Pro-Staff Gear: John Larison's Fall Steelhead Rig

You want to know what the Pro's fish? This is the first installment in our Pro-Staff Gear series. Check back regularly for gear profiles on Burkheimer Pro-Staffers from A to Z.  We start with steelhead guide, John Larison.  

John Larison's Fall Steelhead Rig

"This time of year, my nights are consumed with dreams of summer steelhead eating skated and chugged dry flies.   I may be in BC or Oregon, but wherever I am, the same rod is in my hand: Burkheimer’s 8134-4, the quintessential dry fly wand, capable of putting bulky Muddlers on point past 100 feet.

Rod: 8134-4

Reel: A Saracione, if I had to pick just one.

Line: Nextcast 45' Fall Favorite in 7/8, looped to Airflo’s 30lb Ridge.  The Nextcast likes a touch more mass in the shooting line to help the loop uncurl and slap the fly to the water first.

Leader: A 12’ leader tapered to 1x, 3x if the water is low and clear.  I prefer knotless as it doesn’t create additional wakes on the surface.

Notes on rigging: I hitch most of my dry flies, and when I do, I place the knot so the leader will emerge from the bottom of the fly—rather than from the farside, as is typically recommended.  This positioning allows the bend to bite to the surface and the shank to angle toward the top, maximizing disturbance, wiggle-action, and floatation.



The 8134-4’s progressive taper retains its sensitivity at all distances, and the Nextcast is its perfect mate.

This set-up allows me to single-spey all day long from twenty feet to past a hundred.  But when a tree leans low or my backcast is otherwise limited, I can make a water-born cast and still reach the fish.  If the afternoon breezes are stiff, I can fish with full confidence; this set up offers unparalleled turnover, even with bulky flies.

I like this pair so much that come winter I loop in the Nextcast 45’ Winter Authority in 7/8, remove the floating tip, and replace it with 12’ of T-8.  Then I can single-spey lightly weighted flies over those farside tailout boulders without stripping the extra twenty feet of running line required by a Skagit head.

The 8134-4 is light enough to accentuate the subtleties of a small steelhead’s fight, but powerful enough to make quick work of even the thickest slab of BC chrome."


Contact info:  John Larison can be reached at, or through his website