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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm brand-spanking new to Skagit casting and am a bit confused. I'm vaguely familiar with using sink tips - for saltwater fishing from a kayak using a single hand rod, I've used a running line (Airflo Extreme Intermediate), to 18-20 feet of T-18, to a 6 foot leader. I'm not looking for a grain weight other than how fast can I get the line to sink, and 26 feet is just about as long as I can lift and cast from a seated position.

With a 12'6" two-handed rod, I've confused myself. When I look at the rod, it's range is from 420 to 510gr - is that for the combined weight of the head plus the sink tip?

I suspect there are way too many variables that I don't even know about, but is there a way to guess at a good length for the head plus sink tip? Twelve feet? Twenty? Twice the rod's length? Anything that will help me start with a reasonable setup for my first cast would help. A lot.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you!

This would come out to around 33 feet, not including the leader, and weigh roughly 560gr not including a weighted fly. That would be over-lining the rod around 10%. That works on a medium-fast rod in a rank newbie's hands? Just checking...
 

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With a skagit head, about half of the tip is in the water, so not really part of the equation. The math is a good place to start, but feel for the cast is better.

Short to super short skagits are popular these days. I've played with them, and prefer the more relaxed stroke I get with a compact skagit on the 12 1/2 - 14 ft rods.

A 450 skagit will carry a tip of t14, but you're nearer the freight carrying capacity of the 450 head, and casting is more demanding. It takes mass to move mass. I find t11 gets nearly as deep, and makes for a more pleasant day of casting.

Get the set up, learn to cast it, then once you really understand, start fiddling with different line/tip combinations to solve specific problems.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you, too. I'll start with T11 and see how that works. The coastal streams around me aren't very deep but when the fish are in, they're running fast and I may need to take a step up.

I didn't know different head weights work better with different sink tips. That's good to know. Is there somewhere I might learn more about the sink tip carrying capacity of a head, or is it trial-and-error and time on the water? I prefer the time spent on the water method, but I'm not against taking a shortcut now and then.

I appreciate both replies and I'm starting to get a feel for how to put together a line. This is great!
 

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Do a search on “sink tips” on here and you will find all the info you can stomach.

No, the rating for a skagit-style head is NOT for the head plus tip, just the head. There are a very few companies like Meiser that have an “advanced” labeling type that includes the total weight, but if there is only one number on the rod, or a labeled range of say 100 grains or less then you can be sure it is for the heads only.

The matching of the tip to the head, or a tip/leader of any kind to any kind of line is based largely on the linear density (grains per foot) at the connection point. This should go down as you go from head to tip, but they should be close without getting too close. It is THAT which is responsible for the smooth transfer of energy more than the total weight. This matchup is much more important for tapered lines with lighter ends, and one might say that the whole point of a skagit head is that you can get away with a wide range of tips. But the maximum density that can be carried by any line is more or less set by the density of the front of the head, but since “standard” skagit heads are all close to level section of line of approximately the same length this maximum carrying capacity goes proportional to the total grains of the head.

The more skilled you are the more you can explore pressing the limits but a good rule of thumb for me is that it is “easy” to cast up to 15’ of t11/t14/t17 on a skagit head matched to a full length 7/8/9 wt (NA style ratings) spey rod. So for example if I know I will need to cast t14 for an extended period of time I try to bring an 8wt spey rod.

The total weight matters less. Within limits once you find what you like you can just scale the depth by scaling the length of the same material as many people do. As an extreme example if you like 10’ t11, for example, you will be able to cast 20’ (twice the tip weight) of the same. It will not be exactly the same experience of course, and harder partially because of the radical change in geometry, but it WILL work. In contrast if you try to cast 10’ of t22 (the same weight but twice as dense) you may find the experience very problematic.

Though there are limits, a skagit head is VERY forgiving - again one might say this is the whole point of skagit heads - and you can vary the density of the tips as well. Within limits of course - and far more than you could with a delicately tapered line. So for example you can vary the depth by using the same length of different materials like 12’ of t8/t11/t14.

Lastly if you are an Epicurean type you can use compensated tips like the Rio replacement tips. They tend to be more expensive but different sink rates in a given set have the SAME linear density AND weight, but different diameters. That way you can change depth while keeping the casting experience (both linear density and length, so here also total weight) the same for all the tips. That is far more important for tapered heads with lighter ends, but works with skagit heads as well. But if you use this method you will literally not be able to notice any difference when casting different sink rates. Beyond the fact that your anchor will sink differently - there is no getting around that.

I hope this helped a very little.
 

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The coastal streams around me aren't very deep but when the fish are in, they're running fast and I may need to take a step up.
T14 won't take you down much more than 11- a few inches at best. Think about fly placement and sink-time not under tension (allowing your fly and tip to sink before being planed up at all by the line coming under tension). Flies of various weights also allow you to swing higher or lower in the water column with the same tip.
 

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It is always far less that people tend to think but under tension the depth a fly is held at under static conditions is linearly proportional to the length of tip and the sink rate. So twice the length, twice as deep. Same length but twice the sink rate, twice as deep. Both, four times as deep. So the same lengths of s8 vs s10 - only 10/8 deeper! The static depth is also inversely proportional to the tension - so angle and water speed.

Everything else is finesse as mentioned above. There are some situations where everything depends on just sinking the fly under no tension to a particular depth and then bringing it under tension at a certain point. There are also a whole lot of situations where you may be searching a large area and the static depth and speed (micro-controlled by adjusting the tension through controlling the angle) are very important. In either case adjusting the length and sink rate of the tip can only make it easier or harder to do what you want - but the rest is up to you.

There are loads of very skilled people who only ever use one tip type and one tip length for everything Kind of like Tenkara - use the same rod, line and even fly for every situation - just add experience and skill and/or edit the water you fish. I’m not anywhere near there yet, but I appreciate the aesthetic.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It helped a lot, to be honest. Thank you for taking the time to give me a detailed explanation - the concepts aren't alien to me but your explanation made me think about it differently (and that's not easy to do). I appreciate it.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
If you list what rod you are using that will help with the right line and tips recommendations for your rod as I am sure someone on here has or had that rod and can help.
Good to know, thanks. I'm trying to prepare for an ECHO DH II 6126. I waiting to receive it and didn't have an answer for what I'm currently using.
 

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Decho II 6wt = 450 skagit head with 12’ (cut back from the 15’ ones) Rio 8 or 9 wt replacement tips. Those are about the same linear density as t8 but with multiple sink rates. That one or the 6.5 (the one I have) are almost perfect for summer steelhead in our area of the world. Good luck.
 

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From what I understand (and experience), Echo rods can be quite powerful, so for Skagit you can go from mid to high in the grain window and be fine. For my Echo TR 6126 it was recommended by a guy at Echo to use a 450 skagit head, but could even try going up to 480.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thank you both. I've already had to forget the names of some of the people I know just to make room for all this new information, but I'm starting to see the far horizons.

Stay tuned for my next stupid question: How should I practice? Coming soon to a thread near you.
 
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