Spey Equipment Basics

When selecting your first equipment it is best to consult your local Spey shop. Below is some terminology so you have a little background knowledge of what you’re going to need.

Equipment Terminology

Photo by Marty Sheppard of Little Creek Outfitters
  • Spey Rod -designed for Spey casting. They can range from about 11′ up to over 20′! They feature a top and bottom grip to be cast with both hands.
  • Switch Rod -A mini spey rod. Switch rods range from 10′-11′ and have a smaller bottom grip than a spey rod. They are meant to be cast with one or two hands (“switch”). 
  • Spey Reel -Your reel needs to be large enough to hold a much bigger line than a regular fly line and to balance the weight of a larger, longer rod. 
  • Shooting Head -Your spey head which is connected at the back to your shooting line and at the front to a leader or sink tip. The part of the line that loads the rod for you to cast.
  • Shooting or Running Line -A thin diameter line attached to the back of the Head. You can cast the head and then release shooting line from your grip to add distance and shoot it out there!
  • Skagit Head -A short (15-30′), heavy shooting head, usually designed to cast sink tips and large flies. These lines were originally developed on Washington’s Skagit River.
  • Scandi Head – Slightly longer (25-40′) than a Skagit head, Scandi (Scandinavian) heads have a longer front taper typically designed for smaller flies and longer leaders for more wary fish or when depth and a large fly aren’t as critical.
  • Short-Belly Line -Longer (40-50′) than a scandi head. Often a one piece line as opposed to the shooting head system. 
  • Mid-Belly Line -Modern Mid-Belly Lines are typically 50-65′.
  • Long-Belly Line -The longest of lines, modern long-belly style lines ranges from about 65′ of head to over 90′!
  • Leader -A tapered piece of monofilament that you attache to the front of your spey line. For sink-tips many anglers like a short leader of 3-5′. Floating line anglers often use about a rod length of leader.
  • Sink Tip -A sinking portion of line attached to the front of your spey line. Sink tips come in different lengths (5-15′) and sink rates.
  • Poly Leader -A special monofilament tapered leader that is coated, coming in all different densities and sink rates. Often attached to a “Scandi” line.
  • Tippet -Monofilament attached to the front of your leader and then connected to your fly.
  • Grain Weight -Spey lines are often weighed in grains. Matching the grain weight of your line to the manufacturer recommendations for your Spey or switch rod is critical. Get some help from an expert.