Winter “Steelhead-ing” in the Real Northwest

 

Article by: Jeffrey Goudreau

JEFFREYGOUDREA-STEELHEAD (3)

 

For those of you that know me, I am normally living in the far north fishing for northern pike, lake trout and other northern trophies.

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But recently I have moved to the Pacific Northwest of Canada on the Skeena River watershed to learn a new fishery and get out of my comfort zone a bit. The fishing here is open water year round and offers anglers interested in Steelhead, Salmon and other trout a heavenly playground to explore with trophies of all species. A bit different than the -50 degree winters I have been used to for the past while. A welcomed change!

The days are short here now. Typically I am at location for first light to maximize my days on the river. The day’s low temps are ranging from 0 to -5 degrees Celsius and a high of + 4 Celsius. The rivers are at their lowest of the year and allow an angler to learn all of the nooks and crannies before the spring floods the banks. So my strategy is to collect as much data during this period to allow me to map all pools, runs and areas that will be used for holding positions by salmon and steelhead later in the season.

 

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Up here there are two ways to fish big steelhead…Spey…And non-Spey.

I am not a purist of anything really. I try to avoid adopting this mentality because I feel as though it limits your life’s experiences and ultimately your trophy count once you’re on your deathbed. I once was walking downstream to my lodge room, after fishing on one of the best Arctic Grayling rivers in the world, with an amazing 50 fish plus day with multiple fish over 25 inches. I came across this guy that was casting dry flies. I asked how his day was going. He said, “lost a small one…but on the dries” as though that last bit was to be more meaningful than the fact that he was skunked, while on the best river in the world, for the species we were both after. I had a beer with the guy later and debated this topic. He wouldn’t budge and held steadfast to the idea that a dry fly caught fish was a better fish in some weird way. And I realized the downfall of stubbornness in anglers that night and will always remember this as a life lesson of what not to become. You do what it takes to get the fish in the net. Gear, bait, fly or bow and arrows. You learn to be efficient with any tactic and you learn how fish react and move in all conditions. Period.

Lately I have been working on learning the tributaries of the Skeena River. It is one of the best wild steelhead and salmon fisheries in the world. I’m finding fish ranging from 23 inches to 37 inches and on the hunt for a true 40 incher. The average weight seems to be 8-11 lbs and the fish are what seem to be majority summer run fish, full of color. There are silver “fresh-ies” lurking about in the mix and new runs beginning at the lower portion of the rivers in higher numbers now.

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Typically I am working walking pace water or tailout sections of a pool floating pink worms, egg patterns, beads and various jigs. The key is to have a decent expanse of this water condition. The smaller slips of water don’t seem to have fish in them or at least not for long during this period. They are congregated in larger numbers together in areas and are getting ready to spawn presently. Within just a few weeks this will begin here and most of the rivers will shut down for spawning.

I’m using two different Okuma rod and reel combos. A T40x TX-C-1092ML with a low profile Cedros and a Guide Select Float Rod GS-S-1363FR with a Trio 30S. The float rod allowed me to work my floats much easier at far distance than the T-40x with its extra length and was a smooth rod for hook sets and action. Awesome feel with big fish spooling out line. The T-40x allows for me to feel all strikes and to move big fish out of the heavier current. Also a very smooth rod. I’m super impressed with these rods and will be grabbing some larger sizes to deal with the larger salmon entering the rivers in upcoming months.

Lessons learned since getting onto the big “steelies” up here… Do not forget your net or you will spend most of your time warming your hands while you should be fishing…There is no substitute for good quality gear when dealing with big trophy fish and numbers. Enjoy life while you have it and are healthy!!

 

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T-40X Salmon and Steelhead Rods: Advanced, Precise, Exceptional

A point of separation between Okuma Fishing Tackle and many fishing rod brands available in the United States is simply that at Okuma, we own our factory.  When you purchase an Okuma fishing rod, we built it. There are no sales agents, no middlemen markups, no disconnected factory punching out widgets for some unknown company and end user. We are the factory.

In the development of T-40X salmon and steelhead rods, fishing rod action, sensitivity, responsiveness and durability were the qualities that defined perfection.  Furthermore, we wanted these rods to be accessible to anglers. In the sam manner that SST rods brought IM8 graphite, refined actions and quality components to anglers craving true performance, T-40X would put “premium” within reach.

Clackamas River Steelhead Fishing

T-40X rod development considered every aspect of performance to bring exceptional performance within reach of every day anglers.

T-40X salmon and steelhead rods begin with 40-Ton carbon fiber blanks. Requiring less material to develop the necessary power, the material lightens the rod blanks and increases both sensitivity and responsiveness. Even in applications such as trolling where inherent sensitivity is not necessary to success, when a fish is hooked, every move it makes is telegraphed. The experience is rich.

