Questions From A New Steelhead Fly Fisherman

I have a few questions for all of you. I have been fly fishing for trout for about a year and before that I have always been a baitcaster that always wanted to try fly fishing. Anyway, I am trying to set up a Steelhead rod but I am stuck on what reel would be a good reel to start out with. I will be fishing for steelhead probably a few of times a year on the Peninsula (Hoh, Queets, Boggie, etc) so the reel will have a lot of down time. :( The rod will not be a spey rod if that helps. Any suggestions on a reel?

I am also looking at what line(s) to get as well. I was looking at the Rio Steelhead/Salmon line but I have noticed that a lot of people are using the Rio Versi Tip, so is the Rio Versi Tip the choice of lines on the Peninsula or in general? Do most steelhead fly fishers use a sinking line to get the line down and if so how fast?

I know a lot of these are "Ford vs Chevy" questions but any help would be appreciated.
Thank you,

In many ways it comes down to how much $$ you want to spend. Let's just assume you don't want to spend a fortune..... I would look for reels on ebay. I think Ross Reels makes a great set of medium priced reels. I would look at the Cimarron, and the CLA or the Evolution (slightly more $$). The Galvan Torque line is also really well made and great for the price.

I would recommend the Rio versi tip system. It costs more, but you get over five different set-ups in one purchase. Getting the right depth is important so having the ability to adjust by switching tips is way better (and cheaper) than having to buy another line and spool. Plus it will allow you to fish a lot more water because you won't be limited to just water of a certain depth becuse of having only one line.



Piscatorial predilection
Ebay is as good a place as any to find a deal on a reel. Okuma makes a very good reel for the money, check out the Integrity line, I have 3 of them from 5/6 wt up to 9/10wt. A good solid workhorse of a reel.



aka T Colagrossi
I agree with the Ross Reel suggestion, they are great reels for the money and very durable. I would look into a Gunnison because it has the enclosed drag system, it doesn't allow dirt, sand etc. to grind in your drag if your rod is being set on the ground while landing fish! (hopefully)

I would have to disagree with using the Rio Versi-tip, I have three good fishing partners that have all switched that line out for Teeney lines. My personal feeling is that the versi-tip line does not sink at the rate they claim...especially in moving water. The Teeney 200 is a great mid range sink tip that should work for you in most situations. I have a Teeny 130 for my 6wt, a 200 for my 8wt and 300&400 for my 10wt.

I know it may be a lot to buy, but if you start your Steelhead gear with an 8wt, a reel and spool you can toss a floating line on one spool and a 200 on the other and be set for most rivers. Probably looking at spending around $500 for a nice rod reel and the lines...if you get the rod and reel on ebay...Buy the lines at a sportco etc. for around $40.

Good luck!


Be the guide...
No need for a fancy reel. I like the Medalists for just about anything - salmon, trout, etc. Less than $30. By 2 or 3 if you want and still save money for more important things like the rod and the line. Whatever line you choose, just try and match it to the rod. Not all rods and lines are a good match (even if they are rated the same weight). You can go with a WF Floater and add your own sink tips. With a floating line, you can use it in the summer\fall for skating\waking flies and fishing poppers off the beach of you want. To get your fly down, you can add a tip, or add a longer leader and a weighted fly. Either way you need to work on getting the fly in the 'zone' with whatever configuration you are using.

Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
There are times when an "expensive" reel pays off, but like others have said, if your budget doesn't allow for that, get what you can afford and learn to work with it. The same can be said about the rod.

This past season, I had the opportunity to cast a Cabela's rod, I don't remember the name but if I recall correctly, it cost about $160.00. I was totally amazed at the quality of the cork, and the rest of the workmanship. The rod was crisp, and in every respect responded like a rod that would cost 2-3 times more. In today's market, there are many opportunities to get set up with great gear at a fraction of the cost of some of the more spendy manufacturers. As time goes on, you may or may not decide to upgrade your equipment.

That said, get a good fly line, don't scrimp there. I would also not scrimp on waders and/or rain gear. If you're not comfortable out on the river in whatever weather conditions may exist, you're already out of the game.


Active Member
,02 from my pocket , you might also look at at Temple Fork's (TFO) spey reels , they are reasonably priced, and have held up and fished well for numerous fish for me for over a year now. They make a 4 1/4" (425) and a smaller 3 3/4" (model 375) inch one to match the style of rod you are getting.

Scott Behn

Active Member
iagree with everything above, but I ended up not getting used to the loop to loop connection with my Versi-tip and ended up selling it. That could just be me and 19 years of nail knots and double surgeon knots.

