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Here's my input on the gear I use and that works best for me. But first, some words of advice. Regardless of who uses what or what brands may be recommended by anyone, don't buy ANYTHING until you go into your local flyshop, cast a variety of rods appropriate to the fishing you intend, discuss the pro's and con's of everything with the folks there and then go home and sleep on it for a day or two. Try to take the emotion out of your purchase and go for the practicality of the equipment. Granted, there may be some retailers out for the buck ready to sell you desert waterfront property, but I'm sure many here can recommend trustworthy individuals working at all the local fly shops in whatever area of WA you'll be in.

Okay, now on to what works for me.

Some say the 9 foot 9-wt is the "all purpose" Steelhead rod. It may very well be, but I just can't cast one all day without wearing myself out. I use a 9-foot 8-wt Diamondback Backwater loaded with a Rio Versitip line system on a Lamson 3.5 reel. This is a fast action rod with a strong backbone. Some steelheaders prefer a more moderate action. The Versitip system gives me the flexibility to skate the surface with drys or scrape the bottom with weighted nymphs regardless of river stage or flow and very quickly be able to make that change. For the rivers I fish this outfit has served me very well having landed a number of Steelhead in the 12-15 pound range as well as some quite sizeable Chum Salmon. I know, its blasphemy for a Washington flyfisher not to use a Sage or Loomis for steelheading. As a side note regarding Steelhead gear, there is a rapidly growing trend towards using Spey Rods on the major Steelhead rivers up here. It seems most folks are using a 13 or 14 foot 9-wt loaded with a Rio Windcutter type of line system.

Most of my fishing is done from the beaches around my particular area of Puget Sound for both resident and returning Silvers (Coho Salmon) and Searun Cutthroat Trout. The outfit I use is a 9-foot 6-wt Orvis Trident TL (saltwater version, Tipflex 9.5) with a Penn International 1.5G reel. The line I use on this system is a 30-foot 8-wt intermediate (i.e. sinks at a rate of 1-1/2" - 2" per second) shooting head attached to Scientific Anglers .031" diameter Mastery Shooting Line. Fishing for Silvers from the beach frequently requires long casts and, with this outfit, I can consistently launch that rocket to over 100 feet. That didn't happen over night and it took some dedicated practice to get the timing down. Searun Cutts, on the other hand, are often found kicked back and sunning themselves at the water's edge :) so a 30 to 40 foot cast will be all you need. The 6-wt is probably a slight overkill on the Cutts that usually run about 12" to 17", but in the Sound, one never knows what will strike. Hmmmm, now that I think about it, I wonder if I can convince my wife I need another salt water outfit? :)

For Trout fishing in lakes, rivers and streams, my rod is a Thomas & Thomas Horizon 8-1/2 foot 5-wt loaded with a 5/6 Wulff Triangle Taper line on an Orvis Battenkill Disc 5/6 reel. This is one sweet casting outfit that is totally in synch with my personal casting style. I probably will never need the disc drag, but I liked the feel of the reel and for the price, why not?

As I said above, this is the gear that works for me. Others may disagree on the make or model, but I don't think there will be too much controversy over the line weights.

Welcome to the the most beautiful region on God's green earth. And don't forget to shut the door and put up the Do Not Enter sign when you cross over the border. :)
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