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At last year’s International Fly Tackle Dealer show in Denver, rod manufacturers displayed over 100 different fly rods that could fall into the class of "two-handed" rods. They came in lengths of 12 to 20 feet, for lines ranging from #7 through #13. All of them were fitted with the extended front grip and the five to 10-inch extended "fighting butt" that characterize two-handed rods.

The folks who are buying these rods include the traditional market of big-water salmon and steelhead anglers, but also anglers who just want to fish longer lines with less effort and exceptional line control. For one thing, the length of a two-hander lets you pick up a lot of line from the water and cast it very efficiently, without false casting or double-hauling. It is much less fatiguing to cast all day with a well-balanced two-hander than with any single-hander throwing a comparable line weight.

A longer rod also lets you mend a lot of line for better control of your fly as it drifts in flowing water, making it easier to speed up or slow down the movement of the fly for proper presentation. And, if you’ve got a bum shoulder, a two-hander lets you balance the effort between both arms and the muscles of the upper torso. Two-handers are also wonderful fish fighting tools. They cushion a leader well with jumping fish, and let you exert a lot of leverage, especially late in a fight when the fish is tiring. All of these advantages to using a longer rod have been augmented in the newer versions thanks to improvements in technology such as new lines and lighter rod materials (e.g. graphite vs. greenheart and other woods).

One reason why some anglers are still hesitant to start using a two-handed rod is that they are not sure about this thing called "Spey casting," a technique that was developed on the River Spey in Scotland. This river is characterized by overhanging, brushy banks that prevent anglers from using standard overhead casts. The Spey cast involves a modified roll cast that keeps the angler’s line in front of him and the fly downwind, and it opens up new possibilities in areas where backcast room is limited.

Let me make it very clear that you don’t need to know how to Spey cast to effectively fish two-handed rods. There are a variety of actions now available in two-handers – from slow, traditional Spey rods to lively, crisp, fast actions that both overhead and Spey cast. Furthermore, I used a standard overhead casting stroke with a two-hander for several years and caught lots of fish before learning how to Spey cast by watching the how-to videos available from RIO Products International (*), and then fine-tuning my skills with a clinic. I can now comfortably fish about 75 feet of line in a wind, with no back cast at all.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and two-handed rods are no exception. For one thing, they are hard to travel with, especially compared to a four-piece, single-handed travel rod. Also, landing a large, lively fish by yourself with a two-hander is tough, though it can be done. Finally, long rods are still rather pricey, although manufacturers like Redington (*) and St. Croix Rod (*) are beginning to bring two-handers into the realm of "affordable."

With all that in mind, my personal favorite two-handers for salmon are a 12-foot Thomas & Thomas and a 12 1/2-foot Hardy, both for eight-weight lines. In salt water, I use an Orvis 14-footer for a nine-weight. Sage makes a 13 1/2-foot seven-weight that is my current favorite big-water trout rod. I use it for river smallmouth bass, shad, trout and sea trout, as well as for Atlantic salmon. It effectively presents down-and-across wet flies, upstream nymphs with an indicator, hopper imitations and streamers. I’ve also dapped dry flies during caddis hatches with outstanding success. I predict it won’t be long before we see other light-line two-handers.

Long rods are also starting to see use on boats plying windy waters. For example, some adventurous saltwater anglers have already discovered that two-handers can drive a big Deceiver into a stout wind and hold your line above the breaking surf, keeping you in better contact with your fly. I’ve taken stripers with a two-hander from the surf and from the flowing rips at Chatham Inlet. I have also delivered streamers to Arctic char in both fresh and saltwater on days so windy everyone else was reduced to using spinning tackle – and not very effectively at that.

Last but not least, a word about reels and lines. Reels on two-handed rods are large capacity to hold the big, long double taper or Spey taper lines used. Some anglers like the very light, large arbor reels. Personally, I prefer a heavier reel, as it puts the weight between my hands for better balance. If you are overhead casting, a standard weight-forward works quite well. As for lines, the traditional line for a two-hander was a double taper, but a number of companies are now making specialty weight-forward lines for the long rods. For example, RIO Products (*) sells specialized lines such as interchangeable tip and sink-tip lines, as well as instructional videos and seminars on fishing two-handers. Other manufacturers of specialty floating lines for longer rods include Airflow (*); Cortland Line (*); Royal Wulff (*); and Scientific Anglers (*).

Most larger fly shops have two-handed rods, lines and someone on staff who knows enough to help get you started. If you can’t find local help, Hunter’s Angling Supply in New Boston, New Hampshire (*) sells a lot of double-handed rods and related equipment, provides sound advice and hosts occasional Spey casting seminars. Just remember, there’s no real mystique here. Get a two-handed rod, start catching more fish and enjoy. – Tim Jones.

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