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Relapsed Speyaholic
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Recently once again there was a thread about how big a rod is needed to fish a certain river system. This time it was an August/September trip to the Skeena and I gave my opinion of an 8 weight being optimal. As expected, a number of responses came is saying a 6 weight will land any steelhead that swims. Some of these were even from people who know what they are talking about. :saevilw:

My belief is that statement is likely correct and any steelhead can be landed on a six weight assuming the angler knows what they are doing and is willing to push the rod's capabilities. By this I mean bend it deep into the cork and yes, possibly risk catastrophic failure. I know anglers that do this with skill and regularly land large fish with lighter rods. These are anglers that care deeply about the fish and even though they fish lighter gear, push the fight and land and release the fish quickly.

I believe they are the exception though. Most anglers either don't have the skill nor the desire to push their equipment to the edge. So instead they put a moderate bend in their graphite and extend the fight. Eventually the fish tires and comes to hand. Yep, you just landed an 18# buck on a 6 weight but was it the best thing for the fish? Probably not.

The other thing I read is a 6 is so much easier to cast than an 8 and won't wear you out over a day of fishing. To this I say, learn to cast! But that is a topic for another post :devil:
 

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Meiser, T&T, and OPST two handers; Scott, Orvis, & Winston SH. Danielsson and Hardy Reels
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Well put...

When I first got hooked on fly fishing, I had several light weight SH trout rods. At least two 2 weights, three 3 weights and several 4 weights. Today, my trout rod stable is lean, two four weights (7'7" and 9'), one five 8'4" five weight, and that's it. I'm looking for a 9' six weight and likely one more five before the spring comes, but that is it.

Why, because the light weight, short rods don't handle fish well, or, at least, I don't handle them as well on the shorter, lighter rods.
 

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seaterspey
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Totally agree with the thread. If in doubt go bigger. I was just thinking about this last night when I hooked a coho in the back and fought it for way to long lesson learned!

This is good advice for both fisher and fish!!

KC
 

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All you have to do is spend a week in Skeena country and watch the masses who don't know how to pull on a fish, and understand why the vast majority should be referring a new angler to a larger rod (like an 8 weight). Sure, you may feel ok fighting a fish with a 6, but do you really think that is the best thing to refer to a angler new to the area?

Protect the resource, fight them hard with appropriate gear and let them go quick..
 

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Yes to what he said.

All anglers should tie their line to a scale and put rod pressure until they are sure the line will break. You will be surprised at what little weight or pull there is.

Tie the line to a 5lb weight and try and lift it with your rod.

How much tug does it take to break the line when you are hung on a rock?

Most anglers underplay their catch. So what is the real issue,the rod or the angler?

Fish are underplayed because the angler is afraid of losing the fish.
Years back and a 'mono' casting rod; amazing what it takes to break 10# leader/line. Try it and you will see what I mean.
 

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I certainly agree that it is more about the angler than the rod when it comes to playing and landing steelhead. And I don't disagree that an 8 wt Spey rod is a good choice for steelhead on the Skeena system, or anywhere. I have a couple such rods and would fish them more if I didn't find my 7 wt more pleasurable to cast and fish with. I could probably say the same thing about my 10 wt Spey rod.

The reason I think my 7 wt is just as good a choice as an 8 wt is because I can think back, back before there was a Spey pages, before anyone in the PNW had a graphite Spey rod. The most popular single hand rod for steelheading was an 8 wt. Thousands of steelhead were played, landed, and released to survive on those rods. I mention this because an 8 wt Spey rod is far more powerful than an 8 wt single hand rod, comparable at least to a 10 wt single hander, if not an 11. That's a lot of lifting power, in steelhead playing terms, that is.

I recall the rods Jerry Wintle, an experienced angler for sure, used most often for steelheading before he got a 2-hander. On the Morice it was his Orvis 6 wt bamboo trout rod, and on the Thompson it was his Orvis 9wt bamboo Shooting Star. I have a Shooting Star, and I'd question that it has the lifting power of even a 6 wt graphite Spey rod. Certainly no more than.

