The Spey-Fly Advantage for Trout

by Glenn Zinkus

What’s all the excitement about using Spey tackle for catching trout? Glenn Zinkus tells us about the equipment, flies, and fishing techniques. It sounds like fun!

Little compares to the thrill of a fish grabbing a fly swung through the water. Die-hard steelhead anglers know it, and so do guys who fish with wet flies. When a steelhead, salmon, or in this case, a trout, strikes a fly tethered to the end of a tight line, it’s as if a jolt of electricity shoots up the rod, into your arm, and throughout your body. When the rhythmic Spey casting and swinging lull you into another world, this thrilling shock is amplified.

Trout Spey is one of the fastest-growing aspects of fly fishing, and certainly of two-handed fishing. Trout Spey opens up previously unfishable water and adds more techniques and variety to our angling. Perhaps, most of all, this growth is a reflection on just how much fun fishing Spey flies to trout really is.


There are essentially two types of flies employed in trout Spey fishing: soft-hackles and streamers.


Hook: Daiichi D1260, size 10 or 8.
Thread: Black gel-spun 14/0.
Abdomen: Black Veevus Holographic Tinsel.
Rib: Small silver wire.
Thorax: Red Senyo’s Fusion Dub.
Flash: UV pearl MFC Sparkle Minnow Body Brush.
Hackle: Black Whiting Farms Spey hackle and claret coq de Leon hen soft hackle.
Head cement: Solarez Thin.

Soft-hackles are best used when there is some type of hatch occurring. Here in the Northwest, where trout Spey has become very popular, this means soft-hackles are effectively employed from the early-spring hatches of March browns and Skwala stoneflies to the last big hatches of the season, such as the October caddis. Effective soft-hackles include the gamut of styles from early English patterns such as a Snipe & Purple to 21st-century flies tied using the latest materials just released in fly shops. I most often swing soft-hackles with a trout Spey rod during hatches when I see visible evidence that fish are at the surface or just subsurface. During times when hatches are predictable, I swing soft-hackles before, during, and after these events to get their attention.


Hook: Daiichi D1130, size 8 or 6.
Bead: Gold tungsten, but copper is also a good choice for tying the October caddis version of this fly.
Thread: Brown olive 8/0 (70 denier).
Tail: Hungarian partridge.
Body: Shrimp pink and tan UV Ice Dub.
Rib: Pearl Flashabou.
Legs: Hungarian partridge
Collar: Peacock herl.

Streamers, and the more recently developed Intruder-style flies, are the other genre of patterns common to trout Spey. Streamers and Intruders are used effectively year-round, and are the only type of flies many trout Spey anglers use. While many of these patterns look like steelhead flies, they are scaled down for lighter-weight trout fishing, and can easily be cast all day using 3- and 4-weight trout Spey rods. Streamers and Intruders require sparse, lightweight materials, lighter and smaller hooks, and are tied in colors that trout will key on with the occasional hot spot or trigger-point bit of color.


Although trout Spey fishing can often be considered minimalist when on the water, with a rod, reel and line, box of flies, and perhaps a shooting head wallet, the scaled-down equipment and evolution of new gear can do one of two things: spin the head of a novice Spey caster into utter confusion or excite a gear head into a shopping spree of fly lines, shooting heads, and sinking tips for every situation.


Shank: Your favorite straight shank, length to match the size of the fly.
Connector: 20-pound-test Dacron backing, Fire Wire, or Senyo’s Intruder Trailer Hook Wire.
Hook: OPST Swing Hook, your choice of size.
Head: Cross-Eyed Cone.
Thread: Black gel-spun 10/0.
Underbody: Black Ice Dub.
Body: Black rabbit strip.
Collar: Red guinea hackle and black soft hackle.

Today’s ultralight trout Spey rods grew out of switch rods suitable for single- or double-handed fly fishing for trout. In more recent years, the growing popularity of trout Spey encouraged rod manufacturers to design and refine a new line of ultralight, two-handed Spey outfits. Many fly shops throughout the West have at least one person on staff who is into trout Spey and spends much of their time Spey casting and swinging flies on local trout waters.


Shank: OPST Steelhead Intruder Shank.
Connector: Senyo’s Intruder Trailer Hook Wire.
Hook: Gamakatsu Octopus Hook, size 4.
Thread: Olive 10/0.
Eyes: Dazl-Eyes or your favorite dumbbell eyes.
Body: Olive brown Ice Dub.
Inner body wrap: Four strands of Krinkle Mirror Flash, four strands of barred olive micro rubber legs, and a few strands of Lady Amherst tail fibers.
Outer body wrap: Rust rabbit strip.

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