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Michael White’s Steelhead Rig

Posted on January 19 2013

Whitey's Steelhead Rig
Look what Whitey caught!

We’ve had a flurry of posts recently about steelhead rigging, and in the process of revisiting everything we’ve written we realized that somehow, in the past 4 years, we’ve never run the Expert Rig of one of the most qualified guys out there.  Today we right that wrong.

Michael White a. k. a. “Whitey” is the Bozeman-based rep for Simms Fishing Products.  He’s a former Alaska West guide and current Spey Team Six member.  Let’s just say that if you want to catch more fish than your buddy, you shouldn’t go fishing with Whitey.

Here’s Whitey’s current favorite steelhead rig.

The Summary

  • 7126-4 TCX a.k.a. the Death Star
  • Hatch 9+ Finatic reel
  • Airflo Rage Compact 510 or Skagit Compact 510

The Detail

  • 30 pound dacron backing, tied to the spool with an arbor knot
  • Double surgeon’s loop in the front end of the backing . “This knot goes through the guides quickly and easily. On the Dean you’re constantly in and out of your backing so a low profile knot matters.”
  • 40 lb Berkeley Trilene Big Cat running line in Solar Collector.  “This stuff comes on a big cheap spool so it’s really easy to peel off and replace 100+ feet of running line any time you feel like you have a kink. I like Big Cat compared to the normal Big Game because it’s a little stiffer and has a little lower stretch which helps get the hook set.”
  • Double surgeons loop in both ends of the running line.  “I clip the tag ends really close to maintain that low profile through the guides.  The key thing when you make that knot is to run you fingers up the loop and squeeze slightly to make a little point which helps seat better in the loop to loop connection.”

Rage Compact Rig

  • Rage Compact 510 “for when I’m playing lighter ball”
  • 10 foot Airflo salmon/steelhead polyleader looped to the front of the Rage Compact.  “I use the whole kit, from floater to super fast sink.”
  • Very small double surgeon’s loop tied in the exposed mono tip of the polyleader, coated with Flexament
  • 4 to 6 feet of 12 pound Maxima Ultragreen leader, attached to the front of the polyleader with a double surgeon’s loop and a loop to loop connection
  • Silvey’s Extractor tied on with a non-slip mono loop.  “Lighter rig, lighter fly.”

Skagit Compact Rig

  • Airflo Skagit Compact 510.
  • Rio MOW Medium Tips.  “I most often fish the 2 1/2 float – 7 1/2 foot sink tip”.
  • 4 feet of 12 pound Maxima Ultragreen, looped to the front of the MOW tip with a double surgeon’s loop and a loop to loop connection.
  • Silvey’s Tube Snake or Tandem Tube, rigged just like this with an Owner SSW #4 hook

The Commentary

“I like fishing the Rage head on the Salmon and the Clearwater, where fish hold in softer water. On the Dean I’ll fish it if I’m in smaller water where I don’t have to go as deep as often. The rest of the time I fish the Compact.”

“People say that with the Rage head you should drop down by 30 grains or so compared to how you line a rod with the Compact, but on this setup I like both heads in the 510. Even when I’m using the Rage head I really just use a Skagit-style stroke.”

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