SKAGIT SPEY LINE TESTING
2005 March 6
Bob Pauli & Ray Christensen, members of GGACC, San Francisco
Purpose of Test: To determine how heavy a tip, with a large fly [bead head 5-inch streamer], can be cast with the new Rio
Skagit Spey lines on subject rods.
Location: GGACC, Pool #3, Wading Knee Deep
Lines Tested: Rio
Skagit Lines w/27-foot heads—450, 550 & 650 grain.
T-14 Tips Used: T-14 in lengths of 8-, 10-, 12-, 15-, 20- & 25 feet.
15-foot WindCutter Type 8 Tips Used: 129-, 150-, 166-, 190 & 204 grain
24-foot Big Boy Tips Used: 300-, 400- and 500-grain
’s Published Sink Rate of Tips Used:
• Type 8: 8 inches per second [ips]
• T-14: 8 to 9 ips
• Big Boy 300 grain: 7.4 ips
• Big Boy 400 grain: 8.3 ips
• Big Boy 500 grain: 9.0 ips
Rods Used March 6, 2005: T&T 1307, Burkheimer 14’3” 8/9/10, Sage 9141
Did not have time to test T&T 1206, T&T 1409, Fly Logic 1409 & T&T 1611 [w/750 grain Skagit]; will do so at first opportunity.
Reason for Test
1. Recent activity at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club, San Francisco, pools and internet site speypages.com has intensified around the used of short, heavy, large diameter Skagit Spey line floating “heads” attached to short heavy tips, casting larger flies. These Skagit systems were designed to present large flies to aggressive steelhead willing to rise from a river’s depths to attack creations such as articulated leeches or intruders, purposely presented at "median depths" [Mike McCune's terminology] in the water column.
2. Since short sections of T-14 in the tip 1 position have little mass [8 feet =112 grains], and the floating head is bulky, a fly will not be presented in the river’s depths. Some practitioners use sinking leaders as a tip 1 in a Skagit setup, with weights less than the short T-14 tips currently a major topic of discussion.
3. Some steelhead fishermen, including the authors, often prefer to present neutrally buoyant flies deep in the water using heavier sink tips.
4. Literature is available stating maximum tip weights usable with WindCutter and MidSpey class lines. None is available for Skagit Spey Lines. hence this testing.
What is a Skagit Spey Line Setup?
Answer: It’s a short heavy floating head spey line attached to an often-short sinking tip. When casting these shorter tips, a longer than traditional anchor dwell time in the water is needed to provide a load against the rod’s forward cast. Ed Ward uses the term “prolonged anchor.” Skagit lines were developed to cast large, but not necessarily fast sinking, flies. A classic, if that term applies to such a new development, Skagit line and fly will not necessarily sink deeply into the river.
As an aside, the three best known, to us, developers of the modern Skagit system are, in alphabetic order Mike McCune, Scott O’Donnell and Ed Ward. The new Rio
Skagit Spey lines were developed by Jim Vincent of Rio
Products consulting with Mike McCune and Scott O’Donnell.
Products recently introduced purpose-built Skagit Spey Lines. Rio
’s Skagit Spey Lines are 120-feet long with 27-foot heads weighing 450-, 550-, 650- or 750-grains, looped at the end. Tips are not included. To the head loop is attached a sinking tip and leader. Within reason, the weight of the tip per Mike McCune “does not matter” to the spey caster, because very little difference is experienced casting a Skagit setup with widely varying head weights.
Casting is accomplished with most or all of [a shorter] tip sunk in the water and it is against this load the rod works to dispatch the cast with minimal effort. Minimal effort is a key to mastering this method.
Because the authors often desire to fish a deeply sunk steelhead fly, tests were begun to determine the heaviest tip, with fly, readily castable by several rod/Skagit line combinations.
OK, Enough Already! What’s the bottom line?
T&T1307-3 [13’ 7-wt 3-piece] using Rio
450 grain Skagit Spey Line:
• Type-8: Casts all 15-foot Rio
type-8 tips1 from WindCutter and MidSpey sets. Tip1 weights cast were 129-, 150-, 166-, 190 and 204 grains. All tips were weighed on an electronic scale. These tips turn over nicely on every cast, and the caster makes no significant stroke change for different tips.
• T-14: time did not allow casting T-14 tips, but it is apparent that T-14 tips to 15-foot lengths are easily cast. T-14 testing with this rod will occur as time permits.
Burkheimer 9143-3 [14’3” 8/9/10-wt 3-piece] with Rio
550 grain Skagit Spey Line:
• Type-8: Casts all type-8 tips listed above, with ease, actually with “delight!”
• T-14: Casts T-14 in lengths of 8-, 10-, 12-, 15-, 20- & 25 feet with ease. Turnover is not as precise as the front-tapered Rio
T-8 15-foot tips.
• Big Boy 24-foot tips: Casts the 300 grain Big Boy with little effort. The front tapered Big Boy yields far better turnover of the fly than comparable, and heavier T-14. This is the dredger tip for this rod/line combination, in our opinion.
Sage 9141-4 [14’1” 9-wt 4-piece] using Rio
650 grain Skagit Spey Line:
• Type-8: Casts all type-8 tips listed above, with ease.
• T-14: Casts T-14 in lengths of 8-, 10-, 12-, 15-, 20- & 25-feet with ease. Turnover is not as precise as the front-tapered Rio
T-8 15-foot tips.
• Big Boy 24-foot tips: Casts the 300-grain Big Boy with little effort. Casting 400-grain and 500-grain Big Boys takes more effort, primarily in bringing the deeply sunk tip to the surface preparatory to casting. Prior to this test one author cast 400- and 500-grain Big Boys only with a 16-foot rod that brings deeply sunk tips more easily to the surface than this 14-footer. The other author had trouble in the past throwing Big Boys on this rod, and was more than surprised at the ease of casting the 400- and 500-grains tips with the 650-grain Rio
Skagit Spey line.
Some preliminary conclusions:
’s Skagit Spey Lines will effectively cast heavy tips, heavier than normally associated with the Skagit style, and do so with a large fly.
• Give the above, probing a river’s depth is possible with a Skagit line.
• Fishermen that struggle with Rio
Big Boy 24-foot tips may be pleasantly surprised at the ease of casting them with these Rio
• T-14 cut from a spool has no front taper, and thus is more challenging to turn over properly. Rio
’s tips-1 and Big Boys turn over beautifully, by comparison.
• Testing used type-8 15-foot tips because type-8 has essentially the same sink rate as T-14. Types-6 and -3 will work as well, in the authors’ opinion and will be verified in future tests.
More to come, as testing continues….
Copyright 2005 Bob Pauli & Ray Christensen