11 Best Spey Rods For Steelhead: Spey Rods Used and Recommended by Guides

As a steelhead guide, I have had the opportunity to use and test out dozens of Spey rods for steelhead. Some of them I liked, others I didn’t. Many of these Spey rods I get to try out belong to my clients, and sometimes, unfortunately, they buy the wrong Spey rod for their rivers. Don’t be them!

After discussing Spey rods with other guides, we review ten of the best Spey rods for steelhead and reveal which Spey rods are the ones used and recommended by guides and experienced Spey anglers.

Remember, not all spey rods are good for every steelhead river,

Spey rods are specifically used for the Spey fishing method, similar to Spey rods are switch rods which are a great option for steelhead anglers that want to sometimes Spey fish for steelhead and sometimes nymph for steelhead. Switch rods can do it all, but I won’t cover them on this page.

Instead, I discuss the best switch rods on our page Best Switch Rods For Steelhead.

Best Spey Rods For Steelhead: Before You Buy

Spey rods are meant for a style of fly fishing called Spey fishing and are to be used with Spey lines, but not all Spey rods will be right for you and the type of water that you fish.

I’ve already mentioned that I’ve tried some Spey rods that I did not like and most of the time it was because they were bulky, heavy, too long, or not meant to be fished the way I need to fish on my rivers to maximize my or my client’s success. The ley word was “MY RIVERS”.

The best Spey rods for steelhead will depend on a few things so before you go out and buy a Spey rod take these things into consideration.

  • River Size and Type: Current Speed, Depths, And Width
  • Fish Size
  • Style of Spey fishing

Size of River

Gareth Thomas from Alley Grabs Guide Service and I both recommend 12 to 14-foot Spey rods in the 7-weight size. This is a great size for the rivers that we fish around the great lakes. Most of our rivers are 30 to 100 feet wide and shallow to medium depth.

For the larger Great Lakes steelhead rivers and the large west coast steelhead rivers that can be well over 100 feet wide, 13 to 14-foot Spey rods in the 8 to 9-weight sizes are best.

These wide rivers are also more susceptible to stronger winds, and these larger rods will help cast larger flies into the wind.

Size Of Steelhead

You will also find that the West Coast steelhead will be bigger and stronger and therefore an 8-weight or 9-weight rod will be a better size to handle the big fish and longer casts than the 7-weight Spey rods commonly used on the smaller Great Lakes Steelhead.

Style Of Spey Fishing

There are three styles of Spey fishing, and they each use different lines and different casts, and maybe different flies, and they all have their purpose. Below is a brief and easy way to describe each method in a nutshell. You should consider this before you buy a Spey rod.

Traditional Spey Fishing:

Traditional Spey fishing uses lighter lines, long rods, non-weighted leaders/tips, and lighter smaller flies. Traditional Spey fishing is meant for shallower rivers where the rivers do not get too deep or where a shallow or high fly presentations work.

Also, traditional Spey fishing is also used with flies that float or skate across the surface which is not a very effective method for steelhead most of the time.

The Traditional Spey method is not used very often on great lakes or west coast rivers and is often used for Atlantic Salmon that will hit a high fly or even flies on the surface. This method is most often used on east coast rivers or in Europe.

Most Spey rods sold in North America are not designed for traditional Spey fishing methods.

Scandi Spey Fishing

The Scandi Spey fishing method is used by some great lakes anglers to target steelhead on medium to medium large rivers (40 to 100 feet wide) with shallow to mid-depths of 3 to 5 feet deep.

With the Scandi Spey method, you can still get long casts with lightly weighted leaders/tips and light flies, but it’s not ideal for deeper rivers or deeper fish.

There are times when steelhead are active and aggressive and holding in shallower sections of the river, and the Scandi Spey method can be very productive. For this reason, some West Coast and Great lakes anglers will prefer this type of Spey fishing, and they have learned to make this work for them on their waters.

Most fly rods sold in North America are good for the Scandi style of Spey fishing.

Skagit Spey Fishing

Skagit Spey fishing was designed to throw big flies with heavy sinking leaders/tips so you can get your flies down fast and keep them down. This is ideal for most West coast and Great Lakes rivers.

Skagit rods are best on rivers with deep drop-offs, big boulders and pocket water, fast flows, and where the pools are deeper and where the steelhead hold near the bottom.

For this reason, Skagit Spey fishing is the method that I teach and recommend for most Great Lakes and West Coast rivers.

With Skagit Spey fishing, your casts may not be as pretty as traditional Spey, and Scandi Spey casts due to the heavy Skagit line, heavy sink tips, and sometimes large bulky flies, but with a good Skagit rod you will be able to get those big steelhead flies in front of more fish and therefore, under most conditions, Skagit rods are the best Spey rods for steelhead.

Most Spey rods for steelhead sold in North America are good for Skagit style Spey fishing, and some are designed with this method in mind.

Know Your Water

You should know what type of water you’ll be fishing the most so based on these things you can make a wise decision. If you need depth or shorter casts, go with a Skagit Rod setup, but, if your spots are mostly shallow and under 4 feet, a Scandi rod set-up could work.

