Yvonne and I have used the drag on 4 and 5 weight rods quite a bit. We are avid bluegill anglers during the summer months (when smallmouth fishing gets slow), but sometimes a beat comes along...
20"+ Catfish caught in a fast moving stream on a 4wt rod:
Yvonne caught another catfish the next day, only it was slightly larger. I definitely cranked down the drag on both fish.
I was fishing a 4wt for little smallmouth, and caught this guy in the same fast moving stream:
That was in July, and that stream has a lot of pumpkinseed, bluegill, rock bass, green bass, channel cats, and big and small smallmouth. I could use a 5/6wt in case a 16" snmallmouth takes my #12 bugger, but most of the time we're catching fish under 12 inches.
Fishing for stocked trout (10-12"), I hooked into this beast with a 5wt:
I was VERY grateful to have my Galvan OB-4 and its drag to tame that beast!
I hadn't been able to catch anything that afternoon, and went to a spot where I knew there might be crappie. Surprise!!!
April 7, 2009: I was fishing for stocked trout, and caught this on my 5wt.
I was using a little Wooly Bugger on 4X tippet, and that fish made several runs. The drag was used.
Earlier that year, I was fishing the local stream to see if the bluegill were biting. Mt #10 Green Weenie made an abrupt stop, and then line began peeling of my Orvis BBS III's reel. After several LONG runs, I landed this channel cat on a 4wt with 4X tippet:
I had a click/pawl reel and a 4wt rod in hand just before hurricane whatever hit during the first week of September this year. I wanted to fish my favorite stream, and hoped to catch a few decent smallmouth (10-12"). I was using a #12 Wooly Bugger, and caught was having fun catching pumpkinseed. My line was jerked with that all too familiar way a good smallmouth takes a fly, and a battle royale began. The stream narrows in this section from 200 feet down to 30 feet, and creates quite a stiff current. The smallmouth immediately peeled off all the line it wanted, but I finally got my palm on the spool rim. Getting line back on the reel was tough, and that fish made several brutal runs. Having a soft 4wt rod didn't help much when trying to turn the fish, and I had to make sure it didn't get into that narrow whitewater stretch. I was using 3X tippet, so I wasn't too afraid of breaking him off by palming, but palming was made difficult due to me chasing the fish in fast deep water, and that looming chute just 10 yards downstream. I was able to get the smallmouth to within 15 feet of my rod tip, and it was bigger than anything I've ever seen in person! It was moving downstream, and when it was just a few feet from that whitewater chute, I simply grapped the rod's handle. The fish jumped like a tarpon, flopped onto its back, and spit the hook. I was convinced that if I had a real drag system, I could have focused more on keeping the fish out of the current, and landed it. Having caught several smallmouth in the 16 and 17 inch range, I can assure you that this beast was well over 20 inches. A true trophy, and not something we see too often in Pennsylvania. The water rose 18 feet during the hurricane, and when the flood subsided, I went back armed with 5 and 6 wt rods, and a disc drag reel. While I did catch a decent number of 10-12 inch smallmouth, the beast was nowhere to be found. The fight lasted for what seemed like an hour, and just being able to battle that fine fish was something I won't forget for years.