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King Of Spey Rods

Fly Fishing Articles

A lot of water has passed over the dam since I last communicated my thoughts to do with the gentle art. The fact is, I’ve been sick; when you’re sick, testing rods, reels, and/or lines is sometimes darned hard to do. However, you can do as I did and gather together a bunch of periodicals and read what the experts have to say about the latest hi-tech gear to enter the marketplace.

It was while I was ill that John Kuehn of the Angler’s Roost began telling me tales of his latest acquisition – a 14-foot spey rod. As we talked, one thing became very evident – he was excited about the prospects for his new product. A few days later, John called again even more excited’ He said, “Guess what, one of the rods that’s out West sent a line sailing somewhere over 150-feet.” Now, 150-feet is a long way and easily worthy of attention among fly fishing advocates of the spey rod and “Big Water!”

I decided to review what I had previously had to say on the earlier arrival of the two-handed spey rod to North America and decided that a couple of comments were worth repeating. “It strikes me that in a relatively short period of time, fly fishing with a two-handed rod has gained a tremendous amount of attention and popularity, especially with fly fishers who chase steelhead and salmon. Just think, a few short years ago, the majority of these fly fishers were still tossing flies with a single hand. In fact, the growth has been so swift that the classic Spey rod – the traditional two-hander – has already given birth to derivatives such as the ‘switch rod’ and the ‘Skagit rod.’”

“Equally surprising is the price man manufacturers are asking for these two-handed graphite sticks crafted from various powders, resin and scrim. I’m beginning to think that something in the range of 500 bucks must be a bargain, since the really good rods – according to the manufacturer – cost $700 or more.” That’s a lot of money and not necessarily true.

“Up until now, I have tried to ignore the clamor about spey casting and two-handed rods. Old age and another round of cancer had convinced me to rest on my laurels as a one-handed caster’ that is, until John Kuehn again came along and asked me if I would evaluate a sample of his new Spey rod. I guess you could say John re-ignited my interest in fly fishing. (I am so glad he did – when you lose interest in things you love, you die)”

“And, what a fun trip this has been… If nothing else, it proves old dogs can learn new tricks. Spey casting is fun, easy, graceful, and, believe it or not, allows for the transfer of many things you already know. One thing is certain, if I can learn the spey cast, you can, too…”

Under his eBay banner of Angler’s Roost Enterprises, John offered four Spey models:
12-Ft., 3-piece, 7/8 weight.
12-Ft., 4-piece, 5/6 weight.
12 1/2 Ft., 4-piece, 9/10 weight.
13-Ft., 4-piece, 7/8 weight.

All of these rods were and are fabricated from IM-6 graphite with reinforcing scrim in the deep self-seating ferrules. These rods feature accouterments usually reserved for the top rods of the competitive lines: high-quality Portuguese cork grips, modern lightweight titanium anodized aluminum reel seats, stainless steel single-foot guides, tip-top and folding line keeper. The deep mahogany finish, with matching dark wraps, made these rods especially attractive.

However, what proved to be the most amazing attraction in today’s world was then (and now) the very reasonable cost and the outstanding performance given by these rods.

With this background, John has brought another outstanding rod to the spey rod community – a rod that consistently gets rave reviews from all who toss a fly a “country mile” using the magic of spey casting. And yes, it is the rod that started this article. After gathering facts, comments, and tidbits from the folks who have spent years longer than I have on the major rivers of North America, I decided Johns Kuehn’s new 14-foot IM-8 Spey Rod deserves the name, The King Of Spey!

And, why not? The young King Of Spey is acclaimed by those he serves well and faithfully and has but few detractors. As the word spreads regarding his deeds in countering the deceit and cunning of Friend Fish, his army of followers grows. Indeed, the King Of Spey may well be your answer for a new-perfect long-range rod.

