Temple Fork BVK Spey Rods

Getting to go outside on a brisk winter day and cast a rod or two is one of the perks of the job.  We have been sneaking out a bit lately ...

Getting to go outside on a brisk winter day and cast a rod or two is one of the perks of the job.  We have been sneaking out a bit lately and playing with a set of Temple Fork Outfitters' BVK spey rods.  We have 5-8 wt models here and our sales rep has been telling us to take them out and see what we like and what we didn't.  Well... we did exactly that.  We tried multiple lines and tips on the BVK Spey rods, and here is what we thought.

Overall:  The aesthetics are outstanding.  TFO does a great job making their rods look elegant and clean.  I have always appreciated that.  The diameter of the cork is small and that helps the rod feel lightweight.  It is not high grade Portugese cork or anything, that stuff is expensive!  The composite cork is one way to keep the price reasonable, and it is still comfortable and durable.

It is not the lightest rod on the market, but that is fine.  I didn't weigh it, but it has a good swing weight.  Most of the ultra lightweight rods are not as fun to cast in my opinion.  These are very comfortable and they feel good in hand.  They all have a very responsive cast that is crisp and powerful.  The rod is lively and bounces back to center quickly and smoothly.  The most important thing is that they have good feel.  I can really feel how the rod is responding when I flex it and let it go.  Two thumbs up in general on these rods.

Our favorite:  The 13'4" 8wt.  I'm going to sound old here, but.... Back in the day everyone fished an 8wt.  It is the rod you fished for steelhead.  A 7wt was for those smaller "A-run" summer fish, and if you wanted a rod for the big rivers, it was a 14' 9wt.  So, it's no longer the case.  Most anglers in the Pacific NW fish for steelhead with a 7wt most of the year now.  I think that it is because anglers felt that 8wt rods were too thick, heavy and clunky.  The BVK really helped transform what I thought about 8wt spey rods, but it also reminded me of how cumbersome those old rods were.  This rod does not feel like an 8wt until you unload that first cast.  The blank and cork are great diameters, it is easy to hold and it is fun to cast.


We tried a bunch of lines.  Since most of us will be fishing a Skagit head with an 8wt spey rod, we will start there.  We liked the Rio Skagit Max 575, although the 600 Scientific Anglers' Deliverance line was really pretty sweet too.  A 625 grain head made it feel a little sluggish.  It still responded well and unloaded nice long casts with little effort.  We tried a 550 and while it cast fine, but it wasn't making that rod sing like the 575.  We were using full 10' tips of T-14 and T-11.  You have to load them in real-world scenarios in order to know how they fly.  I find it weird when people test rods with Skagit heads and floating tips.  I mean, it isn't how we fish them, so why test them in different conditions? 

We also tried a Rio Scandi Short 540 and 480, a Rio Scandi 3D 7/8, and a mid belly line from a different source.  The Rio Scandi 3D 7/8 was my favorite line out of all of them to cast on it, while the 540 was a little bit sluggish.  It still cast pretty darn easy, but the 480 was money...  Scandi heads in 475-525 range should all cast well, while Skagit heads in the 550 to 600 range will be right in that sweet spot.

It's tough work, but someone has to do it and Rob's that guy
The 7wt was our next favorite rod and really just about as nice as the 8wt.  It is one of those things that if we had found the right lines quicker with the 7wt, we might have put that at the top.  We tried a bunch of lines with this rod.  A 525 Rio Skagit Max was the Skagit line of choice for both Rob and me.  I tried a 425 OPST Commando head, a 520 Scientific Anglers Scandi, a 480 Rio Scandi, a 500 Skagit Max Short and a Rio Scandi Short Versitip #7 and out of all of those, the Scandi Short Versitip was the next best line for that rod.

The 7wt had that familiar, crisp action, but I thought that it didn't quite have the response to a variety of lines that the 8wt did.  It seemed to cast some lines really well, while other lines were lackluster that should have performed a little better in my opinion, like a 520 Scandi.  It is a little heavy for a 7wt, but it should still go everywhere you need it to with authority.  It felt as if the tip couldn't keep up as well.

The 6wt and 5wt were both squarely a notch down from the 7wt and 8wt in our opinions.  We also realize that with a 7wt and an 8wt spey rod, there is a clear purpose and mission; they are for swinging steelhead flies.  "Trouty" spey rods are in the hinterlands.  By that, I mean that until I know exactly what I am supposed to do with a trout spey, I will have a hard time figuring out what lines to put on it and how it handles those lines.  I have several trout spey rods that rarely, if ever, leave my closet.  I am guessing that there are a lot of those out there.

