I'd go for the 6wt, just on the off chance that he ties in with a bruiser.
But don't plan on landing many steel with a 6wt. When I was up I sat with a guy for 30 minutes as he fought a steelie on a 6wt. He said he was fighting it for about 10 minutes before I got there. He eventually had to break it off as it was getting to dark to see.
I guess the way i see it, the 6 is perfect for the smallies, adequate for the occasional steel, and great for most trout situations. The only real question that remains is how well can a med/fast 6 throw small drys say 18-24. Passable? I never fish anything that small so i have no idea!
I use primarily 4 and 5 weight rods in Colorado. Therefore, like Frank, when I decided to add to my arsenal I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a 6 weight rod that I use less than 20% of the time. I purchased a TFO Lefty Professional (medium-fast) and a Sage Fli (fast) and got each for less than $200. I fished them both for a season and determined that the fast six was more what I needed. I will probably sell the TFO this season. I almost never fish big enough water that requires really small dry flies on a 6 weight. I need to pitch streamers and heavy nymph rigs and deal with wind once in a while. in the circumstances you are talking about, I would have a hard time going with a 6 weight rod as my "only" rod. My buddy finds his fast action 5 weight to be the perfect tool for nearly every application and he did just fine with that one rod for quite a while. If I were going to fish for Steelhead (which I never have), I would either borrow a rod from a friend or see if a fly shop would rent me one for a weekend or something.
I think you have hit on one big reason so many of us have so many rods. I use a particular rod for a particular species, a particular stream, or even a particular type of fly. Sure, a 6 WT is a great all around rod. I use mine for just about everything. But I have several 6 WT rods, and many more lines. Each is setup for a particular day on the water. The action of the rod, the type, weight, and taper of the line, and the reel determine what I use each rod to target.
I have learned that I can, in theory, fish for just about anything with a 6 WT. But I cannot necessarily do it ethically. For instance, if I were fishing for a large species, a 6 WT could mean a protracted fight, which could harm the fish, thus endangering our sport. Conversely, I have seen a 6 WT rod turn a bluegill or a brook trout into a flying fish, which can do just as much damage, if not more.
Sure, you can land lots of different fish on a 6 WT. It just has to be the right 6 WT, with the right line, the right leader, and the right tippet. And you can absolutely make a 6 WT throw dry flies very well. It just has to be the right setup with a practiced hand behind it.
Regulars might have been waiting for this picture to appear again...LOL!!!
25" of largemouth on a 9' 5wt Z-Axis. No problems at all getting him in, at least not until I tried scooping him into my little trout net. That was
early in April a couple of years ago, and had it been warmer the bass would have been tougher. I've caught plenty of bluegill, trout, and smallmouth on that rod, and all have been fun. The Sage Flight is reported to be very similar in action, and less than half the price. I used to toss the huge Jitterbugs, and Hula poppers at bass, but have really reduced the size of my bass flies in the past couple years. While fishing for trout with #16 and #18 BWO's this past Spring, I caught almost as many 10" smallmouth as trout! The LMB in the photo was caught on a #10 Woolly Bugger, and is by far the largest bass
I had ever dreamed of catching.
While were talking big fish on lighter lines, I caught this channel cat a couple of months before the LMB. I was testing a stream for bluegills in March, using a #10 Green Weenie. Now this was a cool fish! I had my Orvis BBS reel on a 4wt rod, and he made that thing scream. Having only caught a couple of small catfish in lakes on a fly, I went to the PA Fish & Boat Commission website to find out more about channel cats. Apparently they enjoy the same water as trout, and the site recommended using the same nymphs that you would use for trout. I think the fish looks kind of silly with that Green Weenie in his lip, but what the heck.
Your bud may have to spend a little cash to get the rod that will work well at what he's trying to do.
My 6 weight is also a 5 weight and a 7 weight. True story. It is just plain awesome how the Winston BIIx uses just enough rod to get the job done.
It's cheaper getting a BIIX (which are on sale everywhere now) than several decent rods to cover the range that this one rod has.
I would use it in a pinch for Michigan steelhead but draw the line there.
Oh, and I think other major manufacturers have caught on to building rods with a lot of range, but I'm not so sure they upgraded their series like that yet and so aren't on sale.
Depending on where he plans on fishing in MI, he will more than occasionally be catching brook trout, and fishing things like trico's, griffiths gnats, ants, beetles. This is not really 6 wt fishing. save for large streamer fishing, I use a 4 wt for trout all the time, and sometimes a 3 wt.
IMO there is not a one rod that does it all well. If he buys a 6 wt, no matter what make/model, unless he is Lefty Kreh, his presentation will suffer on these small flies. Not to mention that the average brook trout in MI is 6.5 in long. It would be like fishing with a wench instead of a fly rod. I have found that "most" trout waters are best fished with a 4 wt for most flies, and occasionally a 5 wt to accomodate the larger flies in my box. I have been fishing for 25 years and a 5 wt would have handled every trout and largemouth that I have ever caught. You can also chuck some pretty heavy stuff with a 5 wt. If I had one for trout and largemouth it would be a med-fast 5 wt. Even still, brook trout do become flying fish on the 5 wt.
If I were to only have one: 8.5 ft 5 wt. If I were only to have two: 8'4wt for 90% of my trout fishing, and 9'6 wt for bass and trout streamers.
Just to throw another wrinkle into the discussion, you need to think about setting the hook. Bass need hard hooksets while the more delicate mouths of trout are another matter. I fished a "trouty" 6wt for largemouths briefly and it was completely inadequate when it came to sealing the deal. Conversely, you wouldn't want to use a bass-specific rod for trout for any number of reasons (soft tip, delicacy of presentation, etc).
Actually, fishing the New River in Virginia, we use 8wts for smallmouths. But then, there are some big fish hangin' around there.
Wish I had a good answer for you rather than just adding more complexity. As someone stated earlier, that's why many of us have so (too) many rods.
---------- Post added at 12:46 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:42 PM ----------
Originally Posted by Cool Hand Hodge
I ended up convincing him to pick up a 5 and a 7...hes good now...