Tell Us About Your Steelhead Rig, Win a Hardy Bougle

Hardy Bougle MkVI 4"
The prize.

Some of the most popular posts on our site come from our ‘Expert Rig‘ series – in which we ask a wide range of expert anglers to describe, in detail, how they set up their rigs to fish for various species around the world.  There’s a wealth of knowledge in these posts – frankly, your humble editor learns a lot every time he writes one up.

We also love hearing from our readers.  You are an incredibly experienced, knowledgeable, enthusiastic bunch and we truly appreciate all the input we get from you.

We have a brand new Hardy Bougle MkVI 4″ reel burning a hole in our collective pocket.

See where this is going?

Write Up Your Steelhead Rig, Win a Hardy Bougle

We want you to write up your favorite steelhead rig, in the same basic format that we use in our ‘Expert Rig’ series.  We want to know the specific models of rod, line and reel that you use.  We want to know every knot that you use from arbor to fly.  We want to hear your commentary on why you like the rig and how you fish it.

At the end of the contest, we’re going to pick the most interesting, helpful, thorough rig write-up, and send its author a brand new Hardy Bougle MkVI 4″ reel.  Cool?

Contest Rules and Tips

  • Your entry has to be submitted as a comment on this blog post.  Submissions via email, Facebook or any other medium don’t count.  If you’re not on our web site right now, click here to submit your entry as a comment on this post.
  • Since this is a big prize, we’re going to run the contest for a month.  We’ll pick the winner on January 6th, 2013.
  • You can submit any fly fishing rig that you like to use to fish for steelhead, anywhere.  We post a lot about spey fishing, but your rig does not have to be a spey rig.
  • Important: you have to be signed up for our weekly newsletter to qualify.  If you’re not currently getting our newsletter, click here to subscribe.  Then confirm your subscription via the email you receive and you’re good to go!
  • If you’re not familiar with our Expert Rig series, here are a couple of examples that you can use – Ken Morrish’s Steelhead Rig and Scott Baker-McGarva’s Steelhead Rig.  Don’t worry about the formatting, but make sure you include the rod, line and reel you fish, how you connect all the parts of the line system, and tips and commentary on how you fish it and why you like it.
  • If you have multiple steelhead rigs that you love fishing you can submit multiple entries, but please only write up each rig once.
  • The winning entry will be the one that we judge to be the most interesting, helpful and thorough.
  • That’s it.  Simple enough, right?

We really hope you’re as excited about this one as we are.  Have fun with it!

Make sure you’re signed up for our weekly newsletter, then click here to submit your entry.


  1. Bob Moore says

    I mainly fish for steelhead in the lake Ontario tributaries, usually in the Fall and early Winter and then again in the Spring. I like 10’ or longer rods, helps to keep the fly line off the water in low water conditions, sometimes throw on a strike indicator if they are nipping at the fly….

    The Summary
    Rod: Echo Ion 6100 10’, 6 Wt, 4 Piece
    Reel: Lamson LP 3.5
    Fly line: Scientific Angler WF-8-F

    The Detail
    30 Pound Dacron Backing, tied to the Spool with a Single Uni Knot.
    Scientific Angler WF-8-F, tied to the Backing with a Nail Knot.
    15’ Steelhead, Fluorocarbon leader formula – 72” 12LB butt section, 48” 10LB mid section, add on another mid section 12” 8LB and end with a 6LB or 4LB tippet.
    Favorite flies: Oregon Cheese Egg pattern or a Hot Beadhead Estaz Woolly Bugger both tied on with an improved clinch knot.

    Thanks for the chance to win, Happy Holidays to everyone!!!!!!!

  2. Dylan says

    Rod:Echo 3 two hand 8134.
    Reel: Speyco Skandi. snake roll handle, hexad clicker set to minimum. Screams like a banshee, ultra adjustable drag, but all you need is 2 fingers and a bit of composure!
    Line: 175 meters 30lb dacron, arbor knot to spool. Bimini twist loop to ridge running line. Airflo compact skagit 25′ 570 grain for sinktips, Airflo Skagit Northwest head 33′ 530 grain for dry/grease work.
    Rio 10′ & 15′ versileaders, all sink rates with 6′ maxima 15lb.
    Airflo floating polyleader for skating dry.
    sparse marabou/ostrich/spun polar bear intruders or bunny leaches all with knottable wire trailers, muddlers, classic speys and ska-hoppers. All tied on with non slip loop or rapala knot.
    Cast, Rinse, Repeat.

  3. Dake Traphagen says

    Here is my favorite Thompson River sink tip set up.
    Rod – Burkheimer 8134-4
    Reel – Hardy Bougle 4″
    Backing – 250 yds of 30# dacron attached to the reel with an Arbor knot.
    Backing with triple surgeons loop knot on the shooting line end looped to 150′ of 36# Varivas shooting line with non slip mono loop knots on both ends. This knot is wrapped in tying thread to form a torpedo shape then coated with Aqua seal.
    When the Aqua seal starts to harden it is rolled between the fingers to continue the torpedo shape.
    580 grain Skagit head factory looped to the shooting line.
    15′ of type 3 or 6 sink tip, depending on the pool fished, attached with the factory loops.
    A loop is formed to the leader end of the sink tip by folding the sink tip over and tying two nail knots to secure the loop.
    Leader is 5′ of 12# Maxima Ultra green. A loop is tied in the end of the leader using a non slip mono loop knot and looped to the sink tip.
    The fly is attached to the leader also using a non slip mono loop knot.
    Any fly as long as it has black in it and you’re good to go!!

  4. Oliver Hendrickson says

    Rod: Winston 7133
    Reel: Hatch + 9
    Airflo Skagit Intermediate 510, or
    Rio Steelhead Scandi 450
    Airflo ridge running line 30lb
    30lb orange dacron tied to spool with a single uni knot and Bimini twist at the other end.

    Splice a loop at the end of the running line. Use UNI Gelspun thread and a bobbin threader to complete the splice. The splice should be at least 3″ long and tight. Add three drops of crazy glue at the front, middle and end of the splice and let dry – don’t spread the drops – let em’ dry. Then apply UV glue over the entire splice and give it a hit with a UV light.

    Next, take 100 feet of RIO 50 lb Slick shooter and tie in a large loop – use a double backed 8 knot and make sure the slick shooter isn’t twisted when doubling the back to ensure it tightens well.

    Loop-to-loop the the two running lines together, then loop-to-loop with the Skagit Intermediate or Scandi head. I like having that 100 foot of bright fluro slickshooter as it provides a really good estimate (the colour break is really useful) of how much you have out (or remaining!) when a steely takes a blistering hot run.

    For the Skagit Intermediate: I generally use 10 feet of either T-8 or 10. Nail knot 12 inches of 30 lb mazima chameleon – be sure to double back the T material to get a really good purchase. Tie a perfection loop in the end of the chameleon. Take 2 feet of maxima ultra green 20 Lb and 2 feet of 12 Lb – blood knot them together. Tie on a (with or without lead eyes) 2 – 3 inch dark blue/purple/black intruder rigged with a trailing hook (Owner size 1 or 2) – ensure that the hook is rigged so that the loop knot within the junction tubing will hold it pointing down.

    My experience with the Skagit Intermediate is that the rod tip prefers the lighter head and the head allows me to fish sligtly lighter sink tips which is great for casting. Plus it provides for a really nice slow and deep drift that generally requires few – if any – mends. Just fish it.

    For the Scandi rig – add an Airflo 14 foot polyleader – Floating or Intermediate. Cut off the factory loop and tie a perfection loop and then loop-to-loop 3 feet of maxima ultragreen and tie on a sparsly tied Mudler (Tiemco 700 sizes 2-6). I like to tie my mudlers the Dec Hogan way, but I sometimes add a bit of flash that can easily be cut out depending on light/water conditions.


  5. NYCflyangler says

    Lamiglas G1298 9′ 10wt
    Kamikaze Kenjutsu PF 9-12 reel
    150 yards GSP backing #50
    CORTLAND 333 PLUS WF10F loop ends
    Twisted leader 4# test fluorocarbon or mono around 6′
    2-4ft Orvis mono tippet 0x-5x

    Egg patterns, classic streamers, classic steelhead and salmon flies. Latest things off the tying bench. Keep trying until something clicks.

