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Steelhead Flies, Salmon Flies, and Accessories that Catch Fish on the Swing - "Just Add a River"

The Fish Magnet Gear Guide
Steelhead and Salmon Spey Fishing
By Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

November 21, 2016

Featured Gear: Redington Chromer 8136-4 and 8126-4 Spey rods (link to rod)

I love boots! Cowboy boots, hiking boots, hunting boots, everyday mid high shoes, you get the picture. But I find myself always jumping into the same pair of leather slip ons nearly every day to work around the shop, tie flies or go to the mailbox. They aren't my favorites, they are just, well, functional, accessible, easy, and tough! That's the way I feel about these Chromer spey rods.

Last winter when Jeff Layton at Grabflies custom fly shop showed up at my fishing shack, Travel trailer, with a Redington rod, when his usual quiver of rods are T&Ts, Guidelines, and Echo 3 rods I was wondering what his angle was! I was fishing my usual LOOP Cross SI 8130 which soon turned into my Winston 8140 Boron lll after breaking the LOOP on a grab- and- run Queets river hunk -O- steel.

Throughout the next two days I could see that Jeff was firing his usual 130 foot plus casts that he normally reserves for his Guidline cannon, and through my steelhead- induced- searching haze, it was starting to dawn on me that he was doing it with a Redington rod! My 14 foot Winston is tip heavy in a Skagit application and was wearing me out, so I took a break at the end of the run and watched Jeff pick the water apart with long reel chirping casts...OK, that's it! That rod can't be that good?! Gimmi that thing! Holy crap, how much running line do you have out for Pete sake?! He hands it over and I casually reel some in to save face, you know the move!

My first impression was that this rod is almost as long as the $1000 Winston I just abandoned and yet it felt much lighter, better balanced with a much lighter reel than I was using. All he had on it was a 3.5 ULA Lamson reel, about 8 oz. I love quality above all else and the cork is tight and high quality, but initially did a double take on the rubber cork ends, but in fact is very functional and well done, not just to protect the end of the cork that normally gets beat up, but is superb for holding slippery mono running line with wet, cold fingers.

River right, my first tentative double spey about 90 feet hits the reel so hard it was in danger of breaking the Lazar 40# running line... Sheesh. Honestly it felt a little out of control, like too much power and not enough brakes. I just made a few casts was all, I slowed up my stroke and soon settled into it. This rod had my full attention! Jeff's new weapon was the Chromer 8136-4 and as it turns out has a truly fast action but a pretty soft tip with a powerful butt section that I would call a mid-flex progressive type action. A really sexy black on black finish with a hint of silver wrap that had me thinking Sage One.

Once I got home it took me about two days to order a rod from Jeff, at $399 it wasn't that painful for a rod that if you didn't know any better could be a $1000 for the way it fishes!

OK, that is the frosting and hype of this rod which I wouldn't take back on a threat! But having said all of this, here is the pros and cons of this rod after a year of fishing it from last winter through this fall. I nearly always grabbed it to go just like I always jump into my easy slip on shoes. It is fun to fish, even small fish will bend the soft tip over and give you a thrill! It is THE PERFECT setup for a beginner because of how forgiving this rod is to cast. It pairs up perfect with a RIO Skagit MAX 625, a 600 is ok but doesn't fully load the butt of this powerful rod as you become a more proficient caster. I set my son up with his own Chromer 8136-4 and a Redington Behemoth reel spooled up with 40# OPST running line, and of course the afore mentioned RIO MAX 625 head. It's a long story, but I started him out on the Cowlitz River the night before with the double spey river right cast he would need for the next morning. By 10 a.m. the next day he had his first two nice hatchery steelhead under his belt and was awkwardly casting 60-70 ft. using an intermediate tip and a Grabflies 2.5 inch purple/ red MOAL Leach. The next day he landed a hefty 14# steelhead casting at least 90 feet. His biggest challenge was handling all the running line he was throwing! This setup is my number one recommendation for a beginning spey caster. Yes you may evolve into something more refined and expensive eventually, but this is a serious setup that even an experienced caster will appreciate and use or at least as a fantastic backup. Chances are pretty good you might even continue to use this rod for a long time, and maybe even buy a backup Chromer or Two! Makes sense, you can buy three of these rods for the price of one real high end model!


