For the past 3 years, we’ve been fortunate to host the West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days event, where folks who are interested in Spey casting and fishing for trout have come together to share experiences, learn new things, and check out all the awesome gear available these days.  For us, Spey Days has also been an incredible way to keep in touch and in the loop (no pun intended) with ongoing improvements and advances in Spey gear.  When it became clear that the ongoing Coronavirus situation was going to shut down Trout Spey Days in 2020, we knew we had to do something that might at least help fill that void. 

After some brainstorming, we decided it might be cool to try and get a hold of at least some of the awesome gear that folks normally have access to at the Spey Days event and then dig in with our core group of Spey nerds to really try a bunch of different things, cast and fish the rods and lines, and really dial in some kits that represent not only a variety of price points, but also a variety of fishing applications. 

In late August, we were able to make this happen thanks to the awesome support of our vendors and sales reps.  Thank you all!!! We brought in trout Spey rods from Sage, C.F. Burkheimer, Winston, G. Loomis, Echo, and Redington, along with all the modern Spey lines from RIO and Scientific Anglers.  We broke out the camp chairs, notebooks, line scales, and digital calipers, and headed out to the river for more than a full day of work.  From there, the crew further dialed in their favorite setups fishing on our local waters, and experimented with pushing the limits of what each rod could do.  Adding all this new experience onto what we’ve learned on and off the water over the years, we have compiled what you have come to find here – a summary of our personal favorite trout Spey kits for Fall 2020.

While this is definitely a gear review of sorts, it is important to note that there are no ratings or rankings here.  There is no best or worst.  In fact, we didn’t demo a single rod that we didn’t feel was going to be right for someone depending on their casting and fishing situations.  So, what we have here are descriptions of the rods (and matching lines) that we really liked, and why.  Call them BSA Shop Picks, if you will.  Most importantly, once you have read through to find out what we think, we encourage you all to come by the shop, pick up one of our Demo kits, and take it out for a flick and a fish on the waters near town.  Maybe even call ahead and make sure that no one has already checked out the kit you’re interested in.  And remember, if you have any questions, feel free to give us a call at 406-646-7801, or email us at info@bigskyanglers.com – We’ll get you in touch with Justin, Matt, Chris, or one of the other folks here that knows and loves the Spey game!

So, without further ado, here is the Big Sky Anglers 2020 Shop Picks Trout Spey Rod Review…


CONTENTS

CF Burkheimer 4114-4 – $1150

CF Burkheimer 5125-4 – $1150

Winston Boron III TH Microspey 11ft 4wt – $1099

SAGE Trout Spey HD 3110-4 – $900

SAGE Trout Spey HD 4113-4 – $900

G. Loomis IMX-PRO Shortspey 41111-4 – $605

ECHO Trout Spey TS 4110 – $499

ECHO TR2 4113 – $379

Redington Dually 3106-4 – $249.99


CF Burkheimer 4114-4

11’4”, 3/4/5wt, $1150

CF Burkheimer says:

Grain Window = 230-350gr, 330 Skagit, 300 Scandi

Big Sky Anglers says:

This is a quintessential Burkie 2 hander in a pint sized package.  Forgiving action, loads of feel, and a wide grain window make this rod incredibly likeable as well as fishable.

We found lines that made this rod fish and feel like all the weights listed in its stated range – 3/4/5 – which was extremely impressive. The rod’s versatility and grain window allows you to fish small soft hackles or medium sized streamers at short, medium, and longer distances with ease and grace. The loading and unloading of the rod is easy to feel when casting this gem.   In addition, Kerry’s impeccable craftsmanship and endless customizations options make this a work of art as well as an angling tool.  Justin even caught a nice little brown while testing this one out on the Madison.  Believe in the omens!

Note: this rod was A+ with essentially the same lines as the SAGE Trout Spey HD 3wt.

Line Recommendations:

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #3, 265gr, 22ft

  • This was an OK line pairing with mono leater but a bit sloppy on turnover
  • Adding SA Sonar leaders cleaned up the loops a lot and resulted in a presentation with a lot of punch to turn over small streamers.  Basically an effortless A+ setup

RIO Scandi Short 270gr, 29ft 

  •  Simply beautiful casting setup with 16ft mono leader.  This line turned the Burkie into a super lively, stop high and let it fly, crisp Scandi setup
  • This line gives the rod the feel of a true Spey rod, and will be enough to please advanced casters.  A little tricky if you get sloppy with the rod tip, but super fun.