  6. Juan Dumas says

    My rig is completely uninteresting…….
    I have been fishing for steehead in BC since 1994. Go there all the way from Argentina every year. I am a single handed die hard.
    I use 30 lb dacron braided backing tied to the line with a nail knot Another nail not from the line to the leader and I end up with 12lb Maxima.
    Loomis rod 9” for line # 8. Hardy Salmon Reel.
    Nothing very original. But I believe that what has helped me get a good number of fish has been the type of line. A fast sinking tip that drags down the running line I believe is fundamental to really get down. Many of the new Skaggit or Scandi lines used mainly by two handed rods, use short tips that do not really get down because the heads float so much you could sit on them….
    My friends with two handed rods rarely loose a fly on the bottom. I do. But then I think they not putting their fly where they should.
    My favourite fly: skaggit

  7. Leo says

    My combat ground is the Santa Cruz River: MURKY, DEEP, COLD AND FAST SO…..HEAVY STUFF












  8. Andrew McFerron says

    Here’s a rig born of affordability that has served me well for PNW steelhead fishing:

    Rod-Cabelas TLR 11′ 8wt switch rod: light in hand, surprisingly smooth casting action and recovery. The fish I’m after range from 5 – 20lbs, and this rod has sufficient power to handle the top end of that range while still being fun on smaller fish.

    Reels- Cortland SS Magnum or a Cortland 140D Magnum: same dimensions and capacity, but the flexibility to go click/pawl or disc drag depending on conditions.

    Heads-Airflo Skagit Switch 480grn and Rio Steelhead Scandi 480grn: these lines sail effortlessly with this rod, allowing me to reach out to 80ft without much trouble. The skagit will turn over 11′ of CCT-200 and flies to 5″ long. The scandi is smooth, crisp and sweet with a long mono leader or 10′ sinking poly’s.

    Tips- home made MOW style tips using CCT-200 and sections of windcutter belly attached with 50lb braided mono running line.

    Running line- .043″ ELF 30 lb or 40lb Berkley Big Game mono depending on the conditions. All attachments are loop to loop. Kreh loops in the mono, nail knotted loop on the back of the running line.

    Backing-30lb Dacron attached with an arbor knot with a spider hitch to loop the front end.

    Leader-12 to 15lb P-line fluoroclear. Good knots and turnover, low visibility under water.

    Flies-Sink tip: 4″ articulated patterns on blk or blk/blu are what I fish 90% of the time. Scandi: skaters and traditional wet patterns in sizes 2-8.

    The switch rod covers all my needs on mid-sized rivers, and is perfect for the small coastal tribs I spend most of my winter fishing. The lines listed above let me throw just about any fly I would want to fish for steelhead. Time to hit the river…

  9. Jordan says

    Home base is northeast Ohio, primary rivers fished Chagrin and Grand. I will occasionally make the drive to Conneaut or Elk in Pennsylvania but I, like many of us tend to want my time on the river to be a peaceful and relaxing experience thus I find myself sometimes walking more now then actually fishing (which is quite ok most days).

    The set up:

    Single hander: Redington CPX 9674. I like fast action rods but the extra six inches at the tip softens the rod just enough to not to allow it to be a pretty good steelhead rod in my opinion.
    Reel: Lamson Litespeed 3
    Details: About 175 yards of orange 20 lb cortland Dacron backing attached to reel with uni knot secured with a of zap-a-gap. Bimini tied in the backing. Whipped loop in back end and front end of fly line with fluorescent pink thread, coated with softflex, this also helps act as an indicator of sorts for soft takes. Backing connected with loop to loop connection. Rio gold 8 wt line moss head yellow running line, good for not spooking fish in clear water. Overweighting the rod again helps soften this rod and turns over heavy nymphing rigs easily. hand tied leader with Orvis abrasion resistant nylon tapering from 30 lb to 16 lb connected with blood knots. Tippet section is actually two part, 8- 10 lb Maxima as the diameter matches well with the 16 lb Orvis AR, tippet section two is Rio Powerflex, usually 8-10 lb. Flies consist of generic nymph patterns size 14-8 i.e. pheasant tail, soft hackles, hare’s ear etc. egg patterns like sucker spawn 12-14 sinke veiled eggs and blood dots.

    Double hander: Redington CPX 11374 switch, a terrific switch rod for great lakes region, it’s a powerful compact stick.
    Reel: Okuma Helios 8/9 a beautiful lightweight reel that complements the colors of the CPX nicely. It’s a a very well built reel for less than $200.00 and the drag is extremely strong and butter smooth.
    Details: 200 yards orange cortland Dacron attached via uni knot and a drop of zap-a-gap on the knot. Bimini tied in the backing attached via loop to loop to Rio 425 grain skagit short, 5 foot cheater on the head of the skagit. I’ll run a sink tip of Rio T11 with whipped loops in both ends between 4 and 10 feet as conditions dictate. Very short section for Maxima 30 lb chameleon with two perfection loops, off which I loop to loop a three to four foot section of 12 lb Maxima Ultra Green. Flies usually consist of some sort marabou spey style fly or smaller intruder type pattern, both are stinger type flies. I either use Gamakatsu or Daichii hooks as trailer hooks.

  10. Bob says

    Have’nt been fishing for Steelhead yet, but getting darn close, have been practing casting on the Bow.Budget requires that I slowly accumulate gear that get me started. Gear so far….
    Rod: Sage TCX 7126
    Reel: the only reel so far is an Orvis Mach IV with a couple of spools.
    Lines: Rio Skagit Flight 525 & the spooled with a Vision Ace Floating Shooting Head, & MOW Tips.

  11. Tom Ehrhard says

    The Babine Badboy
    • Rod: Beulah Platinum 8124 “The Tamer”
    • Reel: Galvan Torque T-12 SBD (silent but deadly)
    • Airflo Skagit Compact Shooting Head, 570 grains
    • Fly: The Silvinatrix—it cracks the whip and leads to submission
    The Rig
    • 65 pound PowerPro Hi-Vis Yellow backing, tied to the spool with a Uni-knot—PowerPro likes uni-knots when tied to itself.
    • Frog Hair 40-lb. fluorescent orange shooting line tied to the doubled-over PowerPro with a J-knot–very straight knot, easy to tie, rock solid, and goes through guides easily
    • 570 grain Skagit Compact attached to the running line with a loop-to-loop connection
    • 12 feet of T-11 (super-clean, strong welded loops by Amy Hazel) looped to the head
    • 3 feet of 15 or 20 lb. Maxima Ultragreen looped to the tip using a Perfection Loop (I use a King Sling for lighter tippets in lower-threat flows)
    • Black and blue Brian Silvey “Silvinatrix” tied on with a non-slip mono loop, sort of like a noose. Don’t look for it online, you’ll get bad websites. It is a bruiser (black and blue) and demands obedience. It has an evil leather whip strip and a #4 Owner SSW Cutting Point hook that will slice you if you look at it wrong. Submit to your master.
    The Explanation
    • Logic. If I’m going to travel to British Columbia with my closest steelhead friends and swing over 40+ inch stainless reentry vehicles, I want to be ready for that fish on every cast. Could a 7 weight work? Sure. Could 10 lb. Ultragreen do the job? Of course. But on my first trip to the Babine I watched another fisherman hook up with Toad Lesnar and get kicked in the jewels repeatedly until Toad exited the pool with the guy’s manhood. So, I wear a cup; and it’s called the Babine Badboy rig.
    • The Rod. The Beulah is a smooth-casting rod. A longer rod might allow longer casts on wide-open runs, but that’s not the issue on the Babine. Tough runs are the issue. I want to be put in the bad place where few fisherman tread. Overhang, rocky wades, and fresh grizzly scat equals lightly-fished water. The shorter Platinum and the Airflo help me chuck out casts when no cast is really feasible and let me put more pressure on them when hooked. I’m not looking just for fish, but epic fish, stories that I can tell for years. Epic circumstances make for epic stories.
    • Skating ROE. The only time I go with a lighter tippet is when I switch to Scandi and a skater I call “The Pontoon.” It’s a topwater party in slow motion—steelhead motor boatin’. My ROE (rules of engagement) is once you land a fish using higher-percentage methods, spend as much time as possible skating. Don’t act like you don’t want to…
    • Loop and Drag. I hold a longer than normal loop in BC. Lots of funny stuff seems to happen in the Babine and there’s a bit more slippage that has to happen before they get serious sometimes. If they go thermo-nuclear right away, nothing lost, but you still want the whole fish to turn before that Owner finds a home. But, when they get to the reel, I have that drag set tightly so that Owner goes ALL the way home, and so when Zatar the Mutant King decides he wants to leave, you put some serious lactic hurt on him, early and often. There’s no time for adjustment or second chances. This is all about percentages, and I want them on my side.