Comparatively speaking, any of the Spey rods we are likely to choose for our steelhead fishing is more likely than not, a veritable powerhouse compared to the single hand rods we slung about on the rivers not so very long ago. Consequently I'm just as comfortable suggesting a 7 wt as an 8 wt Spey. I think we should fish with rods we enjoy, and there are so many very good ones from which to choose. We are in the Golden Age of fly rod choices.

Sg
 

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Hopeless Romantic...
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agreed-

6 wt's are for trout, 7-8 wts are for steelhead. Been that way for a long time and should stay that way, regardless of your skill level unless you have only smaller steelhead in your area... And the 7 better be on the heavy side-
 

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If one is using proper tippet I don't think it matters what number the manufacturer put on the rod. e.g. Maxima 12lb UG is STRONG!

Years ago I was fishing next to someone who foul hooked a big male chum right in the back. After seeing what happened, I told him he should just break it off and save everyone the trouble (fish and angler). After a pause he agreed and started pulling hard on the rod... but wasn't making any progress. Said he couldn't break it off.

I told him to point the rod at the fish, clamp down on the line and start walking backwards up the bank. Figured that should take care of the problem.

He followed the advice perfectly and proceeded to haul the still-angry chum right up on the gravel bar!

Maxima = 1
Chum = 0

When I take a Maxima spool out of the gear bag I swear I can hear fish tremble.

:)
 

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Internet Scientist
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I can cast my TCX 8119 all day, every day all week. It won't wear me out.

Generalities sometimes mostly never don't work. Generally.
 

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From personal experience over 60 years ...

I certainly agree that it is more about the angler than the rod when it comes to playing and landing steelhead. And I don't disagree that an 8 wt Spey rod is a good choice for steelhead on the Skeena system, or anywhere. I have a couple such rods and would fish them more if I didn't find my 7 wt more pleasurable to cast and fish with. I could probably say the same thing about my 10 wt Spey rod.

The reason I think my 7 wt is just as good a choice as an 8 wt is because I can think back, back before there was a Spey pages, before anyone in the PNW had a graphite Spey rod. The most popular single hand rod for steelheading was an 8 wt. Thousands of steelhead were played, landed, and released to survive on those rods. I mention this because an 8 wt Spey rod is far more powerful than an 8 wt single hand rod, comparable at least to a 10 wt single hander, if not an 11. That's a lot of lifting power, in steelhead playing terms, that is.

I recall the rods Jerry Wintle, an experienced angler for sure, used most often for steelheading before he got a 2-hander. On the Morice it was his Orvis 6 wt bamboo trout rod, and on the Thompson it was his Orvis 9wt bamboo Shooting Star. I have a Shooting Star, and I'd question that it has the lifting power of even a 6 wt graphite Spey rod. Certainly no more than.

Comparatively speaking, any of the Spey rods we are likely to choose for our steelhead fishing is more likely than not, a veritable powerhouse compared to the single hand rods we slung about on the rivers not so very long ago. Consequently I'm just as comfortable suggesting a 7 wt as an 8 wt Spey. I think we should fish with rods we enjoy, and there are so many very good ones from which to choose. We are in the Golden Age of fly rod choices.

Sg
"SG's" got it right, word for word. Those old rods were amazing, short of a Great White Shark there was nothing that swam they couldn't handle.
 

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You gotta hook'em before you can land 'em. Heavier rods and heavier lines cast furthur, cut the wind better and cast heavier loads (tips or flies or both). If you enjoy swinging a fly for steelhead going heavier has only the tiniest of a downside and I doubt you'd notice it.

Summer steelhead are always assumed to require less of rod but water temps make them the hottest. Hmm...........................................

If your tippet is strong enough you can land almost any fish on a 1wt, Lee Wulff proved this...I'd bet he wouldn't recommend it today!

With a 2 handed rod there might be a two ounce difference (Max) between a 6wt and a 9wt rod of the same length. I don't think 2 ounces have any effect on my day of fishing. If two ounces is a deal breaker for you maybe you shouldn't be fishing for steelhead because they'll almost certainly stress you out to the point you won't have the juice to fish the next day. This subject is frequently brought up but few seem to recogize the difference between hooking a steelhead and landing a steelhead. Light rods worked for Lee but he was trying to make a point, I'm trying to catch a steelhead and release it while it's still alive. Big difference!

