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SPEY CASTING WITH A SKAGIT LINE

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reel em in

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21 hours ago, reel em in said:

bmac

What rod are you using?

Tom

Tom, it's a TFO Pro II 12' 9" rated for 6/7 line.  The line I'm using was picked out by one of TFO's lead rod designers who is a friend of a friend.  I have almost no knowledge or sense for properly lining a Spey rod.  I can't even remember the grain weights of the head and tips and I either tossed or misplaced the box it came in.  I have been in touch with Mike O.  Once I can line up a cameraman for the video I'll try to either post it or send it to Mike.  It might be very entertaining.  

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On Skagit casting (origins, emphasis added):

 

"Skagit casting was born on the winter-run steelhead rivers of the Pacific Northwest in Washington State. Hence its name, the Skagit, after the river.

Through trial and error, anglers created short lines and a casting style that met their need to cast big flies and sink tips in cold-water conditions. They did this while keeping rods relatively short and line-weight classes relatively light. This makes for more enjoyable casting and fighting of fish.

This evolution of Spey casting has become, well, a revolution in the double-handed approach. Although it falls under the Spey-casting umbrella, it uses its own gear and techniques."  -- old article from Ontario Outdoors magazine.

 

Two of the early pioneers of this style of casting were Ed Ward, and Tom Larimer, who opined (same article) that "many anglers are not adapting their cast to the evolution of the gear"

 

Over time, and since the early evolution of Skagit casting, the move has been from long spey rods, long (full spey) lines, to shorter rods, short heads (typically 22-36ft) fished with sink tips.  More recently the heads for some systems are even shorter (17ft) and lighter.  I don't go that short but others swear by the newer shorter head systems.

 

Where the Skagit method is still a "spey casting method" the use of short heads and generally shorter rods is most appropriate in systems that are not terribly wide and/or uniform in terms of flow dynamics, but have some complexity both in terms of depth and structure.  The use of variable density tips with shorter skagit heads makes this method extremely useful for these kinds of settings (can match the sink tip to depth and flow conditions) where a single longer spey line (long head line) and casts of extreme distance might not be needed or might be less efficient or unnecessary.  In Skagit casting, as opposed to full spey casting, tips are generally very short (8-10ft) to match the shorter length of heads (20-26ft) and shorter rods (often 11' to 13ft).  My best outfits for this kind of spey casting are typically 11'3" to 12' and the heads are 20-23ft.  Tips can be short - 5ft to 12ft.  Long sink tips of 15ft are not that useful.

 

Typical for me (but I am partial to short rods anyway):

 

11'3" or 11'9" 7wt, 450g (22ft) Skagit head (float or float/int), 8ft of T-11, or light MOW/iMow 10ft tips (~80-120g)

 

12ft 8wt, 510g (23ft) Skagit head (float or float/int), 10ft of T-14, or medium MOW/iMow 10ft tips. (~140g)

Edited by Killiefish
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2 hours ago, bmac said:

Tom, it's a TFO Pro II 12' 9" rated for 6/7 line.  The line I'm using was picked out by one of TFO's lead rod designers who is a friend of a friend.  I have almost no knowledge or sense for properly lining a Spey rod.  I can't even remember the grain weights of the head and tips and I either tossed or misplaced the box it came in.  I have been in touch with Mike O.  Once I can line up a cameraman for the video I'll try to either post it or send it to Mike.  It might be very entertaining.  

 

Also, just to keep it clear, your rod is a spey rod (some might call it a short spey rod), not a "switch" rod.  As a spey rod it is also rather short and light.  You should be aware that TFO line weight designations are kind of goofy.  Whatever it says on the blank and/or on TFO's web page, you want to stay in the middle of their rating, not the upper end of it.  TFO upper limit in grain weights includes a roughly 100g tip.  How do I know?  Trial and error and owning several TFO rods tells me this. 

 

for skagit casting, I'd personally start with something like ~420g head and ~80-100g tip for that rod.  If your head and tips are much heavier than that you may have issues.  Once you have your cast figured out, can consider going up or down by 10% on head and tip weights.  YMMV.

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Killie

 

Thats an excellent explanation for Skagit and its intended application. The water borne casts used for these short head Skagit lines do differ from those used to cast long belly spey lines and SH if over say 35 feet long. The differences are not huge but can easily be seen. We don’t need such an expansive rod pathway with short heads lines. For the very short heads under 20 feet much shorter or its goodby to holding our anchor. Ideal rod lengths 12  to 13 feet after Switch rods. For tight bank obstructed rivers and where we need lines to get down quickly into fast deep buckets this line system is ideal to the only show in town. 
Skagit lines are used on big rivers to in the USA and they are over here to. I have this feeling it is because they are so easy to cast plus they can offer better depth control than long belly spey and versa tips. 
In the U.K. we will fit them to 15 foot rods. The Rio Game Changers with 15 foot replacement tips can be cast using pretty much the same style as a long belly spey line. These Skagit lines have a decent taper to which lends them to holding great loops and if you can cast they really fly. I wish I could post a video of Jim Fearn casting a 650 grain one over the R.Ribble. I will see if I can do that. 
long belly spey lines are falling away which is very sad and fast being replaced by Shooting Heads and ever shorter Skagit line. There is a requirement for the three types if you wish to be a rounded Fly Fisher. That applies to rod lengths of  12 and 13 feet and are super light and easy to cast compared to the 15 foot plus rods. We need these long rods though when looking to reach far side lies. This is even more important these days  with lower numbers of fish and we need to increase our chances of catching opportunities.