  12. James says

    My Oregon Steelhead rig consists of a JHC (John Hazel Custom) Anderson 7 wt 13′ with a Hatch 9 reel. I have 175 yds of 30 lb Dacron backing attached to the reel using an arbor knot. I have a 120 ft Varivas 30 lb shooting line attached to the backing with a double nail knot covered with Knot Sense glue. The loop end of the shooting line has a figure eight knot coated with Knot Sense. I use either an Airflo Compact Skagit 540 gr or Scandi 450 gr head. Using the factory loops I attach various Airflo Poly Leaders or sections of T-11 10-12 feet. Using double surgeon’s loops, I will attach 4-5 feet of 8 to 13 lb Rio Fluoro Plus tippet. My go-to fly color is purple. I can cast all day with my eyes closed using this rig.

  13. Chuck says

    Winter Set up
    ▪ Sage 8136-4 Graphite IIIe “Old School” Spey Rod
    ▪ Ross CLA-5
    ▪ RIO Skagit Flight, 650 grain
    ▪ 30 pound Dacron backing, tied to the spool with a single Uni Knot
    ▪ 25 lb Berkley Big Game, tied to the backing with an Albright Knot
    ▪ 650 grain RIO Skagit Flight attached to the factory loop in the front of the shooting line with a loop to loop connection
    ▪ 10 feet of T-14 RIO MOW TIP as a sink tip, attached to the front of the Skagit Flight with a loop to loop connection
    ▪ 3 feet of 12 pound Maxima Ultragreen, attached to the butt section with the factory loop in the butt section, a non-slip mono loop in the back end of the tippet, and a loop to loop connection
    ▪ Guide Intruder Black size 1/0, tied on with a non-slip mono loop
    ▪ This is my no question Winter Rod. It’s definitely “Old School”. I normally fish heavy sink tips with large flies. This setup is perfect for this type of fishing. I can be as technical as needed to cover the area I’m fishing, and can launch it a mile if needed. All around its perfect for Winter Steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.
    ▪ I fish mainly traditional larger “Intruder style” flies for Winter Fish. These flies typically get bigger fish and it seems the Steelhead typically crush it on the swing.
    ▪ I think the key to my success is fly placement and action. I try to cover every inch of the run I am fishing spending extra time ensuring I get the fly movement and depth correct around boulders or bottom changes and seams. The other piece is the non-slip mono loop, which I believe improves the fly movement in the water.

  14. Chuck says

    Summer Set up
    ▪ Sage One 7136-4 Spey Rod
    ▪ Hardy Marquis No. 2 (two spools)
    ▪ RIO Skagit Flight, 550 grain
    • Airflo 480 grain Scandi
    Spool one (Skating and Wet Fly Swing)
    ▪ 30 pound Dacron backing, tied to the spool with a single Uni Knot
    ▪ 25 lb Berkley Big Game, tied to the backing with an Albright Knot
    ▪ 425 gr Scandi
    ▪ 10’ Airflo Poly leader (Floating and or Intermediate)
    ▪ 2-3 feet of 10 pound Maxima Ultragreen attached to the butt section with the factory loop in the butt section, a non-slip mono loop in the back end of the tippet, and a loop to loop connection
    ▪ Orange Greased liner size 4
    Spool two (Leeches)
    ▪ 30 pound Dacron backing, tied to the spool with a single Uni Knot
    ▪ 25 lb Berkley Big Game, tied to the backing with an Albright Knot
    ▪ 550 grain RIO Skagit Flight attached to the factory loop in the front of the shooting line with a loop to loop connection
    ▪ RIO T-11 MOW TIP as desired, attached to the front of the Skagit Flight with a loop to loop connection
    ▪ 2-3 feet of 10 pound Maxima Ultragreen, attached to the butt section with the factory loop in the butt section, a non-slip mono loop in the back end of the tippet, and a loop to loop connection
    ▪ Larimer Reverse Marabou (Black and Blue) size 4
    ▪ I fish summer and fall fish with the set up above. Carrying two spools gives me max flexibility, but to be honest, I spend 90% of my time with the Scandi set up during the summer. I don’t think there is anything more exciting than working a skater and is my preferred summer technique.
    ▪ I cover all runs very methodically, by fishing a skater, then a wet fly and finally a leech if I feel as though there are some fish in the run I am on. The time of day also contributes to how I fish.
    ▪ The key to my success is patience and working any and all takes.or bumps by changing flies and presentation techniques.

  15. says

    Rod: Winston 7133
    Reel: Hatch 9 Plus Mid Arbor
    Airflo Skagit Intermediate 510, Airflow Skagit Switch 510
    Airflow Compact Scandi 480
    Guide line by Compline running line, 35#
    100 yards 30lb Dacron backing tied to spool with an
    Secure running line to backing with a double uni knot (make sure this knot is perfect and pull on it very hard)
    I prefer the Winston 7133 because overall it is the best retail rod out there, even many years after its launch. The Hatch reels, again the best reels out there although pricey.
    At the front of the running line tie a non slip loop knot. I prefer the loop to be large enough to pull over a wound up shooting head (usually 4-6 inches)
    The running line is attached loop to loop to the shooting head. Remember all airflow heads are black in the back so the black loop is connected to the running line.
    My sink tips are all 12-13 feet and range from Type 3, T8, 11 & 14. Rio and airflow both make loops lengths for custom cut but if you are like me and bought the large spools you can make your own loops. I make loops by doubling over the tip material and tying a series of two nail knots, then using aqua seal for “just in case”. The nail knots should be as close to each other as you can get them and leave a nice loop no more than a ½ inch long. I use 8 or 10# UG maxima, which is incredibly abrasion resistant. At the front of the sink tip I tie an Albright knot with 30# maxima UG. This piece is only as long has it has to be to tie another non slip loop knot (smaller this time, say 1”)
    When fishing sink tips I use 15# Maxima UG. Again, another non slip loop knot, attached loop to loop to our 30# loop. Tippet should be at least 24” and not exceed 36”.
    When fishing a shanked hook (rare) I use a non slip loop knot to attach, I have found the length of the loop makes little difference but one should strive for a short loop because it looks better.
    As far as my line choices go, first the Intermediate Skagit. This is my go to line in nice long even runs. This line eliminates the need for heavy sink tips. I almost always use T8 on this line but T11 fishes and casts good as well. The beauty of this line is that it gets below the surface current, slows down into the strike zone and stays there. For some anglers this may require a roll cast down river to get the line up but with practice and a very slow deliberate lift you will find this line comes up fine.
    Line choice number two is the Airflow Skagit Switch. We first started fishing these line on the little brother to the Winston 7133, the 6126 (probably the easiest casting tip set up on the planet). Ladt Winter I was fishing the Hoh at some pretty hight flow and felt I needed to go with T14. For me there is a noticeable overload on the Winston 7133. I wasn’t happy with the performance of this setup so I decided to try the Airflow Skagit Switch in 510. This set up has a miniscule D-Loop and will throw anything reasonable to max distance. The short length really minimizes bows in the line ect.
    The third line is for summertime and it’s the Airflow Compact Scandi in 480 grn. Again Loop to loop. I do not fish Poly leaders, instead I fish a 0x leader attached loop to loop. I tie in a 5 foot piece 10 pound maxima ug with a surgeons knot or a blaood knot. The fly in attached to the 10# with Turle Knot. I like the Turle knot because the knot is behind the eye of the hook and cannot move to one side or the other, and ultimately providing a better hook angle. The single Turle knot is removed from the fly much easier than the dooble
    Remember, pull very hard on all of your knots including the Turle knot ( I use my nippers to get a better grip on the hook).