RIO Skagit Max Short 325gr (20’) or Skagit Trout Spey 325gr (16ft)

  • Both very good Skagit type options for this rod.  325 grains was able to over 10ft of T8, with a Sculpzilla no problem, and even chunked out a Mini Dungeon, though it was key to keep the anchor moving so the fly didn’t sink much/at all.

CF Burkheimer 5125-4

12’5”, 4/5/6wt, $1150

CF Burkheimer say:

Grain Window = 300-420gr, 375 Skagit, 350 Scandi

Big Sky Anglers says:

The 5125 is a big boy Spey rod with Trout Spey feel.  Kerry enlisted the help of our own Matt Klara and others to dial in a unique, versatile, super-fun, forgiving rod that will change your opinion about what 4 and 5wt 2-handers for trout can and should do.  For those who want a rod that can do “a bit more”  (like casting that extra 25ft while wading deep, or presenting a heavier tip or larger fly, while still being super fun with an 16-18 inch trout on the end of the line) this is the rod for you. For mid-sized to huge rivers, and fish in the 14-inch to 5-pound class, this is simply an amazing rod. 

Stay tuned to our Blog and Social Media for the full story and more details about this special rod.

Line Recommendations:

RIO Scandi Short, 360 grains, 31ft – Matt’s Pick for Floating Line and Small Wets

  • If you come from a Spey background of dry lining for summer steelhead and want to get into swinging wets for trout on big water, this could be your line.  This line enables dreamy, Scandi-style casting with a crisp high rod stop.  In addition to our local trout scene, this line would be glorious for the folks who swing out on the coast for half pounder steelhead.
  • To get the most performance out of this line, we like a 15 or 16 foot mono or flouro leader.  Build your own with 40, 30, 20, and 10lb mono, or go for the easy button option by adding 4 feet of your preferred tippet material onto a 12ft, 12 or 16lb RIO Steelhead/Salmon Mono leader.
  • NOTE: For a slightly lighter, “tippier” casting feel, drop down to the same line in 330 grains.

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head, 305gr, 22ft

  • This is a sneaky option that we felt cast like a dream and could be a sort of “One line quiver” for this rod.  The 305 grain weight seems light at first glance, but the secret here was to add SA Sonar Leaders (10ft and 55gr) to create essentially a 32ft Scandi head of 360 grains (see RIO Scandi Short 360 grain, 31 feet) with a sort of interchangeable tip. 
  • Varying the Sonar Leader density and tippet length allowed us to fish from near surface (using the Intermediate sink rate leader) to the depths (using the Type 3 and Type 6 sinking sonar leaders).
  • This line system is for folks who like Scandi-liscious crisp casting that will handle soft hackles and even smaller streamers like a Thin Mint or even a Sculpzilla!  If you like a light feel and don’t want to mess with multiple lines or big heavy flies, this is a great option.

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head, 350gr, 22ft – Matt’s Pick for Streamer Fishing

  • The RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head is truly a versatile line.  Up-lining with the Trout Spey Shooting Head from 305 to 350 grains allowed us to throw sink tips and larger streamers a-la Skagit lines, but the length and taper of this line made for really clean loop formation and turnover for casters who prefer to cast with a bit more velocity and performance than typically associated with classic Skagit casting.
  • This line handed a 12ft T8 tip and a medium sized weighted streamer with ease

RIO Skagit Max Short, 375 grains, 20ft

  • A more traditional streamer hucking choice, this line is able to throw T8 and T10 tips of 10 or 12 feet with relative ease.
  • If your game is medium-to-big flies, hucking weight, and worrying less about style points than getting your fly into the zone, this is a great line option.  No messing around here.  This will get it done on big water and cold conditions or when you just need/want to throw the junk.
  • NOTE: For a slightly lighter feel, the Skagit Max Short in 350 grains is also a great pairing.

