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


Active Member
IMHO a 6 weight rod is more than adequate to handle nearly any steelhead you might encounter in PNW rivers.

However before chasing steelhead with your 6 weight I recommend that you honestly evaluate your skills and equipment and if you can answer yes to the following 3 questions go for it.

1) Given your casting skills can you effectively cast the flies you are likely to be using the required distances all day long with your 6 weight outfit?

2) With your 6 weight outfit (including lines) can you present your fly as needed to get a steelhead to take in the waters you are likely to fish?

3) Are your fish playing skills such that your are comfortable quickly landing ( in less than that 1 minute/# criteria) fish that weight in the double digits? In other words have sufficient experience in handling larger fish (trout, salmon, steelhead etc.) to be comfortable in "taking the fight" to the fish to land in quickly?

Only you are in a position to assess your skills and to answer the above questions. I have caught a decent number of winter steelhead on 5 weights to be more than comfortable that an experienced angler can catch and release a steelhead on 6 weight rod without unduly endangering its survival. Survival of the fish landed on lighter tackle is more about the skill of the angler than it is the size of the tackle used. It is possible to land steelhead on 6 weight rods in as little time as most anglers do with conventional tackle or 10 weight rods. As suggested beef up your leaders to 8# ultra green maxima and don't be afraid to the take it to the fish.

Thanks Smalma, I should be alright on all accounts.

Now I have one more question and I know some of you will cringe, but I'll ask anyway! :)

Any recommendations on rivers with good "fly water"? I'm rolling solo (I kinda like it that way) and I don't have a drift boat or other floating device. Where is the wading decent for a single handed fly rodder? Other than the Hoh I don't know much else. Once whenI looked to wade fish the bogie access seemed rather slim. Any tips?
Couldn't disagree more. A 6wt is nowhere near enough to responsibly land a winter fish.

Plenty of offers here to get you the right gear. If you don't want to do that tent camp one night and spend that cash to rent a rig. Better yet tent camp every other night and buy your own gear cause you will be back!


Couldn't disagree more. A 6wt is nowhere near enough to responsibly land a winter fish.
99% of the fish in right now are 5-7# hatchery fish. A 6wt bent to the cork will handle those fish just fine. If you don't know how to play a fish, using a 10wt won't help. He'll be fine with a 6.

I also have an 8wt I could lend you if you felt the need. I'll end up out on the OP and much of the time I'm floating solo in the raft. If you want a seat, PM me your info and when you'll be out that way and maybe we could hook up.

Red Arch

Active Member
Personally I would go up to the 8. What a lot of people seem to be forgetting here is that really the rod weight is more a reflection of the flies, tippets, and lines you need in order to be effectively fishing. A 6 weight is a good all around rod, but is it and your casting able to deliver the heavily weighted flies and tips/polyleaders/versileaders to where the steelhead are?

There is a reason guys fish giant streamers on 8 weights. It is not because the rod cannot handle the fish, but the rod is more efficient at casting the fly, and they spend more time swinging the fly near steelhead then just in the water...
Go to cabelas and buy an 8wt setup from them. After you are done using it from your trip, take it back. I am serious.

Hahaha you've obviously never worked retail. Because nothing is more appreciated then people who abuse return policies. Seriously, what kind of advice is that?

Anyway, in response to the actual thread, in my opinion, a 6 weight is "undergunned" for winter steel, its not that 6 weight can't handle a winter fish, which it probably can, its just that it won't do so effectively and risks the life of the fish unless you really know what your doing with big hot fish in big flows. In addition to that, its not the most effective tool for delivering either heavy indicator rigs or or large flies and tips over and over again all day. I'd reccomend a decent mid range 8 weight setup. Echo/TFO/Redington all make good priced 8 weight rods and Lamson/Echo/Sage all make good cheaper reels.
If I was picking from a whole variety of rods, a 6 wt wouldn't be my first choice for winter steel. However, if I was picking between fishing a 6 wt or not fishing, that's a pretty easy decision.


What a lot of people seem to be forgetting here is that really the rod weight is more a reflection of the flies, tippets, and lines you need in order to be effectively fishing
Good advice but if all you have is a 6wt are you going to stay home? If the idea is to go out and fish and have fun, what you have is more important than what you don't have. I've built heads for my 5 and 6wts that get me in the game. Chop a floating outbound back a few feet and attach tips.
Fishing for hatchery brats, you may be fine. That's more of a summer run type of rod, the flows are low and the flies are smaller. I would seriously consider picking up an 8wt for winter run, especially later in the season. Those native fish will pass out after the fight, like a lot of guys are saying. You will be limited in the water and methods that you can fish with such a light rod, I'd stick to soft water and hatchery fish with that one. You can also end up snapping the rod if you don't play them properly or use light enough tippet. Another rod in your arsenal won't hurt either, it's always a good idea o use the right tool for the jib.
I'd love another rod in my arsenal, heck, I'd love a few more in my arsenal. We're getting there, everyone has different priorities and is at differing income brackets. Fly fishing can be a spendy hobby. I'm doing with what I have and accumulate as I can. Thanks for all the tips and offers! Some of you will be getting pm's :D

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
It's a fine rod provided you are willing and able to make the decision to snep off a larger fish. If you can do that, go kill some brats.

Fish the water you can fish as well as you can. I often think that I would learn a lot from fishing the one-hander. If my shoulder were better I'd do it. You should be able to cast 10 ft of t-8 or so. If you can do that to 40-50 feet you'll do just fine.

Go Sox,