There has been a real increase lately in the attention switch rods have been receiving. Evert day at the shop we are asked to match a line to various switch rods, it was indeed a hot topic at the Angling Expo in Dublin. It amazes me at how messed up this one rod class is and how much confusion it causes in the fly fishing world. Once switch rods started being used as a new marketing term the majority of brands jumped on board, with their own interpretation of what a switch rod is, adding to the line rating confusion even more.
Switch rods are not a new product, we have had them for many years, if you owned an 11’ single handed rod with an extended fighting butt then you have owned a switch rod. The Daiwa Whisker 11’3’’ springs to mind, the majority of anglers out there have certainly encountered it at some point and used it as a ‘switch’ rod long before the term was created. Today, in 2019 you can find two distinct categories that switch rods fall under.
The most common, certainly within the U.K and U.S are not really switch rods at all, they are mini double handers. The rods might feel very light in weight but the key factor that determines them as a mini double hander is the line weight they cast. Yes it might say #7 or #7/8 on the side of the rod but put a #7 wf trout line on the rod and you will be very disappointed, it won’t load and no doubt this is what gives a lot of people a bad impression of switch rods the first time round. Put a #7 salmon rated line on to the same rod and you are likely to break the rod, it overloads the blank, it might feel like its really loading but trust me, that rod is under serious stress. It won’t take much and it will break!
When switch rods really started becoming fashionable, it must be around 10 years ago now the companies that went down this mini double hander road simply made up their own line rating scale for them, a scale that isn’t universal and no one adheres to. These rods aren’t quite trout rating and they are not quite salmon rating, usually falling in the 20 - 27 gram range. No one was told this, very few companies tell definitively what line to put on the rod and unfortunately it has been left up to the customer to use trial and error (sound familiar ?)
The other ‘switch’ rod that is out on the market is the long single handed rod that has the lower handle for double handed use if needs be. You might think all switch rods match that description but again refer back to the true line weight the rod casts. The line weight is the key to determine if its a switch rod or a mini double hander. For a rod to be used in the true switch capacity you really don’t want to be casting lines any heavier than 18 grams/278 grains or a #8 weight forward trout rated line. You can cast these single handed lines with ease and without fatigue in overhead or spey disciplines and again with one or two hands.
Theres no right or wrong answer here, just be clear on what role you want your ‘switch’ rod to fulfil. Are you going to be using it solely as a small double handed rod, then look for rods that need lines in the 20+ gram ranged. My preference is the all round switch rod that can be used in all aspects, single or double handed so I look for a rod that will comfortably cast lines no heavier than 18 gram (WF8). Analyse the rivers you are fishing and the scenarios you imagine yourself in, then take a look at which suits your needs.
With more and more new marketing terms being thrown at us it will save you a lot of time, effort and money to understand exactly what line is needed for the rod. With more switch rods arriving, micro spey for trout and everything in between the tackle industry has never been so confusing. If in doubt, get in touch, I am in the fortunate position to try different lines on different rods regularly.
Here is a very crude brief on line ratings just to give you some understanding of what some line ratings are and how easy it is to get mixed up in this switch mess.
Single handed lines:
#7 - 16 grams/247 grains
#8 - 18 grams/278 grains
#9 - 20 grams/308 grains
'switch’ / mini double handers:
#5 - 18 grams/278 grains
#6 - 20 grams/308 grains
#7 - 22 grams/340 grains
#8 - 24 grams/370 grains
#9 - 26 grams/ 401 grains
#7 - 24 grams/370 grains
#8 - 28 grams/432 grains
#9 - 31 grams/478 grains
#10 - 35 grams/540 grains
This weights are not set in stone, its all brand dependant and really requires you to get the information from the manufacturer for exactly what weight the rod needs or, the best solution is try before you buy. The above table is there to help highlight the difference between the #’s and what they ‘might’ mean on your rods.
Switch rods, its a minefield, but they are my absolute favourite fishing tool!