RIO Scandi Body 400gr, 23ft

  • Justin wanted to try this after using the same line with Jon Hazlett on the Sage X 12ft 5wt.  It cast fine on this rod as well, but resulted in a completely different feel vs the much stiffer SAGE X.
  • On the 5125 Burkie, this line gave the rod a very deep load, and a heavy (not necessarily in a bad way), Skagity feel to the cast using SA Sonar leaders or T-tips and streamers.  The result was definitive, Slow-mo, easy button bomb lobbing. A nice option for all you Perry Poke fans who also like a longer Skagit head.  If you are super mellow, and want to worry more about the soaring eagles and majestic mountains than your casting, this is the setup for you.
  • This line choice definitely takes away a lot of the lively feel of the rod, but definitely gets it done, and highlights the insanely wide grain window that Kerry builds into all his rods.

Winston Boron III TH Microspey 11ft 4wt

11ft, 4wt, $1099

Winston says:

240-330grains

BSA says:

This is Joe’s personal favorite Trout Spey rod.  Smooth, easy, and fun, this rod falls on the light side for a 4wt when compared to other offerings across the board.  Awesome Winston build quality, Made in Montana.

Line Recommendations:

RIO Scandi Short 270gr, 29ft 

  • Beautiful casting setup with 16ft mono leader.  Super lively, stop high and let it fly, crisp Scandi setup.  Soft hackle city. 

Rio Skagit Max Short 300gr, 20ft

  • We prefer the 20’ Skagit lines on rods 11ft and longer, so this was our top Skagit choice for this rod.  While this head will turn over a 10ft T8 tip and a lightly weighted streamer, you might be happier and more pleased with the feel of the line paired with 10ft SA Sonar sinking leaders.

Skagit Trout Spey 325gr (16ft)

  • Short and powerful, this line is a good match to this rod for those who really like to slow down and stay compact in their casting.  While this head will turn over a 10ft T8 tip and a lightly weighted streamer, you might be happier and more pleased with the feel of the line paired with 10ft SA Sonar sinking leaders.

SAGE Trout Spey HD 3110-4D

11ft, 3wt, $900

Sage says:

(Grains: 250 – 300gr) – Soft hackles, moderately weighted steamers 1 – 2” – The most versatile of the TROUT SPEY HD series. The 3110-4 will accommodate a large variety of fly lines as well as a variety of flies. If you’re new to the Trout Spey category this is the rod of choice.

BSA says:

Overall, we were super impressed with the Trout Spey HD lineup from Sage.  In our opinion, they are the nicest casting Spey rods that Sage has ever produced, in any line weights.  Their cosmetics are classy, and they have a progressive flex pattern and plenty of feel.  The 3110 is a really nice 3wt option with plenty of power and versatility.  This is Chris Daniel’s go to rod for the Madison in the Park.  We found that our favorite lines on this rod were the same as those for the Burkheimer 4114-4 (rated as a 3/4/5).  

Line Recommendations:

RIO Scandi Short 270gr, 29ft

  • Simply beautiful casting setup with 16ft mono leader.  Matt had a huge smile on his face and kept shaking his head when we asked if we could cast it yet. Sweeeeet setup for soft hackles.
  • This line gives the rod the feel of a longer Spey rod/line combo, and will be sure to please advanced casters

RIO Skagit Max Short 325gr (20’) or Skagit Trout Spey 325gr (16ft)

  • Both very good Skagit type options for this rod.  325 grains can turn over 10ft of T8, but not as cleanly and easily as it does sinking coated leaders like SA Sonar 10ft Leaders

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #3, 265gr, 22ft

  • Mellow casting and presentations with 16ft mono leaders and larger Bead Head Soft hackles.
  • Adding SA Sonar leaders cleaned up the loops a lot and resulted in a presentation with a lot of punch to turn over small streamers.

SAGE Trout Spey HD 4113-4

11ft 3 in, 4wt, $900

Sage says:

(Grains: 300 – 350gr) – Large streamers to 3″ – The 4113-4 model is built for large and carnivorous trout and the larger flies used to get their attention. Power to cast larger streamers and leeches.

BSA says:

Overall, we were super impressed with the Trout Spey HD lineup from Sage.  In our opinion, they are the nicest casting Spey rods that Sage has ever produced, in any line weights.  Their cosmetics are classy, and they have a progressive flex pattern and plenty of feel.  The 4113 was one of our favorite premium rods that we demoed. It’s lightweight, but extremely powerful, and calling it a “4 and a Half weight” would not be out of the question when compared to other brands.  It casts a variety of heads, tips, fly sizes, and distances with ease. If you are looking for one of the top 4 wt trout Spey rods on the market this is definitely one to take for a spin. 

