Oct 19, 2018

Review: Burkheimer 6139-4 and Airflo Delta Spey II 6/7

CF Burkheimer released a new rod in their lineup this year, and it was one that sparked my interest from the get go. I've been a big fan of their rods ever since I first laid eyes on one, and even more so after I first cast one. I recently got to play with a 8139-4; pairing it with mid-belly, scandi, and skagit lines. The big stick was an absolute machine that was just begging for Washington's O.P., Skagit/Sauk, or British Columbia steelhead. However, a lighter-weight version of this rod for select Columbia tributaries would be a total blast! I don't do the graphite speed chase when it comes to my two-hander's and I look for rods with lots of feel and soul, which is exactly what Burkheimer is known for. Kerry makes a ton of different two-handed rod tapers/lengths in 3, 4, and 5-piece rods, so it's easy to find the one that's right up your alley.

So why a 13'9, 6wt? Well, I was out on the Deschutes earlier this summer fishing my 7127-4 Burkie and reaching for a distant seam when I realized I was trying to manage about 50-60+ feet of mono running line attached to a scandi head and tapered leader. It worked, but I found I was wasting a bit of time stripping line. Also, every third cast or so I would have my running line knot up in a guide. Again, wasting more time not swinging my fly in the water. It got to a point where I realized I was fed up with fishing shorter scandi heads on medium to large rivers. A long time ago in a past life during my snowboarding career, I realized how important it was to have a quiver of boards to suit specific needs; I.E. Powder days, park days, early/late season conditions, etc. Much like how you wouldn't use just one golf club for all of your golfing needs. 

So what did I do? I grabbed some mid-belly lines and the 12'7 and tried to dial it in. However, I found I was working much harder than I wanted for stripping in less line on the shorter rod. As fate would have it, our Burkheimer rep called to hype up a new rod... a 13'9, 6 weight. I was instantly sold, and rushed to put one on order for an upcoming trip in hopes to have it in time. I lined up my favorite reel- a wide-spool, raised pillar, click and pawl- with a Airflo Delta II 6/7 Mid-Belly. As I patiently waited I tied some favorite patterns and cooked up some new ones. As soon as the rod arrived I went to the local ditch and tested it out. Was it love at first cast? Absolutely. The rod felt more like a 6/7 weight than a true 6 weight to me, and despite being a little longer it was still nice and light in hand. Pairing it with the Delta II Spey line from Airfo was a perfect match! The good news was that I was already fishing my fly at 70 feet with just the head hanging out the rod tip. A few strips and I was already out to 100' with ease.

Snake River, WA: Big water tailored for longer rods and longer lines
Now I'll be honest in that the majority of fish I catch are never 100' out. In reality they're more like 40-50', but there are times when I know I'm missing fish if I can't make the cast needed. So next thing I know I'm on the Snake River, which happens to make the Deschutes River look like a tiny creek. I was just itching to give the rod a proper test drive! I know of some competition spey casters who'd said in good return years they've stuck fish at over 150 feet off the bank on that particular river. My ears perked up at the thought of hitting a fish at that distance. On a big water like that it's important to have plenty of backing as hooking a good B-run that charges for the current can empty a reel quickly.

So did I stick any fish at that distance? Nope. But at least I know I have the right tools to do so. I did find some at closer range and the rod handled them beautifully. Some people will preach the short format head systems, and I certainly find them applicable. However, I also feel the same with longer rods and more traditional lines. If I'm fishing a head system I really do like using mono shooting line for extra distance, although when I have an integrated running line it truly seems as though I have a much better connection and feel for how my fly is swinging. With integrated running lines such as Airflo's Delta Spey II, I can feel all the subtle nuances in the water and it heightens my anglers senses. Was that a leaf that just hit my fly? Or was it a light pluck from a chrome-bright hen who was curious to my offering? I'd better make a couple more casts before stepping down, just to be sure...

If you fish medium to large rivers than I highly recommend a slightly longer two-hander coupled with a mid-belly line. I find myself stripping less, casting further, and swinging my fly longer. That whole part about the more time your fly is spent in the water can really enhance your chances of success. Nevertheless, I'm in love with this new 6wt sword and will indeed keep it in the rod quiver for a long time to come. 