Also, landing a hot steelhead with a 2 handed 13' rod is alot different than landing one with a 3wt 7' rod while you're wading. String beans and fishbone or String beans vs fishbone.
 

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I certainly agree that it is more about the angler than the rod when it comes to playing and landing steelhead. And I don't disagree that an 8 wt Spey rod is a good choice for steelhead on the Skeena system, or anywhere. I have a couple such rods and would fish them more if I didn't find my 7 wt more pleasurable to cast and fish with. I could probably say the same thing about my 10 wt Spey rod.

The reason I think my 7 wt is just as good a choice as an 8 wt is because I can think back, back before there was a Spey pages, before anyone in the PNW had a graphite Spey rod. The most popular single hand rod for steelheading was an 8 wt. Thousands of steelhead were played, landed, and released to survive on those rods. I mention this because an 8 wt Spey rod is far more powerful than an 8 wt single hand rod, comparable at least to a 10 wt single hander, if not an 11. That's a lot of lifting power, in steelhead playing terms, that is.

I recall the rods Jerry Wintle, an experienced angler for sure, used most often for steelheading before he got a 2-hander. On the Morice it was his Orvis 6 wt bamboo trout rod, and on the Thompson it was his Orvis 9wt bamboo Shooting Star. I have a Shooting Star, and I'd question that it has the lifting power of even a 6 wt graphite Spey rod. Certainly no more than.

Comparatively speaking, any of the Spey rods we are likely to choose for our steelhead fishing is more likely than not, a veritable powerhouse compared to the single hand rods we slung about on the rivers not so very long ago. Consequently I'm just as comfortable suggesting a 7 wt as an 8 wt Spey. I think we should fish with rods we enjoy, and there are so many very good ones from which to choose. We are in the Golden Age of fly rod choices.

Sg
+2!
I would bet that most people that own both a 7wt and an 8wt, the 8wt collects dust most of the time. The weight, heavier line, longer rod, although looks minimal on paper, but go cast both rods all day and see.

Like my reference in another post, you don't need a cannon to kill a deer, and you don't need a rod the size of a Redwood tree to catch a steelhead.

my 0.02:)
 

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I'm pretty much in the camp that says it is your terminal tackle that governs how quickly you can land a fish because when it comes right down to it as Tom mentioned - if you point the rod right at the fish and pull you will either turn the fish or break him off and at this point the rod has no effect on anything. But this goes only so far.

And by the way - to break off a fouled fish you need to point rod at fish and not just walk back but grab line and give a big yank - tippet holds up much better to a sustained pull as opposed to a sudden yank - after all most fish break off during a sudden surge. I fish the salmon pram line ups on the Smith and Chetco in tide water and you don't want to pull anchor when you foul a fish but you can pretty easily break them off with 10# maxima

Where rod weight I think does make more difference is water conditions - my go to trout rod is an 8' 2 wt when I am spring creek fishing on say Silver Creek - but here I am typically using 6x and 7 x tippet and a 0 wt would be as effective though not quite so in the wind. But I do not use this rod much on big freestone rivers where the fish has fast current to aid in his struggle.

Certainly I can turn a fish if I just point the rod at him but typically you fight a fish off the butt of the rod (which lets you use the rod as a protection against those sudden surges that break tippet) and not by pointing the rod at the fish and a heavier rod will allow you to apply more pressure, more easily than a lighter rod. And shorter rods do allow you to apply more lifting power - why do you think that most boat rods for trolling are short and heavy - you can really put pressure on a deep diving fish - you could not do the same thing with a light rod and fight the fish off the butt. So it does require some judgment but I certainly agree most guys do not apply near as much pressure as they could and there are not many places I would feel undergunned fishing for steelhead with a 7 (and this has more to do with my terminal tackle in the winter - ie - heavy tips and flies) and certainly much lighter in many of the systems I fish in the summer that typically has smaller fish
 

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FISHIN' FREELANCER
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Most anglers underplay their catch. So what is the real issue,the rod or the angler? Fish are underplayed because the angler is afraid of losing the fish.
The above quote is spot on.