Redington 8136 and 8126


I have waxed poetic about the Pros

  • Fast action, great for tight loops in the wind and great with heavy tips and flies.

  • Great balance with a light 8-9 oz. reel.

  • Soft tip, powerful butt. Fun for fish 6 to 25 lbs. Though I will take a 9 or 10 wt. rod for the truly big fish.

  • Rubber tip cork. Very functional soft, tough rubber. Nice to pinch mono running line with wet cold fingers.

  • Inexpensive high quality rod made in the same building as SAGE.

  • Awesome warranty and customer service. I lost a tip and had it sent to me on a phone call in 2 days!



  • Soft tip, also noted as a pro, not as easy to feel subtle bumps as something like most higher end fast action rods with firmer tips and higher modulus graphite. However... once again great for a novice, or when a softer tip makes fishing more intimate with the conditions. Hooking steelhead securely is an art. The soft tip allows the fish to turn with the fly without pulling it back out causing well hooked in the corner of the mouth takes. My son is 5 for 5 hooked and caught except for one broken tippet on an exposed rock. With a stiffer rod, you sometimes need to slip a loop or give to the fish to get the same results. A novice doesn't need to have to worry about that with this rod as much. Having said all that the soft tip could also be looked at as a Pro instead of a con for sure.

  • Rubber tipped cork is functional and of good quality but will put off higher evolved casters with a distinguished taste for a more traditional look.
    • As a disclaimer to comparing to high end models, rods are like golf clubs... a different club for different shots. There are many times a stronger higher end rod is nice for bigger flies, tips, etc. and times when a rod like the Chromer will make it more fun to fish smaller more intimate water with lighter tips or flies, or even having more fun with smaller fish. Just comparing this rod to a top end rod is in itself a real compliment. This rod is FUN and has been my go to rod more often than not.

      I'm saying that this rod is nice for smaller steelhead tongue in cheek because the fact is, the few of us with these rods that I hang with have landed Steelhead over 20 lbs. and Salmon up to the 30 lb. - see monster King featured in the video "Salmon on the Swing". This is a serious rod!

      So really, not much for cons!

      As a side note I also picked up the 8126 from Jeff and have used it enough to say that it is like the little brother. I would choose it over the 8136 for smaller rivers and brushy banks. Figure on losing about 20 feet on casting distance as well of course just being shorter. It matches up perfectly with a RIO Skagit Max Short 575 which will rock in the winter with heavier tips and 4 inch flies.


      My Fish Magnet Gear Specifications and Ratings by Grabs!

      Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

      Because these rods are so extremely good for a novice to experienced caster I'm doing a split rating on these.

      *Chromer 8136-4 at 13 feet 6 inches and only 7.4 oz. (link to rod)

    • Beginner rod 10/10 grabs!

    • Advanced caster 9/10

      Best rod under $700 and arguably a $1000 and a steal at $399!

      A summer steelhead go to rod or great workhorse rod for the more advanced fisherman. Instead of using your high dollar rod on a rough hike in or a rod beating float trip, take the Chromer and don't worry about scuffing it up.


      *Chromer 8126-4 at 12 foot 6 inches and a scant 6.2 oz. A winter steelheaders dream (link to rod)

    • Beginner Rod 10/10 grabs

    • Advanced Rod 9/10

      Wow this is a light weight winter steelhead crowbar!


      In Summary, I think these Chromer rods are just great for a beginner to start on for several reasons. We all spend too much money trying to shorten the curve to what we think we will need later. The truth of it is that the more expensive rods are also more technical. If you're a beginner or even an intermediate caster that is still struggling, this rod will make you feel invincible. With this Chromer setup you can be casting and evolving literally 3 times faster because it is forgiving on the timing yet very powerful, and will cost very little for what you get. Also even though it is so easy to cast, you can't really grow out of it as it's such a great rod! I don't fish traditional lines much, but snake rolling and single speys even with a chunky Skagit head is just easy on this rod. It loads and stays loaded very easy.

      I hope you find this useful. Stay tuned for more reviews.

      Coming up I will be reviewing in no particular order, reels, lines, rods, waders, wading jackets, flies and other miscellaneous gear!

      You can catch fish with a bad cast, but you will catch more with a good one!

      See all of Dave Robinson's gear review articles (click here)

      Learn more about Dave, and see some of the fish he catches (click here) - Jeff Layton/Grabflies