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 2018 Deschutes Summer Steelhead LINE-UP
GLOOMIS IMX PRO 7111, (This rod is also available in 6111) This is my preferred sink tip rod, don’t be fooled by its size. Hatch 7plus Mid-Arbor, 150 yards of Hatch Premium Backing, 100′ 35# monofilament running line, 480 grain Airflow Skagit Scout Head, 10′ of T10 or 12.5′ of T8. This rod also marries up nice with an Airflow Skagit Rage Head 450 grains and a Floating Polyleader or 10′ mono leader if you prefer.
Gloomis Asquith 6129, (This rod is also available in 7130) This is my go to 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.
RL Winston BIIITH 6126, (This rod is also available in 7129 and 7133) This rod is a true do it all rod for Deschutes Steelhead. Hatch 7plus Mid-Arbor, 150 yards of Hatch Premium Backing, 100′ 35# monofilament running line, 450 grain Airflow Skagit Switch Head, 10′ of T10 or 12.5′ of T8. This rod also marries up nice with an Airflow Skagit Rage Head 420 grains and a Floating Polyleader or 10′ mon leader if you prefer.