Today’s steelhead blog comes to us from Jeff Hickman, a two-handed-rod steelhead guide from Oregon who owns Fish The Swing LLC. He is also a signature Idylwilde tier and veteran guide for Deneki Outdoors, where he specializes in targeting chrome kings on the Kanektok River (Alaska West) and bright, feisty steelhead on the Dean River (BC West). Jeff has published several of his tying creations in Fish Alaska magazine’s Fly of the Month column.

Hickman’s Steelhead Spey Rig

The setup below is my go-to for Dean River steelhead; however, there are similarities to some of the fall fisheries in Alaska, most notably the Karluk River on Kodiak or any of the Bering-side rivers of the lower Alaska Peninsula, where this rig would be ideal. 

The Summary


  • Ross Reach 7130-4
  • Ross F1 size 5
  • Scientific Anglers Skagit Extreme, 520 grains

The Detail

  • 275 yards of 30lb Dacron backing, attached to the spool with an arbor knot
  • Scientific Anglers Floating Monocore Shooting Line 25lb, .030″ I loop both ends of the running line. This is best done by doubling the end over itself and securing a 10″ loop with two nail knots of 16lb Scientific Anglers Freshwater Tippet. I loop one end to a non-slip loop knot in the backing.
  • Skagit Extreme Head, looped to the other loop in the front end of the running line
  • Scientific Anglers T-12 tip, cut to 8- to 14-foot lengths, attached to the Skagit head using the factory loops
  • 4″ butt section of 25lb Scientific Anglers Freshwater Tippet attached to the leader end of the tip using an Albright knot
  • 2- to 3 feet of 16lb Scientific Anglers Fluorocarbon Tippet, looped to the butt section with a non-slip mono loop
  • Pink/Purple Hickman’s Sid Fishes tied-on using non-slip loop knot

The Commentary

In mid July on the Dean, having higher water conditions with a fair amount of color is common. This means that the steelhead are more comfortable and will typically travel and hold closer to the edges in fairly shallow water. It’s often not necessary to wade deep, cast far or try to dredge the bottom. The lighter setup with the 13’ 7″ rod is plenty to put 15-plus-pound steelhead on the beach, and it’s much more enjoyable to cast and fish all day than a heavier, longer rod. What is important is that you have a reel with a reliable drag system and one that can hold a lot of backing! I have been spooled on the Dean – it happens regularly. The new Ross F1 size 5 reel can hold a ton of backing and the sound it makes when it’s spinning at warp speed is one of my favorites!