As a guide, I’ve had the opportunity to try dozens of switch rod fly lines in reel fishing conditions. I have been using switch rods and testing out switch rod fly lines since about 2011 and although switch rods are increasingly popular for steelhead, salmon, and trout, there still seems to be an issue that my clients and other anglers have when finding the best switch fly line for their rod.
It really doesn’t need to be that difficult since there are really only a few good switch lines and a few things you need to consider.
These are 3 out of the 6 best switch rod fly lines that work well with specific methods. The best switch lines are:
- Scientific Anglers Mastery Great Lakes Switch Line – Best all-purpose switch line.
- Rio Elite Switch Indicator – Best Switch Line for Indicator fishing.
- OPST Commando head – Best Switch line for Spey casting. Just make sure you get the right size for your rod.
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Getting The Best Switch Rod Fly Line For You
There are some things you need to consider before buying the right switch rod fly line for you. You need to consider:
- Your method of fishing: Will you be using one method or multiple methods?
- Grain Weight – Line sizing: You need to get the right size line based on your rod, and your method. The size refers to the weight of the line.
- Balanced system: The sink tips combined with the proper switch line, and a good running line mean you won’t need to fight to make good long casts.
These things can make the rod work better and make your experience better. I will discuss these things in more detail below.
The Best Switch Lines: By Method
I have two switch rods right now, one is mostly used for nymphing, and the other I use for Spey casting and swinging flies. I use two different lines on them and have tested all of the lines below on each rod.
These are the best switch rod fly lines based on the methods they are best used for.
1. Rio InTouch Switch Chucker – Spey Casting Line
If you plan to mostly Spey cast and swing flies with your switch rod, I use and recommend a line that is designed specifically for Spey casting.
One of the best switch lines for Spey casting that I have used is the Rio Elite Switch Chucker fly line.
This might even be the best-selling switch rod line on the market in 2023.
This Rio Switch line is designed to load switch rods quickly and easily and is perfect for casting large flies and heavy sinking lines.
OPST Commando Head
Another popular short head line in 2023 that I and other anglers are loving is the OPST Commando heads. It is a great line for casting and swinging flies.
Fly shops are saying since this switch fly line came out it is the line of choice for many guides and anglers that want a line designed for switch rods, short Spey rods, and even for single hands rods.
Those that use this say they are loving it, and I agree.
I have had the opportunity to use this line many times and I found that when you get the right grain weight line matched to the rod, and you have a good running line like the Rio Slick Shooter, it is a nice casting even with heavy sink tips and big flies.
You can also use this line for nymphing.
Airflo’s Rage Compact Shooting Head
Another short head Skagit/Scandi hybrid that I have been using is Airflo’s Rage Compact Shooting Head.
This will even cast sinking tips and big flies with less effort.
Match the grain weight to your rod and you are good to go.
Scientific Anglers Mastery Great Lakes Switch Line
If you want a line for nymphing and for swinging streamers check out the Scientific Anglers Mastery Great Lakes Switch Line.
I find that the longer head makes it easier when mending is needed while using indicators.
Although this is designed for Great Lakes steelhead and salmon rivers, it will also work just fine on the small to medium-sized west coast rivers.
Rio Elite Switch Indicator
If you plan to nymph and indicator fish with your switch rod, you will want a line that is designed for this style of fishing and Rio Elite Switch Indicator line is the line I’ve been using.
I find that the short front taper is easy to cast big indicators and weights combined with multiple flies easily for my inexperienced new clients.
Mending with its switch lines is also easy. However, it will also Spey cast when set up with the right-sized sink tips.
Other Switch Rod Fly Lines to Consider:
Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX: A good switch line for nymph and indicator fishing is the Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX. This line is a single-hand line with the bulk of the weight near the head and it’s a half size bigger than a normal line.
I have used this line 2 sizes up on my switch rods that I’m primarily fishing with nymphs, but, when I very occasionally switch to Spey casts and streamers. If you are mostly nymphing and casting heavy nymph rigs and indicators then this line is a good option.
Cortland Compact Switch Line: If you want a switch line that’s not a head and doesn’t need a full running line, the 100 foot long Cortland Compact Switch line is a good option.
