Mystic Switch Rod – Initial Impressions:
Let me start out by saying that the Mystic Switch Rod is my first two handed style rod. So consider this review as being from the eyes of a spey casting novice. I think that this is still useful though, because there are a lot of people here in Michigan that may be in the same boat as I was while contemplating this purchase. I was enamored at all the Youtube videos of Pacific Northwest fisherman throwing large sink tips and weighted flies and making it look easy. Whether it be for Kings, Steelhead, or even Smallmouth bass, we need to throw the same heavily weighted patterns if we want to catch more fish. And lets face it, double hauling a large jointed streamer is fun for while, but gets old pretty quickly.
The other key point that makes spey (or in my case skagit) casting attractive is that our local waters, although mostly smaller than the coastal rivers out west, largely share a similar feature, and that is lack of room for back casting. In my experience, it can be difficult to find areas in most of our rivers, especially the larger ones, where you have room to back cast to reach a run at distance.This typically limits us to a few sweet spots that get over fished, and keeps us from effectively fishing more promising runs. Fishing from a drift boat, or mastering a good roll cast helps tremendously, but I still was finding myself wishing I had a better way to open up more water.
I decided on a switch rod for a couple reasons. One, I wasn’t sure I would use a full length spey rod on most of the waters I fish. There are certain situations that it would help, but I wanted a rod that I would use on a more regular basis. Secondly, my research made me believe skagit heads were what I wanted to use primarily, and the shorter switch rods are perfect tools to throw these lines and heavy tips. And lastly, having the ability to cast single handed as well again made me appreciate the versatility of the switch rod.
Making the decision to purchase a Mystic Switch Rod was very easy. Their reputation is definitely a selling point. The price is moderate, especially when you consider the quality. And, best of all, they are made right here in Michigan! Any Michigan made product always gets a little more consideration in my book. Their location in Portland, MI is just off the highway on my route to the Pere Marquette and Muskegon River, which makes it very convenient if I ever need to take advantage of their great warranty. I should add here that the blanks used by Mystic (and most every “Made in the USA” fly rod company) are made overseas. This is an unfortunate necessity for most companies. But we still appreciate a company doing what they can here in our great state.
So with my decision made, it was simply a waiting game until I had the funds to order my new rod. I decided to go to the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo to get a chance to talk to the guys from Mystic. I found their representatives at the show very helpful. They set me up with a demo rod and let me take a few casts. Customer service is a big deal to me when making this kind of investment, and the guys did a great job of showing me what Mystic is all about. Mystic doesn’t sell directly to individuals, so they had to track down a vendor at the show to sell me the rod. They set me up with Bruce from Au Sable Anglers fly shop, and after another helpful conversation I willingly handed over my credit card to make the purchase. I can highly recommend Bruce’s Au Sable Angler Fly Shop to anyone, whether you run in to him at a show, or stop by his shop in Mio.
Now to the important part of the review. How does the Mystic Switch Rod fish?
On the water: Mystic Switch Rod
At the time of writing this initial impressions review I’ve only had the Mystic Switch Rod on the water for one day. I primarily fished it as a chuck-n-duck set up with just straight running line on my Allen Kraken XLA (review here), which balanced the rod beautifully. The Mystic Switch Rod was everything I expected. Chuck-n-duck isn’t the most sophisticated way to test out a rod, but I felt the sensitivity in the tip of the rod as I bounced along the bottom of the Muskegon River. And on a tough day of fishing due to heavy water I was happy with the extra length in the rod to reach more water without having to re position my boat as much to cover large runs.
After my float from Pine Ave to Thornapple launch I decided to give the rod, and my beginner skagit casting skills, a test. I paired the rod with an OPST Commando Skagit Head (review here), some rio grip shooter running line, and a custom cut 10′ T-14 sink tip. All of this purchased from the helpful people at Muskegon River Fly Shop in Newaygo. I tied on a large jointed deceiver pattern and went to work.
I found the rod easy to handle, but was having a hard time getting the fly air born during my snap-t and double spey casts. The rod performed great on my single hand and roll casts, so I knew it was operator error. So, I cut off the streamer and tried a few casts with just the sink tip attached to the head. I immediately started shooting line and started to see why these rods are so popular. This told me I wasn’t performing the sustained anchor skagit cast correctly. I wasn’t loading the rod enough to pull the heavy streamer out of the water.
After a few minutes of trial and error I realized my anchor point was being placed too far up stream on my snap-t casts, and i wasn’t getting enough surface tension on the stroke to bend the rod. Once I corrected the problem I was able to shoot line casting a large weighted tube fly with relative ease.
So in under an hour the Mystic Switch Rod and OPST Commando head took me from not turning over anything to shooting 20-30′ of running line. When you add the length of the head, sink tip, and tippet, you get a total of about 60′. Now this isn’t ground breaking distance, but it covers most fishing situation in Michigan that I run into. And when you consider my lack of experience and zero back casting room its very easy to see how this will help catch and land more fish.
Overall I am very happy with this rod, and am looking forward to getting out on the water with it soon. I will come back and update this review with some more details on fish fighting ability, and also nymph/indicator ability soon, as well as some final thoughts on the Mystic Switch Rod.