Steelhead Fly Fishing

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Whether you’re swinging large western rivers for fresh, powerful Steelhead, or probing smaller streams in pursuit of anadromous beauties, fly fishing for Steelhead requires specialized rods for the job. Today, we’ll take a look at several of the best Steelhead rods of 2024, to help you pick the right tool for your fishing.

Sage Spey R8

Sage Spey R8 Fly Rod

Sage launched the new Spey R8 rod family in January, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular 2-handed rods on the market. The slogan of the Spey R8, “Lift, Load & Deliver,” alludes to the rod’s power and accuracy across the board. While we agree that many Spey R8 models have plenty of power, we’d argue that the Spey R8 offers more soul and smoothness than raw power. Anglers have their choice of 13 unique rod models in varying lengths and line weights to fit a wide range of fishing applications. From tight-quarter switch fishing to big-river Skagit dredging, there’s a model that fits any swing junkie’s needs. Cosmetically, the rod’s appearance harkens back to older Sage rods, featuring an amber “ale” colored blank and a handsome walnut wood insert on the reel seat. The componentry of the Spey R8 is top notch as we’ve come to expect with premium Sage rods. Overall, the Sage Spey R8 is a sophisticated rod that can handle any two-handed pursuit, but at the expense of a high price tag. For anglers willing to drop some serious coin on the latest premium two-hander, the Spey R8 is an excellent choice.

Category: Two-Handed Spey, Switch

Price: $1,300.00


  • Lightweight across the board
  • Soulful and accurate
  • Classic appearance


  • Pricey!
  • Not as powerful as other premium spey rods

Gaelforce Equalizer

Gaelforce rods are a bit of a sleeper here in the United States, but we hope to change that. Designed in Scotland, Gaelforce specializes in premium two-handed rods that can throw Scandi and long-belly lines with ease. The Equalizer stays true to form, offering tons of power for longer casts, and enough feel to make casting a joy. The only performance drawback of the Equalizer is its weight, which is certainly heavier than what most USA-based rod manufacturers are producing nowadays. However, the rod does feature a downlocking reel seat to help balance the blank more comfortably. Cosmetically, the rod is more utilitarian and features standard componentry that gets the job done. One of our favorite features of the Equalizer is its ergonomics. The cork handles are fine-tuned for spey casting comfortably all day, and compared to other premium rods, the Equalizer prioritizes functionality over weight and aesthetics. For the die-hard spey angler looking for great performance over bling, the Gaelforce Equalizer spey rod is one of our favorites.

Category: Two-Handed Spey, Switch

Price: $949.99


  • Thoughtful ergonomics
  • Powerful


  • Expensive
  • Heavier than other premium rods

Scott Swing

The Scott Swing is one of our favorite two-handed rods from Scott to date, combining plenty of power with quick recovery across the board. This is a Skagit angler’s rod, offering beginner to advanced anglers the confidence to conquer dredging scenarios and bigger flies. Offered in 14 unique models, the Swing can handle a wide variety of applications. One confusing aspect of their model offerings is the absence of the beloved 11’ 7/8 wt in the switch lineup. We’re not sure why Scott decided to omit this switch rod favorite, but they opted for the shorter 9’8” 7wt and 8wt models instead. Aesthetically, the Swing features the classic Scott unsanded blank and premium componentry. Ergonomically, we found the top handle to be somewhat awkward, but this is more a matter of preference that can vary from one angler to the next. Lastly, the Swing is going to set you back a pretty penny to get your hands on it, so it isn’t a budget option by any means. Overall, the Scott Swing spey rod is an excellent powerhouse two-hander that is fun to cast and feels every bit like a Scott.

Category: Two-Handed Spey, Single-Handed

Price: $1,395.00


  • Powerful
  • Quick recovery
  • Easy to cast!


  • High price tag
  • No 11’ 7/8wt offering

Winston Microspey Air 2

Winston Microspey Air 2 Fly Rod

Not every Steelhead foray requires a 13’ 7wt; sometimes, the finesse game is much more enjoyable. That’s the reason we’re including the Winston Microspey Air 2 on this list. Sure, this is primarily a trout rod, but in smaller water where smaller Steelhead are present, this is a phenomenal tool. The Winston Microspey Air 2 offers a classic Winston feel with a deep flex, making casting and fighting smaller fish a blast. Additionally, the rod’s medium action provides excellent tippet protection for techy situations. Aesthetically, the Microspey Air 2 is exactly what you’d expect from any Winston, featuring the hallmark green blank and premium componentry from cork to tip. Overall, the Microspey Air 2 delivers a playful and elegant finesse tool for anglers willing to drop big bucks on a little rod.