  16. Andrew Tunall says

    – Beulah Platinum 12’6″ 6wt spey (light in hand, lots of line speed)
    – Hardy Marquis Salmon 1 (English made)
    – Rio 385 grain Steelhead Scandi for unweighted wet flies & dries (see commentary for add’l head options)

    – 30 lb dacron backing, attached to the reel with an arbor knot
    – Bimini Twist at the running line end of the backing
    – 30 lb Amnesia running line (red, because I like the color in contrast to the shooting head) attached to the backing with a loop to loop connection
    – Rio 385 Grain Steelhead Scandi attached to the running line with a loop to loop connection
    – 12ft Airflo Clear Intermediate Polyleader attached to the shooting head with a loop to loop connection
    – 3-5 ft of 12lb Maxima attached to the polyleader with a surgeon’s knot
    – Whatever fly suits me that day

    – I fish this setup for summer fish on Willamette Valley rivers, the Deschutes, Hood River, etc. through mid to late fall
    – Once the weather starts turning and I hit the John Day, I might switch over to the Airflo 390 Grain Rage shooting head, since it affords a slightly more compact cast and lets me more easily throw sinking polyleaders if the water levels are up
    – I like the feel of Amnesia, and its pretty cheap to replace if something goes wrong, its just sort of hard to find.
    – I fish a clear intermediate polyleader, unless I’m fishing dries in slower water
    – A friend of mine said something like, “I fish a clicker not just because I like the sound, but because I can trust the reel”. I fish an English made Hardy because the thing is bombproof. It provides virtually no drag, but that’s half the fun.

  17. BillB says

    I have stripped my rig down to the bare essentials and now enjoy success very similar to my great fishing buddies. Moreover, I’m relieved of the stress of managing my gear and can now focus on the meditative aspects of the sport that prove so addicting–perfecting the casting motion, stepping down the run, etc.

    Rod: A stick, about 12-14 ft in length and as straight as possibly to replicate the look and feel of a traditional spey rod. A full-flex to the stick feels great when the single-spey casting motion is replicated.
    Line: 1 or 2 ft of monofilament
    Reel: none at the moment, though a Hardy Bougle would be a lovely adornment
    Fly: Akroyd or similarly beautiful classic.

    First: I spend about 2 or 3 hours tying a beautiful, traditional fly, tied to the exacting standards of the old masters. An #1 Akroyd looks oh-so-nice dangling from the end of the rod. I usually crimp the barb before it even comes off the vise. And if its a fly I will fish with, I like to use a small pliers to snap the point off. Leaving those pointy parts on the fly puts the fisherman at needless risk of getting poked. I tie the fly to about 1 foot of nylon monofilament, it being the most commonly had material amongst fishermen. I tie one end of the mono to the fly using a Knot and the other end of the mono to a Stick using another Knot. I use a short piece of mono to reduce the likelihood that the fly will be ruined by repeated dunkings and keeps the fly out in front of me where I can admire it most easily.

    I find that this set-up really simplifies the whole process–no huge concerns about rod action, backup-rods are simply acquired as-needed, I can wave the stick around just like any $1000 technological wonder , I get to admire my fly-tying masterpieces with little risk of loss to snags or fish, no aggravations of fly placement, mending, or tangles, etc. Most importantly, I sacrifice almost no fishing productivity compared to my fellow fly-swingers!

  18. Joe Peterson says

    The Summary:
    9 ft. 8 wt. Sage XP–No one would ever consider the XP a great spring creek rod but then we’re not throwing size 20 BWO’s here.
    Nautilus #8 reel with my name engraved on it because some day my son will be greaselining through the Turret House Run on the Grande Ronde using the same reel and will hopefully understand.
    8 wt. Rio Grand floating line- the extra half weight fits the XP and makes a difference double hauling into the wind.
    hand tied 9 ft. leader

    The Details:
    20 lb backing attached to the reel with an arbor knot. 20 instead of 30 because with the smaller reel I need running line more than the added strength
    Double nail knots from the backing to the line
    Hand tied 9 ft leader nail knotted instead of looped to the fly line using this formula-36″ 30 lb Maxima Chameleon / 16″ 25lb Chameleon/12″ 20 lb Chameleon/8″ 15lb Chameleon/ 8″ 12lb Chameleon/ 8″ 10 lb Chameleon/ 20″ 8 lb Maxima Ultra Green. All connections made with blood knots and finished with a dab of Knot Sense. The Chameleon is just enough stiffer than the Ultra Green that it turns over the big flys better and the Ultra Green at the end is a little less visible and more flexible than the Chameleon which is important for how I’m going to fish the fly.
    An Orvis open loop knot tied to the fly paying attention to keeping the loop as small as possible.
    Probably an old school Mack’s Canyon tied with Jungle Cock eyes and tied low water style something like a size 5 tied on a size 3 Alec Jackson gold hook.

    The Commentary:

    I almost always fish a spey rod these days but you asked for my favorite steelhead rig. Using this rig allows me to fish the old way I first learned to fish way before anyone ever saw a spey rod on the Grande Ronde. An old guy from Wenatchee named Mike Dahl showed me how to greaseline when I was struggling with catching my first steelhead ( He and his buddy also introduced me to Scotch but that’s a different story ). Dahl told me he had learned the method from some guy named Bill McMillian. I love spey casting these days but if there’s a day when there’s no one around to be upset with me wading deep enough for a decent backcast there’s nothing better than double hauling that floating line out there, putting that big mend in and knowing that fly is just an inch or two under water swimming broadside. In my opinion that hand tied leader is extremely important here to get that fly to turn over and lie straight out there at 90 degrees to start the greaselining mend. Again I’m all for a spey rod with some T-14, but there’s nothing like the smashing take and watching the fish roll on your fly and the feel you get with the single hander when that fly is still straight out there at 90 degrees. There’s also nothing like the connection I feel with all the old timers who helped me learn to steelhead than when than when I’m greaselining through those classic runs with this rig. Thanks to all those great guys.

  19. says

    I do 98% of my fishing from a kayak, so I use a little bit lighter gear. Fish will bring me to them much of the time, so I don’t need the heavier gear to bring the fish to me. It’s a lot of fun that way (hello slay ride!). Also, with the kayak, I generally don’t have to cast far, and haven’t yet reached for that spey rod.

    So here’s my setup:
    Lamiglas G1298-7: 9′ 7wt G1000 series fly rod
    Ross Flycast 3

    spool 1: Rio WF7 T-S6: 15ft type 6 sink tip, mostly used for winter runs
    spool 2: Rio Steelhead Series Fly Line WF7-F, mostly for summer runs

    20# dacron secured by arbor knot on both
    Loop-to-loop connections from backing to line
    Loop-to-loop fly line to leader

    Winter leaders are usually shorter 6′ 2x fluoro leaders, with just a 1′ length of 2x Bioline tippet (and I’m almost out of that stuff)
    Summer leaders
    Summer leaders are longer. 9′ 3x fluoro leader to a 3x fluoro tippet

    Winter Flies: BIG! variations of the Provo Hooker, Mad Hatter, and big articulated bunny leaches

    Summer Flies: General Practitioner, Green Butt Skunk, and maribou flies

    This setup is very managable on my kayak. I really like the Rio T-S6 sinking line, especially in the winter. I can cast my line just forward of my kayak and drift right along with the fly through the strike zone of my favorite runs. It is very easy to cast while seated, which is important and hard to find. It also throws my heavy winter flies easily.

