Ally Gowans' product recommendations are listed at the end of this article.

There is aesthetic pleasure and satisfaction in watching a well executed cast roll out, 80 or maybe 100 feet over the water. Such distances are never easy with a single handed rod, but with two hands they be accomplished by most anglers, with relative ease all day long.

The origin of double handed fly fishing is that of fly fishing itself. In the early days rods were much too heavy to be used with only one hand and many rods were two handed. For instance, a traditional long Scottish greenheart rod weighed heavily, add to that the weight of a brass 4.5 inch reel and line and the result was at around 4lbs cumbersome and energy sapping. Salmon fly fishing with such tackle was an awesome task, small wonder that in those days’ anglers fished for only an hour or two at a time with rests between pools. Stopping to change a fly must have been merciful relief from the pain of casting and those who tied their own flies on the river bank probably had method in their madness. Another useful tactic for the tiring fisherman was to let the ghillie do the fishing and take the rod only when a fish was hooked! Despite all its drawbacks, the big rod made longer casts, controlled the line and had the strength to handle heavy fish in strong currents, things that were impossible with short rods.

Thanks to graphite technology we now have superb, light, powerful and versatile rods that can be used with little effort and do not cost the earth. For instance an Orvis Streamline 15ft rod weighs only a fraction over 11 ounces and shorter versions are even lighter. Easy long distance casting is maybe the most obvious attribute of the double hander, but the nicest thing is that they are kind on your body, comfortable to hold and they are simple to use. No aerial false casting or hauling is required. Usually false casting is unnecessary because the long rod will lift the line from the water and present it again in a single cast. This means less chance of tangles more fishing time and less exhaustion. As the line fishes the butt of the rod can be rested easily against your body in comfort, just waiting for that solid pull from a heavy fish.

Controlling the drift of the fly is much simpler with a Spey rod, it commands the water allowing big, easy line mends. If you are fishing in pocket water this ability to cope with awkward currents makes success much more probable. Playing fish too is easier, especially in those dicey places with lots of snags because the long rod can lift the line clear of the water and avoid them. Overhead, Roll, Spey and Double Spey are the most common casting techniques used, this has resulted in double handed rods being known as 'Spey' rods. An angler who can accomplish both Spey and Double Spey casts over either shoulder is able to fish with impunity almost anywhere and cope with restricted space behind him. Just think of all those pools with high banks and no room for a backcast. Learn to Spey cast and suddenly you have access to lots of good fishing water that you could previously only admire with envy.

The ability of the Spey rod to lift line much better is a benefit with a floating line, but with a sinking line of any description, it's a huge advantage. Many of the best fishing spots have places where a sinking tip, intermediate or full sinking line is much more successful than a floating line because the fly gets down close enough to interest the fish in deep water and it can be made to swing round at the correct speed in fast water. The result is more takes, more sport and more enjoyment and also a very good reason to choose an Orvis Spey Multi-tip fly line system that provides lots of versatility and depth control to achieve true three dimensional fly fishing. We should change our flies and lines to suit conditions always conscious of the fact that we could be fishing at the wrong depth, or at the wrong speed or with the wrong fly. For consistent success the ability to fish at various depths and at distances of up to 120 feet to cover the best fishing spots brings extra rewards. Spey casting makes use of every available bit of water and gives its proponents a significant advantage over other anglers.

The Orvis range of double handed rods vary in length from 12 ft 6in to 15 ft and have line ratings between #8 and #11 wt. Like any outfit a double hander should be selected by first deciding on the length of line you might wish to cast and by the size of fly you want to use. Generally speaking the wider the river the longer the rod you might want and the larger the fly you intend to use, the heavier the line weight necessary in order to cast it properly. Fortunately, you don't have to be precise in those matters and, for instance, a 15 foot rod for a #10/11 line will easily cope with a decent sized single iron, double or even a 1 1/2 inch tube fly and at the same time be OK for a size 12 fly on an 8 lb test leader. Such an outfit is ideal for fishing in the larger rivers, especially when they are carrying some extra water. For smaller rivers a 13 or 14 foot rod is maybe better because less room is needed to cast it, presentation at short ranges is improved by the lighter line and of course the outfit weighs less.

The all new range of Shooting Star premium salmon rods are light, well balanced and responsive and their smooth progressive action makes them very easy to use. These have been designed with input from Scandinavian anglers who like to use shooting heads. Tested with the Orvis Spey lines they performed exceptionally well and they are sure to become favourites with discerning salmon anglers no matter what casting style is preferred.

The Mid-Priced Clearwater Spey rods have become favourites over the past few years - for 2007 the 15 ft version has been re-designed and this is a very nice rod. The range offers tremendous value for money together with the Orvis 25 year guarantee.

The latest group of aficionados of the two handed rod are the salt water fly fishermen who now realize the ease with which a large fly can be cast into the surf using a shooting head to achieve longer distances and without the need to wade deep, use stripping baskets or require a succession of false casts and double hauls to reach spots that the longer rod will cast to with comfort. This branch of fly fishing is growing fast and the double handed rod is proving to be highly popular in the salt.

If you want to fish more successfully everywhere, even the difficult places, fish at the depth the fish want the fly at, increase your sport and enjoyment, get a double hander and learn to use it. You will be pleasantly surprised at just how easy and comfortable it is, or as one of my pupils said "Spey casting makes me feel like a born again fly fisher". I can't sum it up any better than that! Whether you fish for salmon, steelhead, bass or other large and powerful fish two handed fly rods can make fishing more successful and pleasurable.

Alastair (Ally) Gowans, Orvis Endorsed Guide, FFF Master Instructor and THCI, APGAI and AAPGAI Master.

Alastair Gowans is based in Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland he is an instructor, writer, photographer and inventor of Ally’s Shrimp flies, Cascade, Tummel Shrimp and a number of other successful fly patterns. Ally has run successful fly fishing schools and demonstrations in USA, Scotland, England and Canada for a number of years including the Orvis Two-Day Atlantic Salmon Academy in Scotland. His popular web sites include and

Ally has published a Spey Casting DVD entitled “Spey Casting Made Easy” which is available from Orvis Stores throughout the UK and via the Orvis web site that delivers the essentials of efficient Spey casting and which has been well received by anglers everywhere.

Ally Gowans' Product Recommendations:

Streamline 1510/11-4 Rod

Gel-Spun Backing

Back to Previous Page | Fly Fishing Schools | US Fly Fishing Lessons