Gaelforce Equalizer ESSS Switch and Short Spey Line: Full disclosure here, I have not knowingly used this line yet however I have heard good things from other anglers. I’m told it is a good line from a UK-based Spey fishing company. I plan to be testing this line out later in 2023.
A Switch Rod Needs A Proper Switch Rod Fly Line
A switch rod is basically a hybrid between a Spey rod and single-hand rod.
The switch rod was designed to allow anglers to cast with one or two hands, and to be able to switch from nymphing and indicator fishing to Spey casting, and because of that changing of methods switch rods are longer and slightly heavier to handle Spey casting.
Therefore a heavier than normal fly line is required for switch rods, especially if you plan to use Spey casts with it.
This means if you put a fly line made for single-hand rod on your switch rod it will be too light for Spey casting. Basically, a 7-weight single-hand line is not good on a 7-weight switch rod.
Back 10 years ago there were no switch rod fly lines available, instead, anglers just used regular fly lines but they upsized them.
The trick then and now is if you are planning to use a single-hand fly line on your switch rod you needed to go 3 sizes up. This meant for my 6-weight switch rod the best line was a 9-weight and for my 7-weight switch rod a 10-weight single-hand fly worked pretty well.
Then came dedicated switch rod fly lines which is what I recommend
Switch rod lines have proven to be better than upsizing a regular single-hand fly line.
As more and more guys got into switch rod fishing the switch rod fly lines have evolved to what they are today. These short-heavy-head switch lines cast much better than the single-hand lines ever did, especially when using heavier sinking tips and bigger spey flies like Intruders.
What Type of Line is Required for a Switch Rod?
The type of line required for a switch rod will depend on the fishing style and the size of the rod.
Switch lines are typically rated by the grain weight of the line, which is the weight of the first 10 to 30 feet of the line. The grain weight of the line should be matched to the rod to ensure that it casts properly.
But, if you are not spey casting you will not need as heavy of a line.
How to Determine the Best Switch Rod Line for Your Rod?
The first thing you want to consider is, what do you plan to do with your switch rod. This is what it comes down to.
Some guys use switch rods for nymphing because they like the extra length and they have no intention of ever Spey casting. If this is you, you don’t need a heavier casting switch rod fly line.
Those big heavy short heads really are not great for indicator nymphing and mending. They land heavy and that can spook fish.
If you mostly plan to nymph, consider using a fly line like the Rio Elite Switch Indicator which is designed for nymphing with switch rods.
If you plan to do some Spey casting or all Spey casting, then you will want a line that is designed for Spey casting with a switch rod, and this is where you should consider a switch rod fly line.
Use The Right Grain Weight For Your Rod
The grain weight of fly lines refers to the weight of the front head section of the line.
This measurement is used to rate fly lines and is an important factor in choosing the right line for your switch rod. If the line is too light, it will not load the rod properly, and if it is too heavy, it will overload the rod and make casting difficult.
Therefore, if you plan to Spey cast, go to the manufactures website and look up your fly rod to find the ideal grain weight range for your rod model. Then, decide on the best switch fly line for you.
Switch Line Tips and Running Line
You want to balance your entire outfit and use a good running line, and the right size and length sink tips.
There are a few running lines worth trying and sometimes it’s just personal preference.
Coated running lines look and feel like very skinny fly lines and have the advantage of better grip when fishing so you get better hook sets. The downside is the coating makes them a little sticky in the guides and you will get less distance.
Nylon-type running lines cast easily and far and don’t have that stickiness in the guides so these are the best lines when maximum distance is required. However, some anglers do not like them because they can slip through your fingers on the hook set.
The three running lines I use and recommend are:
- Rio Slick Shooter: A hard nylon line that I really like. and since it comes in larger diameters I find it less slippery in the hands. This is often my go-to running line, especially for distance casting.
- RIO’s Powerflex Ultra Shooting Line: a good coated shooting line that provides good casting distance and a good grip in your hands.
- OPST Pure Skagit Lazar Running Line: Similar to the Rio Slick Shooter
I choose my tips based on the depths that I want to get my flies. At times I want my fly on the surface but most of the time I want to be 3 to 5 feet off the bottom.
Add these good sink tips to get your fly down:
Best Switch Rod Fly Lines Q&A
That wraps up this article on the best switch rod fly lines of 2023. I will revisit and updates this in 2024 if there are newer and better lines that you should know about.