Last weekend when I was up on the Salmon River, I noticed that more than half of the people fishing for Steelhead were using centerpin rigs; 14 ft. rods, monofilament and imitation (or real) eggs suspended from a large bobber. Clearly, you can get a really long dead drift with a centerpin set-up. I saw one guy who had to have had 200' of line out, and still going. But in some cases, the hook-up is so far from the fisherman, that I wonder if this is really fly fishing, or if it's simply dredging the bottom with a long line.
I'm sure that sounds a little narrow minded and that's not my intent in discussing centerpin rigs. Perhaps it's the skills that are different, but I think that getting a good, drag-free drift is one of the most important parts of fly fishing; in terms of a getting a fish on the line; that and knowing where to cast and how to make your presentation. I work hard at dead drifting my flies and when you're casting up and across, you have just so much time to get a good dead drift before the tension on your line ends that for you. I think that knowing how to get the longest dead drift possible, in each particular moving water fishing situation, is one of the key skills in angling.
Now, with the centerpin set-up and long rod, a lot of that is done for you. You make your cast; which in many of the cases that I watched last weekend, simply meant lobbing the bobber out into the current and then standing there watching as the bobber provided the dead drift for you. All other things being equal, I personally believe that the probability of a hook-up is proportional to the time spent correctly dead drifting your fly in moving water. So, to me it looks like the centerpin set-ups are doing that for you and for some reason, that bothers me a little.
I guess in the end it really doesn't make a difference; we're all on the water to have fun and catch fish. But the centerpin rig just doesn't do it for me. It seems too automated; it seems almost like; "turn off the skill set" and "turn on the remote control".
I'm sure that there are other opinions on this topic; and I did note that Ross makes a centerpin reel that the call the Flow.