Another thing you can consider is while using a full floating line. Get ya a sinking leader. I've seen them in two different sink rates of 3.5"/sec and 7.0"/sec. Tie on some tippet to the end of that and it works great.

But beyond that, IMO, get you the best pair of boots you can put your hands on. Save money if you have to. Ain't nothing worse then being out for about an hour and your whole mood about fishing the rest of the day changes for the worst because your feet are killing you from walking on odd shaped rocks.



Well-Known Member

Without knowing what rod you’re considering, I’d suggest that you get whatever reel you feel is a good match to your rod. Any reel available today, except perhaps for the very cheapest, are well suited to the task of playing and landing any steelhead that might be caught in WA state. I say that from having personally landed many steelhead on reels I picked up for $3 at Goodwill when I was in college. Beyond that, I’d say that Ross reels seem like a good value. I’m partial to the Colorado, which doesn’t have a disc drag (they are completely unneccessary), and are inexpensive at about $65 because they have been discontinued and are available on closeouts.

Suitable fly lines are kinda’ up to you. The simplest approach is to buy a multi-tip. Or make your own from the WF floater of your choice. I cut the forward 15' from my lines and either permantly splice a sinking tip or make a loop so I can interchange tips. I buy sinking shooting heads and cut them in half to make two sink tips. The ones I use most are SA high speed hi-D (type IV) and Airflow super fast sinking at 6" per second they say. I’ve caught more winter steelhead using the SA type IV since it came out in 1977 than with any and all other line combinations combined. A 15' sink tip is an excellent winter fishing choice. You could add an Airflow sinking leader of 5' and 10' for special occasions if you think you need more. And keep the floating tip for occasional frog water that you just want to add a weighted fly to fish.

Good luck!


Salmo g.

This thread already contains a lot of excellent advice. I get the feeling that you were asking about a suitable cheapreel for now (although like the rest of us, you aspire to better tackle in the future, when you can afford it). For that, let me recommend that great American classic, the Pflueger Medalist. It's very affordable (under $40), has a disc drag, easily interchanges extra spools, is hocky puck-tough, and is even tastefully attractive. For 8-10-weight lines, the 1495 1/2, or the 1595 1/2 if you want rim control, is a perfect size.


Afoot and Lighthearted
Plueger has been around since the Civil War, (really ! it's that old). I bought a 1595RC about 15 years ago, and used it fishing mostly salt water on the east coast, and in Florida. Just like some of the folks mentioned, I used it as a first "big" reel, and put it away when I could afford a better reel. But now that I've read these postings, I'm going to dig it out, and mount it to a new rod I recently completed (10ft 8wt Dan Craft FT) and make it part of my "nymphing rod"

I spend most of my time fishing with a floating line, and using a ESL with 1 or 2 glowbugs as droppers. But I have made some "sink-tips" from a LC-13 cut into several lengths when I get into water, that is bigger, deeper, or faster, than I normarly fish.
my new outfit is a 4-piece TFO professional 8wt 9.5 ft, Sci. Anglers Syst. 2 reel, Rio flyline. I like the rod (used it the 1st time today, on the queets), a little better than my Sage 8wt 10 ft. The new outfit isn't that expensive.

btw, I landed a 20+ lb Permit with the Sage & a system 1 reel ok. abc
Thank you all for all the great info and now I have a lot to think about. I was actually looking at the Ross CLA before I knew how much it was going to be. So I was wondering if I should start looking at something different. But with the above responses I may still look at the Ross (but I am not discounting the recommendations of the cheaper reels either, it may really depend on how nice Santa is to me this year). I don't want to get something too cheap but I also do not want to spend a lot on something that will be used a few times a year. Unfortunately the drive from Spokane to the Peninsula is a little long. :( Another reel that I was looking at is the Orvis Rocky Mountain Large Arbor? (as well as some of the others that all of you have mentioned in the thread) I am also wondering, and may be this is also a "Ford vs. Chevy" question, would it be beneficial to get a large or mid arbor reel for steel head, or would a regular arbor reel be sufficient?

For those of you that have asked and are wondering, I am taking a class on rod building and I am building a St Croix medium action (I forgot what the name of the blank is) 2 piece, 9"6', 8 wt rod.

I do like the idea of getting a multi tip line to cover a wide range of situations instead of buying a couple of different lines and investing in at least one other spools to start out with. I was planning getting some sinking leaders that are around 10-12 ft. I have also tied up a lot of bar-bell eye and weighted flys for my trip.

Again thank you all for all the great info and this really does help me with my decision that I will have to make.


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