Christmas time means winter steelhead. Winter steelhead mean Spey time. Standing waist deep in some mercurial water with a tired shoulder from casting a T-11 sink tip used to be my norm. Throwing a single-handed rod isn’t that much fun in freezing temperatures. It is even more disheartening if you know the fish are 15’ beyond the reach of the farthest cast you have in you quiver. Now is the perfect time to get into two-handed casting. Here is my dream two-handed rod, reel and line combination.
G. Loomis NRX Spey Rod
The 14 ‘ NRX Spey Rod from G. Loomis in the 6/7 wt. version would be my choice if I were starting out. Heck, it would my choice now after fishing it this Fall. It was probably the most forgiving two-handed rod I have ever tossed into the drink. The rod possesses enough backbone to handle heavy tips and flies. A true medium-stiff rod that builds confidence within the angler with every cast, making it a great choice for any Spey rod fisherman.
Fishing it for a solid 6 hours the first time out made me really appreciate the rod’s usability. I like longer rods and Scandi lines, even with a heavy sink tip. This can be a difficult combination for a lot of rods, not the NRX however. My Snap-T was almost effortless with the longer bellied Airflo line that I was using. Often this isn’t the case, making every cast an adventure. The length of the rod gave me excellent line control, making mending so easy it that I forgot that I had done it a few times.
The secret of this rod is the taper. Creating line speed is the secret of casting any fly rod. Line speed is even more imperative when Spey casting. The G. Loomis signature is all over the fast taper of this rod. This makes initiating the cast exceptionally fast with little expenditure of effort. Simply put, it takes little movement to start your cast making the remaining elements of a good two-handed cast instinctive.
Reels for steelhead fishing are often an afterthought by fly fishermen new to Spey casting and even experienced anglers. The most common mistake I have seen has been from fishermen who choose a reel that is too light to properly balance their rod. Lighter isn’t always better but I would take a light reel over one without an exceptionally smooth drag. That is why I would choose a Galvan Torque for my present from Santa.
Full disclosure time from myself. I already own two Torques. These extra-smooth, extremely durable reels have been with me for years. Dropped, kicked and even run over by a pickup, these fine Galvan reels have passed the test time and again. The drag is smooth enough that I credit it for landing my largest steelhead more than my “superior” skill.
The numerous features like the de-tented drag knob and the large handle are great extra-features. What makes this a great reel for steelhead is the large arbor that makes picking up line almost as rapid as a steelhead can pull line from the reel and its drag. There is no better super low start-up inertia drag for the money. Sealed, with no maintenance needed, the “soul” of this reel is second to none. One more from Santa would make it a very special X-Mas for myself.
Airflo Scandi Compact Fly Line
The Airflo Scandi Compact Fly Line is the best of both the Skagit and Scandi worlds. Originally designed for shorter rods, I have found that it fishes exceptionally well on a longer two-handed rod. The simplicity of casting this line makes this perfect for the beginner or the lazy middle aged guy like myself. For the 6/7 NRX Spey rod I would use a 420gr line. Casting the Scandi Compact line with a sink tip in the wind made me wonder why I hadn’t tried one sooner.
My main reason for putting this on my Spey combo wish list is how great it fishes. Managing line speed and depth for winter steelhead is the determining factor for getting a fish to eat your fly. Mending and feeding line while your fly swings with this line takes minimal movement and effort. Ultimately, this is one of most complete lines I have ever fished.
This is my rod, reel and line set-up that I would like to get for X-Mas, particularly if I could only own one Spey combination……are you reading dear?