Stick With Spey Rods From Reputable Companies

When you buy a rod from a reputable company you are getting a rod that has been designed, produced, and tested by experts. These companies often give their rods to guides and competitive casters, and they design them to cast effortlessly.

You will also find these rods are rated better by actual users because they will be better built, lighter in weight, have better flex points for Spey casting, and will use the right components in the right places. Many cheaper rods won’t offer all of this.

You are also usually getting better customer service and a good warranty from reputable companies you can trust.

Although it may look like a great deal, you may not get all this with some of the cheap China crap sold online! What’s the saying, “buy cheap, buy twice”.

Best Spey Rod For The Money

This was a tough decision due to the quality and fishability of many of the Spey rods that I have used. The Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod is one of the newer rods in the Redington line-up, and after using it, I would say that it feels like a rod priced $200 to $300 more.

For this reason, and at this price point, the Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod could be used and liked by beginner to advanced anglers without breaking the bank on Spey rods well over $600.00.

This makes the Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod my top choice for the best Spey rod for the money.

Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod

The Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod is the latest model of Spey rods replacing the very popular and well-liked Redington Chromer rods.

This rod is a good beginner to intermediate angler rod and is liked by many guides and fly shops.

The 6-weight 12’6″ and the 7-weight 12′ 6″ rods are great options for steelhead on smaller to midsized rivers around the Great Lakes region.

The 8-weight 13’6″ rod is ideal for bigger rivers and west coast steelhead.

This rod in the steelhead sizes sells for about $449.00

Click the button to check out the pricing and more details!

Best Beginner Spey Rods For Steelhead

There are three rods that will fit into the category of best beginner Spey rods for steelhead.

These rods are suitable for beginner to intermediate and are generally lower in price, with medium fast action for easier casting, and they will do the job on most small to medium-large rivers.

These rods can also be considered the best economy Spey rods for steelhead.

River guides often need to buy multiple rods for multiple clients; therefore it’s not uncommon to see river guides using these less expensive rods as their guide rods for clients since they are durable, cost-effective, and easy to learn with.

As a guide myself, I rarely let my clients use my rods that were over $500.00 since clients sometimes do dumb things like break rods. Because of this, I found that fly rods in the $200 to $400 range were more than good enough to teach my clients on and there was so little difference that most clients could not tell a $300 rod from an $800 rod.

For this reason, these 3 Steelhead Spey rods will be perfect for beginner to intermediate anglers.

Choose the size that best fits your needs.

3 Best Spey Rods For Beginners

Echo Swing Two-Hand Spey Rod

The Echo Swing Spey Rod is a medium-fast action rod for easy casting and is a good starter rod coming in at $274.99

The 6-weight, 11’6″ rod, and the 7-weight 11’7″ rod are good rods for small to mid-sized (20 to 60 feet wide) steelhead rivers around the great lakes.

The 13-foot, 7-weight is a good option for wider bigger Great lakes rivers and some West coast rivers.

These reputable stores sell this Spey rod so check out the pricing and more details!

Redington Dually II Spey Rod

A fast-action rod for more powerful casts and big sink tips and big flies.

The 12’6, 7-weight, is a great rod for small streams on the west coast or around the great lakes.

The 13’6, 7 weight is good for mid-sized to larger rivers.

The 13’6, 8-weight is a great big water Spey rod.

These reputable stores sell this Spey Rod so check out the pricing and more details!

Cabela’s Vector Two-Hand Fly Rod

Economy Beginner Rod

If you are totally new to Spey fishing and not sure if you will continue doing it, or you will only Spey fish a few times a year, or you are on a tight budget, then this is the beginner rod for you.

These reputable stores sell this Spey Rod so check out the pricing and more details!

What Spey Rods Are Good For Great Lakes Steelhead?

Most great lakes steelhead rivers are 30 to 60 feet wide, and these rivers do not require long heavy Spey rods. Often, a 6 or 7-weight Spey rod in the 11’6″ to 13″ length is perfect, and these recommended Spey Rods will be perfect.

But only you will know the rivers you fish so choose wisely.

3 Best Spey Rods For Great Lakes Steelhead

Best Economy Great Lakes Spey Rod

Echo Swing Two-Hand Spey Rod

The Echo Swing Spey Rod is a medium-fast action rod suitable for great lakes steelhead fishing, and it starts at around $274.99

The 6-weight, 11’6″ rod, and the 7-weight 11’7″ rod are good Spey rods for small to mid-sized (20 to 60 feet wide) steelhead rivers around the great lakes.

The 13-foot, 7-weight is a good option for wider more significant Great lakes rivers.

Great Alternative Spey Rod:

Best Mid-Range Great Lakes Spey Rod

Redington Claymore Spey Rod

A fast-action Spey rod for more powerful casts and big sink tips and big flies.

The 12’6, 7-weight, is a great Spey rod for small streams on the west coast or around the great lakes.

The 13’6, 7 weight is good for mid-sized to larger rivers.

The 13’6, 8-weight is a great big water Spey rod.

Great Alternatives:

Best High-End Great Lakes Spey Rod

G. Loomis Asquith Spey Rod

It’s hard to beat the G. Loomis Asquith Spey Rod. It’s one of the technologically advanced, lightweight, and sensitive Spey rods on the market.

