Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight!

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Justin Goes For It. Photo by Louis Cahill

Justin Goes For It In Patagonia. Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

“Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Bring a damn cannon!”

I often bring a 6-weight and an 8-weight with me when I plan on fishing with streamers.
I make the decision as to which rod I will use based on water conditions and what sinking tip and patterns I will be using that day. For fast flows that require me to throw heavier tips, or heavier patterns I’ll take the 8-weight. If the water is slow and low, allowing me to get away with lightweight patterns, then I’ll bring along the 6-weight. Sounds like a reasonable thing to do right? Well, not for everyone.

The 8-weight tends to get the raised brow, or the “WTF?” reaction.

Some people like to get stuck on the fact that I’m fishing with a “saltwater rod”, or a “bass rod”, for trout. That’s not what it’s about though. I’m not fishing with an 8-weight so I can hoss every fish in the river into my net in thirty seconds or less, or because I’m afraid of being under-gunned. The reason behind this is simple. It takes less effort for me to cast a heavier rig with an 8-weight, than it does a 6-weight. Over the course of an entire day, it makes a huge difference. At the end of the day my arm doesn’t feel like jello, and I’m less likely to make poor casts related to fatigue. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Bring a damn cannon!
Try chucking a five or six inch articulated streamer with large, lead eyes on a Type-6 tip in a steady 10mph wind with 30mph gusts…. all day. When you hit the truck, you’ll be thanking the good lord that you brought along that 8-weight, and your casting arm will too.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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43 thoughts on “Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight!

    • I don’t doubt that one bit. I’ve not thrown a streamer rig with one yet but I’ve often thought they’d make great streamer rods. Thanks for the input!

    • The Sage SM is my favorite, but never tried it on the “Circus Peanut” crowd. Funny you should recommend this because I was talking with a couple of guides and we all thought this Rod would work well for big junk – thanks!!

      • It is not a high performance salt flats rod for blasting record casts into a gale wind. I would call it a medium fast action, that loads well into the butt of the blank.

        It is my prefered stick for close to medium long distances (call it 60feet). I can strip to within 5 feet of the tip, water haul into the back cast to get the head out and blast out a forward cast to the target, no false casting. I find it to be rather forgiving of less than perfect technique.

        The axiom is a fast rod, if you don’t have line out it won’t load. It is a cannon in the breeze but you gotta have good technique and be willing to work for it.

  1. I’m definitely a supporter of the 8 wt streamer rod. 8wt, Rio OBS, MOW tips. That rig just plain works.

    I still get funny looks stringing up a bonefish rig to fish a river 70 feet wide, and have had to explain my logic on many occasions.

  2. Just moved to Jackson and told my friend I’m busting out my 8wt so I can blast these big streamers…looked at me like I had 2 heads. Very ironic you post about this! I would say a good amount of the folks around here think anything above a 6wt is overkill – I have to disagree with that when chucking these fat streamers and want to cover 50′ + when on the river.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. If you had one rod to fish big articulated streamers what would it be? (Weight/length) Also, what rod brand/model would it be? Need help on choosing a rod for smaller rivers!

    • If I’m throwing articulated streamers (which is 90% of the time) then I’m throwing a 9ft 8wt. My current stick is a Redington Predator. It has tons of ass without being too “broomstick-ish” and allows me to carry these bigger flies easily. The Sage One is a great streamer rod in my opinion as well, but I’ve only thrown the 7wt. The Orvis Helios 2 is a great stick as well. When it all boils down to it though, YOUR preference will likely be different than mine so go try a bunch of rods out before you purchase one.

  4. I usually use the same lines (7wt GPX, 7wt Magnum, or 250 grain Streamer Express), and just change up the rod. I will spool these lines on a 9’6″ 7wt Loop Multi, 10′ 6wt Grey’s GR50, or for small creeks I grossly over-line my 9′ 5wt.

  5. An 8 weight is not bad. I’ve got a buddy that routinely uses 9 and 10 weights when throwing streamers for trout. Of course, I give him a lot of grief and happily keep working with my 7 weight, but your point about casting lots of weight with ease makes sense, at least for the 8 weight. Now a 10 weight might be a little over the top…

    • Now you’ve got me thinking about rigging my Musky/Tarpon rod up for the trout stream just to screw with my buddies.

    • Hmmm…. I’ve not pulled out my Salt/Striper rig for chucking streamers at trout yet. But who’s to say that I won’t need to if water conditions call for some heavier fare. The heavier rod/reel might negate the anti-fatigue benefits though. I’ve spent plenty of days on the front of a boat casting at stripers with my 10wt and just about every time I can count on a sore casting arm. Especially on the good days.

  6. Not necessarily bad to go in overgunned so you “can hoss every fish in the river into my net in thirty seconds or less.” I occasionally fish streamers for bull trout and I don’t want to needlessly tire them out. They’ve made a long trip usually. Instead, I use an old 7 foot fiberglass rod that I don’t even know the rating on. Using a butt-end of a leader and a barbless streamer, I try to get them landed an released quickly without much wear and tear. Is “hossing” bad for the fish?

