Preface, just so you know who you’re dealing with: I’m not a very good steelhead fisherman being self taught over the last several seasons. I’ve made a half-assed sort of effort getting out on local rivers as much as possible but success was about what you’d expect – minimal… Casting was fine, I’m no great spey caster but I can flop it out to a reasonable fishing distance. I think I just didn’t (still don’t) know how to fish worth a damn and anything good that happened was probably by accident. It’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t when there are so few fish to be found.
After a lot of experimentation with rods, I found one last year that seemed to ‘click’ for me, a Guideline LeCie 13’7″ 8/9. It just felt right from the first couple casts, probably all in my head but fishing is a confidence game. So when I decided to get a lighter summer rod, I went looking for the smaller 12’6″ 6/7 LeCie. It’s a beautiful rod to my eye, more of a modern, spartan Scandinavian vibe than rods like custom Meiser’s or even production Sage’s. The rod has a down-locking skeleton reel seat and pretty nice cork although nothing like the beautiful grips you’ll find on a Meiser or Burkheimer. Being a ‘scandi’ rod, the rear handle is fairly short compared to other spey rods but I think I actually prefer the short bottom grip as I only use the thumb and first two fingers anyway. I know that other people have differing views on this aspect of the rod. The blank is hard to describe, at first glance, it appears to be almost black but in the light it has a very slight blue/green tint. It has alignment markers and the other little things you’d expect on a high-end rod. Guide wraps are clean and neat in clear or maybe translucent blue(?) with a couple gold accent threads in the mid-line over the guide foot. The guides are Recoil single-footer rather than snake guides. I prefer the aesthetics of conventional snake guides but the increased durability of the Recoils is a nice feature.
Based on the limited selection of spey rods (and many single handed rods) I have cast, I would rate the 12’6″ LeCie as medium fast with a definite leaning toward the fast side. This is on a scale of a Loomis Metolius 4/5 and an old Sage VT-Something on the slow side to a Sage ‘Deathstar’ TCX 7126 on the fast side. Last year I did a side-by-side between the Deathstar and the LeCie 13’7″ 8/9 and my impression was that the Sage was definitely stiffer across the blank. I feel that the action on the 12’6″ Lecie 6/7 is pretty consistent with it’s bigger siblings – fast recovery, a little ‘tippy’ but not so fast that even a semi-proficient spey caster like myself can feel the rod flex deep into the blank with a good cast. As you would expect, a strong emphasis on the bottom hand pull with a high stop will be rewarded. The rod has a very different feel from something like a Meiser classic/MKS, Deer Creek, etc. Granted, a lot of the above impression will be line and caster dependent. Also – my 6/7 is a 4-piece model while my longer 8/9 is the older 3-piece version.
My primary purpose for the rod was to be summer-run fish with smaller flies so I have been using an Airflo Compact Scandi in 330gr. This is the higher end of the 20-22gram (309-340gr) recommendation on the Guideline website. Based on the line weights, it becomes apparent that this is really a 5 weight rod in conventional U.S. AFTMA type line weight standards, maybe even a heavy 4wt compared to other top US rodmaker’s recommended grain weights. For example, Burkheimer’s 6126 has a range of 420-480gr and Bob Meiser’s 1265 has a scandi head range of 350-400gr.
For terminal tackle, I looped on a 10′ intermediate poly leader and another 5′ of tippet. In the grass field by the house, distances of 70-80′ were easy with snake rolls and switch casts. I could stretch it out to 90-100′ with some effort but the pile of leader at the end of the cast wasn’t so pretty, however, that says more about the caster than the rod. In real fishing conditions, distance for me is definitely less but not a barrier to fishing effectiveness. I paired the rod with a 3 3/4″ Hardy Bougle and a .24 Monic coated gelspun running line. The Bougle seems just about perfect for the rod in both size and aesthetics.
Last summer, in order to give my steelheading success rate a boost, I engaged Jim Kerr for a solo instructional/fishing day. I told him that I was just as interested in learning to fish as catching fish but he wisely laughed that off with a joke. We discussed my preferences/goals and I let him know that my primary interest was in swinging flies with the two-hander. After driving to check out the fishing pressure of a couple spots, he asked if I’d be willing to forgo the float and hike into some less-pressured spots that are good for swinging flies. Of course I said “Hell yeah!”. I get the impression that this is something he reserves for clients with a reasonable level of fitness and a strong predilection toward swinging flies. Author’s note – I have nothing against nymphing, beads or anything else. I just want to get halfway good at swinging before I take on technical nymphing. Plus, I like to tie and fish pretty flies…
The river was about 60-80′ across in most spots with a high and very bushy bank tight to the edge of the water. Most casts ended up being to seams along faster deeper water on the far bank, about 65-70′ so shooting roughly two rod lengths of line although in some places I was fishing with only the head out of the rod. It would have been extremely difficult to fish these runs with a single-handed fly rod. Jim commented that light spey rods were real game changers in these tight, low-water conditions.
The LeCie seemed just about perfect to me for these conditions. Other than the occasional flubbed anchor, the far bank was never really a problem. The length was great for line control but wasn’t so long that I was in the overhanging branches and brush except when landing a fish near the bank. The rod had plenty of backbone for putting the wood to the smaller summer-run fish of 6-10lbs that we were targeting but able to protect the light tippet we were using from my inept fish-handling. I was fishing the same intermediate 10′ polyleader but with a longer step down section of flouro tippet due to clear, low water and spooky fish. In retrospect, I think the 330gr head might be a bit heavy, especially for a skilled ‘pure’ scandi caster. I was able to easily use sustained-anchor casts like the Snap-T as well as touch-and-go casts like my favorite river-right Snake-roll. I’ll probably give the 300gr head a try but the versatility of the 330gr for this sort of ‘scandit’ approach is handy when max distance isn’t needed and you are faced with awkward stance options.
In the video below, I am shooting 3 loops of running line combined with the 29′ head and 15′ of leader and tippet – so a cast of approximately 80-85′.
I have since tried the rod with a 400gr Skagit Flight and light (T8) MOW tips. It cast this combo just fine with a medium sized streamer, however, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as casting the light scandi head. A slightly lighter skagit head would have been better but if I had the option of using a different rod for this type of fishing, I would. I’d probably bump up to the LeCie 12678. Still, for those odd deep slots you might want to probe when fishing for summer runs, A Skagit head and a couple of tips would be worth carrying along.
On one trip, I even tried two-hand overhead casting. I was fishing with a skater and was on a wide-open bar with a nice slot a looong way away close to the far bank. Single-speyed the line into the air then did a controlled back and forward cast. By slowing down the forward cast I was able to get a very tight loop and pretty close to a 100’ cast. Not a tactic I’ll use often on the rivers I fish but I might take this rod to the beach sometime with an appropriately weighted Rio Outbound line and throw bombs for Coho salmon…
In conclusion, it’s a very nice rod that works well on small/medium rivers which I would recommend to people in the market for a summer-run stick. I plan to use it on the Ronde, Deschutes and Wenatchee as well. If big wind is an issue, something that will throw a heavier line might be a better option. I don’t think it’s significantly better/worse than the other high-end options from the other rod-makers but it does have a slightly different ‘feel’ for lack of a better term. Pragmatically, I think they can be found for significantly less money. I bought mine via eBay using the “Make Offer” option, which was accepted for what I thought to be a good price, about 2/3rds of what I would have paid for a new Sage TCX. Warranty service could be a risk but it seems like Guideline’s renewed presence in the US with the (much more expensive) Reaction series may have alleviated that issue.