A Few Thoughts on Achieving Well Balanced Rod/Line Marriages for Two Handed Rods
Home - R.B. Meiser Fly Rods
The one common thread that we hear from our learning curve two handed anglers is a general confusion in regards to what lines will be best suited to maximize not only the delivery capabilities of their specific rods, but also what line systems to select that will most effectively meet their intended fishing environments.
In essence, there are only two families of lines for two handed rods: Shooting heads and Classic Speys, and there are only two types of shooting heads: Scandi shooting heads and Skagit shooting heads.
~ Scandi Shooting Heads
Scandi shooting heads are the thoroughbred racehorses of the two-handed shooting head family of lines.
These are incredibly diverse lines, with the potential for a broad range of applications. They are very caster friendly lines being quite forgiving to the entry level caster, but diverse enough in their capabilities to fill the needs of the most experienced two handed anglers.
They can be formula built to have a grain weight distribution within their tapers that will allow longer head lengths, and minimal grain weight to allow fine and far deliveries of smaller flies and minimal leader weights
Or they can be designed to have much more aggressive formulas creating shorter head lengths with additional grain weight. This combination will allow the ability to carry heavier tips, leaders and flies. These more aggressive heads will also have the line mass and weight advantage to punch wind when necessary.
Rule of thumb:
Our formula lengths for the longer "Fine and Far" Scandi heads will be 2.65 to 3 times the rod's length, and their total head grain weight will begin at the low end of the rod's grain window, to plus 50 grains. In other words: If our rod's grain window is 450/750, the head weight will range from 450/500 grains. These heads will be best matched to tapered mono leaders, or light poly coated, mono core tapered leaders (poly leaders). Their applications will be best suited to the presentation of smaller sized wet flies, soft hackles and skated dry flies.
Rule of thumb:
Our formula lengths for the shorter, more aggressive Scandi heads will be +- 2.5 times the rod's length, and their total head grain weights will range from 25/75 grains up from the low end of the rod's grain window. In other words: If our rod's grain window is 450/750, the head weight will begin at 475 and go to 525 grains. These heads will have the ability to deliver much heavier flies, heavier grained leaders, or even full sink tips. (see head and tip/leader weight ratios as defined further on in this text)
Scandi heads are suitable for all two handed rod lengths and powers, and when built to formula criteria ... They will be equally at ease with 11'0' ultra lite Trout Speys, or 16'0 10 weight Salmon rods.
They can be built as full float or full sink lines. Or they can be built with integrated tapered sections of various sink rate materials within the front of the head. These make ideal density compensated shooting heads, which in all honesty may be the easiest casting, most lethally effective sub-surface lines available to todays two handed anglers.
~ Skagit Shooting Heads
If Scandi heads are the thoroughbreds of the shooting head family, then Skagits are the hard working Clydesdales.
Skagit shooting heads are relatively niche line systems whose greatest advantage offered to the angler is that their aggressive grain weight distribution within a short taper will allow very efficient delivery of massive tip weight and large bodied, heavy flies.
Their short head lengths do also offer the angler the opportunity to present heavy tips and large flies within very confined casting zones. They are ideal lines when brushy bank side riparian, and low overhanging branches burden the caster.
The short head length of Skagits do also lend very well to the compact strokes inherently required of the shorter two handed rods.
Our Skagits can be built as full float, or as full sink intermediate, type 3 and 6 sink rate shooting heads.
Rule of thumb:
Our formula lengths for Skagit heads will be 1.75 to 2 times the rod's length. Head grain weight will begin at plus 25 grains, and go to plus 75 grains from the low end of the rod's grain window. In other words: If our rod's grain window is 450/750 ... Skagit heads best suited for this rod will weigh from 475/550 grains. (also see head and tip weight ratios as defined for Skagits further on in this text)
~ Classic Speys
Many traditional two handed anglers feel that the true poetic beauty of delivery will be best achieved with the use of a longer bellied Classic Spey line married to a long rod. I fully agree with this, and I will always pause my fishing day to watch, and admire a skilled long line caster.
One of the major advantages of Classic Spey lines that anglers universally appreciate is that in order to successfully fish many of their runs, they need only to present, swing and re-deliver the lines long belly length, this minimizing the need to strip in long lengths of running line at the end of every delivery. Shooting heads (on the other hand) have much shorter head lengths, and each delivery will require the striping in of a substantial length of running line.
Rule of thumb:
Classic Spey line belly lengths will generally be 4 to 4.5 X the rods length. A long line caster delivering a 14'0 rod will feel comfortable with 55' to 65' of aerialized line grain beyond the rod tip. A 13'0 rod will like 50' to 55' etc. Their preferred grain weights will be similar to that of comparable Skagit on the same rod. For example: If your 14'0' rod performs well with 650/675 grains of Skagit and tip
I would suggest a Classic Spey of a similar grain weight.
Another way to approach the marriage of a suitable grain weighted Classic Spey would be to use the rods determined grain window. If your 14'0 has a grain window of 450/750, the happy spot for most classic Speys will be around +- 100 grains down from the high end of the grain window = +- 650 grains.
