Breaking the Rules of Trout Spey – Photo Essay

I’m a firm believer in testing the rules – they were meant to be broken – or otherwise wouldn’t have been put in place. Swinging for trout became a way for me to scratch the steelhead itch in the off season, and what started as a way to stay connected to swinging flies has become my favorite way to chase trout. When we started to catch bigger and bigger fish, the potential of how effective swinging flies for trout really could be became apparent. Having a variety of flies in a variety of sizes, presented in a variety of ways, will maximize your success on the water. Don’t be afraid to break the rules you’ve become accustomed to when swinging for trout, they might just provide you with a new vision of success.  

– Travis Bradford

A big motor from a large streamer-eating Yellowstone cutthroat. Swinging bigger profile flies can give big results. Fishing these bigger profile flies is more like hunting, in the fact that you are searching for the THE one.


Having choices when swinging for trout is imperative, and matching techniques for each fly will lead to more success. Traditional and soft hackle swings have their time and place in the game of Trout Spey, as do jigging larger profile flies across a run. Being open to changing up your presentation is key.

The Platte River Special – a sparse featherwing fly designed by Charlie Craven for Colorado Browns and Rainbows. When swung low and slow, this fly produces on a traditional style swing.

Dan Short with a cack-handed snake roll in search of a taker on Montana’s Missouri River.

Fishing bigger profile flies doesn’t mean you change how you cast. Big Sky Angler’s Chris Daniel sending one off for a Madison River brown trout.

Jigging a fly on a down and across presentation has easily been my most effective technique when swinging for trout. This deep winter brown ate a jigged Midnight Rider mid-swing.

The Black and Purple Midnight Rider – a fly producing a big profile without the weight or bulk for easy spey casting.

Finding proper water that holds fish is half the battle. Zack Williams setting up a cast in the juice of the run.

Results of jigging flies through the deep – 25 Inches of Montana Rainbow.

The time of year will inform how you present your fly, when colder go low and slow and when water temps heat up, don’t be afraid to speed up a retrieve. Never forget, rules were meant to be broken.

Time of day informs what you should fish. Fishing bigger flies late evening and into night will produce some interesting results.

A healthy Montana rainbow took aggressively on the hangdown – always make sure to fish your fly all the way through your swing.

Don’t be afraid to fish your favorite trout streamers on your trout spey setup. Fishing a sparkle minnow on the swing works just as well as you think it would.