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Thread: Centerpin fishing article with focus on Alaska rivers...

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Centerpin fishing article with focus on Alaska rivers...

    Floats, Pins and Chrome


    You'll find that center pin fishing is a cross between gear and fly fishing.


    By Mike Perusse




    It was after a long day on the Kenai and a few Advil later that I realized the previous 12 hours I spent fly fishing was in fact the reason my body was sore. Meanwhile, the three guys I fished with looked fresh as a daisy. They were fishing center pin rods and reels. Me? I was casting flies all day.

    That morning we had launched the boat at 5 a.m. to beat the crowds at Rainbow Alley, and showed up ready to take pictures of the rainbows that were bulking up for an Alaskan Winter Wonderland. Guide Jake Zirkle said, "Ready, cast left." And with my fly rod and reel I did. Two back casts and one final forward cast with a hard double haul and my bead and indicator hit the water. I was in the bucket. Just about that time, Keith Graham, Mike McGovney and Jake all cast their center pin rods and their floats hit the same area and we started to cover the drift. Keith's float went down and then Jake's disappeared. Mike grabbed the motor and followed the fish.

    By the end of the day I realized that I had made two, if not three casts, to their one; and they caught three times as many fish. Suffice it to say, that day I vowed to learn the art of center pin fishing. And while I still very much enjoy fly fishing, I gained a newfound respect and admiration for center pin fishing.

    Center pin fishing has been around for decades having originally begun in Europe. It was later perfected in Canada, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. As if often the case, Alaska ‘Supersized' the technique. It is now slowly working its way into the fabric of the Pacific Northwest fishing scene and it won't be long before center pinning is as common as drift fishing and fly fishing.

    When fishing with center pin rods and reels, the mission is to keep the lines straight and get the best drag-free float you can; then prepare yourself for the fight of a lifetime. With center pinning, we're talking about long rods and drag free reels. No indicators here, they're called floats. No fly line, it's either braided line or mono. And no flies either, just beads. And the reels don't have drags - not unless you consider your palm and fingers a drag system.

    If you have ever float-fished or indicator-fished from the bank or a boat, then you're likely already well versed with the premise of center pin fishing: keep the line out of the water and watch the float track down river. The key component about center pin fishing is to track the float. You'll also discover how effortless the line comes off the reel. Because the reel provides zero resistance, it's easy to manipulate and it gives you a nicer presentation.

    Center pin reels have no drag, but they do have a clicker for transportation. After the clicker is turned off, the line basically falls off the spool allowing smaller baits or floats to float drag free. Picture your favorite fishing hole and the ultimate cast to the top of the drift. Imagine the float tracking all the way through the hole undisturbed; it looks natural and you're not constantly correcting the float to compensate for the line drag.

    Reels are like rims on your car - you can get by with just about any reel, but if you want some bling, and you also want some quality, then look for Islander, Ross, Kingpin and JW Young reels. They come in just about every wicked color that's out there. Reels can range from $149 upward to $800. (The cool thing about Islander reels is you can interchange the spools and create your own unique look).

    Long rods with rings instead of reel seats work best. This allows you to move the reel anywhere on the cork, and helps balance the rod to your personal preference. Most of the rods sold today are longer and lighter than 10 years ago. Some rods are 2-piece and some custom built rods are 4 feet. The majority of the center pin rods run between 10 and 15 feet long with 13-foot rods dominating the market. If the length scares you and you get overwhelmed with the casting of the reel, you can always put your favorite spinning reel on the rod and have the ultimate float rod. There are plenty of rod manufacturers to choose from and like anything, there's a wide price range. Any reputable rod manufacturer will have a line of center pin rods and you can expect to spend anywhere from $169 to $700 for a good rod.

    Your reel and rod investment can be used for all sorts of species, from small bass and trout, to kings, silvers, chums and giant rainbows (and don't forget the ever-endless fighting carp).

    Tackle is very similar to what you carry now in your vest, backpack or bed of your pickup. To build leaders you'll need monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line. Use small, micro swivels to eliminate line twist and to connect your leader to the main line. Silicon tubing is recommended for attaching floats, and split shot to help seat the float in the water.

    When expressing things that are important, I can't express enough on split shot. (If you fly fish please cover your ears for a bit). The split shot plays a key roll in seating the float. For example, take a float and toss it in the water. You will notice that it lies on its side. Now, take the same float and add weight to the bottom of it and you will see it ride up-like. Now add a little more and it will sit in the water even further. This is a key step in any float fishing, not just center pinning. Most of the time you start with your heavy split shot first, and scale down to smaller sizes; it also helps with the cast and prevents tangles. The better your float rides or tracks, the better the presentation. Just remember that the float is the vehicle to take your presentation to the fish.

    RIGGING: There are all types of ways to get rigged for a day on the water. In my experience, I would say that the following are some of the more popular.

    Rig 1: Use 10- to 12-pound mainline and attach to a small swivel (size 7 or smaller). Tie on a 16- to 20-inch section of 8- or 10-pound leader material. Attach two pieces of micro tubing and then another small swivel (size 7 or smaller). From there tie on a 16-inch section of leader material, which is then tied directly to whatever presentation you're fishing. When you use two swivels you'll get less line twist and it keeps the split shot off the last section of leader.