Where rod weight I think does make more difference is water conditions - my go to trout rod is an 8' 2 wt when I am spring creek fishing on say Silver Creek - but here I am typically using 6x and 7 x tippet and a 0 wt would be as effective though not quite so in the wind. But I do not use this rod much on big freestone rivers where the fish has fast current to aid in his struggle.

I certainly agree most guys do not apply near as much pressure as they could and there are not many places I would feel undergunned fishing or steelhead with a 7 (and this has more to do with my terminal tackle in the winter - ie - heavy tips and flies) and certainly much lighter in many of the systems I fish in the summer that typically has smaller fish
Very good points Rick, I agree.

When on BIG water with BIG fish a distinct possibility I'd be fishing a heavier rod. Wouldn't even have to think about it, just rig it and go.

Recently once again there was a thread about how big a rod is needed to fish a certain river system. This time it was an August/September trip to the Skeena.
To me the original poster pretty much sets the context which is pretty plainly seen. Where I have a problem is when others try and toss the same worn old tired blanket over 'Steelheading' in general.. it amount's to weak thought personal opinion. Waaaaay to many variables.. Water size / flow.. gradient.. defined average normal weight of the returns. What is a 7wt? Death Star or CND Expert? Then include Euro line class rods in the mix just to further muddy the waters.

Enjoy the day :)
 

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''Speydo-masochist''
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As a UK angler all my experience is with Atlantics & sea run browns, sadly no steelhead (yet!), but I find that the river itself dictates what outfit you need.

At the end of last season I fished a week on a little South West Scotland river, The Water of Luce, a slow flowing small little river, where I landed an an angry (& often airborne) 17 lbs cock salmon in around 15 minutes (possibly less) on a little 11'6" #7 wt Loop Blue Line rod & a Hardy St John.

Two weeks later I was fishing the Tweed on a fast flowing beat with 1' 10" of water above summer level (this is powerful - it leads to some "interesting" wading!) & took 20 minutes to land an 18 pounder on my 15 ft Loomis GLX Classic #10/11 wt; it simply used the strength of the flow & because I hooked it where I couldn't get out on the bank & change the angle (& if I'd tried to move while playing the fish & unable to use my stick I'd have been swimming) so it was a case of "stand & fight".

The strength of the flow was the difference, if I'd hooked fish No.2 on tackle No.1 then I think I may well still be there, although it would probably have spawned by now........

I imagine it's the same for Steelhead, what works for typical sized fish on one river may be too light, or unnecessarily heavy, on another; also open clear banks which allow you to follow the fish & change angles allow a lighter outfit to be used than a river with heavily wooded banks & very difficult wading where you have to stand your' ground & bring the fish to you.

Regards, Tyke.
 

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I imagine it's the same for Steelhead, what works for typical sized fish on one river may be too light, or unnecessarily heavy, on another;

You are absolutely right. Some, larger lower Skeena wild Steelheads, freshly out of salt, specially when water is not to warm, are completely out of control regardless of the rod weight. Having 20 lb tippet is an asset too.
 

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Using the logic many seem to spout, why don't we just fish 2 wts for tarpon or marlin? Just rope the fish up 100# and point the rod at the fish the entire time?

Why even bother making a 13' 10wt king rod? If a 6wt is enough for every steelhead on planet earth, and can certainly end the fight the same time as a 13' 10wt, then I don't understand why we bother using the heavier rod for kings?

I don't often fish with others, so when I point that 12-13' rod at the fish, even when I have it reeled right to the rod tip (just making a point) its still 12-13' away. My arms aren't that long. So how does one get the fish closer to them without dragging them up the rocks? Do you strip 15' of line, held in a loop, fish drug to your landing point (but kept in a foot or so of water), drop loop and lift and run towards fish? And the fish stays put in that knee deep water, with your cat like reflexes you can lunge, and they still don't bolt from you rushing towards them? Can you do this over slick as ice basalt?

