Before we started this test of the latest switch rods, we asked ourselves what constitutes a switch rod and why should people choose to use one? In essence a switch rod is a short double-hander (forget fishing one single-handed – its too tiring!). It needs to feel light and delicate in the hand and be short enough to cope with limited space, yet capable of turing over a small conehead or modest Sunray Shadow. Otherwise, you might as well use a light double-hander of 12ft or more.

On smaller spate rivers it should be accurate enough to place a small fly behind a chosen rock at short to medium range, and on larger rivers be able to cast enough line with delicacy to fish fine and far off in low water conditions.

While a switch rod is a good compromise for a younger angler or someone less able to deal with a longer, heavier double-handed rod all day, its major benefit is a lighter, more delicate presentation. There’s also the fun factor: casting a shorter, lighter rod with just a box of small flies, a spool of tippet and a net on your back is a convenient and delightful way of catching sea-trout and grilse in summer.

Tweed gillie Calum Manson and I tested each rod with three very different lines: a Rio Short VersiTip 425gr/27.5gm, 7wt line with a 33ft head and Rio 10ft Intermediate tip. A Cortland Switch full line with a 45ft, 425gr head and 10ft tapered leader. And a Rio Scandi Outbound 485gr/31gm, 8wt line with a 33ft head and 10ft tapered leader.

Conditions on the Tweed were low and clear — ideally suited to a switch rod — with a testing upstream wind. While our findings are an accurate account and fair indication of performance, our different casting styles and preferences mean they are intended only as a helpful guide. We’d advise anyone looking to buy a rod to contact a good dealer and cast a selection – with different lines –for themselves.


Airflo Rage Switch

11ft, 7wt

Airflo Rage Switch

The new Rage Switch was one of the more delicate rods in this test. It felt wand-like in the hand, with a slightly softer action, yet was still accurate at close and medium range. It preferred the shorter-headed lines, the Outbound performing best, although we would choose a 7wt version because the 8wt felt a little heavy, indicating that the rod is true to its rating. It needed a longer, slower stroke to maintain an anchor and a good loop shape. The longer-headed Cortland line was delivered with delicacy at short range, but it was a struggle to turn it over consistently at distance, suggesting the rod will suit smaller rivers and low water conditions where it will achieve a light, delicate presentation.

“Accurate at close and medium range”

Contact Airflo  Tel 01874 618 510  Web


Greys Kite Switch

11ft 1in, 7wt-8wt

Greys Kite Switch rod

The Kite had a fast action and preferred a shorter casting stroke to perform at its best. It liked the VersiTip line and could handle more overhang than most. It also cast a long line and presented a fly well. The handle was slim and comfortable but was on the short side, which limited top-hand positioning. The blank gave ample feedback and was reasonably accurate at all distances. Although we expected its action to suit the heavier Outbound line, it felt slightly overloaded, and we lost some control. Slowing the casting stroke improved performance, but we think it’s better matched to a 7wt than an 8wt.

“Cast a long line and presented a fly well”

Contact Pure Fishing  Tel 01665 602 771  Web


Guideline LPX Chrome

11ft 7in, 7wt-8wt

Guideline LPX Chrome

One of the longest rods in the test and on the border line for a switch rod. This meant it had no problem with distance and coped with the longer head of the Cortland line better than most, feeling like it could easily handle more weight. It was light and loaded well, with plenty of power in the butt, but lacked the delicate touch of the best shorter rods, feeling more like a small double-hander. The extra load from the 8wt line really brought out its mid-flex action and made distance effortless, while maintaining good accuracy and turnover. A great rod for bigger rivers where you need to cover more water, or for fishing small Sunrays.

“No problem with distance”

Contact Guideline  Tel 07973 291 367  Web


Hardy Aydon Switch

11ft, 7wt-8wt

Hardy Aydon Switch

The Aydon had a slower, more progressive action. There was plenty of feedback right down into the butt and the forgiving blank gave us all the time in the world to deliver the forward stroke. This made it a very relaxing rod to cast and one you could easily fish with all day. A 7wt line was all it needed. Although it handled the 8wt, this added minimal extra distance because the rod doesn’t like to be forced. A longer, slower stroke delivered perfectly acceptable distance and presentation, although the rod was affected by the gusty upstream wind more than some others in the test.

