Center pin angling is not a new concept. It is really a traditional style of fishing, that like double-handers was born in the UK in the 1800's. It is also very popular on British Columbia steelhead rivers and has been for many years. In the U.S., it first started gaining a following in the mid-west and eastern states with the development of the steelhead fishery on the rivers of the Great Lakes and in Alaska. Although relatively new in the Pacific Northwest, it is becoming more and more popular for steelhead. I first became interested in the technique about 4 years ago, when I was introduced to it on the Methow by a devoted two-handed rod steelhead junkie. A guy that a lot of you would know if I mentioned his name. And there are more and more fly rod anglers using this technique as an alternative way to catch fish when swinging just doesn't get it done. Some NW fly shop owners have seen an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, and are now stocking and selling center pin rods, reels, and gear. Ross Reels is making a great center pin reel called the Flow, and some rod companies are designing, building, and marketing center pin rods. Both Loomis and TFO currently have center pin rods on the market. And in Canada there is a company called "RAVEN" that makes rods, reels, and gear that are very popular in this country. The theory behind this technique is a long, drag free drift. For me, it means that I can use this technique to help guests present subsurface flies or patterns using small jig style hooks in a way that is very enticing to a steelhead. Especially during cold water periods, when these summer run, east side fish are not willing to move to a fly; you have to bump them on the nose to get them to eat your offering.
I have been using a center pin for two years. Like many other NW anglers, I taught myself. I read a lot of books, looked at a lot of websites, and asked a lot of questions; then put it all to work on the river. Trust me it is definitely a deadly technique for catching steelhead. There is a learning curve, but that can be shortened by fishing with someone who has already made most of the mistakes.
Center pin reels are extremely smooth, machined, single-action reels much like fly reels of old with no drag system except for a clicker. The clicker is used to keep the reel from rotating freely when not fishing. In other words, if you put the rod tip in the air with your set-up hanging down without the clicker engaged everything will drop to the ground. They have rimmed spools so the necessary drag can be applied by hand when fighting a fish. The rods are long, lite, and responsive. Probably the most popular length of rod in the NW right now is 13 ft. or 13 ft. 6 in. I use the 13 ft. 6 in. rods for what I am doing here on the Methow or any of the other rivers I fish.
The great thing about using the center pin technique is that it is simple and a good balance between fly fishing and conventional gear fishing. Center pinning is an awesome traditional approach to catching fish. The center pin can not only save the day, but is also a very pleasant, challenging way to fish. Careful though, like fishing with a double-hander it can become addictive. It is a great way to fish the Methow, Wenatchee, or Grande Ronde throughout the winter.