fishing conditions. There are no set rules. Some fishermen have transformed 2 weight, 7 feet rods to microspey.

The length of the rod needs to be established based on the river size - the larger the river, the longer the rod - but also based on the fishing conditions. If the fishing will be done from under the hanging tree branches, than a shorter rod will be better.
Regarding the rod action, it is recommended to use rods of moderate-fast action, with a powerful butt section and a progressive load, but this also depends on personal preferences.

The easiest and fastest way to get a microspey rod is to adapt one from a single hand rod. The adapting process consists of adding a lower handle, which will be used to apply force with the lower hand when casting spey style. The end piece of the reel seat needs to be removed and a section of a conical rod needs to be found. This piece of rod can be either from glass fiber or graphite, and a piece of rod blank is a natural contender. A good option is the spare sections made out of graphite or glass found in the fishing stores or a section from older, unused or broken rods or blanks.
The key is to fit it as well as possible inside the lower part of the butt section. After identifying this piece, the cork needs to be glued to it. This can be done using epoxy resin. After drying, the cork can be shaped into the desired shape using sandpaper. The length of this lower handle needs to be established in such way that the total length from the top of the existing handle to the bottom of the new one is about the same as the width of the fisherman's shoulders. This gives the best and most natural grip. It is recommended to make is as short as possible without making it uncomfortable when casting.

What fly lines are suited for microspey rods?

The lines, which can be used with microspey rods, are the ones marketed by manufacturers as being able to cast spey style. This includes scandi, skagit heads or WF lines with a suitable head profile.
Choosing the right line is critical to get all the advantages that a microspey rod is offering. To assure the proper load of the road, lines with the right weight and length needs to be used. Ed Ward recommends to use a line which is 3 weights above the rated rod weight as a starting point. If the rod has a fast action, then we can even try 4 weights above the rated rod weight. These rods have the power required to launch this much extra weight.

For example, for a 4 weight microspey rod, which we want to use for spey casting, we should try an 8 weight fly line. This has has a belly weight in the 13-14 gram range (200-220 grains) according to the AFFTA single hand standard.
Depending on personal preferences we might like to use it with 12 grams or maybe with a 16 grams head. Also, due to the differences in how the lines are built and how the mass is distributed along the fly line profile from manufacturer to manufacturer, we might enjoy casting two different lines, with two different weights and still have a similar feeling when the rod is loading.
Besides the weight, the length of the head is also critical. Due to the type of loading of the rod during the spey cast, the length plays a critical role. In order to assure a proper load, Ed Ward recommends that the head length is between 2.2 and 3 times the rod length including the handle. The shorter values are suited for skagit heads, while the longer heads are recommended for scandi heads.
A good spey caster will know how to adjust the casting stroke in order to properly cast shorter or longer heads.

Skagit heads are suited for casting spey casts with microspey rods especially in areas with dense vegetation. With these heads it's recommended to use polyleaders. They do not need much back casting space, but they lack the delicacy in fly presentation. However, they are able to deliver heavier flies than other fly lines due to their increased mass per length. This makes them especially suited for fishing streamers. Skagit heads suited for microspey rods - in smaller lengths and weights - can be found in the catalogs of some fly line manufacturers. Rio’s Skagit Trout Max, OPST Skagit Commando Heads or Airflo Skagit Scout heads with weight starting from aprox 10 grams (150 grains).
Scandi heads assure the same versatility in terms of casting as Skagit heads. They are able to cast slightly smaller flies, but with a with a much more delicate presentation. This makes them suitable for chub fishing with foam flies in the surface. This type of head can also be found from many manufacturers. Airflo Scandinavian Compact, Rio Scandi Short or Scandi Body heads .

Skagit heads

Notice the short length
Rio Skagit Trout Max: 3.4 m and weights between 13 and 17.8 grams (200-275 grains).
OPST Skagit: 10 to 31 grams (150-475 grains) with lengths from 3.65 to 5.5 m.
Airflo Skagit Scout: weights from approx. 10 to 31 grams (150-480 grains) with lengths from 4.1 m (13.5 ft) to 5.6 m (18.5 ft).

