I was Summer Steelheading on a lovely 16ºF afternoon when it occurred to me; perhaps it is no longer summer. The beer, slushing about, half frozen in our dry box, the icicles lengthening along the sides of the raft, each dip in the river adding another icy layer to our tube’s encapsulation. My rod, a Burkheimer 6128-4, which a few weeks ago was throwing a nice 390 grain dry line was now pressed into service throwing a 450 Skagit and 12 feet of T-11.
The 6128-4 is a true 6-weight, not a 7- in disguise: it’s aptly suited for dry lines. In a pinch it can throw large flies and bigger chunks of sinking tip than you want to deal with, but it’s truly designed for summer runs, think, the Grande Ronde, the Deschutes, the John Day. Putting large sink tips on this rod is like putting four donuts on your new Porsche, you lose a lot of soul. That said, the 6128-4 is my favorite three season rod of all time.
Now, I like beer. Nothing can beat it on a hot summer day and there are spicy higher alcohol winter ales a plenty. But at a certain point, if you’re like me, one has to face the music (probably Christmas), recognize that we are Winter Steelheading, and switch to bourbon, and a heavier seven- or eight- weight rod. Fresh winter fish are bigger and stronger. The rivers are swollen and everything is against you landing a fish. Wild winter fish are jewels and should be respected. Your rod should be substantial enough to comfortably and quickly land these treasures with minimal distress, on both parties parts. So line up your bigger rod and pour yourself a drink, and get ready for winter.