ANOTHER UPDATE - 2015 Switch Rod Buyer's Guide - Middle Class Switch Rod Update
April 3, 2015
Updated - AGAIN
Ok, I just got done with a comparison of the middle class switch rods, the TFO Deer Creek vs. the Redington Prospector vs. the ECHO SR. All are great rods, hopefully these insights will help you choose.
The video on Premium level rods is done. Its long, but if you are about to drop $1,000 on an outfit the entire video is worth the watch. The summary towards the end is very good info.
Our Shameless Disclaimer: We don't sell junk nor do we sell rods or carry labels that we aren't a good value. Therefore you won't see any bad reviews here. This isn't because we're not being honest, it is because we carry quality brands.
We also won't even try to compare $250 rods to $850 rods. That isn't fair, and if you are one of those guys that says, "my $250 (name the rod) casts just as good as your $800 (name the rod) blah blah BLAH!" You are lying to yourself, full of bologna, and you just look silly. Seriously. Pardon my candor but it just isn't true. Premium rods are better rods. They develop better loops, provide greater distance, better return on power, last longer, cast more consistently, are more accurate, are usually easier to cast, and will give you an edge on your quarry.
For these reasons we're breaking our switch rods into 3 tiers for your shopping convenience:
- Entry Level
- Novelty Switch Rods - The ECHO Glass Switch Rod
Some Switch Rod Basics
I won't touch on lines here, totally separate topic. I will say that switch rods play bigger than a single handed rod. If you are curious about line weight, buy 1-2 line weights lighter than you would in a single hand rod. So if you want your switch rod to play fish like your 6 weight single hander.... get a 4 weight switch rod. 7 weights are the most common for anglers chasing Steelhead and Salmon. Not just because of the fighting ability of the rod, but because heavier switch rods spey cast better. They are easier to obtain distance especially with large flies.
For most trout work, guys are buying 4-5 weights.
Premium Level Switch Rod Reviews
In no particular order!
These are all fabulous rods. As they should be... they are expensive! Each one of these models offers the caster a slightly different action. The only one I hesitate to include in this category is the Sage ACCEL Switch because it is only priced at least $100 less than the others. It hangs in there however and offers up a slightly different action than the other rods so it fits.
This category of rod is reserved for the casters that know for sure they'll make good use of it. If you are an experienced angler and want to have a high level casting experience, go premium - you won't regret it. Especially if you are an established spey caster. If you are a newbie to spey, don't bother. There are some great mid-level options and learning to spey cast on a switch rod isn't easy. I'll summarize some of the pro's con's of each model.
Sage METHOD Switch Rod - At 11'9" this rod is a bit longer than most of the others. It is really designed as a two-handed rod for anglers that want to throw high line speed and tight loops with spey casts. This means windy environments, mid-sized water where long rods aren't necessary, brushy rivers where casting under trees on the opposing bank might be necessary, or advanced spey casters that don't need a 13' spey rod to achieve distance and want some of the line handling advantages of a shorter rod. There is no rod that I have ever cast that throws with as much distance and line speed as this rod.
Sage ONE Switch Rod - I don't know how Sage could have built this rod any better. Its tough, light, and casts like a champ. It is a bit more friendly than the Method but at 11'6" it is a bit long for single hand work. I personally have both the 7 weight and the 5 weight and love the. The 5116-4 is a killer nymphing rod for small steelhead and the 7116-4 will handle almost any anadramous fish. If you are advanced to intermediate and want to buy once cry once this is an easy choice.
Winston Boron III-TH Micro Spey - They make a trout specific series of rods called the Micro Spey that I have had the great pleasure of fishing with. The 5 weight can handle some light summer steelhead work but these rods are best known for offering the angler a true "trout spey" rod that isn't built on a steelhead chassis. This means more touch, more bend, and a casting stroke that is more relaxed. Winston has really focused on building some fantastic two-handed rods but hasn't really tackled the heavier weight switch rod game.
Sage ACCEL Switch Rod - This rod is much smoother than the ONE or METHOD and is a tad shorter/softer which makes it much more overhand friendly. We have had more people test cast this rod versus other models and choose the ACCEL over everything else than all other models. The faster action stuff (ONE and METHOD) are pretty stiff which at 11'6" and 11'9" are fairly hard on the elbow and casting arm. The ACCEL is a lot better for overhand casting, mending, and doing the "fishing stuff". If you are going to drift and indicator with a premium rod the ACCEL is a good choice. It is fun to cast, you'll feel it bend deep, and if you are a beginner to intermediate angler and but want to take the plunge into premium gear the Sage ACCEL is a sound purchase.
ECHO 3 Switch Rod - This is another rod that sort of splits the premium/mid-level range so we decided to let it play up and compete with the big dogs. This rod is most comparable to the Sage ACCEL as far as action goes. It is the only rod we categorized as a "premium rod" that is built overseas. The ECHO brand has one of the most loyal followings in fly fishing and if this is your label then don't hesitate to pick up and Echo3. They are very smooth to cast and you'll feel this rod bend. It doesn't offer the blistering line speed of the Sage METHOD or ONE but you'll really enjoy throwing nice smooth casts with beautiful loops all day. It is easy to cast.
Mid-Level Switch Rod Buyer's Guide +/- $300 - $400
In no particular order!
- TFO Deer Creek
- Echo SR
- Redington Prospector
This is our most popular rod category. There are some great models in here for under $400 and this is where most consumers land. This price point blends performance, longevity, and value. These all have about the same warranty. You break it, you pay a repair and handling fee. Nothing to be afraid of.
