In Depth Fly Fishing Equipment Reference List
This is a more in depth reference based on the equipment required to effectively fish for the different species. This will be a review of the different rods, reels, lines & leaders, and flies required for each species. The opinions expressed here are based on thousands of hours spent on the water but nothing is ever written in stone especially in fly fishing. For the Quick Reference Fly Fishing Equipment Reference List, please click here.
The fly rod chosen is probably the single most important piece of equipment in the fly fishing arsenal. It’s highly recommend that a rod should be test cast before purchase to make sure it is acceptable to your casting style (to effectively steelhead and salmon fly fish you should be able to cast at least 50 feet). 9 foot or longer rods are very helpful for line control when making long casts for Steelhead and Salmon on larger rivers. Spey (Double Handed) rods are a definite advantage since it allows an angler to cast long distances with very little room behind them for back casting.
A 7 to 9 weight rod is a perfect choice for our Steelhead and river conditions. They can easily handle the 5 to 20 pound steelhead with enough power left over to battle the ever possible 30 plus pounder. These rods can also cast the floating to 300 grain tips used for most of our Steelhead fishing.
A rod 9 weight or heavier is certainly needed if you wish to land one of these incredibly powerful salmon. If you have light tarpon gear 12 weight or less this will do quite nicely. 10 to 11 weight spey rods are also a good choice. The heavier rods are also nice to have when casting sink tips up to 500 grains and the weighted flies sometimes needed to get down to the Chinooks.
Coho (Silver), Sockeye (Red), and Pink (Humpy)
A 7 & 8 weight rod will work perfectly for these 3 species. They have enough power to battle these fish in a sporting manner. 7 & 8 weight rods can easily handle the 50 to 300 grain tips and the occasional weighted fly need get down to these fish.
A minimum 8 weight rod is required for these extremely hard fighting salmon. Chums probably account for more broken fly rods than any other salmon species. The 8 plus weight rod will also handle the 100 to 300 grain sink tips most commonly used during Chum fishing.
Trout and Char
Lighter 4 to 6 weight tackle is perfect for our 12 to 20 inch average Trout and Char. They also handle a dry line nicely which is what we use for our trout fishing a good 80% of the time. They also have no problem casting the usual size 14 to 6 flies.
We recommend a high quality machined aluminum reel with a smooth drag and a nice wide exposed rim for palming. Make sure that your drag system will operate well when wet and in cold conditions (many do not). A sealed drag system or a reel with no holes in the back is advantageous because it will not let sand and gravel get into the moving components. Any Salmon or Steelhead can be more effectively played by proper palming and rod angle than by relying on a mechanical drag system! I have seen many of the finest Steelhead lost due to reliance on mechanical drags which either failed or were improperly set! There is no finer drag than the human hand and the feeling of tension on a rod to control the amount of pressure exerted on a fish. A disc drag fly reel is NOT necessary in fly fishing for Steelhead and Salmon. Anti-reverse reel are more of a hindrance than a help in proper playing and landing of these fine fish. The reason for this is that the drag is usually set to tight or loose and it is extremely difficult to make proper adjustments to while playing a fish.
Salmon and Steelhead
It is recommended that a high quality reel which holds a minimum 150 yards of 30 pound backing be used. Large Steelhead and Chinooks (particularly in the summer) regularly spool anglers every year even with a 150 yards of backing.
Trout and Char
It is recommended a good quality reel that holds a minimum 100 yards of 20 pound backing be used. Our trout and Char get over 5 pounds and Steelhead are occasionally encountered when targeting Trout.
Line and Leader System
The line and leader system is probably the second most important piece of equipment in fly fishing. It is what presents your fly to the fish once the rod has cast it out. The line and leader system must be able to present your fly in an appealing manner to the fish.
