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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Here is an item I prepared for our casting club bulletin.


There is understandable confusion among us when comparing the new Airflo Skagit heads to Rio’s Skagit Spey lines because Airflo has a different design philosophy and uses somewhat abstract terminology. However each product has advantages and disadvantages, so I offer this comparison to present and prospective Skagiteers.

Following Rio Products’ successful series of Skagit Spey lines in early 2005, Airflo introduced a competing product. That’s good news; competition will keep us Speyaholics supplied with high quality products that make our weapons delivery systems ever easier to manage.

So how do we evaluate and compare Airflo’s 9/10 offering to Rio’s? Easy, right? Well, as Hertz says, “Not exactly.”

To compare these two companies’ 9/10 lines, let’s start with Rio, it being the first to market. Pick up the box and it says “650 gr 9/10 Chartreuse/green Skagit Spey, Looped, 120 ft.” Pull out the spool and it is labeled “Skagit Spey 650 gr 9/10. The 120-foot line consists of a chartreuse colored head with green running line. The head length is not stated but measures 26-feet. The head weight is close to 650 grains. No tips are included in the package.

On the side of Rio’s box is a “Skagit Cheater Recommendation” suggesting no cheater for rods 13-feet and under, a 5-foot cheater for rods 13-feet to 14.5-feet, and a 10-foot cheater for rods above 14.5-feet.

Now pick up Airflo’s box. It says “Skagit North West Shooting Head, Complete with CCT tip, RS-NW-ST9/10F/S-PE.” Inside is a spool labeled “Skagit North West Shooting Head, Floating with interchangeable tip. HEAD 35 ft. LENGTH 45 ft. ST9/10F/S.” On the spool is a floating Skagit head, looped at each end. Also included is a tip wallet with one 20-foot long level tip, looped at each end. Running line is not included. There is no grain weight information on the box or spool.

The head measures 34-feet and weighs close to 650 grains.

Examining the Airflo lines, the high quality is obvious. There is an instruction sheet that directs the user to cut the sink tip into two parts, a long one for deeper/faster water, a shorter one for low water. There is a table of data for the four lines in the series. For this line, the table states:
-Line size: 9/10
-Total head weight in grains: 750 [This confused me until I understood it included an assumed 10-foot tip of T-10 attached.]
-Tip Model #: CCT200 [CCT stands for custom cut tip.]
-Tip weight: 100 [the assumed 10-foot tip @ 10 grains/foot.]
-Tip length: 10 [feet]
-Total head length including sink tip: 45 [feet]
-Belly weight w/o tip: 650 [At last, the head weight, information that should be on the box and the spool]
-Average rod length: 14 [feet] [An assumption]
-Rod/head length ratio: 3.2 [This is good information, as one wants to be in the 3.0 to 3.5 range for Skagit casting. However the 3.2 ratio if incorrect if the user’s rod is other than 14-feet long.]

Bottom line: The head is 34-feet long and weighs 650 grains. The tip is 20-feet [actually 19.5-feet] long and weighs 200 grains. Cutting the tip in half gives a 45-foot total head with a 100-grain sink tip.

Items to compare:
-Physical properties
-Casting capability and characteristics

The Rio product is complete except for tips and tip wallet. The Airflo product is complete except for running line. A prospective purchaser may already own running line, tips and/or wallets, so economics vary by individual.

Sink tip material has two properties that affect the depth of fly presentation: density and mass. The density of Rio’s T-14 and Airflo’s T-10 is about equal, giving similar sink rates. T-14’s higher mass per unit of length will sink a fly more deeply than will T-10, because it pulls the floating head further beneath the surface. For example, a 10-foot sink tip weighing 140 grains will present a fly deeper than one weighing 100 grains, although both tips have similar sink rates.

Rio’s head is 26-feet vs. Airflo’s 34-feet. Rio’s head has very short front and back tapers, while Airflo’s has a short back taper and a long front taper. Both weigh 650 grains, meaning Rio’s weighs 25 grains/foot and Airflo’s 19 grains/foot.

Rio’s design is optimized for heavy tips and large flies. Airflo’s doesn’t do this job as well, but its generous taper makes a more gentle presentation with lighter tips and smaller flies. Remembering that Skagit casting is best accomplished when total head length is 3.0 to 3.5 times rod length, the shorter Rio head accommodates longer tips within this formula. However Airflo’s longer length means that cheaters are not needed with most shorter sink tips.

I hope this helps folks who are understandably confused by the different standards and terminology of the two Skagit Spey line offerings presently on the market.

copyright 2006 Bob Pauli

I wish you all a healthy and phishy year in 2006.

· Registered
581 Posts
Excellent review of the two options. I have some of both and have found them to be useful exactly as you describe. Rio for bigger tips and Airflo for nicer casting and delivery when the really big tips aren't needed. I have found the Airflo lines max out at about 13' of T14, or a 15' standard tip.

Next fall for chinooks I am looking forward to fishing the Rio with a Big Boy on the end of it to get a very deep slow swing.

I for one hate cheaters and the numerous loops. Although it is a more expensive proposition, I like having both the Rio and Airflo available to me.


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1,526 Posts
I like intermediate sink cheaters.I use 5 fters all the time.Makes for a smoother cast.Cuts through the wind with a big fly[same reason blue water guys use sinking lines for surface poppers.Intermediate sink cheater also lessons the hinging angle when fishing a sink tip.Therefore.a 10 ft tip can get down better without a sharp angle and do the job of a Teeny.Beau

· Oh how I miss the NW
126 Posts

Thanks again for this info. I have looked all over the internet for this info with no sucess. Airflo's site doesn't even mention their skagit system. I think someone at Airflo should fix this.

· Registered
809 Posts
Yes and now the compact skagits

I have tried two of the compact skagits on two different rods ... they are a different animal.

I have had "long belly advocates" speak badly of skagit systems as "you might as well be chucking a spoon". Well if they thought that of the skagits ... then they will really think that of the Airflo compact skagits.

But they simply rock ... The regular airflows were too long to throw 15 foot tips with 13 foot rods (I ended up cutting a few feet off the back end and then lost a little bit of mass turnover with the front taper being relatively long) ... these new ones are much shorter 570 gr @ 25 feet - 600 gr at 27 feet (the line length varies by head grain weight) and have a nice front taper. They cast well ... form a tight loop ... take whatever tip you have on and launch the tapers are really nice. You can cheat out your running line and really tighten the loop up. No cuttig required that the loops at both ends are great.

I just wish they didn't stop at 420 grain ... I'd like to see a 390 for the 6 weight rods ... and wouldn't a smaller one rock on a new dec hogan 4 weight (whenever they come out).

Great addition to the lines available out there ... esp for folks with rods in the 13 foot range. There are so many choices ... it is best if you can go to a clave where they have them all to dial in your rod.

Steve Egge

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809 Posts
sa heads

Really ... would like to try them but I've never seen them.

I had a sa 600gr skagit with a 33 ft head for a 8wt rod and had to cut it back as it seemed too long. then it didn't load like I wanted it to. thats a different story.

I couldn't find the lines on their website... can you pm me or post a link.

thanks ... Steve Egge

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644 Posts
comparing airflow and rio skagit lines

A dont know anybody over this side of the pond that buys Airflow lines from a store, not Skagit but the Airflow forty plus ect.
It does'nt help stores when you look at a well known auction site in the UK and see it swamped with Airflow lines going for nothing, all boxed and ready to go, something i think Airflow need to look at or stores just wont stock there lines.
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