When swinging for steelhead, the longer your rod the more effortless the fishing will become. With a longer rod, you will be able to efficiently cover more water, in less time. With any type of fishing, the more water you can cover, the better your chances are at finding a player. Longer rods allow you to mend the fly easier. This will allow you to get the fly down in the strike zone faster. You will start to fish the water with more confidence.
I prefer a Switch or Spey rod from 11′ to 12 1/2′ long. I choose my rod based on the type of water and the depth. If you’re just starting out, you may want to go with an 8wt. An 8wt will help you cast heavier tips and big flies with greater ease. As your casting improves, you may find your quiver of rods begin to grow like mine. You may want to tackle the river with a lighter rod, like a 6 or 7wt. This will allow you to experience the fight like you’ve never experienced before.