We have a line problem, or maybe a line solution...
I could not ethically suggest fishing for steelhead with a 6wt spey.  Many anglers use a 6wt for summer steelhead, but there is that one time I hooked a fish on the Deschutes.  It was well into the teens, and it was more than my 6wt could handle.  I have since decided that 6wt spey rods are too light for my liking.  I want a rod that will be able to land the big fish that I know are out there.  If I was just fishing small hairwing patterns on a dry line on a river like the Grande Ronde, which has few fish over 8 pounds, then at 6wt would be just fine.  But I am not.  All of the rivers I fish contain fish that are too big for a 6wt.  Some of those rivers have mostly small steelhead, but I want a rod that can handle them all.

So maybe the 6wt is a nice, stout, trout spey rod.  That is not out of the realm of possibilities.

The trout part of trout spey is where we get hung up.  It is totally possible to throw dries with it, and you can likely get some great distance with it.  I have used that same 6wt spey rod that I sold during the salmonfly hatch to throw dries.  It was great.  We were hitting some spots that rarely ever get touched, but we were fishing a Scandi line, casting across and down, skating big salmonflies.

Upstream casting is a different ballgame.  It is not always as feasible, or in any way easier to use a two handed rod for fishing upstream.  It is super fun, but I am not convinced that it is more effective or efficient.  I have plenty of time on the Deschutes every spring to play around with this idea and have had success in the past with trout spey rods cast upstream.  For the lines, I have used Scientific Anglers' 8wt SBT line on 5wt spey rods with success in the past.  It is not an ideal line (I don't think there is one), but it gets the job done and is what I currently have set up on my trout spey rod.  Another choice would be Rio's Trout/Steelhead Indicator Line; it should do the trick pretty darn well.  You would want to bump it up 3 sizes.  Most trout lines will work when you bump them 3-4 sizes.  I haven't found a bumped line that is anywhere near great 

Rio Switch line and Switch Chucker are both fine lines for what they do.  The Switch line is a decent all-around line that will throw a decent sized rig, or nymph setup and is a bit lighter and less clunky (I almost said more delicate..).  The Switch Chucker is what you would use if you wanted to cast a live chicken about 40 feet.  It is a clunky line in general, but it will turn over anything you want to put on it.  Cortland's new Compact Switch line is similar to Rio's Switch Chucker line, but it weighs significantly less for each size.  The Switch Chucker is one size heavier in general than the Cortland line.  The 6wt Cortland is 375 grains and the 5wt Switch Chucker is 375 as well...  I would likely look at that Cortland line if I was going to get into trout spey/switch dry and/or nymph fishing more seriously.

So we really use these rods for _____?  I can see swinging streamers with them, and that is what I can see myself doing the most with them.  So we lined up the 5 and the 6 with Skagit lines.  I believe that we decided that the 440 grain head was good on the 6wt and the 360 was good on the 5wt.  I never found a line that was just right for either of the 5wt or the 6wt, but there were plenty that got the job done.  It is also hard to cast a smaller rod like this in a spot and scenario in which I am normally throwing a big rod and fly a long ways.

I always feel like I am going to break a light spey rod.  The 5wt BVK is super lightweight and the tip seems like it weighs nothing.  I must always be mindful of the delicacy of these rods and keep it slow and simple on the cast.  It is really easy to push them too hard, and that seems to be the case with most of these long trout rods. A 400 grain Skagit head was clunky and we had issues with collapsing loops, but it went quite a bit further than the 360 grain head that we fished.  That one looked and felt better, but getting any kind of distance was a struggle. 

I still think a 10' single hand rod is a better tool to nymph with.  It is more accurate, less awkward and is more fun to fight fish with in my opinion.  But if people want to nymph with a switch rod, more power to them. It is absolutely fun too!  That's the great thing about opinions.

In the end, out of all the trout spey rod casting I have done, Rio's Scandi Short Versitip keeps coming back to me as the line of choice for downstream/across casting.  Streamers, soft hackles, crawling nymphs.  I would want a totally different line for upstream casting as outlined above.  Plus with a head system, you can switch out and throw a Skagit head when you want to huck a big streamer.  Rio's Single Hand Spey line is awfully close to the Scandi Short Versitip with a 3 line bump if you wanted to have a full line and not a head system.  That issue is a full blog article in itself.

Both the 5 and 6wt BVK spey rods are fine rods.  The hangup as mentioned before is that I am not sure what exactly I am supposed to do with it.  I just personally don't find myself in positions where I am using a spey rod to fish for trout all that often.  I only went once last year, for an hour or less.

This reminds me of a similar period about 15 (or more) years ago when spey rods were just coming onto the scene in the PNW, and there weren't really lines that did what we wanted them to do on the west coast.  But... there also weren't any rods that had been built to cast the lines that we needed (that hadn't been built yet).  The trout spey scene is still in it's infancy and is in a similar spot.  This time around the industry is better built to handle the development, but it is still a work in progress.  We have to work out the kinks about what these rods are built to do, and then develop the lines to do what we need.

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