Which single handed rod should I choose for my salmon fishing?
Many people ask me about this. The issues include which rod length, line weight and rod action makes up the best combination for river fishing for salmon and sea trout.
There is a multitude of rod lengths to choose from. Line weights of 6, 7 and 8 are the most commonly used for salmon fishing with single handed rods. Usual rod lengths are 9 feet, 9,6 feet, 9,9 feet, and 10 feet. Rod length is often chosen based on personal preferences, if you start fishing with a 9 feet rod it is only too easy to get so used to this that you can’t even consider any other lengths when you next buy a rod. Obviously, as it is a personal preference, this cannot be directly wrong for this particular fisherman. However, a longer rod is more practical for river fishing.
I prefer rods around 10 feet for my salmon fishing, I have used all types of lengths and this way I have come up with a notion of rods of 9,9 or 10 feet being the lengths that suit me the best. This rod length will help you in many practical situations, it is easier to lift the rod higher in order to slow down the speed of the fly, or to mend the line in order to increase fly speed, with a longer rod. When landing salmon I also like to fight the fish using a longer rod, as it is easier to steer the leader past rocks and other structures.
When comparing rod actions of an 8 weight 9 feet rod and an 8 weight 10 feet rod the shorter rod will have a “harder” rod action. This means that the 9 feet rod is less “patient” and “kind” in terms of casting mistakes when spey casting and with other casts where the line is lifted off the water, in my view the shorter rods are better suited for overhead casting. Fishing and casting sinking lines is also much easier with a longer single handed rod, if you try to spey cast a sinking line using a short single handed rod and a short leader it is very difficult to calculate the initial part of the cast. If you also fish a larger tube fly now, this might become a real struggle. All this becomes much easier with a longer rod. It can be wise to consider average casting lengths combined with all casting techniques. Average lengths will be higher with a longer rod, as a longer and softer rod will more easily tolerate casting mistakes and will help you properly stretch the leader while fishing.
Single handed spey casting.
There are specialist rods designed for single handed spey casting, and it is easier to learn single handed spey casting using these rods. The problem is often that many single handed rods are too stiff, thus they will be too fast for most people for the initial phase of the cast. You will not have enough time to get the basic technique right, it will not be firm enough, so the cast will often collapse, making the cast more difficult to learn. Single handed spey rods are longer, the length should be at least 10 feet. The rod action of these rods are softer so that the rods will be more “patient” in terms of mistakes occurring in the initial phase of the cast. The carbon material in single handed spey rods most be top notch, this is important in order to keep the rod weight down and also because the best materials will make sure that the “stopping points” when casting will be precise even with a softer rod. Combine this with long rod lengths and the rod will be a dream to learn single handed spey casting with. I can recommend Guide Line’s single handed spey rods from the LeCie range, here you will find a rod for your salmon fishing, whether you fish big or small rivers. G. Loomis also have two models that are fantastic for single handed spey casting, one is a 7 weight 11 feet rod, and the other one is an 8 weight 11 feet rod, all these models only weighs around 10 grams more than the same rods in 10 feet versions.
It is actually so that the demands you put on a single handed rod for salmon river fishing will be tougher than that of a double handed rods. Double handed rods from 13 feet in lengths and upwards are the ones mostly used in our rivers, the combination of length and weight class means that these rods will have enough power and sensitivity, even with cheaper models. When saying enough power I mean that a modern double hander today will manage most casting techniques and fishing sinking lines and large tube flies. Most fishermen choose to spend more money on a double handed rods than a single handed rods, perhaps this is why salmon fishing using single handed rods is less common in our large and challenging rivers. It’s a tough life for a single handed rods on the rivers around the Trøndelags region, such as the rivers Orkla and Gaula. The tasks of a single handed rod when used on large rivers, where it needs to cope with all kinds of casting methods, sinking lines, long casts, tight positions, and often large tube flies, are often very demanding so you must choose wisely in terms of rod action when deciding on such a rod. Avoid the cheapest rods with stiff rod actions, these are, obviously, stiff and difficult to spey cast with. The rod materials will affect the rod a lot in terms of weight and responsiveness, it is important that the responsiveness is good in terms of the start and stop positions during casting. It is not so that the stiffer the rod, the better the start and stop points.
Most rod manufacturers today design their rods with a tip rod action, or as I prefer to call it: a degree of tip action, as how much of the rod tip will bend vary a lot. A rod with a tip action is a fast action rod. A fast action rod uses a short distance between the start and stop points of casting in order to fully load. There are many advantages with such a rod action, but also some drawbacks. If the rod is too stiff/fast we will run into trouble especially when spey casting. Thus, it is important to find a rod that suits your fishing, but also your casting experience and skill level. It is best to take your time and try out several rods. If you are planning to fish a lot with the single handed rod, i.e. using it for most conditions where you will use a range of sinking lines, large tube flies, etc, you want to get a rod with a good combination of graphite materials and a degree of tip action. This is all intertwined, expensive rods with a high degree of tip action are manufactured using special techniques in terms of the amount of fibres in the graphite sheet and the tapering of the rod blanks, this means that the whole rod works as one, meaning that you will load these rods much easier than you can with a cheaper rod with the same degree of tip action. The types of fly lines you intend to use will also matter in terms of rod action. I almost exclusively use shooting heads for my salmon fishing, thus I use rods with a faster rod action. If you choose a softer rod for fishing shooting heads you may experience a negative correlation between the rod and line when casting. When fishing dry flies I use floating lines, this is a fairly short-range in terms of casting lengths as the river is low. Then I will use a “kinder” 8 weight rod or a 6 weight rod, I always use a modern WF line for floating line fishing, this is better for all types of casts starting from the water and will stand more wind that traditional WF lines.
Choosing the weight class.
The weight classification of the single handed rod must be chosen in terms of the size of the rivers you fish and also in terms of the weight class of the double handed rod you will fish with, as many people use a double hander for large rivers and a single hander for low or smaller rivers. The most commonly used weight class for salmon fishing on Norwegian salmon rivers is an 8 weight. As I often fish a single handed rod I have two different weight classes, an 8 weight and a 6 weight, both are 10 feet long, and as such I have a good rod regardless of which river I fish and regardless of water levels. I have to admit that I sometimes use a 5 weight too, but this is only when the river is extremely low during summer. If a 6 weight rod will suit “your” river the best, you should get a rod with a fighting butt, it is easier to fight the salmon if the reel is away from your body, especially should the salmon be large. This is only standard for rods of 9,6 feet and above, although there are a few 6 weights around with a fighting butt even on the 9 feet models.