Over the past couple of years’ tackle manufacturers have come up with the latest “must have” rod for salmon fishing, the Switch rod. This, of course, is not a new concept as tackle companies would have you believe. There have always been longer trout rods available on the market. Indeed, one of the first ever longer trout fly rods manufactured which was around eleven feet in length had a removable extension handle. This handle allowed you to use the rod as both a single or double hander. The extension handle in these days was known as a fighting butt and was not very big but on some occasions, served a purpose.  One of the reasons why tackle manufacturers designed the switch rod, which is very similar to a longer trout rod with an extension handle, is because they are aware that a shorter rod coupled with a lighter line can present the fly in a much neater and delicate way. This can be so important, especially if the water is low and clear and you are fishing on a small highland river. In these conditions, a subtle presentation coupled with a stealthy approach can be the difference between success and failure.

Using the single-handed rod for salmon fishing is not a new concept

In the spring and autumn, when the water is high and cold, subtle presentation and stealth is not as important, especially if you are fishing on one of the larger rivers like the Tay or Tweed.  However, as the season progresses and the water drops this can become key. It is then time to put away the fifteen-foot fly rods and heavy lines and replace them with much more delicate tackle. This is especially the case if you are fishing in the highlands. In the highlands when the water is low, having a stealthy approach can be key. Using a single-handed rod allows you to do this with ease. There are many advantages of using a trout rod and these include not casting a big shadow (produced by the rod) in low, clear water conditions. Also, being able to use a much lighter fly line will result in not only causing less disturbance when the fly line lands on the water but also giving the fly more mobility. This, in turn, makes the fly more life like. On the surface of it, these seem like small things but getting them right can make all the difference.
On smaller rivers, the shadow a longer rod can produce on the water can often spook the fish. This is especially the case if it is bright overhead and the water is low and crystal clear.  On smaller rivers, a larger rod can span the breadth of the river and so this has the chance of spooking fish before you have even started fishing. There is also no need to use a longer rod in such conditions. Most of the time on the smaller rivers in the highlands you do not need to cast long distances, especially in low water and then this renders the longer rod useless.

 The single-handed rod can be perfect for some of the smaller highland rivers

The other advantage of using a single-handed rod is that it allows you to use a much lighter line. This means that when the fly line lands in the water, it will create less disturbance. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of spooking the fish. The lighter line can also result in the fly appearing to be much more life like and mobile in the water. Often when the water is low, there is very little current. If you are allowing the fly to swing around in the current naturally, it will move at a much slower pace when coupled with a heavier line. This is simply because the line is heavier and so less mobile. If, however you were using a trout line then the fly would swing around much quicker and appear more lifelike.
Last week the value of the single-handed rod was highlighted once again but this time on a much larger river. One of our clients had a Scottish salmon fishing holiday to remember using the single-handed rod. This was his second week-long visit of the season, Ernie had made to fish with us. Ernie had been encapsulated by the sheer beauty of the mighty River Tay on the Kercock Beat during his spring visit and so wanted to experience more salmon fishing magic but this time in the summer.
Ernie enjoys salmon fishing with a single-handed trout rod as in the past he has done most of his salmon fishing on smaller Irish rivers. However, covering a larger river like the Tay is not easy using a smaller rod. Ernie stuck to his tried and tested method which he had the utmost confidence in and reaped the rewards by catching an eighteen and a fourteen pounder during his week. This was no mean feat on a trout rod and highlighted how the single-handed rod could be effective on the largest of Scottish salmon rivers.

Ernie with his cracking 18 pounder caught from the River Tay on a single-handed rod

The single-handed trout rod can be an effective weapon when fishing for salmon. On small rivers, it allows the perfect presentation of the fly, especially in low water by causing minimum fly line disturbance. It can also produce the goods on larger rivers and not many come larger than the mighty Tay!