Winter steel...All I have is a 6 wt

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Alexander, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. In the hands of a skilled angler virtual all steelhead can be landed by "breaking its will" resist rather than "wearing it out"/playing to a point of near exhaustion. While there are a lot of subtle variations the basic drill is to jab the fish so that it takes flight - let it run on a light drag. As soon as it stops take the fight to the fish until it tries to run again at which point allow it again allow it to run on just enough drag to prevent an over run of line. That approach coupled with frequent rod angle changes keep the fish off balance and "confused" and it a surprising short period of time the fish will submit and allow you to lead it where you want. I like to slide it into the shallows (3 or 4 inches) and quickly remove the hook. Because the fish is not exhausted once they are pointed towards deep water they typically are off with a splash to the angler's face. It has been decades since I have felt the need to revive a fish and the only mortalities that I have seen are from injuries rather than over playing of the fish.

    By breaking the "will" of the fish nearly any steelhead regardless of its size can be landed well within the suggested minute/pound time limit whether the angler is using a 5 weight or 10 weight rod. There a some exceptions where the fish's will can not be broken; typically it is male fish that will not run but rather hand tough in deep water refusing to play my game. Those fish (whether I'm using conventional gear or my 5 weight rod) are intentionally broke off within minutes of being hooked. Less than 2% of the steelhead I encounter behave in that stubborn manner; I consider having to purposely break off the odd fish a small price to fish with the tackle I prefer.

    JesseC, Josh Smestad and fish-on like this.
  2. To that previous comment about the 12 lb maxima on a 7 wt.. I am pretty sure with a new spool of 12lb, I can break your 7wt @ a 90 degree. I have seen 8's, 9's, and 10's give to 12 lb maxima (not in my hands).
    It had been adequate for anything up to kings in my narrow experience.

    To me that is like feeling under gunned with a 30.06. More than enough gun to do the job efficiently and effectively, in the right hands, in North America.
  3. I'll add my $0.02. I think the only real issue with a 6wt might be getting the depth you might want for winter fishing. For the vast majority of steelhead (even winter fish) the rod should have more than enough backbone to put the screws to fish. Throw on a heavy leader if you want, but Jeremy is don't need to go super heavy. Hell it's a big enough pain in the ass breaking off a snagged up fly when I use 8# maxima as a leader. 12#? Fuggedaboutit.
  4. If there is a fairly easy way to borrow an 8wt, just borrow the 8wt. If you've never given the winter steel thing a try, why put yourself in a position where you have to do everything right to land the fish? I'm nowhere near an expert, quite the opposite, but in the time that I've been fishing for steelhead I hooked a bunch and landed a few. Everytime I hook into a steelhead it is an absolute shit-show. They are tremendous fighters and will bring out the worst in an amateur like myself, which is why I like them so much.

    If you've never done it before, use the tool that's going to give you the largest room for error. Not the one that's going to require a lifetime of steelhead-judo know-how.

    But if there's not an 8wt available, just go fishing.


    golfman44 likes this.
  5. Fuck it. If you want to borrow an 8 wt outfit let Me know you can borrow mine
    Keith Hixson likes this.
  6. Did you try the WFF loaner program.....they have one or two tfo 8 weights. Contact Chris Scoones or see it on forums.
    John Hicks likes this.
  7. Haha, you guys are all friggin's awesome, being good with a hoodlum from Bremerton like myself borrow your gear!!!! I think I'll be fine with my 6wt. I didn't stop to think how I'd be fishing and with my 6wt the best way to hit it would be to throw a nymph rig. It's how I mostly fished when I lived in CO, heck, apart from dries it's how most people there fly fish. I'll just throw an open loop indicator rig and I'll be alright I guess.

    As far as rod weight to target fish ratio, I believe I'll be okay with the general Hatchery fish, like I said before, I hit the hatch fish on the Bogachiel a few years back and wasn't too impressed. A young lady down stream from me did hook a fat wild pig on a float rig though, that fish was big!

    I generally don't fish big tippet, 8# is the thickest I fish, even for the salt, and I do just fine. If the fish is a brute it will break me off as has happened before.

    The reason I posed the question is because I believe I got caught up in all the you "need a huge rod hype". But thanks to some of the seemingly more level headed types in here I was comforted that my 6wt would be sufficient given standard healthy reasoning was applied when hooking fish.

    I've caught some real pigs fishing my 5wt and super light tippet with some seriously small hooks on some CO rivers where nothing else will do because the fish are "smart". Big fish do eat small flies... ;) Anyhow, my curiosity and inquisitiveness regarding this subject has been satisfied. Thanks for all of your input. :)
  8. When I first moved to WA from Cali, I was only fishing 5-6 wts for steelhead. That was the gear I used to throw the comets and smaller streamers used around Humboldt. It wasn't until I seriously started fishing in the dirtier water that I really needed a bigger weight line, capable of throwing a half a chicken..
  9. If your comfortable with your skills and gear then you never should have been caught up in any hype. Many level heads come in many sizes...just not in 6 weight ;) You'll be fine and have fun fishing !
  10. I'm an insecure little nancy...
    Porter likes this.
  11. OK...:p
  12. I might hit them with these unweighted flies on some weighted line... reversed hackle love.

    Attached Files:

    Porter likes this.
  13. behind an egg sack of course, lol.
  14. I went fishing for Kings with a 6 wt once many years ago. A 6 wt. is far, far, far to small for 12 - 30 lb fish. But, a six wt for smaller steelhead should be fine. Give us report if you hook anything.
  15. May sound crazy to some folks here but to this day, I fish 6 weights for steelies on rivers that even hold big chums or kings. I have different rod weights but I just like to use my lighter gear. When a big fish takes my fly, I just do exactly what Curt wrote above.. I'm pretty sure I get them in quite fast- waay below the 1lb/1 min ratio and maybe even closer to 1/2min per lb ratio.

    For me, applying max pressure does not always mean breaking the fish's will. Sometimes putting max pressure makes the fish fight even harder. However, if you couple it with side pressure and frequent rod angle changes, it confuses them and keep them off balance. After a short while they seem to follow your lead and come in faster..

    In situations where there is just no controlling the fish, I do as Salmo G mentioned, I point my rod straight to the fish and let the line take all the pressure until the fish gives in or I break off. There are exceptions to the rule, and those fish will leave you with your mouth wide open and your hands shaking.
  16. To be fair, the best fisherman I've ever fished with used a 6wt for steelhead and he landed fish much faster than I did with my 8 wt.
  17. I use a 411 for summer fish and a 611 for winter nymphing. 7wt spey for winter swinging.

    You'll be fine with the 6wt this time of year, just follow smalma's advice about breaking the will of the fish - that's gold advice right there.

    only hold the rod by the cork if you catch a fish. There's a lot of temptation to grab the rod to get more leverage, but you'll quickly break the rod by changing the fulcrum to a weak point.

    Here's a cool video from Red's showing you what not to do and what happens when you do it. Skip to 5:40.
    golfman44 and Porter like this.
  18. Hey there, I'm Joe Retard, welcome to Reds Fly Shop.
  19. The 11 footers are switch're looking at more backbone than a typical 6 weight single-hander. I fish a 7 weight two hander for winter steelhead quite frequently and have no concerns with it, but I'm surprised at the number of people who are comfortable operating on the light side of winter steelhead tackle regarding single-handers. Different strokes for different folks I guess...

Share This Page