 Idaho's Clearwater with the 6139-4 and Airflo Delta II 6/7

As always, we are happy to talk fishing anytime. Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office.

Cody Booth
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist


  1. Have a Burkie 8139-3 that I run prev gen delta long in 7/8 and a slightly cut down head of an 8/9 delta long with Varivas running line. Love then both, with the 8/9 working better in windy conditions that otherwise blbl around the 7/8.

    How did does 6wt handle the wind? Interesting concept that initially had me head scratching... Personally covet the 8152-4 fur the big clear and snake river applications.....

    Am a Burkie devote as well....

  2. Feiger-

    I was skeptical at first to how the longer front tapered mid-belly Delta would punch through wind compared with my other rods/lines that I know can. What I found is that the 6139-4 happily cast through light to moderate wind (up to 15mph.) I don’t fish PolyLeaders often, but I believe using either a more water-born cast such as a snap-T and/or the use of a PolyLeader would help straiten out leaders in wind. That, and sometimes I’ll cast a slightly side-armed to keep my line low and under the wind if possible.

    One thing I’ve tinkered with is that I use slightly shorter tapered mono leaders with mid/long-bellies vs. the longer leaders I fish on Scandi heads. With the Delta Spey I fish leaders that are approx. my rod length, where with a Scandi head I’ll fish leaders up to 1.5x my rod length.

    Furthermore, the 6wt felt like a light 7 or a heavy 6 in regards to power. I felt this to be a perfect match for the average-sized Columbia steelhead. If in general a two-hander is about two line sizes off from a single-hander, than most 6wt two-handers are similar in power to an 8wt single. I like rod quivers though, and while it’s possible to have a favorite rod, I also like using specific rods for more specific applications if at all possible.


  3. I do a lot of Spey fishing for trout in the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers near my home. My favorite set-up is my Beulah Onyx 13'1" 6 weight with a 390grn 31ft Rio Scandi Short with Rio 25# mono shooting line, a 10' slow sink PolyLeader and about 5 to 6 feet of fluoro tippet. Because of the amount of stripping to make 85 or 90 foot casts, I recently bought a 6/7 wt. Airflo Delta Spey II but haven't tried it yet. I've been wondering what type and length leader would match up and your previous post is very helpful. Do you think I should start with the same approx. 15' PolyLeader/tippet combination and perhaps shorten up if it doesn't work? I use mostly unweighted spey-style flies I tie on small spey hooks or very lightly weighted tube flies. I rarely use heavier rods, Skagit heads or sink tips because they are too prone to hanging up in the depth of the water I fish. I would appreciate any suggestions or comments you might have.


    1. Hi Brit,

      I grew up spending a lot of my childhood over on the Roaring Fork outside of Carbondale, so it's exciting to hear you're swinging flies for them out there! As I mentioned above somewhat, when I fish these mid or long belly lines I typically trim down my leader length resemble the rod's length more. I found that this helps turn things over better, though I fully recommend playing with length a little. I use the Delta as a pure dryline rig, however I am certain you can add Polyleaders to the mix though I'd still keep the entire leader length to approx the length of the rod.

      Another thing I may suggest for the future is checking out a 3 or 4wt trout spey. These smaller two-handers are awesome! Remember, a 3wt two-handed spey rod is going to have similar power to a 5wt rod, which a 9' 5wt really seams to be the bread and butter of the trout rod world. However a 3 or 4wt trout spey can ultimately add to versatility without overpowering the fish and keeps things lively and fun! A 4wt trout spey can throw virtually any size fly and sink tip, while the 3wt's seem to excel with smaller flies and lighter tips. While the whole trout spey thing is relatively new, companies are starting to offer much better line options.

      Although mid or long belly lines really haven't been developed for these rods, so it would take a bit of creativity and trial and error- For example, a S/A Anadro WF5F line with its longer taper could match up with one of the smaller trout speys and offer a much longer head for less strips. Again, a longer tapered line such as the Anadro might take a second to dial in. Give us a call though if you ever have questions.



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