I am picking out an early Christmas Present for when I go home to hunt and fish in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan. It will be the opening run for steelhead in numerous rivers, and I want to pick up a new rod. I was thinking a 8wt 9'. Any suggestions?
Purely my opinion, but I'd recommend a 9'6" 8 wt. The extra 6 inches can be nice for mending, whether you're swinging or nymphing (although nymphing for steelhead isn't something I admit to ever having done).
A 10 foot 8 Weight would be my recommendation as a decent rod that you could use for both summer and winter run steelhead. However, you might want to consider the types of flies and line systems that you will be casting. For example, if you plan on casting large intruders on heavy tips made of t-14 or some other t material, then you might want to think about purchasing a two hand rod instead of a single hand rod. Anyhow, that is my 2 cents.
Sean, I considered suggesting a spey rod or switch rod (a mini-spey rod between 10.5' and 12 feet), but I'm not sure it's appropriate for you at this time. The determinant is this: how big are most of the Michigan steelhead rivers that you fish? If they're smaller streams that you can cover with 50-foot or shorter casts, then one-hand fly rods remain the most practical. But if some of the streams are larger, you may want to consider getting into the wonderful, confusing, usually expensive mode of spey casting. You'll probably see some spey rods in use when you get back to Michigan. At the least, watch them, and ask a few questions.
most of the UP streams are smaller and so are the fish averaging only 4-5 lbs... a 6 or 7 wt is more than adequate. If i were to have one rod for up there for steelhead it would be a 10' 7 wt or a switch if you want to swing flies
I use to use 7 wts and found at times to be a little light,( hooked a big ass chum, steelhead in the teens). I lost my rod last winter(DOUH!), so I bought an inexpensive reddington,9' 8wt. I had an old line 9wff on it spey casting, landed a 13# steelhead on sunday, worked great!!