What wt is too light...

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by mwdehaan, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. If I were to fish the Okanogan River this year, crosses fingers that the season opens again, would a 5wt rod be able to handle steelhead in the 6-8 pound range? Is it more a test of the user then the rod? Also is 8.5# tippet too much?

    I'm thinking in the future of getting a larger rod, maybe a 8wt for these occasions but I'm wondering if my 5wt will make it through this season.

    Thanks any info or tips appreciated. I'm still new, learning, and have never fly fished for steelhead, or salmon for that matter yet but dying to try for it some day.
  2. Depends upon the water flow where you're fishing. Moderate (to low) you can easily handle a 6-8 pound steelhead with a 5wt, but you're right at the top of that line wt (fish size). A 6 or 7 would be more like it. As far as leader is concerned 8.5 is fine for that rod.
  3. There is a huge difference between what a rod can handle and what the fish can handle (before being exhuasted). Yes, you may be able to get by without breaking your 5wt, but it means you are going to have to play the steelhead for a long time, probably to the point of exhuastion. Since the wild steelhead in the Okanogan are Endangered, IMHO, you risk doing great harm to an endangered species fishing with a 5wt. When I steelhead fish the rivers in the Upper Columbia, I use a 8wt in order to get them in as quickly as possible. Heck yesterday, I was was fishing the Methow for trout and I went up to a stiff 6wt just so if I hooked a steelhead (I didn't), I could break it off with less chance of breaking my rod. I feel pretty strongly about this; so much so, if you can't afford an 8wt this year, I have one that you can borrow. Also, I don't go lower than 8lb tippet and often use 10lb so I can land them more quickly.
  4. What Freestone said.
  5. Much appreciated. When you use the term exhausted are you actually referring to the fish working so hard it can't be revived before heading back out? I haven't seen that happen before, but at the same time I haven't had a fish on that's too big yet.

    As for borrowing the rod that'd be amazing, yet I'd feel super guilty borrowing something from someone I don't know. Guess that means we have to go fishing, hah.
  6. This is one of those questions that really IMHO depend on your skill level more then rod wt. I say that as any rod will bring in a fish in a timely manner in the right hands....

    I know ultra light guys who only fish 000 and land fish up to 10+ plus on them...they bring them in faster then most people I've seen who use 8wt rods...freaking little rods bend but have plenty of backbone to bring in a fish...if you screw it up the tippet will bust on you ultra fast and the fish moves on...

    All that said.. it's all about SKILL LEVEL...What i've found is most new people don't have any idea of how to play a fish and yank them in way to fast...beat the shit out of them on the rocks trying to grab them and end up ripping their lips off...Honestly I'm not sure what's better? If your using a lighter rod (and I think your 5 is fine) and the correct tippet for that rod then if you hook something you can't handle it will bust you off and live verus some yahoo with a big stick and 12 or 15lb tippet beating said fish to death...

    maybe that's just me though?
  7. I've caught more than a few steelhead on my 896 sage xp and I've never thought to myself "man I really wish I had a 5wt right now! That sucked!"

    I used to fish a 7wt sage rpl and got some low teens fish on that and it worked out but in all reality i don't see why anyone would wish to fish any lighter willingly (talkin single handers here). Steelhead fight hard and some are absolute home wreckers. Why bust em off and send em to spawn with jewelry? Check out the classifieds or Allen fly fishing and find an affordable 7-8 wt option. You'll be happy and so will the fish.
  8. Mwdehaan,

    It depends. A 5 wt is light for steelhead, even eastside fall fish. But it can be done, and has been lots of times. The rod Sue will loan you is a better idea, but if that doesn't work out and your only option is your 5 wt, go ahead and use it. That and the 8# leader tippet. All you have to do is pull harder than the fish does, on average, and you can land it in short order. But if you don't know how to play large trout on your 5 wt, don't blame me or anyone else here if you break it.

    Steelhead are the most over-rated gamefish. 80% of the eastside fish can be played and landed with no backing line on your reel. In fact, most of those fish can be played on the length of line you have cast out. When they hit, just begin reeling in line, then expect to have them bulldog for 2 or 3 minutes, then you can lead them into the shallow water and unhook and release them or kill it if it's an adipose clipped fish. Oh, the other 20%, you might need more line and a little backing and a couple more minutes of play time.

