Summer steelhead fishing provides some of the most relaxing – and exciting – fly fishing that Oregon has to offer. Ideal water temps and a more trouty temperament make the summer steelhead a perfect fly rod fish, and we’ve got world-class opportunities right in our back yard. We groove on the pace and rewards of pursuing these fish, and love it when they munch wet flies like the Freight Train or Silver Hilton, or explode on surface flies like a waking muddler or foam skater. Although summer steelhead will move to a surface swung fly better than any other anadromous fish in Oregon, they’ll also eat nymphs fished deep, especially in high sun when the fish lay low.
Six weight spey rods are ideal for many summer steelhead fishing opportunities. While we consider 7 wt spey rods to be perfect for all-season use in Oregon, we often find ourselves throwing 6 wts in the summer. Summer typically brings a greater emphasis on floating lines and smaller flies, and a 6 wt spey can cover the water with a light feel in the hand. Perhaps loop on a sinking polyleader to get a little depth and slow the swing, or go full-on Skagit style with a 10’ sinktip for getting down in high noon sun. Some of the stronger 6 wts can even handle the lighter end of winter steelhead fishing where hatchery fish intended for the BBQ are the target.
We’ve gathered a small collection of 6 wt spey rods to cover a range of budgets and tastes, and give the rundown below, ordered from lighter full-flex to faster action rods.
Beulah Platinum 6126-4. This 12’6” rod is the featherweight of the bunch. It is built with the most-tech materials and production methods, incorporating boron into a high modulus graphite layup, which makes it super light and responsive in the hand. This rod has a sweet action that flexes across the entire blank, and is easy to time and fish the close game accurately. Though you can feel the rod flexing deep, the high tech construction very efficiently puts casting energy where it belongs, so that even an easy-going cast can toss a good bit of string. This rod is a natural fit for short Scandinavian shooting heads in the 385 – 400 grain range. With the light action it takes a great bend on a 14” trout, yet can also handle summer steelhead up to 10 lbs. We also like skagit heads around 420 grains, plus 10’ sinktips, for when the sun is high and the fish lay low. The finish uses muted tones for an attractive look, with a charcoal blank, dark olive wraps, and top quality cork with burl cork accents. This is a fantastic 6 wt spey, suitable for crossover trout-steelhead fishing, or as a dedicated summer steelhead rod if you already own a heavier rod for winter fishing.
Echo TR 6126-4. This 12’6” rod has a user-friendly action that seems to suit all casting strokes, which is really no surprise –all Echo spey rods have consistently smooth taper designs. Echo was really in-tune with our summer steelheading when they designed this rod. As a true 6 wt, this rod is more “summery” than the 7 wt in this series, more“medium-fast” than “fast” action, with an easy flex and no need to muscle it. But it still has the TR series pedigree; the progressive taper allows laid-back casting off the top-to-middle, and the stronger butt will punch through the wind when needed. We like to line this rod with Scandinavian shooting heads around 450 grains. It also has the moxie to throw a skagit line (short or switch taper) of 450-480 grains plus a 10’ sinktip, letting it work bigger fish and occasional light winter conditions. The finish is a non-glare matte olive, and the rubberized cork on the very top of the grip gives a positive feel during the cast. This rod is an extremely smooth and versatile performer, and is also the least expensive of the bunch.
Sage VXP 6129-4. This 12’9” rod is a 6 wt that wants to be used all year. It is nearly a 6/7 wt, with a strong and fast taper that handles a surprisingly wide range of line weights. The taper is versatile and very progressive, with an easy flexing tip that goes into a very strong butt. You can choose a lighter line to bring out the fast action feel, or use a heavier line to get more flex from the rod. This lets the rod cast smoothly with a Scandinavian shooting head anywhere from 390 grains (cast off the tip) to 450 grains (digging into the butt). The VXP is a great choice to throw equally well in a calm summer morning or to cut a howling afternoon wind. The blank is finished in an attractive light green finish with a high-quality Sage build and components. Because the butt of this rod is very strong, it can also handle many winter steelhead applications (short of big wild fish), and a skagit head of 450-500 grains plus sinktip makes a good fit. For an angler looking for a single rod for all-season Oregon steelhead that includes light-to-average winter fishing, this is a great choice and an excellent value.