A tool for every job makes a good steelheader into a better one. Just think about this: you wouldn’t use a hand saw to cut through a fallen tree. It would take way too long and require much too much effort. So what do you do? Grab a chain saw and have at it. The right tool for the right job makes it easy and efficient. The more efficient you are, the quicker you can get to your goal. An anglers best tool while on the water is their shooting head and we have narrowed it down to three essentials heads that get the job done in nearly all situations you encounter while on the water.
Short Head – Airflo Skagit Short
This head is our go-to for most situations that you run into while fishing for winter steelhead. It handles nearly every situation well, but is especially useful in tight casting quarters. Through the use of a micro D-loop, you can propel a 60-90 foot cast with little effort, while shooting line underneath an overhanging tree or up against a high bank. In addition, you can get a little more creative with tip lengths as shorter heads make it a bit easier to cast a longer tip.
Long Head – Airflo Rage Compact
For those situations where you just don’t need to get deep or cast big flies, we like the length of a Rage head. For one, they are just plain fun to cast. Who doesn’t like throwing light flies on longer heads? The great thing about Rage heads is that they can throw sink tips too. We run tips between T-7 (or T-8) and T-10 (or T-11) and can throw unweighted or lightly weighted flies. For shallow riffles or tailouts, or fishing close to the ocean, you don’t need to get deep so why not cover more water, strip your line less, and have more fun fishing.
Tricky Water – Rio Skagit Gamechanger
For those complex pieces of water or for when you want to get deep and slow way down. Sometimes the water is fast, or sometimes you have mixed currents that will pull a standard shooting head out of the zone. We have been playing with the Float/Hover/Int./Type 3 sink heads which have proven extremely useful on the OP in a multitude of situations. Pair this with a 10ft standard sink tip and you have a deadly effective tool on your more complex rivers like the Sol Duc and upper Hoh.
*Staff Favorite – Bridge Tributary
Coming in at around 42-44 feet in length for your standard winter steelhead rods, these lines are a ton of fun on the water. This line is much more like a Rage Compact but 10 feet longer. It can still throw light tips and light flies but may be a bit more difficult to cast for new spey casters. However, if you can huck, this is a line you need to try.