  20. Jamie Webb says

    My rig-Sensibly economical yet tough as nails:
    Rod- Sage Launch 990-2
    Reel- Lamson Konic 3.5
    Backing- 150yds 50lb Spiderwire double improved clinch knots to 150yds 30lb Spiderwire. Double surgeon’s looped to the line
    Line-WF9F Airflo Ridgeline Distance
    Leader- SA Mastery Steelhead 9ft Loop-to-looped to the line
    Tippet-3ft Maxima Chameleon or Ultragreen
    Flies- Comally Flamethrower, Showgirl, Mickey Finn Kitchen Sink, Blackback Smelt,Molloy Smelt-all tied by improved clinch

  21. Jacob Hirst says

    I mainly fish for steelhead in the PNW and usually tend to stick with the two handed set up just because I think it is a lot more fun when your grippin it with two hands. If you see me out on the water, say on the Hoh, my setup may look a little something like this.

    -Sage 7126 TCX spey (mega line speed) with some rubber tape wrapped around the top of the cork (thank you deneki for the helpful little tip)
    -Hardy Bougle 4″ (she sings like the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s the magic flute)
    -Airflo Skagit compact 540 grain (if it sailed any better it would be on New Zealand’s America’s cup team)

    -250 yards of 30# orange dacron backing attached to the reel with an arbor knot (orange because I really like to see it if I ever make it that far down)
    -Probably about 150 yards of Varivas airs 36# shooting line at .021 diameter attached to backing with a loop to loop connection ( the sweetest shooting line I’ve ever used, give it a good stretch before you cast it the first time and you wont have any tangling issues)
    -Airflo 540 gr skagit compact attached to running line with a loop to loop connection.
    -11 1/2′ of t-11 sinktip looped on each end tied down with a double nail knot coated with aqua seal.
    -3 1/2 – 4 ft of 12# maxima ultragreen (is there any other leader material out there?) connected to the t-11 with a loop to loop connection.
    -the go to fly for me is a white and orange intruder style fly, commentary to come 😉


    -This has been my go to setup for a few years now and it is lovely. It has worked for swinging flies for steelhead in the PNW to swinging flies in AK for steelhead and some monster rainbows once the water has dropped from the high summer melt-off.
    -the beauty of a lite weight setup like this is that you can be casting and swinging flies all day and yet it feels like i haven’t done hardly any work at all because it just casts for you. Not only that but there is no worry about having to worry about drag because there won’t be any issues with the little lady holding the line.
    -If you don’t know about the rubber on the cork idea check it out on the deneki blog, it is quite helpful for when the hands get cold and you can’t feel the running line as well as normal.
    -My go to fly has always been one with a little bit of white in it. A lot of my steelhead fishing friends dont agree with me but i look at their flies and none of them have any white, so i like to toss something a little different to spark some interest with these little buggers and it usually helps. Also when I am in AK fishing for trout late in a season we use a lot of flesh flies and the rainbows love and I figured hey if the rainbows love so must the steelhead.
    -also, have plenty of sharp hooks! I usually carry about a box of 50 or so hooks and always crimp the barb after putting them on, I think it gives you a more challenging fight as well as being a little bit easier on the fish.

  22. Pierre Legault says

    I Fish the Magog River in Eastern Township, In spring when the water is high and fast flowing I use a Sinker at the end of my Sinking Flyline just before the leader… With a mudler minow (MickeyFinn) at the end…
    That way I can scoop down the holes where the big ones hide…

  23. says

    Steelheading needs to be kept simple.
    Rod- Scott 1287 ( west coast cult rod )
    Reel- Ross CLA 6
    Line – 575g Rio Skagit Short
    Shooting Line- Berkeley Big game 40 lb mono
    Backing- 30 lb Dacron tied to reel with single uni knot and Bimini loop
    On line side
    Tips- Various MOW tips depending on conditions
    Leaders- short 4 to 6 ft Maxima 10 to 15 lbs

    This outfit works for winter fishing from the Califorina coast, Oregon coast, and all the way up to the OP.

  24. Dave Fulton says

    My steelhead rig is pretty simple.

    Rod: Guideline LPXe 13 ft 8/9 Wt (3 piece).

    Reel: Teton Tioga 10/12 LA.

    Backing: 30 lb Dacron attached to reel with an Arbor Knot.

    Shooting Line: Steve Godshall Rainbow ELF Shooting Line.

    Shooting Head: Steve Godshall Special Skandit head – Scandi style head rigged to throw tips.

    Leader: Either a 14 ft leader tapered to 10lb tippet or 4 ft leader tapered to 10 lb tippet (attached to various sink tips based on conditions).

    Flies: I prefer traditional flies like the Freight Train, Coal Car, Lady Caroline, General Practicioner tied on salmon irons, or tube flies if I need a weighted fly.

    I like the additional challenge of timing the touch & go casts, and use mostly the Snake Roll and Single Spey, when my casting is on. In other words, I use the Snap-C and Double Spey a lot. 😉 I cast from roughly 45 to 90 across and use mends and the rod tip to control my swing.

    I enjoy the process of fishing as much as catching fish, so I don’t mind that I’m not necessarily using the most productive rig for catching numbers of fish. The sound of a screaming reel is just icing on the cake.

  25. Terry Myers says

    I have a dogged determination to the art of casting long belly lines. I appreciate the technological advances in fishing gear, but I love the artistry and grace of the classic spey style, so I return to tradition making each cast my attempt at improving an art.

    The Summary
    – Sage 9140 – my first purchased spey rod – off E-bay, curiously Lani Waller’s name was on the sock.
    – Lamson Velocity4 reel
    – Scientific Anglers 730 Grain Distance Spey
    – “JT’s Bruiser” (JT, my little brother, afflicted with the same genetic propensity to steelhead addiction)

    The Details
    – This rod isn’t new, it’s not light or sporty, but it goes anywhere, does anything, and I’ve been using it for years. I’ve learned to cast left handed, right handed, shoot single and double speys, do snake rolls and snap T’s using long belly lines with or without tips. It’s not always easy but it’s a blast!
    – 200 yards of Scientific Anglers XTS 30# backing attached to the reel with an Arbor knot
    – Scientific Anglers Distance Spey, tied to the backing with an Albright knot. I like the way this 730-grain line loads up and lays out – even with a tip or weighted fly.
    – Orvis 10-foot, fast sinking poly leader, attached with a loop-to-loop system, or a hand made looped 6’ tip of T-14 for colder water temps.
    – About 20” of 15# Maxima Ultragreen attached to the leader with a Perfection knot, then about 15” of 10# Rio Max tippet attached with a Surgeon’s knot.
    – “JT’s Bruiser” tied to the tippet with a small non-slip loop knot. This is fairly sparse black fly, with a blue wing – it can be accented with jungle cock cheeks or crystal flash. Weighted with silver or chartreuse wire over a silver tinsel wrapped body, it casts well, sinks quickly, and swims balanced in the water. I favor a trailing hook tied with short, stiff fire wire that minimizes potential injury to fish and keeps the hook oriented. I’ve fished this little fly from Washington to BC and find the blue/black color universally appealing to steelhead.

    The Commentary
    One of my favorite times to fish is late fall and into winter, after the crowds have left and before the river freezes up. Water temps often mirror air temps, hovering in the mid-30s. I
    get my fly swinging as deep and slow as possible by using a fairly sparse, weighted fly, calculating fly placement and working my mends. I move through the water much slower, casting several times from the same spot before taking my next step. I also focus on patiently allowing my fly to stay on the dangle longer and then gently give a few short strips before stripping in and making my next cast. Holding a small loop in front of my reel gives a little cushion and feel to the soft takes from these furtive, wintery fish.
    Essential to any day of fishing is my dog, a wee flask of Jamison’s and my favorite fishing buddy of 33 years, my husband, (not necessarily in that order.)