I still prefer to use the words spey casting though no matter what line is being cast. 
 

mike

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5 hours ago, bmac said:

Thanks Killie, that's great advice.  I will try some lighter heads and tips.  I definitely have issues.  Beyond poor technique, that might be part of it.  

Honestly it is not difficult to learn how to make sustained water anchored casts. Even more so with Skagit lines and rods up to 13 feet.  Unless your rod line match up is seriously badly off it will be your cast. I am not a huge fan of learning by video. But if you can’t get lessons then If you wish to cast Skagit lines then Tom Larimer is a good place to start. Trevor Kovich is excellent to especially with the more advanced casts associated with Skagit lines.
If you can get a two hour lesson with a proper instructor it will be massive for you. I was teaching totally new guys this Sat past and in 15 minutes they were on their way to a Snap T and  Circle C.  Double spey completes the line up and a dead line roll cast. Dead line roll casts are a piece of cake when made with Skagit heads.

This is way way easier to do than learn a good overhead cast with a single hand rod. You can do it. Trust me it is not difficult.

mike

Edited by Mike Oliver
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6 hours ago, bmac said:

Thanks Killie, that's great advice.  I will try some lighter heads and tips.  I definitely have issues.  Beyond poor technique, that might be part of it.  

And you need a proper casting wind. 

Everybody talks about rods , lines, instructors and technique, but no mention of a proper casting wind. 
Tom

 

 

Edited by reel em in
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The other thing that is perhaps confusing the issue with Skagit heads used with tips is that generally speaking a Skagit head used in Spey casting mode will mobilize a tip weighing around ~ 1/4 of the weight of the head and not really a lot more (can be done, up to maybe 1/3 the weight, but not really ideal).  So for example, to throw tips of 100g you might be using a Skagit head of 400g, to maybe 450g.  This is just a general rule of thumb.  I have broken this rule occasionally, i.e., when the situation requires.

 

The maximum appropriate tip length for use with Skagit heads is usually around 1/2 of the head length (+/- apprx 10%).  So with a typical 23ft Skagit head the tip used should be in the range of around 8ft to 12ft.  For really dense sink material, one can use a 4-6ft length and get away with it, but your loop will be a bit harder to control.  Skagit heads when used for spey casting -you will always need to add a tip.  Not so with scandi heads or full floating mid- to long- belly spey lines.

 

The above kind of goes out the window when using Skagit heads plus tips in an overhead casting mode.  There are really no definitive guidelines for this, although some of us got into doing this because there were no really heavy integrated lines above ~550g that we could use with our more powerful TH rods, so we cobbled together running lines, heads, tips to try to get around the situation.  In overhead casting all of the weight of the head plus tip is aerialized.  Generally speaking, that TOTAL weight of head + tip will need to be well within the middle range to lower range of your rod's line ratings.  Mike O might even say "lower" end of those ratings.  Not that manufacturers' line ratings are accurate to begin with...

 

Now that we have some integrated lines coming in at 550-650g (Wulff Ambush, for one), it is no longer really as necessary to use Skagit heads as overhead casting tools.  They still work, as shooting heads, but only if you are prudent with head length:weight, and tip length:weight ratios, IMO.  The one major advantage I see with Skagit heads and tips for overhead is depth control and adaptability.  They won't buy you extra distance.... YMMV.

Edited by Killiefish
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Tom wind is part and parcel of Safe spey casting.

Wind is very important as you point out. One huge reason is safety the other is performance. 

But on a river or the ocean where there is current we need to reference it to a bank and which hand is going to be up the rod.

Fwiw. It goes like this. Left bank  of a river upstream wind. Right hand up the rod. Choice of casts is single spey, Snap.T circle C.

 

Left hand bank downstream wind. Left hand up double spey. Snake roll.

 

 

Right hand bank. Upstream wind. Left hand up. Single spey snap T circle C.

 

Right hand bank. Downstream wind. Right hand up. Double spey. Snake roll.

Tom if you ever get to rivers if you wish to be able to cast from either bank then you will have to educate your left arm or how to cast cack handed. For some reason in the states cack handed is preffered to using the none dominant arm. For me it's a cop out. But each to their own.

Mike

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Concur Tom.  Great info from Killie but graduate level instruction for this third grader.  But I'm learning and improving.  And Mike, I've tried and tried to make it work with a left hand on top but I still do better catty handed, but not that much better.  You must be amphibious.  

 

OK, that's an old Yogi Berra saying that may not translate well to someone who speaks real English.  

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Bmac 

 

No catty is good. I am.not ambidextrous and truth be told if I had not gone through the exam where you have to be able to cast with both arms I would have elected to use the catty arm lol. The first 10 minutes are bad but each.minute thereafter honestly it gets easier. I am sure utmis.mostlt a.mental thing. I used to catty had my surf TH in a right to left wind. But no more. You cab get this down but don't worry about left gand up use the catty method.it.geys the job done. I am not  a big fan of Ed Wards cast but look him.up and he loves the cack hand style.

Mike

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