Price: $1,295.00

Category: Two-Handed Spey


  • Extremely lightweight
  • Premium componentry
  • Playful medium action


  • Not for bigger water or giant fish
  • Expensive

TFO LK Legacy Spey

TFO Legacy LK Spey Fly Rod

TFO is known for creating high-performance rods at a very reasonable price, and their LK Legacy Spey series is no exception. The LK Legacy Spey is a fast-action rod designed for delivering laser loops in technical situations. Think long heads on big water. Given its power, beginners and even intermediate anglers might find this rod challenging to master. For advanced casters, however, the LK Legacy Spey will deliver excellent performance in a no-frills package.

Category: Two-Handed Spey, Switch

Price: $479.95


  • Under $500
  • Fast and powerful


  • Standard componentry
  • Not beginner-friendly

Redington Claymore

Redington Claymore Fly Rod

Redington benefits from trickle-down technology from their big brother Sage, so it's no surprise that the Claymore spey rod is a surprisingly solid two-handed rod for the money. The Claymore is a fast-action rod that offers plenty of zip for punching aggressive heads and heavy flies. The bigger models of this rod really shine, for situations like dredging for winter Steelhead. Redington also offers the Claymore in switch sizes, making it a quality option for versatile anglers. Aesthetically, the Claymore features standard componentry and a unique polymer grip section on the top and bottom handles. The polymer grip section looks a little funky, but it vibes with Redington’s hipster ethos. Overall, the Claymore is a solid performer for anglers looking for a budget-friendly cannon.

Category: Two-Handed Spey, Switch

Price: $449.99


  • Under $500
  • Powerful


  • Basic componentry
  • Not a finesse rod

Hardy Marksman

Hardy Marksman Fly Rod

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a dedicated single-handed rod in this list. To fill the void, we’ve picked the Hardy Marksman 10’ 8wt as our preferred single-hander for Steehlead. The Marksman is known primarily as a finesse trout rod, but in this longer and heftier size it handles nymphing and single-hand swinging exceptionally well. Although it’s not a powerhouse, the Marksman offers a low swingweight which makes repetitive casting and high-sticking a breeze. Its increased length is ideal for mending and managing drifts, and adds a bit of power compared to most 9 footers. Additionally, the Hardy Marksman offers plenty of feel with its medium-fast action blank, and protects light tippets like a champ. From high-sticking pocket water to drifting lighter indicator rigs, the Hardy Marksman is a fantastic single-hand option for Steelhead.

Category: Single-Handed

Price: $950.00


  • Great tippet protection
  • Lightweight
  • Quick recovery, accurate


  • Expensive
  • Lacks power at long-range


What other species can be targeted with a Steelhead rod?

Spey rods, switch rods, and longer single-handed rods can be used to target many different species including Trout, Salmon, Smallmouth bass, Striped Bass, and more. One of the greatest aspects of “Steelhead rods” is their versatility!

What’s the difference between a Spey rod and a Switch rod?

The difference between Spey and Switch rods lies in their uses. Spey rods are designed for two-handed spey casting, and will not overhead cast well. Switch rods, however, are designed to “switch” between both casting styles. Which rod you should choose depends on your fishing situation. If you’ll be fishing larger rivers where you’ll only be spey casting, you should choose a spey rod. If you’re on smaller water and enjoy doing some single-handed casting intermixed with spey casting, a switch rod is the best choice. Check out this video on our YouTube channel, which explains the difference between spey and switch rods in greater detail.

Is a Spey or Switch rod difficult to cast?

Like any casting method, practice makes perfect. Fortunately, there are many educational videos, books, and classes available to learn the ins and outs of two-handed casting techniques. The best option is to hire a professional casting instructor. Often, a couple of hours with an instructor will expedite the process tremendously.

What line should I choose for my Steelhead rod?

Selecting lines, heads, and tips for two-handed rods can be confusing. Ultimately, the correct selection depends on variables such as the fishery, species, and season you’ll be fishing. Do a little homework by watching our YouTube video, and consulting our team of experts to pick the right setup.

What are the key differences between premium and budget-friendly Steelhead fly rods?

We are very lucky these days to have many budget-friendly fly rods which still perform quite well. That being said, there are some distinct differences between premium rods and their economic counterparts. Primarily, the materials used in premium rods will be of higher quality than those found in budget rods. Some of these materials, like the graphite used in the blank, can greatly affect the performance of the rod. Other materials, like the reel seat insert and the paint finish, are more cosmetic and subjective. Additionally, warranties may differ between premium and budget Steelhead fly rods. Premium rods tend to have a more substantial warranty, but you should check with the manufacturer for each specific model’s warranty.