Nicholas Dean Lodge Descension Custom Multi-Tip System:
- 12 to 16 foot floating (depends on line weight and type (Single-Handed/Spey)
- 5 feet 65 grains (equivalent to Teeny 100)
- 10 feet 130 grains (equivalent to Teeny 200)
- 12.5 feet 165 grains (equivalent to Teeny 250)
- 15 feet 200 grains (equivalent to Teeny 300)
- 20 feet 260 grains (equivalent to Teeny 400)
This system is like getting 7 different lines in one. The addition of a regular tapered Salmon and Steelhead leader, a slow sinking tapered leader, and a type III tapered leader onto the dry tip covers almost every conceivable fishable stream condition. It also has the advantages of only having to carry one reel, a leader wallet, and not having to re-string a rod whenever you want to change you line to cover a different pool, or lie.
The Nicholas Dean Lodge Descension Custom Multi-Tip Line System is available at the lodge or it be can order by E-mail, phone, or mail. It is very affordably priced at about $120 US (prices may vary due to US exchange rates and does not include shipping).
The leader is the final connection between the fly and the fish and must be strong enough to land the fish in a reasonable amount of time but subtle enough to fool the fish into striking the fly. Below are the most effective systems we have found for our local fisheries.
Salmon and Steelhead Sink Tip
Sink tip leaders should be Maxima Ultra-Green 2 to 5 feet long. They should be composed of 1 to 2 feet of 25 pound, 1 to 2 feet of 15 pound, and if water conditions are low and/or clean 1 to 2 feet 10 pound. It is very important that the barrel (blood) knot or the double nail knot be used to join the leader materials together and not the surgeons knot which weakens the line to much. The reason for the short leaders is to get the fly down with the sink tip as soon as possible so that it is in the fishes strike zone as long as possible.
Trout and Char Sink Tip and Sinking
The leader systems for trout and char are identical to salmon and steelhead except use Maxima Ultra-Green in 15 pound, 10 pound, 8 pound, and 6 pound and 4 pound for small flies and low clean water conditions.
Steelhead Dry Fly
The recommended leader system for dry fly steelhead fishing is very simple. Start with a 10 to 15 pound tapered 8 to 10 foot Steelhead or Big Game tapered leader with the addition of 2 to 4 feet of 8 to 10 pound Maxima Ultra-Green tippet.
Trout and Char Dry Line
The recommended leader system for dry line trout and char fishing should be 6 to 10 pound tapered 10 to 15 feet with the addition of 2 to 4 feet of 6 or 4 pound Maxima Ultra-Green tippet.
The fly is the final piece of fly fishing equipment that is used to tempt, hook, and land the fish. For Salmon and Steelhead wet flies should have lots of motion, a variety of sizes and colors, and be tied on strong sharp hooks. For Steelhead and Coho surface flies it is key that they float well and cut a large fish attracting wake. Trout flies should represent something tempting to feed on and include fry patterns, egg patterns, nymphs and dries.
Salmon and Steelhead Wet Flies
Some of the key elements in Salmon and Steelhead wet flies in order of importance are motion, sink rate, size, color, and flash.
Motion: A fly with lots of wiggle and motion generally has much better fish attracting qualities since it looks “alive” in the water. This seems to be a highly attractive Quality for Steelhead and Salmon. Materials that help impart this quality are rabbit, marabou, soft webby hackles, and plucked dubbings and mohair.
Sink Rate: Sink rate a fly is important when covering different types of water. When fishing deep fast water it is best to fish heavier more stream lined flies that sink well and get down to the fish quickly. When fishing long even flowing runs filled with large boulders it is best to fish a fly with a slower sink rate that lets the sink tip contact bottom before the fly. This will keep the fly just off the bottom and in the strike zone longer. Some ways to control sink rate are weight of the hook, the bulk of materials (the more water a fly displaces the slower it will sink), buoyancy of materials, and weighting the fly (beads, wrapped led etc.)
Size and Color: The lower and cleaner the water the generally smaller and more subdued colored flies that are used and vice versa.
Flash: Flash is a quality to catch the eye of the fish and at times can help invoke strikes (Coho in particular). Small amounts of flash included in standard patterns can help get strikes instead of just follows, and sometimes flies that are all flash are very effective in high dirty water conditions. Many modern materials can help impart flash in your flies such as Flashabou, Crystal Flash, Cactus Chenille, Angel Hair, Edge Bright and many others.