by Steven Neely


Switch rods are shorter and lighter lined double handed salmon rods compared to the mainstay traditional 13, 14 and 15 footers. Sometimes referred to as baby Spey rods they are less than 12ft 6in in length and typically for lines (double hand rated) in the five to nine weight range. Seven and eight weights tend to be the most popular due to their versatility.

They are no longer considered a super “nichey” rod, for very specific uses on small rivers, and as their popularity has increased they’ve proven invaluable in a wide range of situations, from tiny tree-lined rivers to low water conditions on our biggest rivers.

The list of scenarios where these rods are useful continues to grow and consequently the demands placed on them. It really starts to become a bigger ask when factors like wind, range, long leaders, sink tips, the delicate delivery of small flies and casting large flies or dealing with heavy fish all have to be considered.

At 11ft 9in the SAGE Igniter is at the longer end of Switch rod range. I’m very familiar with this length of rod as it was the same length as my trusted SAGE Method Switch which I used extensively prior to the Igniter. This extra length offers some colossal advantages. The lifting up/digging out and casting of sink tips is made much easier, and longer sink tips can now be used, if needed, thus adding more versatility to the overall outfit. Mending and controlling the line at range is also more effective with the extra length of the Igniter.

To dismiss short Switch rods entirely would be wrong of me. For fishing exclusively on very small rivers and/or in very tight spaces with limited room for casting they’re not a bad choice. However, where longer range is needed they are comprised as a result. My experience with both the Method and the Igniter has taught me that greater casting distances are much easier to achieve than with sub 11ft Switch rods. 

The ultra-fast action of the Igniter also plays a vital part in its ability to cast a longer line with ease and helps out in other ways too, notably when dealing with windy conditions ­­– in particular, headwinds. The Igniter’s action means it recovers very quickly and as a result will deliver high line speed, even from a compact casting stroke when needed. So for casting into a headwind or putting a large fly such as a Sunray across a windswept pool, for example, it is invaluable.

It is not uncommon to use a wide range of fly sizes/weights and heads with Switch rods. Sometimes these are used in conjunction with fast sinking tips. The Igniter’s extra length and steely action are also an advantage in levering up fast sinking tips and heavy tubes from the depths. Overly bendy, soft action rods can feel like they will buckle when lifting out deeply sunk, heavy tips and often require more roll casts to get the line positioned on the surface prior to re-casting.

At the end of the day we are fishing for salmon. It may be stating the obvious but even in low water a lively fresh fish can take a fair bit of controlling in the early stages of the fight, and a salmon rod should have sufficient backbone to deal with that. Another failing of overly soft Switch rods is they do not have that and fight times can be unnecessarily prolonged as a result. 

The Igniter is the fastest Switch I have cast to date. However, it is far from ‘pool cue’ stiff and has a very user friendly feel; I have witnessed beginner casters enjoy this rod and consistently make nice, relaxed Spey casts. This is testament to how the rod responds well to different stroke lengths and stroke speeds, while it’s reassuring to know it has plenty in reserve.

Build quality, backbone, action and length are what elevate the SAGE Igniter switch above all other Switch rods. Frankly, many switch rods are simply too short and/or have too soft an action for the job in hand – certainly for my fishing. For these reasons the Method 71194 was my go too rod prior to the Igniter. With the addition of Konnectic HD Technology the Igniter has the edge on its predecessor, being slightly faster, crisper and with more feedback during the cast.

The best just got better!


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