Rio Trout Max
Rio Trout Max
Martin Joergensen

Scandi heads

Notice the length difference compared to the Skagit heads.
Airflo Scandi Compact: from 15.5 to 34 grams (250-540 grains) and lengths between 8.5 and 10.3 m (28-34 ft).
Rio Scandi Short: from 11 to 34 grams and lengths from 8.5 to 10.4 meters (28-34 ft).
Rio Scandi Body: from 17 to 34 grams (265-540 grains) and lengths from 7 to 7.3 meters.

Airflo
Airflo
Martin Joergensen

 

Both Skagit and scandi heads need to be attached to a running line in order to be be able to cast. Considering the small masses of the heads required for microspey rods, the running line needs to be as thin and light as possible in order not to limit the casting distance.

Even though the above described lines can be used successfully on microspey rods, the most versatile lines to be used on these rods are the WF lines. These line will allow you to cast single handed as well as spey style, depending what the fishing situation requires. The weight forward lines must comply with the same requirements described above in terms of length and mass.

Several manufactures sell lines suited for microspey rods, lines which will allow both overhead casting and spey style casting with microspey rods. Among the ones on the market we can mention the following lines. Weights, lengths and profiles of different weight forward fly lines suited for microspey rods. Note that the profile of these lines concentrates the greater mass on the back of the head.

Vision Vibe 65

Head weight between 6 and 12 grams (92-185 grains) and head length 6.5 meters (21 ft).
Vision

Vision 65
Vision 65
Martin Joergensen

Vision Vibe 85

Head weight between 10 and 21 grams (154-324 grains) and head length 8.5 meters (27 ft)
Vision

Vision 85
Vision 85
Martin Joergensen

Rio Single Hand Spey

Head weight between 13 and 19.4 grams (200-300 grains) and head length 10.1 meters (33 ft)
Rio

Rio Single Hand Spey
Rio Single Hand Spey
Martin Joergensen

Barrio SLX

Found in line weight between 3 and 8 and head length about 7.5 meters (24 ft). The weights are from 8.1 grams (WF3F) to 17.5 grams (WF8F) or 125-270 grains.
Barrio

Barrio
Bario
Martin Joergensen

Guideline Bullet Evolve

Head weight between 13 and 20 grams (200-308 grains) and head length 8.5 meters (27 ft)
Guideline

Guideline Bullet
Guideline Bullet
Martin Joergensen

Guideline Presentation Evolve

Head weight between 7 and 12.5 grams (108-193 grains) and head length 8.8 meters (28 ft)
Guideline

Guideline Presentation
Guideline Presentation
Martin Joergensen

 

Besides the weight and length, the profiles of the above mentioned lines are also very important, because not every line can be used successfully in spey casts.
The best head profile for spey casting has most of its mass concentrated towards the rear of the head to assure a proper rod load during the cast, while the front of the head must have an optimum ratio between length and diameter to assure the proper anchor without overloading the rod tip. This type of profile will also make it easier for newcomers in spey casting to learn and develop the required skills.

Among the advantages of using microspey rods we can mention:

  • they can be used both on overhead casting and spey casting techniques, depending of what the fishing situation requires, extending the fishing possibilities and offering the flexibility needed fish in areas where fishing a single hand rod is not possible.
  • they offer the advantages of both single hand rods and double hand rods, plus the advantage of using both types of casting.
  • they can handle a wide array of flies with one setup - from insect imitations to weighted streamers.
  • they can offer a more comfortable fishing, limiting the effort required to cast and to reach distance when casting.

As an observation, learning to spey casting with microspey rods can be a little more challenging compared to traditional two hand rods, due to the shorter rods and the rigidity of this type of rod. But once mastered it offers great rewards through its beauty and efficiency.

Here's a video where Ed Ward talks longer about using microspey (micro Skagit) rods and lines.


Log in or register to pre-fill name on comments, add videos, user pictures and more.
Read more about why you should register.