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

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

  1. Randall Clark

    Randall Clark Active Member

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    everything has pretty much been covered...if you do decide to stick with your 6wt, just don't be afraid to do two things: 1. Break off big fish (you'll know pretty quick), or 2. fight them fast and hard without worrying about breaking your rod (depending on your 6wt, a distinct possibility...not all 6wts are created equal). You've got some great offers here for loaners (mine still stands if you don't get anything else worked out).

    like Charles said, if you can cast 10ish feet of T-8 (or equivalent) 40-50 feet, you're in the game.
     
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  2. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Alexander,

    You've received an interesting range of views and recommendations, with a lot of concern expressed about the welfare of the fish if you use a 6 wt rod. As far as the welfare of a hooked fish is concerned, the limiting factor is you, not the rod. The second limiting factor is your leader tippet strength. If you have some skill in playing and landing fish and a heavy enough leader, you could safely land a 30 or 40 pound fish on a 6 wt rod, but it probably wouldn't be much fun. Heck, you don't even need a rod, just heavy enough leader, but that would take most of the fun out of the experience.

    I think 6 wt lines are pretty limiting at effective winter steelheading. If I had only a 6 wt rod to use, I'd cobble together a line that I could cast with it that would fish effectively. Something like 10 or 12' of T-8 spliced or looped to about 12 to 14' of 10 wt level floating line spliced to floating running line should both cast and fish efficiently and effectively. You're probably not going to want to use really large flies, either. But size 4 and 2 should cast on that line and rod and get the job done.

    And it wouldn't hurt to ask Santa to bring you an 8 wt while you're at it.

    Sg
     
  3. DanielOcean

    DanielOcean Active Member

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    Have any of you guys actually worked a fish so hard that they died a little after retaining them. If so, does working a fish that hard to that point affect the meat if you decide to eat it. Obviously were talking hatch brats here.
     
  4. underachiever

    underachiever members only

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    Any fish I retain gets bonked and bled immediately so I can't answer that. It hasn't happened to me with steelhead but I know there's been a couple times when I've released a trout only to have it go belly up a couple minutes later. Both occasions were on the Deschutes and they were not keepers so I didn't eat them.
     
  5. Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Lawrence Active Member

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    Any fish that I keep is quickly dispatched using either wood shampoo (a club) or mineral conditioner (rock). However, on one occasion in June 2009, I was fishing a run below Reiter (not the Cable Hole) on the Skykomish River when a chrome bright steelhead floated by. Later on, I talked to an angler in the next run above who claimed that the person who he had been fishing next to caught an early season wild summer run steelhead. When the angler finally managed to landed it, the fish was almost to the point of death. To this, he added that the man attempted to revive the fish, but to no avail. After 10 minutes, he released it. As one might expect, it turned belly up and then floated downriver. Upon inquiring about how long the fight took, the angler stated that he did not think that the fish had been played for too long.
     
  6. Jon Brengan

    Jon Brengan flyfishing addict

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    I started with a 6/7 weight rod, fished all seasons and didn't know any better. I caught a lot of fish before I was given any advice on getting a heavier rod. So basically I don't think it matters all that much, except for your preference. Buying a whole new setup at this time of year can be a potential "present" if you have a good santa clause nearby. Just my two cents.
    JB
     
  7. Alexander

    Alexander Fishon

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    Man, seems like I need to become friends with some of your Santa Clauses... :D LOL!
     
  8. sleestak240

    sleestak240 Active Member

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    I think one of the key things I didn't mention, is to ask yourself if you can CONSISTENTLY land 90% of the steelhead you hook on a 6 weight in the under 1 minute per pound category. I don't think most people can do that. Sure, it's possible to land a steelhead on a 6 weight, but you're unlikely to consistently meet that time category with one. I know I couldn't - and I consider myself to be pretty skilled at playing fish. I spent many years landing big trout on size 20 flies and 6X tippets so I feel that I have a very honed sense of the limits of gear and applying maximum available pressure to large fish. Last winter, I landed a 20-pound hen in 8 minutes with a two-hander...but I don't think I could consistently land winter steelhead on a 6 weight single-hander in what I would consider a reasonably consistent time frame.

    I've had several winter steelhead leave me feeling undergunned with a 7 weight single-hander. I was applying maximum pressure with 12 pound Maxima and had virtually no more usable leverage from the rod on fish digging deep into heavier currents.

    I guess I'll sway to public opinion and say it's alright during hatchery steelhead season, but once the odds of wild fish encounters goes up I think most of us would frown upon using light tackle.

    Hope you remove a few hatchery specimens from the gene pool!
     
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  9. Yard Sale

    Yard Sale Huge Member

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    I bet you could land a steelhead on a 3wt if you really wanted. Just looks at the monster cat this dude stuck on a 5wt!

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member

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    Daniel,

    Never with steelhead. Once while fishing a cutthroat pond that I thought was deeper and colder than it actually was, I caught some trout that were obviously stressed from playing and handling. I checked the water temperature; it was 72*F, which is almost lethal just to live in. When a salmonid is stressed in temperatures well above its preferred range, lactic acid builds up in its blood. If it increases faster than it can be dissipated, then the fish will die.

    However, in this prospective instance of hooking and playing hatchery winter steelhead on a 6 wt, you could play the fish all day long without it developing lethal lactic acid levels. Therefore the more likely concern must be - relating to that other thread with the bogus study - that you will lead the fish into shallow water where it will bash its head on the stones and kill itself.

    Now, seriously, I appreciate that so many forum members express concern about the welfare of fish, particularly wild native fish. But it must be human nature to carry things to silly extremes. The rod wt is irrelevant. Here's why: what's relevant is angler skill and leader tippet strength. You can play and land a fish, of whatever size, with a straight line pull. So a rod pointed straight at the fish, be it a 3 wt or a 10 wt, is irrelevant to the operation. I'm not saying this would be as fun as playing the fish on a rod sized appropriately for the fish, but it would be interesting. But with the rod not being a factor in playing and landing the fish, it comes down to the skill of the angler and the breaking strength of the leader. Oh, and luck is also part of the equation, but that's always an element.

    And now, should you ever land a fish that dies of lactic acid accumulation, you should bleed it immediately to avoid whatever effect the acid might have on the flavor of the fish. And then ice the fish.

    Sg
     
  11. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    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.

    Curt
     
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  12. Jeremy Floyd

    Jeremy Floyd fly fishing my way through life

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    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.
     
  13. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

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    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 right...you 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.
     
  14. Jason Chadick

    Jason Chadick A Fish, A Fish, A Fishy, Oh...

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    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.

    Cheers,

    Jason
     
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  15. golfman44

    golfman44 5-Time Puget Sound Steelhead Guide of the Year

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    Fuck it. If you want to borrow an 8 wt outfit let Me know you can borrow mine
     
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