6 wt for steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by wanative, May 30, 2013.

  1. I think you don't understand the problem. If you can cast the flies you want to use with the line weight you have, you are OK. The lighter weight rod will land the fish if you use the butt of the rod to fight the fish, not the tip. I've caught a lot of steelhead on 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 ft, light rods and they work fine as long as you can present the fly, and that depends more on the line weight. Review a few old tapes of Lee Wulff landing big atlantic salmon on his favorite 7-1/2 ft rod and you will feel better. The reason we use an 8wt rod for bass is the size of the fly, not the fight!
    Jim Wallace, KerryS and David Dalan like this.
  2. I like to cast my 6 wt. on the smaller rivers I fish and don't use super heavy flies so for me that part is more fun plus less tiring for my old tendinitis ridden aching elbows and shoulders.;) I've landed salmon and steelhead on my old Fenwick glass 9wt from the 1870's...oops! I meant 1970's.
    I appreciate the feedback from everyone and now have to be patient for the rain to stop.:mad:
    You can tell it's getting close to summer in Washington because the rain
    is getting warmer.:D
  3. I agree with Jim -
    It is more about the fly you want to fish, the water to be covered, and the line needed to make the presentation you desire. Remember in steelhead fly fishing it often is the case that less than 5% of your time will be fighting the fish and the rest of the time you are just "fishing". A strong consideration should be which rod/lines is the best "tool" for the "fishing" you will be doing.

    With some experience handling larger fish a 6 weight single handed rod is more than an adequate tool for landing any steelhead you are likely to encounter with little risk to the steelhead. With appropriate leader strength, a willingness to use the full "power" of the rod and the experience to take the fight to the fish an angler can land a typical steelhead surprisingly quickly and safely. Heck if I had a dollar for every steelhead I have landed on a 5 weight single handed rod I could afford to get into the two-handed game.

    If you are uncomfortable handling larger fish on a 6 weight or want to develop more experience dealing with larger fish on such equipment I suggest that this August and September chasing pinks and later coho is the prefect opportunity to gain some of that experience.

  4. There is a way that you can compare a single and a two handed rod. It's not exact but check the grain weight of an 8 wt. single handed line and then the grain weight window of a 6 wt. spey rod. Example, though not exact, is that I have a 6 wt. TCX switch rod. It has a grain window of right at 400 grains, give or take a few. An 8 wt. single handed line runs about the same. That's two weights higher. Go to the Rio Spey line recommendation chart and just about all rods have a recommended 2 wt. higher Outbound recommendation. That's just one line but it shows the difference between a single handed rod and a two handed rod. Generally a Spey rod is about two weights higher than a single hand rod's listed weight. Rule of thumb only; not true of all. Some are higher, some lower.
    fredaevans likes this.
  5. Which actually brings me to another point. You can catch a large fish on a light rod. That's very true. I have caught steelhead on a 4 wt. rod but it was by accident. I was fishing for trout with a size 14 fly but it just happened. It was a thrill, of course, but you have to think seriously about the fish on the other end of your line. Is it worth killing, if only by accident, a wild steelhead just so you can have the thrill of a smaller rod? You can't tell if a fish is wild when you hook it. If you use a 6 wt. rod when you have an 8, you may be endangering the fish. The intial hook-up is the thrill, not the dead tired fish when you get it in. If it's a hatchery fish and you plan on keeping it, chances are it's so full of lactic acid from its fight that it would be horrible to eat. If it's a wild fish, it may not survive and isn't this group of people committed strongly to the preservation of wild fish. I, personally, would feel horrible if I killed a wild fish merely for the sake of a fun fight that I could just as easily have had with a heavier rod, albeit a shorter fight. Think about the fish and the resource.
    Nooksack Mac likes this.
  6. Reminds me of pink season two years ago right by your beach. Saw a guy hook a pink and fight it for (literally) 30 minutes or more. I had the time to hook and release 4 fish while he was fighting that one. He got it in, drug it up on the rocks, then took it back down to the water to release it (of course the fish ended up belly up in about 2mins). I confronted him (from my boat) and asked what his deal was. Said he liked fishing a 5wt with light tippet to get more thrill out of it...

    Only thing he's getting out of that is being a bona fide dumbass. (this does not reflect my feelings towards any posters in this thread. unless you tire fish out and release them like this guy)
  7. Evan, you know I see it every summer whether it's a pink or a silver. Guys fight them until they have no chance of survival merely for the thrill. I wonder how they sleep at night? But, I'm looking forward to the upcoming season with my 8 wt. rod. It's not as tiring as a 6 or 7 wt., especially after numerous hook-ups and I like my fish fresh and clean so they smoke up nicer. Hope to see you down here a few times.
    Nick Clayton likes this.
  8. Everything's variable, but in my experience, the answer to your question about handling fish between 6 and 10 pounds is "Yes" for 6 pounds; "No" for 10. When I first started fishing steelhead, my only rod was a 9 foot 6-wt. I landed my first summer run on the Kalama (about 9#) using that rod, but the outcome was very much in question for most of the fight. Granted, that was a Kalama summer run, so we're talking about an especially bad ass steelhead, but now that I have an 8-wt., I don't use that 6-wt. for much steelhead fishing anymore.

    I do fish a 6-wt. Spey for summer fish. I've only hooked one on it for more than about 5 seconds. That was about a 12-lb. chromer on the Cowlitz, and between the lightish rod and the determined flow of the Cowlitz, I got my ass squarely handed to me.