Of course, for “feel” techniques like drift-fishing, 40-Ton carbon fiber enhances all aspects of sensitivity and speed of response.  In all fishing applications, the lighter blanks are simply more fun to fish.

The guide sets include ALPS Deep Press stainless steel guide frames for exceptional strength in rocky river environments as well as aluminum sleds in the case of the salmon trolling rods. Aluminum-oxide L-ring guide inserts are hardened for a long life fishing abrasive braided lines and any monofilament in existence. Casting rods utilize double foot guide frames for strength while spinning rods utilize single-foot guide frames.

In a radical advancement in salmon and steelhead fishing rods, the handle systems on  float fishing, side-drifting and drift-fishing rods are split grip designs utilizing carbon fiber components. Split grips eliminate weight in what is an unused portion of the rod handle. The grip area remains very comfortable while the conical butt section still lends itself as an easy leverage point under the arm or behind the forearm when fighting fish.  On salmon trolling models, full 1k woven graphite rear grips slide effortlessly in and out of rod holders.

Overall, forward-thinking T-40X handle systems are sensitive, durable and perhaps even more importantly, cleanable in fisheries where the heavy use of baits tend to make a mess of rods and reels.

The T-40X rod series includes 16 technique-specific rod models, each built to excel in the most prominent applications.

The Spinning Rods:

Split grip spinning handles have all the support where you handle the rod and none of the weight were it’s unnecessary.

TX-S-792L- True Southern Oregon Side-Drifting

“Side-drifting” is a blanket term for two different techniques: side-drifting and free-drifting. In true Southern Oregon style side-drifting, baits are basically drift-fished at a about a 45-degree downstream angle from a moving boat. When the bite is felt, the hook is set hard. Boat handlers adjust the amount of weight and distance/angle of the cast for each run fished. Rods are compact, like the 7’9″ length here, to provide control. Casting distance is not a huge issue as the boat operator positons close to the fish. In true side-drifting, the TX-S-792L is the perfect choice. A quick, sensitive tip combines is backed by a substantial butt section. Of course, this rod can serve double duty pitching spinners in the pocket water of small streams.

For the record, Free-Drifting is casting well above the drifting boat and maintaining an upstream line angle at all times. It’s fantastic on the larger, gravel-oriented streams in Northern Oregon and Washington, but can be a very frustrating experience on more compact and bouldery rivers to the South.

TX-S-882ML- Light Drift-Fishing Rod in Spinning

Rated for 6- to 12-pound monofilament line and 8’8″ in length, the TX-S-882 takes on many light-line, smaller stream applications. Most often it’s a manageable length drift rod that excels in lower flow summer steelhead applications. It’s also wonderful for epic battles with fall silver salmon when rivers are down. Ample speed in the tip responds right now to the subtle mouthing of a bait or simple pickup of a spinner. We fish this rod with 6- to 10-pound mono in lower water conditions that demand stealth, or fish light floats with 14-pound braid.  The TX-S-882ML also makes a great pink salmon rod in odd years in Washington, even years in Alaska.

TX-S-902M The Drift-Fishing Rod In Spinning

Just 4-inches longer than the TX-S-882ML but with much more power from its’ 8- to 17-pound rating, the TX-S-902M is the drift-fishing rod for spinning reel anglers. Maintaining exceptional sensitivity when drift-fishing pencil lead or slinkies through rocky runs, the rod delivers a lot of inherent power to drive hooks home and control fish in winter flows. For anglers wanting to multi-task, this is our choice because it’s much easier to float fish with a faster action drift rod than it is to drift fish with a more parabolic float rod. For multi-tasking species, you’d also want to be packing the TX-S-902M for sockeye, pink and silver salmon fisheries.

TX-S-962L- Side-Drifting/Free-Drifting Rod

When you want to toss light free-drifting baits to exactly the right spot, this is your rod. A supremely delicate tip is backed by a moderate action constructed through the 9’6” length of the rod blank. When the fish takes the bait, clear feedback is delivered as the rod loads with the weight of the fish. Hooks confidently find their hold. Rated for 4- to 10-pound line the rod cushions the explosiveness of hot fish with every move they make. Smooth, even pressure makes short work of the largest fish. Split grips are quick and easy in the hand.

TX-S-992ML- Versatile Steelhead Float Rod

In float fishing, the keys to success are a smooth accurate casting stroke and the ability to maintain control over the complete presentation. At a full 9’9” in length and a beautifully progressive action, the TX-S-992ML is a go-anywhere float rod that excels in all but the largest of steelhead streams. Rated for 6- to 12-pound monofilament, most will use 15- to 20-pound braid on this rod for its floating characteristics and ease of mending. Whether a lightweight fixed float and jig, or bait with a bit of weight and a sliding float, casting, mending and fish fighting become intuitive as the rod responds to your every move.