Remember the earlier mention of a rod out West and 150-foot casts? If you do, there is a bit more to the story. While pursuing contacts for more info, I ran into a gentleman I wish I had run into years ago. His name is Stephen Godshall, the owner of a small company called Spey Works located in Medford, Oregon. I’ve concluded that Steve knows more about spey rods, spey casting, and spey lines, (down to the finest detail) than anyone else I know. He has to – Steve makes a living building custom spey lines specifically designed in weight and taper to perform on your rod. Thus, he needs to know not only the specifications of the popular commercials rods of today but how a specific rod feels and how a line performs in the hands during the cast. Only then can he design and build a line for your spey rod, and do it for the most reasonable cost.

Little wonder that when Steve wandered down to the banks of the Rogue to try John’s new 14-footer, he had with him a small group of fans and clients to whiteness the outcome. You guessed it right; the 15-foot cast came from this little venture. But Steve added, “Doug, the best cast had to have been 175-feet or more- the fly simply disappeared into the bushes on the other side.”

At this point, I mentioned to Steve that I was having trouble casting the rod that in the near future I would nickname the King Of Spey. Steve’s reply was quick; Doug, you’ve got the wrong line – I’ll get one in the mail today that is matched to the characteristics of John’s new rod.” He did just that. The line arrived. I rigged it, cast it, and stood there flabbergasted. The rod that recently felt uncomfortable in my hands suddenly came alive when the cast was made with Steve’s line.1. My thanks for the use of this photo go to The Rogue Web, Medford, OR. (The Rogue River, as some of you may not know, is big water and, therefore, an ideal setting for using the spey rod.)

2. My thanks for the use of the wonderful photos of the spey cast to Steve and his friends and associates.

For you folks that may have followed my writings know that for over twenty years I have argued that the most important part of the fly fishing system is the fly line; more important than the rod, the reel, of for that matter, how much you paid for either one. In over twenty years, nothing has come up to change my mind.

Obviously, Steve thinks a great deal of John’s new rod. He remarked, “You know there are a bunch of rods being brought into the States that look cosmetically very much the same as John’s rods. But that’s where the similarities end. They do not make the cast like John’s rods, regardless of the line used.” “Why”?” I asked. “We all have our words, Doug – mine happens to be focused on the single word, efficiency. John’s spey rods are more efficient during the cast and that degree of efficiency gives the line the ability to soar with the eagles. It is a ball to watch.”

I learned a lot more from Steve than space permits here. Suffice to say, if you want expert help in perfecting your cast, remember the importance of the fly line. Drop Steve Godshall a note:

2890 Farmington Ave.
Medford, OR. 97504
Phone: 541-840-2594 Fax: 541-774-8812

I will offer my opinion on what I consider to be the finest inexpensive Spey Rods in the world. The King is a fine rod that offers far more in service and value to its owner than the money the owner paid… Available in 3 models, a 5-6, 7-8, and’/or the 9-10, will more than suit your “big” waters and your cast.

By the way, any long-range spey rod needs a reel to feed it line. I am very pleased to report that John has introduced a new line of reels. From my experience so far, they are my favorites of almost and fly reel on the market regardless of price. John refers to the group of five as the 200 Series. The smallest of the group, the 200, is perfect for light fly rods; the remaining three are sized upward and feature sealed bearings and one of the smoothest drags I’ve had the pleasure to play with. I must say, even Jaws will shake his head. It follows that the entire series is fabricated from bar stock aluminum. And just wait until you see the price! Unfortunately, there will be those who say, “Any reel at this price has to be junk.” (Regrettably, this is the sort of “foot in mouth” disease that reminds me of the old parable about casting pearls before swine.)

If performance means a lot to you, and not necessarily the axiom, “the more you play, the more you get,” by all means contact John Kuehn. Give him a call at 716-565-9838 or email him at Better yet, visit his website

End Notes:
I confess to all, the secret to a graphite fly rod is to be found in the rod maker’s mind when he or she brings together a concept of the taper, wall thickness, and length. And then adds the graphite powder, rosin, and scrim that when mixed make the thing a rod, after being wrapped around a mandrel… and baked in an oven. Regrettable, many rod builders would have you believe there is a method to their madness. Perhaps…

Copyright Doug G. Macnair, 2011

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