  26. Ojibwehunter says

    For winter steelie action I use two handed rods an swinging a float style rig. I use 15lb P-line fluorocarbon line (main), I tie a loop so I can get the loop to loop connection on my skagit line an run my piker bobber up & down on the 15lb main (for depth), then I work my way down with blood knots from 10lb fluorocarbon to put weight on (heaviest weight at the top an work my way down to the smaller split spots on the 8lb). 6lb is used to connect my flies (all fluorocarbon) I usually run a hex pattern or stone fly with a clown egg off the back of that (about 4-6 inches apart) it’s a killer an fun way to catch steelies, centerpiners aren’t the only ones who can have fun float fishing haha!

  27. Teri says

    My Rig-
    I fish for Steelhead in Washington, Oregon & California. I like swinging flies as well as nymphing rigs. My favorite fly is a Clown egg. My favorite colors to swing are Black/Blue.

    My look-Simms waders, favorite cowboy hat & channel No. 5

    My Gear-
    Rod Loomis NRX 10′ #7
    Reel Abel Super 7-8
    Line 8 wt sharkskin/steelhead
    Leader 12-15 lb p-line fluorclear

    30 lb Dacron backing, tied to the spool with an Arbor Knot.
    Tippet tied with double surgeons loops.

    Happy New Year

  28. Max says

    I fish for steelhead 6 months a year from September through March. My go to rod is a Burkheimer 7134-4. I use a Danielsson HD nine/ thirteen as my reel and use midbelly floaters all year round. My lines are either a 7/8 Rio Mid Spey or a 7/8 Airflo Delta Long. I tie approximately 200 yards of 30lb dacron backing to my reel with an arbor knot after looping the backing around the arbor a couple of times. I use a nail knot to tie the fly line on the backing. I tie my own leaders using Maxima Chameleon. The butt is 40 lbs in order to get good turnover and I tie about four feet of that to the fly line with a nail knot. Then I tie 32in. of 30 lb.,26 in. of 25 lb., 18 in. of 20 lb. and 15 lb. and about 3 feet of 12 lb. for my tippet. These are all tied to each other with a blood knot using four wraps for the heavier sections , five for the middle sections and six for the lighter sections. It is legal to fish with two flies where I live so in the early part of the season I slide a green butt skunk #8 between the 20 lb. section and the 15 lb. section and I usually use a variation of the Mack’s Canyon tied on a Partridge Salar double #9 with a 45 degree upturned eye using a turle knot. After the water temperature drops below 42 degrees or so I switch to a 1/2 inch metal tube with black and blue or orange and black colors for the lower fly and move the Mack’s Canyon to the upper fly. I only catch about 5 percent of my fish on the upper fly but at least I think I am covering more water with it. I use Simms waders and boots and a Sharps of Aberdeen wading staff. I have been thinking about moving to a more traditional reel since I fish off the reel , use the lowest/lightest drag setting and end up palming the rim for additional drag.

  29. Max (Continued) says

    I love using the longer belly lines and usually cast across the river (60 to 90 degres) and swing with the above set-up. My casts vary but most of the time I have about 80 feet of line to the reel. I don’t wade very deep and usually step down after one cast unless I am in an area where I have had luck previously and then I will cast a few times before stepping down. I time my steps so I am stepping down during the few feet of the swing (last 5 to 10 percent) and I catch or move quite a few fish with this technique. If I move a fish I cast one more time with the same amount of line out and if I don’t get a take then I reel in about 15 to 20 feet of line and start feeding it out 3 feet at a time until I am back to the original amount of line out. If I don’t get any bumps etc. I try this one more time and then move on. I am lucky to be able to fish a lot and because I am targeting Steelhead I have a lot of days without touching a fish. It’s not really about the fish though, It’s about the preparation and anticipation, the walk to the run, the dogs for company,letting out enough line to get into a rhythm and losing yourself in the beauty of it all. All that and intermittent gratification keeps bringing me back.

  30. James Mello says

    Winter fishing is my bread and butter so the rig described is what I use the most.

    Sage 9140 3 piece
    Lamson LP Spey
    250 yards of dacron 30lb backing
    Rio Slickshooter running line. Looped at both ends with triple surgeons loops
    Rio Skagit 650 with 10ft cheater
    Rio 15′ sink tips in intermediate, type 3, type 6 and type 8
    Flies are often 6″ MOAL leeches or large intruder like patterns

    The rig I use is definitely on the heavy side for steelhead, but is actually put together with serious care. The rivers I fish are very broad, with limited clarity. The large flies require a big stick and lots of mass to hit the longer casting distances on some of my favorite runs.

    When not fishing broad long runs, I’m often hitting water that most folks consider ‘plugging’ water. Because of this, I need serious lifting power to get the fish to shore and under control. I’ve broken several rods trying to muscle in fish before they tire too much, and settled on a heavier stick to prevent this from happening.

    While most of my catch is located 30′ from shore, there are quite a few fish that I pull out each year in the 75′ to 80′ range. This rig allows both long casts and lots of power when needed for high bank fishing.

  31. Tom McHugh says

    Guideline 14’8 9/10 LeCie with a 4″ Dingley St. George style reel. 30 lb Dacron backing ending in a bimini attached to 50(?) frog hair running line with a double surgeons loop on both ends. 520 SA Scandi Extreme, 15 or so feet of 40/20/20/10 leader down to usually 12 lb ultragreen and something pretty on the pointy end.

  32. Michael Oliver says

    The Summary ( Winter )

    – Echo Dec hogan 7130-4
    – Hardy JLH Salmon
    – Airflo Skagit Compact 510

    The Detail

    – 150 yards of 30lb Dacron backing attached to reel with Arbor Knot
    – 0.32 diameter ELF level running line attached with nail knot to backing.
    – Skagit head attached to running line with loop to loop connection using factory welded loops.
    – 8wt D.C. 15 ft sink tips attached using factory loop to loop connection with running line. The sink tip has 8″ of 15lb Maxima CHAMELEON with a perfection loop, attached to the sink tip with a nail knot.
    – 10lb Maxima ULTRA GREEN 3-6 ft leader, depending on fly choice*, attached to the sink tip I tie a perfection loop on the leader and attach with loop to loop connection with sink tip.
    – Intruder (any color as long as it is black) with freshly sharpened hook tied to leader with Duncan Loop.

    The Commentary

    – The Duncan loop gives the intruder a little more movement but when the fish takes it tightens down on the hook eye.

    – I like to start with an intermediate sink tip. I adjust leader length, fly weight( I tie the same intruder in various weights), and mending strategy first. If I do not achieve desired depth then I move to heavier tips.

    – I really like Maxima CHAMELEON on the end of my sink tips. It is highly abrasion resistant, transfers power to the leader well, matches the color of T-# material and does not get kinked up (low memory) when coiled in my shooting head wallets. I will also create loops on sink tips by folding over the sink tip on itself and put 2-3 nail knots, this method creates a strong loop but I feel it does not cast as well as Maxima Chameleon nail knotted to sink tip.

    – If you know the Hardy JLH Salmon reel well, you know I have a very notorious loose pawl rivet on the back plate using grease like a sieve :-).

  33. Evan says

    North Umpqua Summer Pioneer Rig:

    I guess in some small way this rig is how I pay homage to those who helped me along the way. Yes, its a dry line one hander……Yes, it catches fish……Yes, that how the “old timers” used to do it…..Yes, it catches fish…..Sometimes more than the other guys, but just sometimes.

    Rod: Echo Ion 10′ 7wt
    Reel: Ross CLA #4
    Line: Airflo Sixth Sense 7/8
    Backing: 20lb Dacron
    Leader: 12ft tapered leader 12lb test.
    Tippet: 10lb Maxima Green
    Fly: Muddler Minnow or Green Butt Skunk

    The Set-up:
    – 150 yards of 20lb dacron backing. Tied to spool with clinch knot.
    – Connect Line to backing with nail knot. I double up here for safety.
    – Connect Line to Leader, use factory loops. See commentary below.
    – Add 3ft of 10lb Maxima Green with blood knot
    – Clinch knot to Muddler Minnow, add rifle hitch.

    – I cut my factory loop off my line and my tapered leaders. Then connect the leader with a nail knot. I feel this give me a better turn over with the long leader on my roll casts. The loop to loop acts like a hinge and steals momentum on the cast.
    – Be nice to all the fish that this rig will trick. Release native steelhead because it’s good for your Karma. Bonk hatchery steelhead because it’s good for your Kitchen!