  9. Amen Salmo..

    Hey Sean, I got a two piece 7wt rpl...fished it the first time on the beach this weekend...(got that a long time ago and never used it) man that's a cool old rod...I'd have no problem fishing that sucker around here for most everything....what a stick!!!

    Funny as the double haul came back quick..but man how quick you forget about the line behind you thing...I hooked some logs and waaay too much seaweed...
  10. A 5 wt single hander is plenty to handle eastside summer runs. Make sure you pinch the line down ONCE THE FISH HAS THE HOOK, or use a stout drag setting, to get the hook driven home. You will not have very much backbone if you lift into the fish to set the hook. I have caught plenty of fish on an old IM6 9' 4wt. And a lot more on an IM8 10' 5 wt, up to 16#'s. You won't have any trouble beating these fish with 10# plus leader on trout rods IF YOU DON'T NANCY them. Put the wood to them and there is zero additional danger being brought to the fish. Once I found out that even light weight trout rods didn't make these fish fight any better, or feel any better once hooked...a good fish is good reguardless of the rod. A dog is a dog is a dog.

  11. The 796 rpl is my favorite rod I've ever owned, great off the beach for sure. But it really shines with a 7wt steelhead taper and a dry fly or hairwing. Great great stick with a really smooth taper. That rod has some insane mojo I bought it from a board member and proceeded to whack some big fish with it. From green lake carp to neah bay to klickitat chromers... Miss that rod :(
  12. I caught a couple fish on the D with a 5 wt last year, it was ok but not ideal and I got really lucky I'd say a 7 wt. is perfect
  13. I think going lighter is severely overrated. I have much more fun with "too much" rod than being outgunned by a big fish.
  14. I use 6 and 8 wt's when targeting steelhead, a 5 wt would defiantly break. This summer I was trout fishing 6 miles up river on the hood canal for rainbows with my 4 wt, I was swinging small streamers for the larger trout when a summer run steelhead took the fly. I fought him down river for about 20 minutes until my girlfriend netted him. It's a miracle that 4wt didn't snap.
  15. There is what you can do and there is what you should do. Please give these fish the respect they deserve and land them quickly so they can go back to making more steelhead for you to catch next year.

    Just because they swim away doesn't mean they survive...
  16. This is exactly what can happen if you aren't used to landing big fish on light rods. I would be surprised if the aforementioned steelhead survived the this encounter. I decided to chime in because I found a gorgeous (likley) played to death wild summer-run this last weekend. Very unfortunate and very avoidable.

    Don't fish the light rod. Do yourself and the fish a favor and get a heavier rod. I too have an eight weight I'd lend out.
  17. For your information Derek Day, the Steelhead was a examination fish from a restoration program in hood canal that wants to increase the steelhead count on that river. My fish had a pair of tags on his dorsal fin with his number. A couple weeks after catching that fish I called Fish and Wildlife, they gave me the groups number that is working on the project and they told me a biologist recorded my fish in a trap they set further up the river to see how many of their fish returned to their spawning ground. My steelhead was released above the trap to spawn. The fish you probably saw was one of the steelhead with a virus that has killed off many steelhead over the years around Washington.

    So instead of being an ahole about my story and acting like you know everything about fishing, you could spend less time on this website and more time actually fishing.
  18. golfman, you are correct but the OP is a brand new fly angler, hence my urging him to use an 8wt. And, in my observation, many of those who think that they have the skills to safely land big fish on light rods, don't. Now sure, I've done it on a 5wt and I've seen it done by others including the legendary video of Lee Wulff fishing a 6' Midge rod for Atlantics but like Sean and Evan, I prefer a more appropriate rod for the task especially on the UC.
    Puget Sound Pimp likes this.
  19. No, it is not always possible to know if the fish will make it when it is released. Fish are pretty hardy but no matter how careful we are, there is still mortality from catch and release. But, I figure why increase the odds any more than we have to, especially with regard to wild fish.

    As for borrowing an 8wt, no worries - whether we can hhok up to fish or not first, you are welcome to borrow it. PM me when/if the season opens this year.
    Puget Sound Pimp likes this.
  20. PSP,
    Glad to hear you didn't kill the fish. And I fish a lot.

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