    Because the depth and speed change constantly, not all water fishes the same. This is why using the micro tubing pieces as slide-ons allows you to move the float anywhere on your line, up or down, over the top of micro swivels, as well as react quick to the changes in water conditions.

    Rig 2: This is similar to Rig 1, but does not use the second swivel. More of a straight bait theory, this rig allows for less knots and cleaner presentation overall.

    Rig 3: By eliminating the micro tubing and float you've created a setup similar to the standard style drift setup that allows the drift not to get hung up and fish without the floats or indicators.

    With rigged setups you can use all types of floats - big, small, fixed and slip. Personally, I prefer the fixed style float when fishing for steelhead and trout. I like a slip bobber or float when I'm fishing for salmon or if I'm fishing deep, slower holes.

    PRESENTATION: The presentation can be an endless choice of weapons. The great thing about center pin fishing is you'll find that sand shrimp, eggs, nightcrawlers, flesh patterns, stoneflies, prawns, beads, yarn and scent, along with jigs and rubber worms are all effective offerings.

    CASTING: Casting is what puts this all in motion and there is no perfect cast, nor are there points for style. If you can get the secret sauce to the spot, you win. If you hook a fish, that's even better. There are no bad casts unless you do it three times in a row. If you do it once just play it off like you meant to. If it happens twice don't look around. If it happens three times pull your hood over your head and quietly exit the fishing spot.

    With the longer rods and the reels that spin freely you can make casts upwards of 100 feet across a river. But most of the casts you'll make will be shorter, and closer to you. My recommendation is to start close (15 feet is a good reference point) and then work your way out. Some of the best drifts are close to shore and often overlooked. Make the cast with confidence and cast straight. Avoid slapping the water with your line and float, and don't allow a big belly of line on the water. George Cook, one of the premier fly casters of our time who fishes and teaches with two-handed rods says, "A straight cast fishes the best." He is absolutely correct. Whether you're fly fishing or slinging bait, the straight cast fishes best because your rod tip is in perfect sight of your float, and there is no belly in the line and your ready for a quick take down,

    Side-Cast/Spinning Side Cast: The most popular cast is the side cast/spinning side cast. This allows most anglers to get the idea of center pin fishing quickly, and it allows the line to come of the side of the reel just like a large open faced reel. Your hand acts as a guide allowing the line to come through your hands and then back to the first guide on your rod. If you're trying this for the first time I recommend using bigger floats and casting short distances. This practice allows you to feel the load of the rod and see what kind of effort it takes to make the cast.

    As you progress with your casting you will realize that some of the casts are coming off the reel. That means you get the spool spinning as you come forward in your cast. A lot of the casts are side arm, and this keeps the spool from being shocked. Your worst nightmare is when you shock the reel. This is like the combination of a level-wind backlash and confronting a brown bear and her cub. The outcome is not pretty.

    My recommendation is to start slow and watch your casting as you load the rod. It takes little effort to get the spool to spin. Start with walking down to the river and simply placing your float in the water. Raise your rod tip high and watch the spool start to spin. It flows freely and easily. Keep that thought in your mind when you make the first couple of casts. Don't overpower the rod; allow the rod to load up and then release the line. This would be the time to tell you I didn't invent the art of center pining, I just watched and learned from some of the best. This is also where I'll drop some names of those who helped me become a better center pin fisherman. Thanks to Chris Sepio, Mike McGovney, Jake Zirkle, Keith Graham, Billy Collette and Eric Neufeld.

    If you ever get the chance to try center pining give it a shot. It's like mixing fly and gear together and having the best of both worlds. It's fish-tested and gear-approved. People have been fishing this way for a long time, and if you like taking your game to a new level, this might be ticket.

    When I decided to learn to use center pins, I had to force myself to leave behind my favorite drift rods . Admittedly, it was tough. But after awhile it started to click. I liked the center pin drift and feel and I liked the casting off the reel and using my palm and fingers to fight the fish. It's cool and fun and addicting. And I got sick! But I am not looking for a cure - just looking to get through today and hope for tomorrow. It truly is the best of both worlds.

    Mike Perruse is a manufacturer's rep for G.Loomis, Shimano, Power Pro and Simms, among others. He lives in Seattle, Wash. and spends as much time on the water as possible.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member scott_rn's Avatar
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    Nice article, Dan. Good thing ya'll didn't post it in the fly fishing section.

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    Look again!

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Guilty as charged


    Put it in the Palooza sticky as a buddy there just got a new pinning outfit.



    -Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    I still don't get why you wouldn't use a bait casting reel? Its easier to cast, better on the fish (got a drag) and isn't pretentious.

    Letting your bobber go out of sight and then fighting a rainbow without a drag as described in this article is downright disgusting.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    I kind of agree with Monkey. I have seen center pins in action, they are deadly on the dead drift. But I personally feel that a guy should fly fish or use conventional gear. I just bought a new Shimano Curado low profile baitcaster and a 9'6" St Croix Wild River because I cant all ways get the drift I want on a fly rod or just need to throw some metal. Thats my 2 cents.