  34. Rick Rushton says

    I’ll date myself by saying I just turned 65, and have been chasing steelhead mostly in Oregon since 1973 when I hooked one while drifting stonefly nymphs for trout in the McKenzie – a lightning bolt shock to the system which I will never forget! The 3 pound tippet lasted just long enough for me to be hooked for life.

    Thanks to a healthy used rod market in Bend, I am fortunate to have a Sage Z Axis 6126-4 Spey rod and a Redington CPX 8113-4 Switch rod in the aresnal – both a pleasure to use in all aspects of steelhead fishing.

    However, upon pulling a rod out when arriving streamside, I more often than not drag out a 23 year old Sage RPL III 9’6″ 6 weight that I built using a seconds blank kindly supplied by Sage as a fund raiser for a fishing club. A goodly number of memorable fish have been landed and lost over the many years of fishing not nearly enough days each year. The casting of this rod is hard-wired to my soul.

    125 yards of 20 pound dacron backing is arbor knotted to a Redington AS7/8 reel. A Rio weight forward 7 weight floating line goes from there to a hand tied Mazima Ultragreen leader of 10-11 feet terminates in 3 feet 8 pound test.

    In spite of 2 Wheatley boxes overloaded with patterns of every description, seven out of 10 times, a double turle knot links up to either a low water, lightwire black/blue/mallard flank/peacock concotion of mine, the “Black Magic”, or a modification of the Curry’s Shrimp. If one or the other does not do the trick, a stonefly nymph is used for another pass through the run. As Chief Dan George said years ago in film LittleBig Man, “Sometimes the magic happens, and sometimes it doesn’t”. Either way, I’m just happy to be there, standing in a river with this rod in my hand.

  35. Tom Palmer says

    The Summary: Winter Rig

    – Sage 7126-4 TCX
    – Abel Super 12
    – Rio Skagit Flight 525 grain

    The Detail

    – 30 lb. Dacron backing attached to spool with Arbor knot
    – Airflo Ridge Running line, 30 lb. attached to backing with Albright knot
    – Rio 525 grain Skagit Flight attached via factory loop to running line
    – MOW tips (factory loops to Skagit head and leader using loop-to-loop handshake)
    – 4 feet of 12 pound Maxima Ultragreen, with a non-slip mono loop on both ends
    – Flies: Silvinator, Black & Orange, Fish Taco or intruders in various colors

    The Commentary

    – I see lots of folks using a perfection loop on one end of their tippet and a non-slip loop knot attached to the fly. In my tests the perfection is the weaker knot. I don’t want four feet of tippet left in a fish! Use the strongest knot on both ends.
    – Even in winter you need un-weighted flies to fish seams and quiet water. Don’t leave home without light flies to fish this critical water, especially in heavy water where the fish are looking to escape current.
    – I like MOW tips for consistency and loops on both ends. Most used tips are 12 feet of T-14 for heavy runs and 5 feet of T-14 for everything else.
    – The new intermediate iMOW tips are great. The 5’/heavy covers most of the water I fish.
    – I prefer tube flies for most of my fishing. The use of stinger hooks improves my landing ratio, is good for the fish (I can go smaller when bull or sea-run trout are present) and are easily replaced.
    – If using flies with a stinger loop attached, watch out for the hook catching your leader. Frustrating to fish a run and realize your fly was tangled up! Tube flies tied on stiff tubes (e.g. Pro Tubes) lessen this occurrence.
    – I like heavy running line for winter fishing. While I sacrifice distance, much easier to handle with gloves/cold hands and performs better when the guides are icing up.

    Like others, I’ve also been experimenting with intermediate skagit heads. They work well when there are few surface obstructions (rocks, logs etc…) and provide a nice connection to your fly. I recommend sizing down in weight compared to standard floating skagit heads.

  36. Max Stickel says

    Stickel’s Winter Rig:

    Rod: CND Expert Spey 13′ 8/9.
    Reel: Hardy Marquis Salmon No.2 (english made).
    Backing: 225 yards of 30lb Dacron.
    Running Line: Airflo Ridge Floating Running line 30lb.
    Head: Airflo Skagit Compact 540 grains.
    Tip: Airflo T-material in various lengths and grain increments (10ft of T-10 most commonly).
    Leader: 3ft-5ft of 12lb Maxima Ultra Green.
    Fly: Single stage Rhea and Polar Bear tube fly (most commonly).

    Rigging Details:
    *I attach the backing to the spool with an arbor knot.
    *I tie a perfection loop knot in the front of the Dacron and zap it with some UV knot sense which I then loop on to the factory loop at the back of the running line. I use a perfection loop because it is the smallest loop knot I have found and I certainly want it travelling through the guides smoothly when a hot anadromous fish hits backing….
    *Loop to loop connection between the running line and shooting head utilizing the factory loops.
    *Loop to loop connection from shooting head to tip.
    *I attach Rio braided loops to both ends of my tips and secure them with three Nail Knots. I prefer the loops over butt section because they last longer and I have had 30lb maxima Nail Knotted to the tip slide off the core of the tip while pulling out a snag. No need to aquaseal or UV epoxy the braided loops. As George Cook would say “You just don’t need a bunch of complications…..Rig em’ up, lets roll”.
    *I tie a perfection loop knot in the back of the Maxima and loop it onto the braided loop.
    *I tie on my up-eye hook flies by doubling over the leader, looping it over the fly and tying a Uni Knot. This allows the leader to snug into the eye of the hook and come straight through the front of the eye rather than sitting on the up-eye. I tie my tube flies on by sliding them on the leader, tying a non-slip mono loop just big enough to loop the hook on the end of the leader, loop a Owner SSW Cutting Point size 1 hook stinger style and snug the knot into the back of the tubing. The larger knot size of the non-slip mono loop compared to the smaller perfection loop allows it to snug tightly into the junction tubing. Straight eye flies I tie on with a non-slip mono loop.

    Most of the rivers I fish around Southwest British Columbia for winter steelhead do not require a rod larger than 13ft, but some of the fish that live in them require a rod beefier than a 7wt. This makes the 13′ 8/9 CND Expert Spey a great rod for the job. You can feel it bend to the cork while casting and short heads and short stroke load this rod like an absolute cannon. Nobuo really knows how to make a rod….
    I fish a Marquis Salmon No.2 for a few reasons….Its loud, easy to palm, strong and reliable (like all Hardys!), and its is more in the price range of a 17 year old steelhead bum with no money but still wants to fish quality tackle……like me :).
    I have grown very fond of Airflo lines on all my rods. They cast well, feel nice in hand and THEY DON’T STRETCH!! I really notice a difference in feeling connection to the fly with Airflo lines compared to PVC lines like Rio and SA.
    As for sink tips……Lately I have been fishing 10ft of T-10, but I like to change my tips for different water conditions. 10ft tips cast well to me and I prefer them over 5ft-7ft tips which feel a little clunky in my mind.
    I know you will agree with my choice of leader material!
    Who doesn’t love Maxima Ultragreen? best knot strength, relatively low vis, and you can buy it just about anywhere! As mentioned before, I don’t bother with butt section, just straight level Maxima. I find 12lb maxima is more like a 16lb tippet from other companies. It turns over big flies and it handles big steelhead just fine. I like to adapt my fly choice to water conditions as mentioned by Tom Larimer in your blog video about steelhead fly choice. I try not to fish a lot of flies with dumbbells, although they work awesome, they aren’t fun to cast. Protube fly systems are very intuitive and you can adjust the weight of the fly with coneheads and “dropweights” which are metal sleeves that slide over the plastic tube. The Owner SSW Cutting Point hook is an exceptional hook. Super sticky and they resharpen well. I find Size 1 to be a good all around size of hook, but I do dabble with 2’s and the occasional 1/0.


