My steelhead beginnings were reasonably simple. I started out with a 9 foot 9 weight fiberglass rod, a click and pawl reel, and a Hi-D shooting head bolted on to monofilament shooting line with a clinch knot. Depth was achieved by angle of cast and weight of fly, control of the swing was non-existent as the line and fly were at the mercy of the current. This was cast and chance fishing of the highest order.
As time went by, it became obvious that this system worked well in certain water types and failed miserably in others. Fascinated by the shooting head profiles in Trey Combs 1976 book Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies I started building my own lines in order to properly fish a wider array of the situations that I encountered. Little did I realize that this would heavily influence my decisions when I first picked up a two handed rod some years later.
Today, we have a multitude of lines to choose from and tips to put on them, and I am often asked as to which is the best tip(s) to use. Simple question, complicated answer.
Is it possible to cast and fish a misbalanced belly, tip, fly combination? Sure it is. But does it detract from casting effectiveness and efficiency? You bet. I can’t emphasize the importance of the cast enough, as it is the delivery system that defines and allows all of the other important events of the swing to take place. Take a look at the consistently successful steelhead anglers and you’ll find a common theme. Great casters, with spot on, dialed to the extreme systems.
Now that we have successfully combined the appropriate line and tip recipe it’s time to discuss the fishier aspects of the various tips available. Stay tuned for part two…