Yes it is radically different... a good 9'8wt has a lot more power than a good 12'6wt due it shorter length and therefore better leverage.. There are even a fair number of 7wts that aren't up to the challenge of winter steelheading.. I guess my objection is to the philosophy of always wanting to use the lightest gear possible. In the day and age where our rivers close early due to lack of fish why would anyone do anything that could lengthen the time it takes to get a fish to the bank??? a very long fight with a steelhead on a fly rod should be 5 minutes this is true even for a large fish.. your gear should be able to turn a fish pretty much at will after the initial run... in short you should be able to horse them in after the first run... for the fishes sake.