    I suppose this post doesn't answer your question very well. Sorry. But I can tell you, without hesitation, that a 6-wt. rod is NOT sufficient for an 18-lb. Chinook. That story ended with me landing the fish, but later discovering, while breaking the rod down, that there were hairline fractures all around the butt section ferrule. That was warranty claim #2 on that rod, if memory serves....

    Personally, I'd go with a 7 or 8 for summers. Unless it's late August or September, you'll probably want to keep the ability to tie on a sink tip from time to time, and an 8-wt. affords you that ability much more so than a 6-wt. Besides that, they'll occasionally kick your butt with the 8-wt., too. Those summer runs can be downright ornery.
  9. Duplicate post. Oops.
  10. See if you can get your hands on a Gary Anderson (ACR) 5wt. A brilliant rod.
    Jamie Wilson likes this.
  11. There is no reason you can't use your 6wt single-hand rod for summer fish. Most of us who have fished for steelhead for more than 20 years have used 6 wt. single-hand rods for summer runs before the 2-handed rod revolution for steelhead. Just don't use a trout size tippet.
    Jim Wallace likes this.
  12. One thing to keep in mind also is that with today's rods, a rod labeled as a 6wt probably isn't really a 6wt. Fight fish with the butt, don't be afraid to really lay into them.

    A rod being "noodly" doesn't reflect the amount of backbone it has. I fish primarily glass for just about everything (6-8wt for steelhead). Most people at first glance would think that they wouldn't have the backbone for large fish, but that's where the real power is (butt). You just can't be afraid to use it.

    As stated, just don't used trout tippet. I'm always blown away by hearing of people taking 30 min. to get these fish in. It doesn't take much to play them fast and hard, get them in in under 5 min, slide your barbless hook out, and they'll shoot off full of energy.

    wanative and JS like this.
  13. Yes, use heavier tippet and also the butt section of your rod for power, as is suggested by other forum members here, and you should be fine with your 6 wt.
    I used to see some of the local, cash-strapped youth fishing for salmon in the rivers here with trout rods spooled up with 20 lb test, or so. They couldn't yet afford to go out and buy proper salmon sized gear. Those kids landed 'em.

    Due to "tennis elbow" having developed in my casting arm, I have quit using my 8 wt single hander, probably forever. My 6 wt is as heavy as I will go with a single hander, when I get back to casting something that heavy. I'm still avoiding it. The tendon still cries out after working out briefly with my 3 or 4 wts, but that's what ice is for.

    I might opt for one of those 5 wt switch rods one of these years, if I want to seriously get back to swinging flies for steel.
    wanative likes this.
  14. I used a 4 wt for trout/src, and a 6wt for steelhead when I first moved up to Washington from California. Why you may ask? Well the simple answer is we just used smaller flies down there. The river conditions dont require an intruder most of the time. A small fly does a better job when the rivers aren't looking like your morning cappuchino. People used to tell me I was killing fish. I would just tell them to learn to fight em right.

    The rod weight usually isn't the weak spot. It is the leader or the drag, or the fisherman 99% of the time.
  15. Something to keep in mind for fish that are to be released it is best to "break their will to resist" rather than play them to exhaustion. See nearly as many folks babying a large fish to exhaustion with 9 and 10 weights as 6 weights.

    I have caught my share of steelhead on both gear and fly gear and I can honestly say with a 5 or 6 weight fly rod (armed with proper leaders and experience) I can land steelhead as quickly as with gear. I can not recall the last time any steelhead I have caught required to be "revived". If you find that you need to "revive" a steelhead you are over playing them regardless of the gear used.

    Once you become accustom to taking the fight to the fish the biggest deciding factor will be what rod will be the best "tool" for the presentation and flies you expect to use.

    Brett Angel and wanative like this.
  16. I'd use the 8wt until you get used to fighting steelhead. Like others have said, use heavy tippet (+/- 10lb) and learn what that much pressure feels like on a fly rod. Downsize when you've got a few under your belt.

    There is no worse feeling that not being able to control a fish, when you know you should be wrapping up the encounter. I hand lined in an 18# buck this winter when I was under-gunned. Needless to say, that's the last time I take my 6wt spey rod out for winter fish.

    (I believe) if you haven't bent hooks out, on occasion, you aren't trying hard enough.

  17. That.

    I also have a rule that if I'm having a tough time turning a fish within a reasonable amount of time (just a couple of minutes), it's break-off time. I've lost a handful of nice fish because of this rule, but I'd rather have those genes in the gene pool than floating belly up 20-30 minutes later.
    kmac likes this.
  18. Don't know but always used 6wt's for summer and 8wt for Winter. Just me!
  19. Single-handed rods: If you're fishing hard current water (big rivers) I don't think a 6 is enough. And with a big fish in small water, you may still not like the 6 (say you really have to put the screws to it to keep it out of a log or whatever.) I used a 6 for a season and a half and then got schooled once, and from that point on started using a 7s. I don't fish big enough water or fish to justify an 8 wt. Point being, the 6 will work but don't be surprised if you find yourself wishing for more rod on occasion, maybe even 1 out of 3 fish.

    I kinda like the suggestion of starting with an 8 until you land a few a get some idea of what you're going to encounter. It's important to not overplay any fish you intend to release, steelhead or otherwise. While we all occasionally get surprised on the water (the unexpected monster fish, steelhead while fishing for trout, etc.), I think it's wise to aim for the average and/or have a little margin of error. IMO a 6 is just under, a 7 is perfect, and an 8 would be having some margin of error. But again, if you're fishing fast current water or hot fish (higher water temps) or a run with bigger fish, I think an 8 is a wiser choice than a 6.
  20. Theres no doubt that whos handling the rod has a lot to do with the outcome...
    Tony Abaloney likes this.

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