    • That’s not a bad idea for a stout, fish hauling rig. As for “hossing” being bad for the fish…. I can’t say that I have any evidenced based answers for that, but I’ll say this…
      I don’t think “hossing” a fish is nessecarily any worse than playing a fish as you would if you were taking your time. Someone might have facts that say otherwise, but I would just rather have a fish that isn’t quite as green, and be less likely to flop around during the release. I hate dropping fish, especially trout, because the risk of a fatal injury is so high. I play my fish fairly without over-taxing the fish so that they are easily subdued and not acting all crazy while I’m trying to get them back in the water, or during the occassional photo attempt.

  7. I love this post. i use 6wt, and I love it. I use a 2 wt and love it! but when it comes to streamers and 250 grain sinking line —> do the logical thing and get the saltwater rig out!

  8. I throw my 8wt on the smaller rivers all the time. I’ve found that the fish are so accustomed to seeing nymph rigs all the time, and when a 6in streamer gets in their face, well they usually smack it! And I get funny looks on my local rivers all the time! But my favorite part is the looks on their faces when they see the rod doubled over on a fish a few casts later!

  9. Dude, big supporter of your concept! The bigger sticks do not only handle better in wind with heavier flies, but the heavier lines perform better in larger rivers where longer casts are required and where you’ll often fish deeper, fast flowing water. The added up-side is that if you do hook into a big fish (which will likely happen seen as you are actually getting the fly ‘in the zone’ with heavier tackle), the heavier gear will handle the brute-fish better too.

    It is standard practice to fish ‘light’ for trout in South Africa; the guys seldom go heavier than a 4 wt (they usually carry a 2wt or 3 wt outfit to our streams/rivers), even when fishing larger rivers. Bollocks I say! Next time you take on a mission to Lesotho and the larger rivers in the Western Cape, such as the upper Breede River or even the lower Molenaars River (with raised water levels in the early season), take a 6 wt instead.

    Same with New Zealand; at times I felt undergunned with a 6 wt and would’ve preferred a 7 wt in NZ – so stop enquiring about “which is better for NZ, a 4 wt or a 5 wt?”, just take your 5 wt with a backup 6 wt and a 7 wt. Then add a 9 wt to that for sea run browns and salmon in the Rakaia and the ‘lagoons’ (river mouths).

    Go big or go home and “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Bring a damn cannon!”…

    • Thanks Leonard! I enjoy fishing the lighter 2 and 3 weights as well, but I fish those rods for a reason: light lines, light flies, small creeks, etc. If you’re throwing a 6 inch streamer, you’re going to need something bigger. I’m guessing that the folks around South Africa are fishing with lighter rods because they’re fishing lighter tackle to be more stealthy and thats fine. But if you’re fishing these big flies you’ve got to size up! Glad you liked the post! It’s awesome to see everyone commenting!

  10. yes…I always bring my Orvis H2 8wt and the 6wt saltwater…clients invariably end up using the 8 wt…even for medium size streamers. It’s just easier. Why beat yourself to death.

  11. I draw even more stares wading with a stripping basket…

    To weigh in on the rod discussion, I prefer Hardy’s 1 piece 7wt Zenith as my ultimate streamer rod. It handles fairly large articulated flies and sinking lines up to 300 grain. And it has that more fully flex I look for in a streamer rod with an incredibly responsive tip. If you want to start chucking a game changer and other heavy plus-sized streamers, however, you really do have to saddle up an 8/9 wt rod.

    • I bet that one piece makes for a sweet rig dude! I’ve cast a couple of those and they are very nice. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Thank you Justin you just helped me but feel bad for bringing my 8 “gauge” to the Hooch.
    1. It’s easier for my rookie skills.
    2. My arm / wrist / elbow doesn’t bend as much because mentally I trust the bigger rod more than my 5.
    3. Because at 6’5″ I’m not as finesse-full as Louis!!

    • Dude, don’t feel bad about bringing that 8wt to the Hooch! I’ve put my 8wt to work on Dukes! Glad this helped out!

  13. I have an Orvis HLS 7# for my fishing here in New Zealand and I also have a 8 line and a 6 line – and when the wind gets up on the lakes you need an 8 to turnover the nymphs or lures . . . a 6 line just wouldn’t hack it in the wind – I also carry out a 7 slime line just in case !! :0)

  14. As a [mostly] streamers guy, I couldn’t agree more. I think this is twice as right when it comes to fishing streamers or huge chernobyls from a drift boat in Patagonia and even more when casting big bulky freshwater dorado flies (where also you may hook into a very big one any moment). Going 6wt on those conditions eventually translates into poorer casting, at least for the barely average angler, like myself.

  15. To me, this kind of defeats the purpose of fly fishing. I prefer to use small flies, preferably ones that imitate, well, a fly. I love a light, slow action rod that is a pleasure to cast. But, to each his own. That’s just how I enjoy the sport.

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