Most well designed Classic Speys will have the ability to carry both conventional tapered mono leaders, and poly coated sinking leaders with equal efficiency. The most versatile will be those long belly lines that will have the ability to carry not only mono and poly leaders, but also have the ability to carry various sink rate tips as well.
~ Tips and Leaders for Shooting Heads and Classic Speys
Tips are not leaders
And leaders are not tips <> There are very different in both their material make-up and applications.
~ Tapered Monofilament and Poly Coated Sinking Leaders
Tapered leaders for two-handed line systems can be made up of monofilament typical of those tapered leaders used for single-handed fly rods ... Or they can be level monofilament cores with a tapered coating of poly material. The poly material can be impregnated with Tungsten or Zinc, this allowing them to have various sink rates.
Tapered poly coated leaders suitable for two handed rods are available in various sink rates ranging from hover to intermediate, slow, fast and extra fast. They will generally range in weights from 25 to 100 grains, and will vary in lengths of 10 to 15 feet.
When looped to a floating Scandi head, poly coated tapered leaders of appropriate lengths and various sink rates will have the ability to carry the fly into the water column from a few inches to a few feet.
If looped to a full sink Scandi, or a density compensated Scandi with an integrated sinking front end
These same leaders can have the ability to carry the fly several feet deep into the water column.
In many situations a correctly grain matched full sink Scandi head with a suitable tapered sinking leader will far exceed the ability to penetrate the water column then will Skagit heads with tips. In addition, they will lay out sweetly without the Skagit crash, and it will do all of this with far less total grain weight than would be required of a comparable Skagit/tip combination.
~ Poly Coated Level Sink Tips
Tips like leaders, are available in various lengths and sink rates
These usually designated as intermediate, type 3, 6 or 8 sink rates.
Unlike leaders, tips are level, they have braided cores and can be available in much heavier grain weights per foot. Tips can have grain weight per foot ratings of as low as 6 GPF to as high as 20 GPF.
Skagit heads are generally designed to carry heavier grained tips rather than the lighter grained poly coated sinking leaders.
The more aggressive, shorter length Scandi heads can carry both poly coated sinking leaders and correctly grain matched sink tips. The longer formula Scandi heads with a lighter grain weight distribution within its taper may do best with straight tapered mono leaders or lighter poly leaders.
~ Rod/Line Marriages
Below are a few pointers to assist the angler in successfully achieving a correct two-handed rod/line marriage.
The two most important basic criteria required to achieve a correct rod/line marriage are:
1. Assure that the lines grain weight is compatible with the rods ability to carry that lines total grain weight (the rods grain window)
2. As equally important is that the lines head length be compatible with the rod's length.
A few simple rules of thumb can be followed to achieve a correct head length and weight ratio to the rod's length and grain window.
Let's say for example that you have a 13'0' rod with a grain window of 450/700 ...This would generally be considered a 7 weight rod.
For a 130 rod: Scandi head lengths would effectively be 2.5 to 3 X rod length = 32.5 to 39.
For a 130 rod: Skagit head lengths could effectively be 1.75 to 2 X rod length = 23' to 26'
For a 130 7 wt rod: Scandi head weights would begin at the low end of the grain window = 450 grains, and go up to + 50 grains = 500 grains.
For a 130 7 wt rod: Skagit head weights would begin at + 50 grains from the low end of the grain window = 500 grains, and go up to +100 = 550 grains.
Another important issue to consider is the amount of tip and/or leader length and weight a specific line will be capable of carrying.
Lines for two handed rods are designed to have targeted and specifically engineered tip or leader grain carrying capability, just as two handed rods are designed and engineered to target to carry a specific amount of total line weight.
The bottom line for the angler to consider is this: If the length and weight of our tips or leaders looped to your heads are too heavy and too long
The head's delivery capabilities will be functionally burdened.
Again a few simple rules of thumb can be applied to assist in these regards
~ Head and tip length ratios
Scandi or Skagit heads suitable for rods from 10.5' to 12' will effectively carry tips and poly coated sinking leaders from 6' to 10' in length.
Scandi or Skagit heads suitable for rods from 13' and beyond will effectively carry tips and poly coated sinking leaders from 10' to 15' in length
Bottom line: To achieve maximum performance <> Scale your head and tip length in relation to the rod's length.
~ Head and tip/leader weight ratios
~ Scandi Heads
Head grain weights of 250/300 will carry to +- 40 grains of leader or tip wt
Head grain weights of 350/400 will carry to +- 65 grains of leader or tip wt
Head grain weights of 450/500 will carry to +- 85 grains of leader or tip wt
Head grain weights of 550/650 will carry to +- 125 grains of leader or tip wt
~ Skagit Heads
Head grain weights of 250/300 will carry to +- 110 grains of tip wt
Head grain weights of 350/450 will carry to +- 125 grains of tip wt
Head grain weights of 500/600 will carry to +- 150 grains of tip wt
Head grain weights of 650/700 will carry to +- 200 grains of tip wt