  37. Ed O'Brien says

    I fish for steelhead – summer-runs, on the Bulkley ( a branch of the Skeena ), the Dean and the Thompson. First fished for them on the Bulkley with Mike Maxwell of Vancouver who taught Spey casting as well as acting as a guide. Got a 12′ 6″ Maxwell built spey rod in 1987 and still use it with a J.W. Young English reel filled with 100 yds. of 20 lb. test dacron tied to the reel with an arbour knot and to the fly line with a loop tied in the backing and a braided loop on the line. I have a second spool with a #8 fast sinking line (6). Leaders are attatcued with braided loops
    I also use a 10ft 8wt. custom rod (Benshona , Kelowna).
    S. A. floating liness are used, DT for the spey rod and WF with changeable tips on the single handed rod. On the single handed rod I use a Hardy St. Aidan reel (3 3/4), all attatchments as above.Two extra spools are available for this reel, one with a #8 fast sinking line , one with a ridged Airflow clear slow sinker. (5in./sec.). Use mostly tube flies

  38. Ed O'Brien says

    Also use the Burlap in dirty water Sean Lantern, some Atlantic salmon flies And MUDDLER MINNOWS , white, yellow, black, plus all standard B.C and Pac. N.W. flies .Thanks.

  39. Tom says

    Poor Man’s Steelheading

    The Summary
     Echo 7130 “Dec” spey rod
     Ross CLA 5 Reel
     Airflo Skagit Compact Shooting Head, 510 grain

    The Detail (winter set up)
     200 yards of Dacron backing tied to spool with a slip knot
     120ft of solar collector 30 pound Trilene Big Game monofilament for running line which is tied to the backing using an Albright knot
     510 grain skagit compact shooting head attached to the running line and sink tip using loop to loop connection.
     Custom cut sink tips of T-11 and T-14 from 6 to 13ft. Small end loops created by folding back a portion of sink tip and securing with 2 nail knots then sealed with aquaseal.
     10-12 lb maxima ultra green for leader material
     Marabou tube fly in variety of colors and sizes depending on conditions

    The Commentary
     Being a college student on a budget, I found ways to not only get by with less expensive equipment, but also fine-tune my gear to my fishing preferences. Fishing in the Northwest brings all sorts of obstacles, some of which can do harm to your gear. Breaking a rod is not uncommon because accidents do happen. This is why I like Echo: at 1/3 of the price from most spey rods it is really strong and if it does break they have a lifetime guarantee and they get it back to you right away (which is great during peak season). Did I mention it really flings?
     I use 30# bright green Trilene Big Game monofilament for running line. It cost about $10 and I get 440 yards on a spool. It is tough and fairly memory resistant which rarely tangles if you get caught casting in heavy current. When you feel like the running line might be getting old, swap it out with some new line; you still have over 300 yards on the spool. I have been using this method for over 3 years now, only swapped line twice and never had it break. Chasing bigger game? Jump up to 40 or 50 pound.
     I almost exclusively fish marabou flies in the winter. The material wiggles like nothing else, it casts easy, it’s easy to tie with, has a variety of colors, holds its color well, and it’s cheap. I like fishing fancy speys and intruders, but it really sucks losing one when you spent 30 minutes tying one. Losing the attachment issue to your fly allows you to put it in more fishy spots like around big boulders and snags where fish like to hang out, especially on pressured rivers. My favorite colors include, black, blue, red, and pink in a variety of sizes and either weighted or unweighted.

  40. Matt H says

    The Summary
    -Echo Dec Hogan 7130
    -Hardy Marquis Salmon #2
    -520gr Scientific Anglers Skagit Extreme floating head

    The Detail
    -250 yards 30# Dacron secured to the reel with an arbor knot
    -Monic GSP .024″ running line. The line has factory loops at both ends. I use loop-to-loop connections to a non-slip loop in the backing and to the factory loop in the butt end of the shooting head
    -520gr SA Skagit Extreme floating head
    -12 ft. T-11 with braided loops at both ends, nail knotted and aquasealed, colored black at the leader end. Loop-to-loops to the Skagit head and leader
    -12 Maxima Ultragreen leader. Non-slip loop knot at the tip end
    -I fish tubes most often and use a double surgeon’s loop to connect the trailer hook

    The Commentary
    The rod casts easily to 80 feet and casts better than most inside 30 feet. That covers most water where I live. At 23 feet the shooting head is long enough to cast easily when you’re on a bar and have room behind you, but short enough to form the D-loop when you’re backed up to the trees or a canyon wall.

    The structure and routing of my home rivers places a premium on mending line to get the fly to the fish, and the no-stretch running line helps by making up for some of the “give” of the softer rod. I’m also confident the pull of the water on the head and running line is sufficient to set a sharp hook at most angles, which means I don’t have to swing the rod tip into the trees if I’m fishing right up against the bank.

    12ft of T-11 is a middleweight tip. I enjoy tying flies and carry a variety of patterns of various sink rates, which allows me to fish shallower or deeper by changing flies and adjusting leader length rather than changing tips. Tube flies of .5″ and 1″ tied on plastic, aluminum and copper gives me latitude when on the river. I can go small and shallow by fishing a .5″ plastic tube its own, or go big and deep by stringing 2 or 3 copper tubes on the leader.

    The reel is a Hardy, and it’s awesome.

  41. Rich McNamara says

    The outfit:
    Speyco Skagit w/ brass winding plate
    Loop Yellow 9150
    Airflo Compact Skagit 600 grn.

    150 yds dacron backing attached to the reel with an arbor knot.
    50 yards of airflo miracle braid shooting line attached to backing with a double surgeons knot in the backing. The braided shooting line I remove about 6 inches of the core line and slide a section of fly line into the braid(Chinese finger trap) with 2 nail knots towards the bottom and I aqua seal the knots. I then weld loops into the fly line. I also do this on the front side of the shooting line. At this point I can attach my shooting head, loop to loop. I use a heavy T14 50/50 mow tip with a 4′ 12# maxima leader, tie on an intruder style fly and hold on………….

  42. says

    Rod: 11 ft beulah surf rod 8/9
    Reel: Ross BG 4

    Backing: 30 lb dacron.
    Clinch knotted to running line: 40 lb trilene big game mono.
    Line: * Optional * 5 ft 8 wt floating Rio cheater section looped onto:
    Rio outbound clear intermediate 11 wt
    Butt: 24″ 20 lb. Maxima floro improved clinch knotted to…
    50 lb. raven micro swivel. improved clinch knotted to….
    Tippet: 12 lb maxima floro. which uses a non slip mono loop knot to…. the fly.

    I use this rig for 3 purposes.

    First purpose: overhead casting in the great lakes surf.

    I remove the floating cheater section and can use the rod as a 2 handed distance machine. the rio outound clear intermediate is perfect for clear water fish that are often in less than 8 ft of water feedng on smelt/alewives. 2 handed rods of 11 ft make 100 foot casts effortless for mulitple 8 hour days on the water. (Thanks Ed for tweeking my casting stroke to achieve this perfection)

    Second stop: spey casting from a boat.

    I can now take this rig, attach the 5 ft. rio cheater to it, and the taper of a rio outbound line allows it to be spey cast with some slight and easy casting adjustments. The floating rear section attached helps me mend and steer in small creeks. The longer lengh of head makes the casting process less clunky. The rig unfurls with a little more control. This was my first attempt at home made intermediate skagit head and I love it.

    I use an 11 foot rod for 2 reasons. I cast from an anchored boat, and I fish small water from the bank. Shorter rods are easier to handle when casting from the boat because your moves wont lift the line or blow your setup like a long rod would. Secondly, landing a fish with a shorter 2 handed rod is much easier when you are alone.

    The other reason is the small rivers I fish call for 2 handed casting, but they are “Very” small by traditional standards. rivers like the PM have trees that loom overhead and bank brush that you actually rub your back against, and a small rod is a no brainer here.

    Therre you have it. a simple section of cheater makes ONE surf rig turn into a boat spey rig turn into a creek spey rig

  43. Pierre Legault says

    “Since this is a big prize, we’re going to run the contest for a month. We’ll pick the winner on January 6th, 2013.”

    AND THE WINNER IS ?????????????????????????????

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