TX-S-1032MH- Big Water Float Rod

In general, the further North you go, the larger the steelhead rivers become.  At 10’3” in length and rated for 10- to 20-pound line, the TX-S-1032 is the big water solution.  40-Ton carbon fiber build keeps the rod extremely pleasurable to fish, while its extended length works bigger gear, bigger water and bigger fish like a dream. The rod also makes a great Spring Chinook rod on smaller rivers like California’s Trinity and Oregon’s Santiam system.

TX-S-1092ML- Long Reach, Light Touch Float Rod

Successful float fishing shares the necessary discipline of line control with fly-fishing.  The better line is controlled to create a drag-free drift of the float, the more successful the angler will be. Reaching a full 10’9” in total length, yet rated for light 6- to 12-pound line, the TX-S-1092ML uses 40-Ton carbon fiber to deliver a float rod with incredible finesse. Use the long length to keep line off the water and effortlessly mend bellies as they develop. In no time you’ll be picking apart distant fish-holding seams with surgical precision.

TX-S-1092M- Long Reach, Big Water Float/Drift Rod

Like the TX-S-1092ML, line management and control over the presentation is the strength of these 10’9″ rods. Where the TX-S-1092M differs is its’ increased power.  Rated for 8- to 17-pound line, this rod will not only power-fish steelhead floats, it’ll also drift-fish and swing spoons with pinpoint control. On Oregon’s Deschutes River and the large rivers of Northern Washington and British Columbia, the TX-S-1092M matches the environment perfectly.

The Casting Rods

Custom reel seats and comfortable trigger grip deliver supreme sensitivity and a rock solid grip.

TX-C-882ML- Summer Run Drift Rod

From small stream to large, high flows to low, there’s a lot of difference in the power requirements to effectively fish for and land steelhead. At a slightly shorter length and rated for 6- to 12-pound line, the TX-C-882ML balances very nicely with light offerings in small streams or lower summertime flows. Many anglers have also enjoyed this rod when used to fish plugs, where a wide spread can be easily achieved.

TX-C-922M- The Drift Fishing Rod

At a full 9’2” in length and rated for 8- to 17-pound line, the Tx-C-922M is the ultimate drift rod. Long enough for exceptional distance and to control the belly in the line while being easy to handle and cast accurately. A light tip is backed with substantial power to move the largest steelhead. Split grips with “Carbon Cone” handles fit the hand perfectly while making the butt section simple to reposition as the fight demands, even with bulky winter clothing.

TX-C-992ML- The Float Rod In Casting 

Spinning rods are often preferred for float fishing because of their ease of use and ability to cast extremely light weights. With the addition of Okuma baitcast reels like the Helios and Komodo that utilize ABEC-5 spool bearings, free-flowing line from a baitcast reel is more achievable than ever before. The TX-C-992ML, rated for 6- to 12-pound line serves double duty as a light drift rod and an awesome float rod for a casting reel. The progressive rod action begins with a light tip and gains power through its length, allowing spirited fish to put on quite a show, while maintaining a tight line at all times.

TX-C-1092ML- Long Reach, Light Weight Float Rod

Make the cast, mend the line, feed the drift- the cornerstones of successful float fishing. Long rods minimize drag and line “belly” on the water. Consistently, anglers want longer rods to ply distant current seams. At 10’9″ in length, we’re not at center-pin length here, but close. Don’t let the medium-light power in the TX-C-1092ML fool you, at this long length, you’ll flat move fish. A wonderful rod for light to moderate flows.

TX-C-1092M- Long Reach, Power Steelhead Float Rod

In bigger water and higher flows, it simply takes more power to fish the gear and control fish. This medium-power version of the 10’9″ float rod is rated for 8- to 17-pound line and will take on any steelhead environment. Additionally, the extra power crosses over as a very capable drift-fishing rod and a primo spoon-swinging rod on large, wide rivers.

TX-C-1032MH- Steelhead/Salmon Float Rod, Drift Rod, Troll Rod

Rated for 10-20 pound line, there’s little this rod cannot do. First and foremost it’s a big water float and drift-fishing rod. However, it’s 10- to 20-pound rating and long action makes it a great rod for trolling smaller spring chinook salmon or silver salmon.  On Washington’s Olympic Peninsula or British Columbia’s Northern rivers, it’s simply a great all-around workhorse for much larger than average steelhead, silver salmon, chums and much more.

