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Make Mine a Double by Judith O’Keefe

February 20, 2013
Filed in: Fly Fishing

Make Mine a DoubleWords by Judith O’Keefe
Photos courtesy of Burkheimer Rods

I love casting a fly rod.

That used to be all I’d have to say.  It was generally assumed I was referring to my single hand rod, and I was.  I learned to fly fish on the Deschutes River, casting a sink-tip fly line as far as I could, hoping to entice a steelhead to the fly.  Six months later, just months into my initiation, I was comfortable with larger rods and longer casts.  Why would I want to learn to cast a double-hand rod?  I’m not what some would refer to as a “gear-freak.”  I don’t need a lot of stuff.  In fact for me, less is usually more.  I’m not one to follow the latest craze either, so I really didn’t see any reason to put down the trusty nine and a half foot, 7 weight.

“Here was a stretch of eighty-three days without catching a fish.  I know quite well it cannot be beaten.  Here is a record that will stand.”  — Zane Grey.

I have not beaten Mr. Grey’s record, and as far as I know, it still stands, but a few years back I was in a steelhead slump.  The frustration set in and the more I tried, the worse it got.  Was it the wrong fly, the wrong fly color?  Was I fishing too deep, not deep enough?  And that back-cast seemed to hang up in the weeds more often than not!  I needed a new strategy, an attitude adjustment and a double-handed rod, or as they are commonly called, a spey rod.

Some of my closest friends are spey casters.  A few even hold national and world records. Some people never learn to cast a single-hand rod, they just use that double-hand rod in every situation.  Not I.  I don’t aspire to break any records and most of the time, my single-hand rod will do the job nicely.  But when it comes to many larger steelhead streams, my spey rod and I are going to become fast friends.

Make Mine a Double - 3

This past fall I was fortunate to fish with the owner of the C. F. Burkheimer Rod Company, Kerry Burkheirmer and his son, Carl.  Not only was I impressed with the way those guys could cast, I was equally impressed by the rods they were casting.  And I was quick to accept Kerry’s invitation to take a tour of the rod shop and take a spey casting lesson on the beautiful Washougal River.  A few months later, I drove past the fallow wheat fields of northeastern Oregon, crossed the mighty Columbia River into Washington state and eventually found my way west to the town of Washougal and the C. F. Burkheirmer rod shop on Main Street.  All Burkheimer rods are designed and built “in a little shop, in a little town, along the banks of a very big river.”  That afternoon made a believer out of me. Each of their five rod builders brings that old world, craftsman frame-of-mind, into that shop every day.  I’ve handled my share of fly rods and toured more than one factory, and I have to say that their attention to detail and finish quality, border on the obsessive.  They say they strive to make only the most exceptional fly rods, and I have to agree, they are truly outstanding.

I am now the proud owner of not only a CF 8128-4 (12 foot 8 inch #8) Classic double-hand rod, but also a CF 795-4 (9 foot 6 inch #5) ST, single-hand as well.  I’ve had a few lessons, and I need to get in some serious practice time, so as soon as my pond thaws, you’ll know where to find me.  Then it’s North Umpqua River, here I come.


  • When I first started fly fishing, I had no desire to try Spey, mostly because it was too intimidating for a beginner. While I would like to try it now, there are few, if any, rivers in Maine that would require it. I suppose a trip to New York is in order!

    Posted by Chris at Part Time Vagabond | February 21, 2013 at 5:12 am
  • I find I will use my 7wt spey rod because I can cast it all day and not be sore, which is not the case with my 8wt singlehand rod. I did not think I ‘needed’ another rod until I found this one! Kerry is a really nice guy, have met him at Spey Clave a few times!

    Posted by Robin H | February 27, 2013 at 9:45 pm
  • Kerry and his staff are the best. Burkheimer rods are the best. Hope mine sees more use this year than last!

    Posted by Bill Koran | February 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

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