A big part of what you get with a good fly fishing guide is an opportunity to learn about equipment. Year in and year out I see people bring their own gear, most of the time this gear needs to be adjusted. I always bring fishing rods for my clients just in case what they bring isn’t up to my standards. Basically, if you fish with me you can bring your own gear or fish mine, it’s up to you. That said, you should be warned, fishing my stuff often leads to hundreds of dollars being spent afterwards.
Having the right gear makes a difference and some days it’s the difference between an easy day and a hard day. I try to stay up to speed on the latest greatest fly rods, fly lines and fly reels. Keeping up on all the stuff comes at a pretty good expense and there’s a lot of trial and error but the final result is pure awesomeness. In my boat during steelhead season you’ll find several Spey rods and reels plus a couple dozen different lines and sink tips. There is literally no situation I am not ready to address when it comes to equipment.
Steelhead rods for me are Spey rods. I like 6 weights for dry line work and 7 weights for sink tip work. It’s effective to fish 6 weights with sink tips and 7 weights with dry lines so don’t be afraid to run the one you brought. As lines continue getting shorter and more efficient Spey rods keep getting shorter but in general a good Spey rod is something 12 to 13 feet in length (we are not going to talk about “switch”rods but if you got one, bring it). Ten years ago rod lengths were 13 and a half feet to 14 feet in length…todays rods are a lot funner and lighter. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t fish shooting heads today. Shooting heads, specifically, Skagit, Scandi and Rage heads connected to 100’ of running line by a loop to loop connection allow us to use one reel for two or more lines. Reels are like jewelry to most steelheaders, the more traditional the reel is the more of a status symbol. Function over form in my boat, although I do have a Hardy Perfect. Steelhead reels like trout reels must be burly and heavily built, they also need to have a good reliable drag. Steelhead often tear line from the reel deep, deep into the backing so reels need to pick up line fast. I’ve fished many different reels and they’re all plenty good but Hatch reels seem to be the most reliable and error free, I also fish Nautilus and Galvan reels.
MY 2019 Deschutes Summer Steelhead LINE-UP
GLOOMIS IMX PRO 7111, This is my favorite rod. I like a Hatch 7plus Mid-Arbor, 150 yards of Hatch Premium Backing, 100′ 35# monofilament running line, 480 grain Airflow Skagit Scout Head, I prefer 10′ tips,T8, T10 or T14. This rod also marries up nice with a Scientific Angler Scandi Lite 420 grains and a Floating Polyleader or 10′ mono leader if you prefer. This rod is built for tight quarters but still delivers a heavy payload long distance.
Gloomis Asquith 6129, (This rod is also available in 7130) This is my go to single purpose dry line rod. Hatch 7plus Mid-Arbor, 150 yards of Hatch Premium Backing, 100′ 35# monofilament running line. This rod marries up nicely with an Airflow Skagit Rage Head or an Airflow Compact Scandi Head 420 grains and a Floating Polyleader or 10′ monofilament leader if you prefer. This is the best dry line rod ever made for one saltt steelhead!
GLOOMIS IMX PRO 6111, This rod is a new addition to my quiver. Much like the 7111 this is a tight quarters two way rod (float and sink). This is a dry line rod in my boat. Married with a short scandi this rod is perfect for the Deschutes with it’s high grass, overhanging alders and generally tight casting windows. Pair it with a Hatch 7plus Mid-Arbor, 150 yards of Hatch Premium Backing, 100′ 35# monofilament running line, 420 grain Airflow Skagit Scout Head, I prefer 10′ tips, T10 or T14. This rod also marries up nice with a Scientific Angler Scandi Lite 360 grains and a Floating Polyleader or 10′ mono leader if you prefer. This is the sweetest casting rod of the series