Line Recommendations:

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #4, 305gr, 22ft

  • Again, we found SAGE’s suggested line to be a good option for this rod.  This line handled both 16ft mono leaders and a suite of SA Sonar leaders with ease, with the edge going to the Sonar leaders for cleaner loops.  The mono leader option was very good still and allowed us to turn over a couple of bead head soft hackles easily, at range.
  • Adding the SA Sonar leader to the 305 grain Trout Spey Shooting Head essentially creates a multi-tip Scandi option that allows the angler to cover a lot of angling situations with one line (shy of strowing medium/heavy streamers).  This was a line combo that we really loved on the 5125 Burkie as well.
  • 16ft mono leader = 12 ft RIO Steelhead leader with 4ft of 2x tippet

Rio Skagit Max Short 350gr, 20ft

  • We prefer the 20’ Skagit lines on rods 11ft and longer, so this was our top Skagit choice for this rod.  Spreading out the grains a bit more smoothed out turnover while still giving plenty of punch to get a 10-12ft T8 tip and a weighted streamer out there. 
  • Things started getting a bit weird when we tried turning over some wind and water resistant Mini Dungeons, but we still sent ‘em out across Barns #1.  If this is the type of fly to plan to fish most, however, you might look to another option – probably something longer to improve pulling the fly out and around, rather than heavier.

RIO Skagit Trout Spey 350gr, 17ft

  • This was a great match for folks who really like a shorter Skagit head for angling.  It turned over 10’ of T8 easily along with a weighted Sculpzilla bunny fly

RIO Scandi Short 330gr, 29ft 

  • Great choice for the devoted floating line soft hackle addict!

G. Loomis IMX-PRO Shortspey 41111-4

11ft 11in, 4wt, $605

Loomis says:

330 Skagit Scout, 300 Rage, Scandi, or switch float

BSA says:

In the mid-price point category, this is the one stick that rules them all.  Incredibly versatile, this rod can handle Scandi lines, Skagit lines, Spey casts, Overhead casts, Softhackles, Big Junk, and all in between. It’s longer length made it feel more like a big kid Spey rod, and really helped us cover bigger water and some of the wider drifts on our local rivers.  This is a real fishing tool that Justin absolutely loves.  The Loomis 4111 has a wide grain window and even flex pattern, making line pairings relatively easy.  Even at 11ft 11in, the rod feels pretty light in hand.  To best take advantage of this rod’s versatility, we recommend pairing two different lines with it – a Scandi Short for smaller lighter flies and a Skagit Max Short for working streamers. Don’t think twice about adding this model to your arsenal. 

Line Recommendations:

RIO Scandi Short 270gr, 29ft 

  • A+.  Simply beautiful casting setup with 16ft mono leader.  Again, we had to wrestle this setup out of Matt’s hands to have a try.
  • This line gives the rod a super crisp feel of a true Scandi style rod.  Slightly lighter than the Loomis recommendation, this line may be a better choice for more experienced Spey Casters.

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #4, 305gr, 22ft

  • This line handled a suite of SA Sonar leaders with ease, with excellent turnover and clean loops with mid-sized/light streamers.  A nice choice if you are looking for a 1 line quiver and don’t plan to throw bigger streamers.
  • The 16ft mono leader option was OK, but a bit sloppy, still allowing us to turn over a couple of beadhead soft hackles easily.

Rio Skagit Max Short 350gr, 20ft

  • We prefer the 20’ Skagit lines on rods 11ft and longer, so this was our top Skagit choice for this rod.  Spreading out the grains a bit more smoothed out turnover while still giving plenty of punch to get a 10-12ft T8 tip and a weighted streamer out there. 
  • Things started getting a bit weird when we tried turning over some wind and water resistant Mini Dungeons, but we still sent em out across Barns #1.  The length of the rod really helped to pull the tip and fly out on the hang and sweep with enough power to keep the anchor from sticking too hard.  That said, See below if you want more HUCK for the buck.

Rio Skagit Max Short 375gr, 20ft

  • When Justin and Matt first cast this rod they had a quick chat and agreed that it likely would be able to handle a really wide grain window.  So, just to see we loaded it up with a 375gr Skagit and 12ft of T10 tip and a Mini Dungeon streamer.  YES.  Pure Skagit Huckfest.  Not necessarily a super smooth butter casting setup, but we were very pleased that it was easily able to deliver the extra heavy goods. 

