I discovered two handed casting and steelhead fishing in 2012 after moving back to Idaho. A friend took me steelheading on the Little Salmon River, and I caught a hatchery hen on my 5 weight trout rod. Alex caught a 30 inch buck. I was enthralled. Soon after, I purchased my first two handed rod, an Echo 8 weight switch, and began racking up late fees from the library on Simon Gawesworth's spey casting DVD. Most of my free time was spent tying flies and driving around the region in search of my inaugural steelhead on the swing. The first tug came on the Deschutes, and yes indeed, it was the drug.
Fast foreword two years. I'm packing up a Uhaul bound once again for Yellowstone country. Yes, I was remiss to be leaving prime steelhead water, but the amount of trout opportunities in Wyoming vastly make up for the loss. That is, as long as I treat them like steelhead.
Not wanting to give up two handed casting, I promptly acquired 5 weight TFO switch rod, and began swinging for trout. I couldn't have been happier. Everything I love about steelhead fishing could be sized down and used on the local rivers. All winter long I honed my craft on the town stretch of river.
Spring showed up and brought the closest thing to steelhead we have in Wyoming: potamodrous rainbows. Every spring, trout that reside in our reservoir make their way upstream to spawn. These fish are healthy, strong, and readily take swung or drifted flies. The average size blows my mind, and I am constantly shaking my head in disbelief when hooking or fighting one. Its that good.
Like a winter run steelhead, these fish show up in poor weather. Wind and snow are a constant companion in Wyoming. Gladly, this keeps the crowds at a minimum, not that there are enough people in Wyoming to create a crowd.
Since I started fishing the two handed trout rod, I've barely picked up my traditional rod. I am constantly impressed just how versatile the 5wt switch is. It chucks heavy streamers, swings soft hackles, nymphs, high sticks, and yes, I've had 12 fish days casting Blue Winged Olives to rising trout. Sure, its overkill on many small streams, but for mid to large size water, I will always reach for it.
No, its not a substitute to steelhead fishing. Nothing can take that crown. But fishing a light weight two handed rod for trout captures many of the things I love about steelheading: elegant spey casts sending line across a riffley run, large buggy flies, and of course, that heart stopping feel of a solid tug on the end of a swung streamer.