The Trolling Rods

Full 1k woven carbon rear grips operate effortlessly with rod holders. T-40X carbon fiber grips are durable and easy to keep clean.

TX-C-992MH- Do Everything Salmon Trolling Rod

The 10-foot plus rods are the rage in herring trolling these days, but the fact is, the long length can be a little impractical in smaller boats.  Finding balance is the TX-C-992MH. At under 10-feet, it’s easy to control and land fish. With a wonderfully progressive action and outstanding power, it’s a phenomenal performer for herring, Kwikfish, anchor fishing wobblers and Jumbo Jet Diver and bait. Also makes a great salmon float rod for larger model chinook.

TX-C-1062MH- The Salmon Herring Rod

More and more of our salmon opportunities are on the big water, requiring powerful gear that delivers a delicate, progressive action that allows fish to commit themselves to a solid strike without pulling the bait away from them. At 10’6” in length and rated for 15- to 40-pound line, the TX-C-1062MH is the rod that will travel with you to every salmon trolling fishery. Built with a full carbon fiber rear grip for easy use in rod holders, the premium materials are quickly apparent as you clearly feel every movement hooked fish make.

The complete line of T-40X salmon and steelhead rods are available in finer stores now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Dual Force Drag?

Spinning reels are being reborn.  From delicate drop shot presentations for bass, to float fishing for river steelhead, to speed jigging powerful offshore species… the spinning reel is climbing to new heights of performance and popularity.

Easy to own and simple to operate, the single weakness in all spinning reel designs is the fact that the line must make a 90-degree transition coming off of the spool and going around the line roller before heading to the first rod guide. Where conventional reels efficiently pull straight from the spool, this 90-degree angle on a spinning reel  introduces a pressure point on line that’s capable of taking knots and weak spots past their breaking point if not backed by a super smooth drag system.

Exploded image of Trio spool and Dual Force Drag system

Components of Dual Force Drag include the traditional top drag stack as well as the oversized drag washer located beneath the spool.

Enter Dual Force Drag, with far-reaching benefits that turn spinning reels into precision big fish and light line performers. First the easy part:  Dual Force Drag is an Okuma drag system that utilizes the spacious underside of the spinning reel spool to provide a large secondary drag surface that operates in concert with the traditional top drag stack.  Moving into direct benefits, Dual Force Drag delivers better heat dissipation, greater longevity, even pressure on the reel spool and higher available drag ranges.

Heat, in any drag system, is the enemy.  Heat swells internal reel parts, and when it comes to drag systems, heat creates wildly fluctuating pressures and deteriorates components.  By dramatically increasing the surface area of the drag system, Dual Force Drag dissipates heats much better than a traditional top stack.  Lack of heat means start-up pressures remain smooth and even, as do pressures when big fast fish make smoking hot runs.

When under the pressure of running fish, Dual Force Drag offers greater balance.  If you’ve ever used the brakes on a car where one side is worn, the remaining side pulls very hard when braking pressure is applied.  Same on a reel.  As drag pressure ramps up, a traditional top stack brakes only from the top of the spool.  The internal components receive the wrath of the one-sided load and are forced to carry the strain.  With Dual Force Drag, top and bottom of the spool receive the load evenly, and like your car, brake with even pressure that protects the alignment of all the other components.

Wahoo taken on a Cedros spinning reel.

Wahoo are known as some of the fastest fish in the ocean. Cedros spinning reels proved the right choice for Into the Blue hosts Scott Walker and Steve Roger.

And here’s the kicker: since Dual Force Drag delivers a massive increase in surface area, maximum drag outputs increase big time too.  Our 40-size spinning reels with standard top stack drag systems will output 13-pounds of maximum drag pressure.  The same 40-size spinning reel with Dual Force Drag, including Trio, Cedros, VSystem and Coronado series, will output 20-pounds of drag… an increase of more than 50%.  Even if you do not currently push your drag system to its’ limit, there’s good reason to enjoy the increase.  Most importantly is wear.  By operating in the low to mid-range of the drag’s capacity, the washers will last longer, heat disappears as an issue and buttery-smooth is operational norm.  And in the age of braided lines, should you want to put that 40-size through its’ paces, by all means, buckle down and drop the hammer.

As mentioned, Dual Force Drag is a feature on Trio, Cedros, VSystem and Coronado series spinning reels.  It’s also a feature on Makaira and Cedros lever drag offshore reels, but that as they say, is another story!

In all cases, the best thing you can do to extend the life of all your spinning reel drag systems, regardless of type, is to back the pressure off them completely after each use.  Finish the day, back off the drag.  Make it a habit and all your drag systems will operate better over the long term.