Thirty-some years ago, Mike Maxwell, the Canadian steelhead guide and fly-casting instructor, demonstrated the use of two-handed (spey) rods while visiting the Yellowstone area for a Federation of Flyfishermen conclave. A few local anglers watching his demonstration were immediately struck by the utility of such rods for fishing the “swinging fly” during the fall run of fish out of Hebgen and Quake Lakes. For those of us interested in pursuing this kind of fishing, there weren’t many options at that time when it came to choosing a rod. Orvis was the only American company building two-handed models; they made them principally for Atlantic salmon fishing. Our choice for the Madison ended up being their 15’ 11-weight model—a beast of a rod by today’s standards, though one which was certainly fishable.
Fast forward to now and almost every rod company offers two-handed models, most in a wide range of lengths and line weights. It’s become ever more common to see these rods in use by anglers plying the waters of the Madison in the fall, and why not? They offer unparalleled advantages over single-handed rods—less tiring to use, easier to cast long distances when necessary, no need for stripping in line before making another cast, no need for false casting or for maintaining backcast space behind you, superb control of the fly swing, and an ability to fight fish more efficiently. Not only that, but they’re just a heck of a lot of fun to fish with, too.
If you’re a fisherman that enjoys swinging flies for fall-run fish (or if you’re a steelhead or salmon angler) you owe it to yourself to try a two-handed rod, if you haven’t already done so. Once you discover the pleasures and efficiency of fishing with two hands, I doubt you’ll ever revert to a single-handed rod. I sure haven’t, and I don’t know anyone else that has either!