This was written by Ed Ward in 2004 explaining Skagit Casting. So now when we are arguing about it we can use this for a reference when it becomes obvious we don't know what we are talking about.
I am posting this to make it easier for anyone inquiring about "Skagit casting" to be able to find basic info about it under one heading. Being as how I am a single-digit "hunt and peck" type of typer, this will probably take a while, therefore I will be adding to it continually over a period of time...
What Is Skagit Casting? -
In simplest terms Skagit casting is a change of direction cast, in other words a cast that enables the redirecting of a flyline from one angle to another. This redirection of line is accomplished by utilizing the surface of the river as a "switching" or transfer point, a circumstance that also happens to eliminate the need for using fully aerialized backcasts. What this translates into for the steelhead flyfisher is the capability, after completing the swing of a fly, for casting back out into the river for another presentation without false casting, along with the capacity to accomplish this action while using only minimal amounts of "backcast" room.
Not coincidentally, this same definition can also be used to describe all types of Speycasting. The fact is that Skagit casting was actually developed from traditional Speycasting principles by steelheaders in the Skagit River area during the early 1990's. The term "Skagit casting" was coined in order to distinguish this "offshoot" system of Speycasting from other types of Speycasting because of how similar it does initially appear to other forms of Speycasting. However, Skagit casting does possess its own casting fundamentals and traits of distinction. Skagit casting's most apparent characteristic is its employment of relatively short lines - shootinghead or Windcutter style - in other words "short head systems", and in recent years this circumstance has led to the term "Skagit casting" being associated with many other short line Speycasting systems on the West Coast of the U.S. However, in its original context, the term Skagit casting defined a method of casting that exercised a particular casting premise to accomplish its casts - the sustained anchor concept. To illustrate what the sustained anchor concept is, we must first take a brief look at all of Speycasting as it exists today.
Modern Day Speycasting - A Concise Overview
Speycasting, in its present state, is a much more diverse subject than it was even just a few years ago. Increased contemporary interest in the sport has brought about an abundance of not only "things made Spey", but also opinions and beliefs on "how to Spey". A result of this condition has been the manifestation of what seems to be, quite a wide variety of Speycasting styles. However, the fact is, within this current proliferation of casting methods, there are in actuality just two fundamental means for using the surface of the river to conduct a cast; in other words, two elementary ways to accomplish a Speycast. All current Speycasting styles use either one or both of these basic approaches for enabling their casts.
The first elementary way to Speycast is what I refer to as "brief or momentary contact" Speycasting, because it uses a relatively brief or very momentary contact of the flyline with the surface of the water for an anchor. Simon Gawesworth coined an even better descriptive term for it - "touch and go". This methodology of Speycasting derives the most significant portion of its casting or rod loading power from the inertial energy created by a flyline that has been dynamically lifted off of the water and then kept fully aerialized. This type of casting dictates that once the line has been lifted from its initial starting position it must then be sustained in motion throughout the remainder of the casting process in order to maintain its inertial momentum - anything more than an exceedingly brief contact with the surface of the river (anchor) will result in a termination of the line's inertial energy, and therefore any possibilities for a cast. The primary purpose of the anchor in this type of casting is to provide a means for changing the direction of the cast from one angle to another. The defining examples of brief contact Speycasts are the Single Spey and Snake Roll.
The other basic means for conducting a Speycast is what I call "sustained anchor concept". It works off of principles of rod loading that are in direct contrast to the brief contact style of Speycasting. Sustained anchor casting produces the bulk of its casting energy through water resistance. Load is created against the rod when it is directed into a predetermined process of pulling the flyline free from the grip of the river's surface tension. This "grip" is established by instituting sustained and exaggerated contact, or anchoring of the flyline with the surface of the water, as part of the casting procedure, by completely stopping the momentum of the line midway through the casting process - an action that is in complete contradiction to the casting fundamentals of brief contact Speycasting. The function of the anchor in sustained anchor casting is twofold - provide the means for changing the direction of the cast AND provide the primary mechanism for loading the rod. Casts that work best with the sustained anchor concept are the C or Circle Spey, Snap/Zip T, the Perry Poke, and Skagit Style Doublespey.
The two most fundamental means for conducting change-of-direction casts while using the surface of the water as a "switch" point should now be evident. As stated earlier, ALL styles of Speycasting - regardless of line type or rod length - use one or both of these two basic premises to enable their casts. With the identification of these basic premises it is now possible to present a more in-depth explanation of Skagit casting.
Skagit Casting - The Technical Difference
So, what is it that makes Skagit casting different? Skagit casting is the only method of casting in which every resource has been specifically tailored towards deriving casting energy via a sustained anchor. It is the only Speycasting style that uses exclusively the sustained anchor concept as the sole, singular means for accomplishing casts, and it is the only casting method that has been specifically customized and refined towards deriving its maximum potential from just this one casting concept. In other words, the individual component casts used in Skagit casting, such as the Perry Poke and Skagit Style Doublespey, were specifically incorporated and modified to realize their highest capability when executed with sustained anchor principles, and Skagit casting lines also are "customized" to extract maximum performance from sustained anchor methodologies.
So, Why Skagit Cast?
There are situations presented in the flyfishing of anadromous fishes in the PNW (also British Columbia, Alaska, the Russian Far East), that standard Speycasting methods sometimes just don't seem to address very well. The fact is, the nature of our fish, combined with the character of our rivers, often determines that we be capable of quickly sinking our flies while simultaneously reducing the speed of their swings in order to "be in the game". The primary means for doing this is through the use of very fast sinking sinktip lines, weighted flies, or often a combination of both - an approach of flyfishing considered quite untraditional by "Old World" standards - but in fact, very traditional in steelheading's short, yet nevertheless innovative history. Such line and fly configurations often prove difficult to cast consistently with standard Speycasting methods - or, to acquire any form of consistency - requires the use of rods and lines that are often too large to be relative to the size of fish being pursued. Skagit casting was developed specifically for the consistent casting of large and/or weighted flies on sinktip lines, and is able to do this while using rods more aligned with the size of fish being sought. Skagit casting also produces very high line speeds, a strong advantage during circumstances of wind. In addition, Skagit casting derives the majority of its casting energy through proper execution of technique instead of hard physical exertion. Casting all day long without creation of excessive fatigue is a proven advantage of this casting style.