But it isn’t cheap and comes in around $1300.00.

The 12’9 6weight and the 13 foot 7 weight are great rods for great lakes steelhead rivers.

Excellent Spey Rod Alternatives are:

  • Sage Igniter Two-Handed Fly Rod 11 foot 8 weight – CHECK PRICE
  • G. Loomis NRX+ Spey Rod 12’6, 6 weight, or 13’3″, 7-weight – CHECK CURRENT PRICE

Best Spey Rods For West Coast Steelhead

Many west coast steelhead rivers are big and wide, and they require Spey rods that can cast big flies into the wind. The steelhead also tend to be larger and stronger so a heavier rod is a great idea.

Now if you fish the smaller west coast rivers, then the above great lakes rods in 7weight should be ok.

3 Best Spey Rods For West Coast Steelhead

Beginner Spey Rod For West Coast Rivers

Orvis Clearwater Two-Handed Fly Rod

The

The 14 foot 9-weight Orvis Clearwater Spey rod is a great beginner to intermediate rod that is very easy to cast and is beginner friendly.

It is great for the bigger West Coast rivers.

This rod will handle big flies, heavy sink tips, and big west coast steelhead.

Economy Spey Rod:

Mid-Range Spey Rod For West Coast Steelhead

Douglas LRS Spey Rod

There are 2 suitable mid-range rods to consider.

The Douglas LRS 13 foot 8-9 weight salmon steelhead Spey rod is an excellent choice for big rivers and big fish.

The Temple Fork Outfitters LK Legacy TH Spey Fly Rod is another great rod that is good for big flies, and heavy sink tips. It casts like a rod twice its price

High-End Spey Rod For West Coast Steelhead

Sage Sonic Spey

If you are looking for a high-end Spey rod that is ideal for fishing big west coast steelhead then the 14 foot, 9-weight Sage Sonic is your rod.

Its lightweight, thin, and wind-resistant profile will reduce casting and fishing fatigue.

This rod is also sensitive for those light steelhead taps but strong for those hard hits and hard runs.

For smaller west coast rivers the 13’6, 8-weight is a good option.

Featured Spey Rod

Sage Sonic Two-Handed Fly Rod

The Sage Sonic Two-handed rod may be one of the best Spey rods for steelhead that I have used.

Known for its exceptionally lightweight and skinny rod blank design, it is made for less wind resistance and less fatigue and provides a great fighting action.

The 8-weight 11’6 switch rod version is excellent for smaller to mid-sized rivers of 30 to 80 feet wide.

For Great Lakes steelhead on the bigger rivers, or on smaller west coast rivers, the 8-weight 13’6″ is a fantastic rod that will handle long casts and big fish in fast currents.

For very large West Coast rivers the 9-weight 14-foot Spey rod is the best option for those needed super long casts and to handle those big hard fighting steelhead.

However, I felt that this rod was too much rod for most Great Lakes steelhead rivers and found it unnecessarily heavy and would suggest the smaller rods.

These reputable stores sell this Spey Rod so check out the pricing and more details!

Spey Rods For Steelhead Chart

Spey Rod

User

Best Use

Price

Rating

Sage Sonic Two-Handed Fly Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Medium to large rivers

$750 - $950

9 / 10

Temple Fork Outfitters LK Legacy TH Spey Fly Rod

Beginner to Advance

Medium to large rivers

$459.95

8  / 10 

Douglas DXF Fly Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Medium to large rivers

$629.00

8 / 10

G. Loomis NRX+ Spey Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Medium to large rivers

$1025.00

9 / 10

Echo Tim Rajeff TR Spey Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small to Medium-large rivers

$379.00

7 / 10

G. Loomis Asquith Spey Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Medium to large rivers

$1299.99 - $1574.99

10 / 10

Echo Compact Spey Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small to Medium-large rivers

549.99

7 / 10

Redington Dually II Spey Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small to Medium-large rivers

$299 - $319.99

7 / 10

Echo Swing Two-Hand Spey Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small to Medium-large rivers

$274.99

7 / 10

Orvis Clearwater Two-Handed Fly Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small, Medium and Large rivers

$398.00

8 / 10

Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Small, Medium and Large rivers

$449.99

8 / 10

More On Spey Fishing

Once you get your Spey rod and reel, you will need to learn how to effectively fish for steelhead on the Spey. Don’t worry, I have you covered with article and advice from multiple river guides.

Best Spey Rods For Steelhead Q&A

I hope you enjoyed this article on the best Spey rods for steelhead, there are many other great steelhead Spey rods, but these are the ones I have the most expereince with, are still available, and that I feel comfortable recommending.

If you have a question, comment, or some tips and advice, let me know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines

Graham and The Trout and Steelhead Team

Author

  • Graham - River Guide / Instructor

    I am a full-time river fishing guide with over 20 years of guiding experience and I run one of the top river guide services with a team of great river guides. I have guided about 3000 anglers and this website is a compilation of the tips and methods that I teach my clients and other guides. Check the About Us page in the bottom menu for more about me and our river guide contributors.

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