SAGE METHOD Switch Rod Review: Thumbs up for Kings

Here we are on the trailing end of the 2013 Chinook Season and it’s time for me to muse over snippets from the season– one being more time fishing with Switch rods for Kings.

Short story: I have come to keep a couple of switch rods in my boat every day and I think you would find it well worth your time to play around with these sub-12 footers.

George Cook was kind enough to loan me his brand spankin’ new SAGE METHOD 8 wt this season, on very short notice, and I promptly put it under strain the very first day it arrived via UPS to my Pacific City fishing Lair. I told Georgie that I thought it would be a great asset but I really had little idea just how much I would fish the rod (every day) and how many fish it would tame for me (many).

Not being one to blather about cosmetics, I’ll just say that this is a NEW-EDITION high-end SAGE rod, priced at just under nine hundred bucks, so if you know SAGE, you know that their rods from entry level to top of the heap have solid components, and that the high end rods have really great components.

Rod color and action: Magma Red is the designer color of these METHOD rod shafts; the action is described as ULTRA FAST, a classification I wholeheartedly agree with; and yes, SAGE’s KONNETIC technology is imbedded in this rod series, so it delivers the true tracking and minimalist recovery we came to appreciate with the SAGE ONE rod series.

METHOD Rod Length: 11 ft 9 inch.

Switch Rod/Line wts available: 6-9, (I fished the 8 wt METHOD Switch)

Why fish a Switch rod versus single hander? Every rod has advantages in different circumstances. Wouldn’t want to limit myself to one rod, unless pressed to do so. Here is when I would like to fish a Switch rod for kings.

Anytime my Back-cast is impaired by rocks, bridge pilings, clay banks, trees, or brush close behind me. This is a commonplace situation for anyone fishing salmon and steelhead. The switch rod makes possible a true Spey style cast using floating line (with or without sink tip) from a position where a back cast with single hand rod is just plain impossible.

Fishing Strike Indicators: yes folks, fishing all sorts of flies under Strike Indicators is deadly in the right place and right time, this being true for kings as much so as steelhead. The indicator is a great way to present a dead drift, stripped, and swung fly to Chinook. No bull.

Lines fished: RIO Switch Chucker 8 wt, Airflo Power Fly 9 wt; RIO Outbound Short (from full floating to type 6 sink (all in 9 wt); RIO Outbound Short Shooting Heads in floating, Intermediate, Type 3 and Type 6; AIRFLO Sniper full floating 9 wt; Wulff Ambush 9-11 wt.

Tips fished on floating lines: RIO 10 and 15 ft sink tips in floating, Intermediate, Type 3 and Type 6; Airflo Poly leaders; AIRFLO Custom Cut Tips.

Shooting Lines fished: RIO floating shooting line, RIO GripShooter; Airflo 30# floating and Intermediate running line; RIO Slickshooter 44#.

Casting styles applied: traditional overhead casting; snap T; Double Spey; nothing fancy. I know that Switch rods are intended for specialized lines and casting techniques, but often I would just slap on a reel with my shooting line and fish it with the Switch rod.  Clearly, I have not yet been able to experience the high end of the casting skills qualities of this rod, only because I have been so focused on keeping flies wet and taming fish.

Fish Fighting power of the SAGE METHOD Switch rod. These are very powerful rods and are well up to the challenge of modest King salmon in the sub 30 pound class, I’m betting the 9 wt would handle the big boys. These slightly longer rods provide some advantage over single handers, I think, maneuvering Kings, and it is really fun to fight a big fish on these rods. There is a tipping point, however, where a too-long rod becomes difficult to handle in a boat by yourself. This is why I like the sub 12 ft Switch rods better than the longer true Spey rods – when it comes time to net a Chinook, the longer rods are more of a challenge to get my net up close and personal with the salmon. For pure netting ease, the 9 ft rod is easier than the Switch Rod, but I like the fly presentation and fish fighting abilities of the METHOD enough to deal with a little extra challenge on the net end of the battle. Beaching, of course, is straightforward with the Switch rod.

Beaching Fish with Switch Rods: after watching far too many YouTube videos I see a common error repeatedly featured by anglers beaching salmon and steelhead with long rods. Heck, they do the same thing with short rods too, and it is so simple to avoid if you just think about it.

Please don’t: stand right at water’s edge, lift your rod straight up, and try to bring the salmon or steelhead ashore immediately at your feet. Why? Bad rod angle, it puts too much stress on rod, you have practically no leverage and virtually no control in steering the fish, and you will have a very short line-length to cushion our tippet when the fish head-shakes.

Try this instead: stand or walk back as far as reasonable from the water’s edge, fifteen feet if possible. This gives you a low rod angle, more control over the fish, and more cushion in rod and line to protect your tippet from stress at the time when the most pressure is often applied. By standing back from the water’s edge you can steer the fish into shallow water and have far more control than the fellow who tries to land the fish with rod straight up to the sky.

When you fish from a boat, alone, you are forced into the worst possible position described above to bring a chinook into the net. Whenever I am able, I will beach my boat and land fish on beach or eelgrass banks rather than do the solo net job.

Light and powerful: seriously light rods, almost freaky light for their power, but METHOD Switch rods have solid power clear through the butt. The METHOD has serious lifting power, and this is super important when fighting Kings. A steelhead will tire itself with a little pressure applied from a light rod, but a Chinook typically will not, and I like to have a firm powerful rod that will keep solid pressure on the fish to bring it to the boat or beach.

Comfortable to handle? Pardon the pun but yes. The METHOD Switch has downsized grip length compared to the longer Spey rods, but up-sized compared to the single hand rods.

Is Switch Rod Chinook fishing in your future? Don’t know. I recommend that any serious salmon angler include switch rods in their arsenal of fly fishing tools. They will allow you to cast from places where you would otherwise not be able to, and they will put indicator fishing into your bag of tricks, both of these factors will simply give you more chances to get the grab on any given day on the water.

Is the SAGE METHOD Switch  a superior rod for kings? Georgie, you want it back? Ha ha –  I can report that I tamed many salmon on the METHOD this fall.  The rod’s power as applied to hook setting (at distance) plus lifting power close-in is I think superior to the majority of 8 and 9 wt Switch rods available on the market these days.   I can also report that this rod has casting and fishing capabilities that I have not fully tested, but I sure as heck will when I’m fishing for winter steelhead this season, even with George trying to chase me down in the Coast Range.

Jay Nicholas
December 2013

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One Response to SAGE METHOD Switch Rod Review: Thumbs up for Kings

  1. two dogs says:

    Have been using the switch rod that captain Nate sold me. Love it as a great all around piece. Have a 8 and 9 wt. for the large stuff but rarely have to use it. The switch is my all around rod. It has proven itself in boats but mostly off the beaches and rivers up here.
    Jay, thanks for all the work.

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