“You could easily fish with it all day”

Contact Pure Fishing  Tel 01665 602 771  Web


MacKenzie FX2 Graphene Switch

11ft 2in, 7wt-8wt

MacKenzie FX2 Graphene Switch

At just over 11ft, this rod delivered effortless distance, beyond what is generally expected of a switch rod. The action is a little faster than most of the other rods, but it’s still progressive. It handled all the lines well, favouring the little extra weight of the 8wt Outbound, which loaded it deeper and showed off its reserves of power. Accuracy was very good, but not the best, and it required a little more precision with the timing and stroke during the cast, but this is a great rod that, in the right hands, can do it all. Highly recommended.

“Delivered effortless distance”

Contact Mackenzie Fly Fishing  Tel 07771 330 729  Web


Orvis Mission

11ft 7wt

Orvis Mission rod

With its softer mid-action, we could feel the Mission load right into the butt, and yet it still had the reserves of power to cope with all three lines, even the 8wt, which was technically overloading it. It preferred the 7wt VersiTip and a slower, more deliberate stroke to avoid overpowering it and blowing the anchor. Distance and accuracy were good, but while we couldn’t fault the rod’s performance, it didn’t have the crisp, lively feel of some other rods in the test. We also felt the bottom grip was a bit “lumpy” in the hand – although perhaps that’s personal preference.

“Power to cope with all three lines”

Contact Orvis UK  Tel 03334 004 188  Web


Sage Igniter

11ft 9in, 7wt

Sage Igniter rod

All rods in the Igniter Switch range are 11ft 9in, spanning the line between switch and short double-hander. The overall action was softer than expected, but the tip recovery was sharp, enabling accurate casts and pleasing loops. For pure distance, it was the best in test, but not by much, and it lacked the precision and delicacy of the shorter, lighter-feeling rods. The Cortland line felt a little too light, even when leaving plenty of head outside the tip. The 8wt loaded deeper and gave the best overall results, suggesting the rod is nearer an 8wt than a 7wt. This is a high-performance rod but is less forgiving than some, requiring more thought throughout the cast. A rod suited to bigger rivers and experienced casters.

“Tip recovery was sharp, enabling accurate casts”

Contact Guide Flyfishing  Tel 01977 681 300  Web


Sharpe’s of Aberdeen Ajax

11ft 3in, 7wt

Sharpe's of Aberdeen Ajax

This rod had the most traditional action in the test but was none the worst for that. It delivered all the lines, achieving ample distance with little effort and while not quite as crisp and accurate as the best rods, it was easy to cast and fun to fish with. Its softer action required a traditional spey-casting style, a slower and more progressive stroke, but the feedback into the handle made timing easy. While it might not have the power to cope with harsh conditions and bigger flies, it would feel at home on medium-sized rivers, fishing small flies. Its forgiving action makes it a good rod for the younger or developing caster.

“Easy to cast and fun to fish with”

Contact Sharpe’s of Aberdeen  Tel 02871 383033  Web


Snowbee Prestige G-XS Graphene Switch

11ft, 8wt

Snowbee Prestige G-XS Graphene Switch

This rod made us beam from ear to ear. It felt light and responsive, with a mid- to fast action. The tip was excellent, delivering pin-point accuracy with zero perceivable bounce or deviation. “It just goes where you point it and makes it difficult to do a bad cast,” said Andrew. The only dedicated 8wt in the test, it coped with all three lines, needing just a little more overhang on the 7wts to ensure it loaded. With the 8wt Outbound, it was a delight, achieving plenty of distance and, more importantly, perfect turnover every time. It’s forgiving and intuitive nature would suit the broadest range of casting styles, making it our top choice. It’s also the only five-piece in the test, so it’s a little more portable.

“Perfect turnover every time”

Contact Snowbee  Tel 01752 334 933  Web


Vision Switch Hero

11ft 2in, 7wt

Vision Switch Hero rod

This is one of the slightly faster actioned rods in the test, with an accurate and stable tip and plenty of power in the butt. It maintained the light, delicate feel of a true switch rod while still delivering plenty of distance and presenting a fly delicately. It performed well with all the lines, preferring the VersiTip, and while it coped with the 8wt admirably, loading deeper into the blank, it lost some of its previous control, proving that it is true to its rating. Calum liked the longer grip, which suited his larger hands and the rod’s forgiving action. “It loads in all the right places at the right time,” he said. A lovely all-round rod and also highly recommended.

“The light, delicate feel of a true switch rod”

Contact Guide Flyfishing  Tel 01977 681 300  Web


Prices correct as at September 2023

Rod Photography: Peter Gathercole