ECHO Trout Spey TS 4110

11ft, 4wt, $499

Echo says:

300 Scandi, 300-330 Skagit

BSA says:

The Echo TS 4110 is certainly our favorite member of the Echo TS lineup.  This 4wt is a beautiful rod and has some similarities with much higher priced rods in terms of ease of casting, weight (it’s super light in hand), and overall angling versatility. This rod can easily challenge rods twice its price for a space in your fishing gear room.

Line Recommendations:

RIO Skagit Max Short 325gr (20’)

  • All day long.  A perfect match for this rod. Great with Poly leaders or up to 10ft T8

RIO Skagit Trout Spey 325gr (16ft)

  • A great short Skagit head option, though we greatly preferred the 20ft Max Short.  Great with Poly leaders or up to 10ft T8

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #4, 305gr, 22ft

  • Exceptionally good when paired with the 55grain SA Sonar leaders.  Anchoring and turnover were smooth and easy.
  • Note that anchors were semi-easily blown and turnover was sloppy with this pairing when we used a 16ft mono leader and soft hackles instead of the SA Sonar Leaders.

RIO Scandi Short 300gr, 29ft 

  • Super nice on this rod as a pure floating line option to pair with the 325 Skagit Max Short

ECHO TR2 4113

11ft 3in, 4wt, $379

Echo says:

360 Scandi, 360-390 Skagit

BSA says:

This rod has been a Trout Spey staple for us over the years.  Very versatile, easy to cast, and priced very reasonably.  The Echo TR 4113 is probably the best entry level 4wt Trout Spey rod we know of that can do many things well. It handles a variety of sink tips, distances, and small to medium size flies with ease. This would be a great all around rod for fishing most water on rivers the size of the Madison and Henry’s Fork.  It can comfortably handle large trout, too, if you are into that sort of thing.  😊 

Line Recommendations:

RIO Skagit Max Short 325gr (20’) or Skagit Trout Spey 325gr (16ft)

  • Both very good Skagit type options for this rod.  325 grains is able to over 10ft of T8 or SA Sonar Leaders, with a Sculpzilla type streamer no problem.

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #4, 305gr, 22ft

  • Exceptionally good when paired with the 55grain SA Sonar leaders.  Anchoring and turnover were smooth and easy.
  • Note that anchors were semi-easily blown and turnover was sloppy with this pairing when we used a 16ft mono leader and soft hackles instead of the SA Sonar Leaders.

RIO Scandi Short 300gr, 29ft 

  • Super nice on this rod as a pure floating line option to pair with the 325 Skagit Max Short

Redington Dually 3106-4

10ft 6in, 3wt, $250

Redington says:

Recommended Skagit Grains: 250-275 Scandi Grains: 225-250

BSA says:

Here we have one of the real surprises of our 2020 demo effort.  While not as light in hand, or with the high end cosmetics of the higher end offerings, this little rod won us over as an incredible price point rod that covers a wide range of fishing options and has a surprisingly sophisticated feel.  It is far lighter and crisper than the 4wt Dually.  Enough so that they could easily be mistaken for being from different rod lineups or manufacturers. 

This rod is a superb value, and is a great rod for those just getting started in trout Spey or for someone looking for a second rod for the quiver for smaller water and fly applications.  The Dually 3106 handles light leaders/tips and small soft hackles/streamers well, and will allow you to cover small water very comfortably. 

This rod could even be considered a “quiver of 1”, when paired with a RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head in 265 grain, and a set of 10ft SA Sonar leaders.

Line Recommendations:

RIO Trout Spey Shooting Head #3, 265gr, 22ft

  • Wow! Surprisingly crisp and fun throwing soft hackles on a 16ft mono leader.
  • Turn this into a 1 line kit with SA Sonar leaders.  This turned over a Sculpzilla weighted bunny streamer on the Type 6 Sonar leader no problem, and would be able to get deep with soft hackles, seams of soft hackles, or buggers.

RIO Skagit Trout Spey 275 Grain

  • Excellent Skagit option with SA Sonar leaders.  A bit light for blasting out heavier T-tips.