11 Best Spey Rods For Steelhead: Recommended By Guides

Author with a Great Lakes steelhead caught on a 13 foot, seven-weight spey rod. This is my recommended size for Great Lakes steelhead.

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 another great option for steelhead anglers that want to sometimes Spey fish for steelhead and sometimes nymph for steelhead.

My Quick Picks

  1. Sage Sonic Two-Handed Fly Rod: Best Overall Spey Rod
  2. Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod: Best For The Money
  3. Echo Swing Two-Hand Spey Rod: Best Beginner Spey Rod

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

Best Spey Rods For Steelhead: Before You Buy

Gareth with a nice spring steelhead caught on a spey rod.
Ohio steelhead guide Gareth with a nice spring steelhead caught on a Spey rod.

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 want to 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 key 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: West Coast Steelhead or Great Lakes Steelhead
  • Style of Spey fishing: Traditional, Skagit, Scandi

Size of River

Gareth with a Winter Spey fishing Steelhead
Gareth from Alley Grabs Guide service with a nice winter steelhead caught while swinging flies.

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

John Wielinga Get Bent Guide Service Michigan
A beautiful January Michigan steelhead caught by John Wielinga from Get Bent Guide Service in Michigan. Click the image for more or to book your trip.

You will also find that the West Coast steelhead will be bigger and stronger, and therefore, an 8-weight or 9-weight Spey 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 Spey fly 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:

Steelhead fishing in BC

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

Fly Fishing for Steelhead

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 and sink 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

An angler fishing with all the the right size gear For Alaska Salmon Fishing
An angler fishing with all the the right size gear For Alaska Salmon 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 line 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

Pennsylvania Steelhead Rivers

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

Fall Spey fishing
My old Hardy Spey rod and reel combo that I used for guided trips and for fun fishing.

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 at $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 that are 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 an excellent 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 size 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 beginners to intermediates 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 is the Echo Swing Two-Hand Spey Rod which is one of the best Spey rods for beginner steelhead anglers.

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.

Redington Dually II Spey Rod

This is the Redington Dually Switch and 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, seven weight is good for mid-sized to larger rivers.

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


I’ve been testing this rod out since January of 2023. It casts well, feels good in the hands, and handles any steelhead. Good for beginner to more advanced anglers.

I use and like the 13 foot 7 weight, but you have the option for 12 foot to 15 foot for large rivers.

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 six 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.

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.

If you fish the smaller West Coast rivers, then the above Great Lakes rods in 7weight should be ok.

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 who need 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.

Spey Rods For Steelhead Chart

Spey Rod


Best Use



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


8  / 10 

Douglas DXF Fly Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Medium to large rivers


8 / 10

G. Loomis NRX+ Spey Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Medium to large rivers


9 / 10

Echo Tim Rajeff TR Spey Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small to Medium-large rivers


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


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


7 / 10

Orvis Clearwater Two-Handed Fly Rod

Beginner to Intermediate

Small, Medium and Large rivers


8 / 10

Redington Claymore Spey Fly Rod

Intermediate / Advanced

Small, Medium and Large rivers


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 articles and advice from multiple river guides.

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

Tight Lines


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