Explored this way, the Battenkill became a new river with new possibilities.
When it’s good, fishing streamers from a drift boat is frantic, exciting, and action-packed, but when you get to the take-out, you sometimes realize that you’ve been so focused on constantly pounding the banks that you haven’t even looked up to enjoy the scenery—views of the Taconic Mountains, a glorious sunset, or an osprey on the hunt. Plus, when you’re floating, you’re forced to pass up a lot of water that may hold fish, as you head inexorably downstream.
Trout-Spey forced me to cover the river at a much slower pace, giving me more time to read the water, to set myself up for the proper presentation, and to “be the fly”—imagining just how the pattern is moving through the water, so I could ensure a proper presentation. There’s something about swinging flies that keeps you engaged with your surroundings. When I did hook up with a fish, the grab was just as exciting as a streamer or dry eat, and I felt like a kid again. Fishing this way is quiet, contemplative, and the cast plays a greater role in the pleasure of the experience.
One long stretch of riffle water really proved the value of the trout-Spey rod. When we were in the drift boat, we would race through this stretch quickly because it didn’t seem like very fishy water and we wanted to get to the better pools downstream. But as I waded slowly through the riffles swinging wet flies, I caught fish that I never knew existed. The soft water behind rocks, outside edges, and small features held some beautiful, smaller brown trout and brook trout, which would be tough to target with a stripped streamer. But I was able to swing wet flies right in front of the noses of these fish, and they couldn’t resist an easy meal.
The simple fact is, that I love swinging flies. There are certainly times when the dry fly and the nymph are more productive, but for me there is great satisfaction in nailing a good cast, mending the line to mesh with the existing current, waiting, and then suddenly, like a jolt to the arm from an electric fence, feeling life on the end of the line. A 3-weight is perfect for Soft Hackles on a Scandi head and protects a 5X tippet well when you’re swinging flies from size 12 to 22. For streamers or larger Soft Hackles, I switch to a 4-weight with a Skagit head and sinking tip. With this rod, I can throw streamers up to about 4 inches long, such as Zonkers and rabbit-strip sculpins, or a trout Clouser with bead-chain eyes.
Finding a new way to enjoy what you love most is a wonderful thing, and light two-handed trout fishing opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities. Fly fishers often consider whether the conditions are right for one method or another, but one of the beauties of trout Spey is that it can be effective during non-optimal times—when the river is too high, when there are no bugs hatching, and so on. And despite the name, this method is not just for trout, either. Swinging flies for smallmouth bass and other species in rivers can be equally deadly. Another bonus is that it keeps you tuned up for that steelhead trip in the fall. If you are looking for a way to breathe new life and excitement into your fly-fishing life, a two-handed, light fly rod could be just the ticket.