Ok, this is a crappy photo I admit. But I want everyone to see the grips of these rods side by side. There is a plastic wrap on the Echo SR and the TFO Deer Creek, all three rods have some synthetic cork. Take note of the thickness of each grip.
Redington Prospector Switch Rods - This rod came out after the main competitors below so in many of our prior reviews this rod doesn't get any press. Its near the top of the food chain though. I just personally got the 5 weight after test casting a lot of rods and it fits nicely alongside my Sage ONE 5 weight. I needed two for my guests to use while guiding. At 11'3" the 7 weight is a great two-handed rod that spey casts great. I wouldn't want to overhand cast it all day. With a slightly faster action than the TFO Deer Creek and 5" more in length than the Echo SR it would tire out your elbow pretty fast.
The cork appears very good for a rod in this price range and the components and finish are the best in show. Everyone loves the Redington Prospector.
The downside is that it doesn't bend as deep and provide the fun rebound of a softer action rod. Part of the fun in two handed casting... is the casting! I don't find the Prospector as fun to throw as the TFO Deer Creek. It certainly gets the job done. If I am two handed casting it has a marked advantage over the Echo SR but has a slight disadvantage in single hand fishing. 5" of length on a switch rod doesn't sound like much but you'll notice it.
My first switch rod was a TFO Deer Creek 11' 7 weight... man they have been making this rod for a long time! In fact, this might be the longest running line of fly rods that I have ever witnessed. They must have started making this about 8 years ago or so and it still continues to be one of our best sellers. This rod bends the deepest out of all the rods in the class. It is very fun to cast, is beginner friendly, performs well enough to please experienced casters, and splits the difference between overhand and spey very well. Customers love this rod. I have also found it to be very tough and can't ever remember breaking this rod. In years past I put this rod through a lot of abuse.
I am a little disappointed that they changed the grip material on this rod and went away from a natural cork grip to a blended grip. This is purely an aesthetic issue and if it doesn't bother you don't sweat it. It just doesn't have the curb appeal of traditional cork. I LOVE the thin nature of this grip however. That may be part of why they had to go away from traditional cork. To keep the grip thin may have required a more durable material.
Bob Meiser and Mike Kinney designed these rods. These two have been at the forefront of popularizing and refining blank designs for the Switch Rod concept of fly rods since the mid 1990s. Mike Kinney is known for being one of the best casters and fishiest dudes in the land. TFO uses their proprietary Axiom material lay-up process for these blanks. I personally can testify that they are tough, bend deep, and bounce back under a load like you wouldn't believe.
"The TFO Deer Creek rods are the most user-friendly rods I have helped design so far. They are the best rods for the money anywhere in the industry today." - Mike Kinney
Echo SR Switch Rods - This is the preferred rod in this price range for anglers that plan to cast single handed more than half of the time.
It is a GREAT casting rod and seems to throw the tightest loops with one hand. If I were streamer fishing and beach fishing more than spey fishing I would probably choose this rod. It is also perfect for anglers looking for a nymph fishing rod on big rivers and simply want some reach with the option to cast with two hands.
It is NOT the best option for anglers that plan to cast sink tips, and swing flies with with spey casts for days on end. It doesn't bend as deep as the TFO Deer Creek which is much nicer for Skagit style casting. I have used the 3 weight a lot for trout fishing here on the Yakima and it casts #6 buggers pretty well with one or two hands. For a trout specific rod this is a pretty good choice with the shorter length. It mends, feeds, and handles better than the longer rods.
Its built on a slightly different chassis than the other rods and handles more like a "true switch rod" and less like a spey rod. Initially, switch rods were single handed rods with enough deep flex and a bottom hand so that spey was an option. With the popularity of spey, now many of the rods are spey rods that you can cast single handed as an add on. This is neither good or bad, but if you want to cast it overhand then the Echo SR is a great choice.
Entry Level Switch Rods - $250
I know I know... $250 is entry level?!!!! That is still a chunk of change. I didn't know what else to call them. We sell two rods that are both worth every penny of $250. I don't have much water time on the Echo Classic but I do listen to the feedback customers provided and I've cast it in front of the shop a little bit. The Redington Dually I have spent a lot of time with however. Not because its necessarily better, that is just what I had.
Redington Dually Switch Rod - This rod is shockingly good for $250, but you get what you pay for of course. It is a perfect rod for a lot anglers that want to dabble and will be very proud to cast and fish this rod. I have used the 7 weight in testing quite a bit and really like it. It bends deep like the TFO Deer Creek and responds nearly as well.
I have personally found the graphite on this rod to be durable and responsive. I like the classic look of the grip. The only downside of this rod is that we have had reports of the grip de-laminating from the blank and it gets "squishy". Redington is a great company and would warranty something like that within reason, but that doesn't do you any good if it starts to go while you are fishing. You get what you pay for. Good rod, good price.
Overall, easy to cast, beginner friendly, good for Skagit lines and casting, bends deep which is fun to cast, and a great value.
Echo Classic Switch Rod - This is the only rod in the review that I personally don't have much time on. I regret this too because everyone that buys it, loves it. We haven't had any negative feedback at all on this rod and we sell quite a few of them. Echo has such a loyal following and folks buy this model as a word-of-mouth referral a lot.
I like the look of the polished reel seat and as far as action goes, this is a "classic" which means that it bends easy making beginner friendly cast that new two handed casters will excel with and experienced casters will appreciate.
Watch Youtube and our website for some later intel on more specifics about this rod because I need to get it on the water.