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    Dan. Thanks for taking the time to explain all of this It has always looked deadly, but too mysterious to sort out. Your explanation is clear and detailed. I've got to try it. Do you recommend the Islander above all other reels? Can one use a spey or switch rod, or is the center pin rod a different beast? Have you used flesh, or only beads?

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    Letting your bobber go out of sight and then fighting a rainbow without a drag as described in this article is downright disgusting.
    I can fight a fish just as effectively and safely (for the fish of course ) on a reel without a drag as with one. I'm guessing you have never fished a reel without a drag monkey but believe it or not back in the day many a fly reel didn't have drag in fact the fly reel i started on was a dragless hand me down and i learned to palm that thing extremely well and released many a fish unharmed.

    Maybe you should actually try for yourself before throwing out ignorant statements.

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    I still don't get why you wouldn't use a bait casting reel? Its easier to cast, better on the fish (got a drag) and isn't pretentious.

    Letting your bobber go out of sight and then fighting a rainbow without a drag as described in this article is downright disgusting.
    Spoken like someone who doesn't have a friggin' clue about the technique.

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    I wish all you pinheads, lead chucking, fly line throwing dorks would get out of the river and let me and my bobber and worm have some fun.

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    Edited for accuracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by qkayak View Post
    I wish all you pinheads, lead chucking, fly line throwing dorks would get out of the river and let me and my bobber and shrimp have some fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    Spoken like someone who doesn't have a friggin' clue about the technique.
    Are you talking about Dan or the Monkey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by qkayak View Post
    Are you talking about Dan or the Monkey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kodiak Commando View Post
    I can fight a fish just as effectively and safely (for the fish of course ) on a reel without a drag as with one. I'm guessing you have never fished a reel without a drag monkey but believe it or not back in the day many a fly reel didn't have drag in fact the fly reel i started on was a dragless hand me down and i learned to palm that thing extremely well and released many a fish unharmed.

    Maybe you should actually try for yourself before throwing out ignorant statements.
    you know for some one who claims to be a self discribed "purist" you think he would have know that. And even more to the point the first drags on a fly reel if you want to call it one was a "clicker" just like pin reels..........

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    GOL, I will send you a PM man.


    Great conversation guys


    It amazes me how folks deem a style of fishing as some sort of fad when it has been around for hundreds of years. To call such a naysayer ignorant just scratches the surface. Drop by any major fly shop in Anchorage and ask them why they now carry centerpin reels and float rods. Just because this style of fishing recently got popular in Alaska, does not mean it is a fad. Just took a while to get to you fellas.

    If not for Drifter, I would never have heard of it at all. Certainly won't be taking off in NC anytime soon. However, for Great Lakes steelhead fisherman, folks in the pacific NW, much of Canada, this style of fishing has deep roots. Go across the pond to Scotland and England, they have been using float rods and centerpin reels for a few hundred years.

    Fishing is fishing whether you use a fly rod, centerpin, spinning rod, baitcaster, or a frigging cane pole. I personally own several of each. Don't laugh at the cane pole till you have shared a 12 pack with a good friend on a river bank catching bream on crickets. Employ what ever gear and technique you choose. I choose to use them all and will pull the arrow from my quiver that is most suitable for the task at hand. I enjoy fishing. Period.

    Seems a shame to be so narrow minded you can't enjoy other types of fishing. Makes me wonder if these same folks eat SPAM every day for lunch. I like pizza, corn dogs, burritos, burgers, etc... myself. We all make our own choices, or lack thereof depending on how you look at it.



















































    -Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    Well said Dan. I feel very much the same way. I grew up fishing cane poles with crickets and grubs not store bought ones either. Good times!!

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by power drifter View Post
    Well said Dan. I feel very much the same way. I grew up fishing cane poles with crickets and grubs not store bought ones either. Good times!!
    No crickets fer this canook, we used a good ole fashion worm under one O them red and white plastic bobbers.
    Tweren't no whar what ta pick you up a tube O crickets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post

    Drop by any major fly shop in Anchorage and ask them why they now carry centerpin reels and float rods. Just because this style of fishing recently got popular in Alaska, does not mean it is a fad. Just took a while to get to you fellas.
    One doesn't carry pinning stuff, and I go there, I've stopped going to the other places because they carry pin gear.

    If you are fishing to kill and eat, do what you want, I don't care, but when you are pounding the crap out of already pounded fish and dragging them around a corner in the river and then releasing them, that is just disrespectful to the fish and your fellow anglers.

    Can someone please explain why not just use a baitcasting reel?

    (and yes I've fought plenty of fish with minimal drags I've been fly fishing since I was 10, and have had all sorts of horrible gear, I'm sure I would have killed a fair amount of fish because of that, but I was pretty bad at fishing back then, so I didn't hook to many big fish, I've also had my drag go out at various times, I'm sure I stressed the fish overly because of it)
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Your ignorance on this subject knows no bounds Monkey.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    Can someone please explain why not just use a baitcasting reel?
    Cause it still looks like a fly rod DUH! Silly monkey. Hey man change your sig to "I fling Poo"

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