#BikeFishing: Switch Rod on the Cheap / Redington Dually
A lot of readers know that I’ve gotten hooked on fishing and have carried some sort of fly rod on our last few bike adventures. Since we are calling Portland home at the moment, I’ve decided to get into steelhead and salmon fishing on the fly. The Pacific NW has lots of rivers that hold these amazing fish and it would be a shame not to go chase after them 🙂 As much as I love my 5wt, it is admittedly a bit under gunned for these sea run fish. So after literally months of reading, researching and watching videos on various steelhead setups and fishing techniques I pulled the trigger on what I feel is the best value and flexibility in a steelhead setup. So what did I end up with? Read on.
Single or Double
Essentially, the first decision that had to be made was whether to go with a single or double handed fly rod. I decided to go for a double handed rod for a bit of a change of pace. Double handers are longer than single hand rods, and like the name suggests are meant to be used with two hands. Specifically, I decided to go with what is known as a switch rod. A switch rod is a rod that splits the difference between a single-handed rod and full blown spey rod. You can overhead cast it like a single, but you can also deploy all the water-loading spey casts of a spey rod. The thought of being able to spey cast when there was no room for a backcast was appealing, as was the fact that they are much smaller and easier to carry than a full blown spey rod on a bicycle. The switch rod, because of its length (mine is 11’3) also makes an awesome rod for nymphing and controlling the line over different current speeds.
So after much reading, I decided to get the Redington Dually Switch rod in a 7wt. The Dually is probably the least expensive switch rod on the market from a recognizable rod maker. It is no Sage but makes a great starter switch rod for those that are dipping their toes in those waters. Another reason I decided to go with Redington is that I’ve had good luck with their Classic Trout Travel rod. Again, a good value rod but that has served me well. Fish, thankfully, don’t care what brand you use. The 7wt is a good all-rounder size in the switch rod class.
Line and Reel
The next laborious decision to make was what line to get. This is sort of like choosing what tire you want for your bike. There are a myriad of choices and some are better for certain applications than others and each can offer a completely different ride experience. In steelhead fishing, there are essentially two techniques of fishing: swinging and indicator nymphing. Swinging entails spey casting the line out at about a 45 degree angle down stream and letting the fly sink subsurface and “swing” across the river until it is directly below you. Then repeat. The terminal tackle on a swing set up is usually a 10 foot sinktip, about 3-5ft of monofilament then the weighted fly. Nymphing entails casting a double nymph rig upstream and following it with your rod as it passes just below you. Then repeat. The terminal tackle on a nymph rig usually consists of a floating indicator, a length of monofilament, some split shot to help the flies get under, a stone fly pattern and some sort of egg pattern tied below that on the bend of the hook.
Suffice to say, the two techniques and tackle are pretty different which means that up until recently no single line could do both well. Most people would either carry two rods or reels strung up with a dedicated line for swinging or nymphing. Traveling on bike, that was a less than desirable solution. I wanted to carry as little stuff as possible so a single line that could both swing and nymph would be ideal. Fortunately, now there are options. I decided to go with the Rio Switch Chucker, a line that was designed to both swing and indicator fish. Having tried it on the water it works pretty well for both. Now granted, I have a very limited frame of reference not having tried a dedicated spey line before but I can get the line out as far as I need it to go.
For the reel, I decided to go with the affordable Echo Ion 8/10 reel. It’s a large arbor reel. Nothing fancy, but it holds the line and has a drag. I haven’t had a fish on yet, so I can’t really comment about how it all performs with an angry fish on the other end.
Leaders and Sink tips
The last piece of the puzzle are the leaders, or all the line that goes on the end of your fly line. To swing, you generally need some sort of sink tip to get your fly into that sweet part of the water column. A sink tip is monofilament that is coated or treated with something to cause it to sink. You can get them at various sink rates measured in inches per second for the water you are fishing. BUT, you can’t just get any sink tip. It can’t be too heavy for your fly line and rod to turn over other wise your cast won’t go anywhere. I initially bought the Rio MOW Medium full sinking tip (they come in light, medium and heavy flavors) but found it too heavy for the Rio Chucker line in 7wt. So in retrospect, the 10ft Rio MOW LIGHT full sinking tip is the better choice. I’ve been currently using a 10ft Rio Versileader with a rating of 3.9 inches per second and that seems to turn over really well.
So essentially, when I’m rigged up for swinging my line looks like this: Rio Chucker -> Rio MOW Light (or Rio Versileader) -> 4ft of 10# monofilament -> fly.
When I’m nymphing, instead of adding a sinktip, I add a section of floating line then my terminal tackle. I’m using the Rio MOW Floating line MEDIUM and it works well for this application. For nymphing, my tackle looks like this: Rio Chucker -> Rio MOW Floating Medium -> 2ft 15# mono -> Thingamabobber -> 10# mono adjusted for water depth with a some split shot -> stone fly -> 14inches of 8# mono -> egg pattern.
Sounds a bit complicated at first, but when you get it on the water it makes sense. Essentially you want your indicator to be buoyant enough so your two flies sort of bump the bottom of the river. When a fish hits the fly, the indicator will sink suddenly or jerk in a direction, then you set the hook. Fish on!
How do you carry it by bike?
As I’ve only recently gotten my switch setup, I’m still fine tuning how/what I carry. For the moment, I’m using a big piece of PVC pipe with an epoxied end cap that I have drilled on a pannier hook. I hook and bungee this to my rear rack and that holds the switch rod. On the other side is a pannier I have that carries a backpack that carries the reel, tackle, lunch, etc., When I get to a location, I leave the pannier on and put on the backpack. In my front basket I carry my Simms wading boots and my waders. It all makes for a manageable package.
On my last few outings to the Sandy River, I’ve taken the MAX train. I’ll hangup my bike with waders/boots and sit with my rod and backpack. When I detrain, I put everything back on and ride to the river (about 6-10 miles depending on where I go).
I’m a noob at this style of fishing so I’m still learning. So far, I’m pretty happy with my setup. With all my reading, it seems like this is the most effective way to get into steelhead fishing with a switch rod without breaking the bank. This setup also allows you to swing flies and indicator fish depending on the conditions or your mood. Here’s a list of what I got. Of course, I encourage you to buy things from your local fly shop. But, if you want to help support the site you can also order things off the Amazon links below:
Redington Dually Switch Rod – 11ft 3inch 7wt
Echo ION 8/10 Reel
Rio Chucker 7wt
Rio MOW Floating Medium 10ft
Rio MOW Sinking Light 10ft
Rio Versileader 10ft 3.9ips