How many stubborn steelhead has the 6 and 7 wt only crowd landed over 12#'s? I have landed hundreds on a mixture of rods from 5wt single and two handers to 17' 11wts. And there is no way on planet earth the 6wt gets the job done in THE SAME TIME as the 14' 9wt on these fish. Which does better than the 13'8wt and so on. Not saying in the least that the 6wt won't land them. They do, many it is safe enough. Luckily the most offending stubborn bucks have been hooked on stout 9 and 10 wt rods...and it has been an epic chore at times to turn these fish.

Most steelhead are wimps and average 6-7#'s. That 2wt would get the job done just the same. Until it doesn't because you have hooked a stubborn double figure fish. Hell I hooked and eventually lost a 5# fish last year on a 12' 8wt, hooked in heavy water and ran and ran and ran, came back thrice and ran and ran and ran. It would bore down in the ledges 30'-50' away and couldn't get its head up and out...then it would bolt-return and repeat. Under a giant log numerous times, bolting for the tailout (that had a LONG chute and small falls = lost fish and flyline and much backing) Upstream, downstream. After all of that...hook finally pulls. Had as much spirit as any fish I have ever hooked, even some pulling power. While this one is the 1% of steelhead, embodies the species and only serves to show that it isn't always over-hype and BS. In fact about 25% of the fish I hooked this past year met the hype. Often exceeding it.

Using Wulff's guide of a minute per pound- I think things have come a long way since then. More like 15 seconds per pound on average. And most times even less. Even with a 4wt single hand rod. Until you get roped up to the stubborn 15#'r that thinks it is a chinook. And you will learn that Wulff's recommendation may not be long enough with these fish. Rare, but it does happen and there isn't a thing you can do about it.

Wulff also used to kill those fish in the 16-20 club. And the other stunts he used to prove a point...the option was there to kill a fish. They were plentiful and it was not not a problem. Is that option there on wild steelhead in BC on the Skeena? Aren't 85% of steelhead populations in the PNW lower 48 listed as threatened up to endangered? Would it be acceptable today to fish the Thompson with a size 28 hook (like Lee did on the Bulkley) and every intention to land the fish? Is that same stunt acceptable today on the Bulkley? What about Idaho's remaining wild B runs?

My answer to the post...it is BOTH the rod and angler and there are times when a heavier rod IS the better choice. Know your expected quarry and over gun (that 6wt two hander is often over gunned too). It won't hurt you.
 

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I agree with most of the comments posted here. A lot depends on the angler and their experience.

I think it's human nature to underplay the fish if a) you're a novice or b) you haven't hooked any fish in a while (that day or other time period). Why? I think because our brain tells us pulling on the fish hard will increase the likelihood of pulling the hook out.

Everyone remembers playing a fish for while and then for some reason the fish comes unpinned. Or landing a fish where the hook is just barely holding on to a small piece of skin in the mouth. Playing a fish easier, in theory, may allow you to land that fish. When we're so conscious of landing a fish one will naturally underplay it.

Other times we land fish where we've broken all the rules of playing a fish. Poor hookset, slack line, etc. Just happens the hook is buried in the corner of the mouth and there is no way the fish would be lost (failing breaking the line).

Where the hook is implanted is often luck and you'll probably lose more fish by overplaying (horsing) a fish in rather than underplaying.

As I get better at spey fishing and start having multiple fish days I've started fighting fish harder and harder. Keeping the rod angle low and using the butt of the rod to fight the fish really applies added pressure and brings the fish to the bank a lot quicker. I learned a lot by watching Andy Mill explain and fight 100+lb tarpon using 20lb test or less. Using this technique was the only way I was able to land a 52lb Skeena-trib chinook this past summer on a 6/8wt 15' rod with 20lb tippett. Still took 40 minutes. Completely accidental catch and not recommended. I thought my rod was going to explode a few times.

Anyways, all things equal, if you're travelling to the Skeena area go heavier rather than lighter. Today's 8wts are so light and easy to fish it would be my first choice.
 

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Length is a factor too

I think that length of the rod is often overlooked. Shorter rods are better at applying heavy pressure and long rods are better at protecting light tippets.

I agree main factor is angler skill, which I'm lacking and prefer to be overgunned over undergunned.
 
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