Starting out I did both, first just the head and grass leader, then I practiced with the sink tip and the grass leader. This is just so you can get your muscle memory to remember the correct movements while not having to deal with the river currents, wading etc.
I did the grass leader thing with both skagit and scandi lines when I first started to cast a DH rod ( 2 seasons ago) to try to learn. I live where there are no large running rivers ( that are not full of water moccasins - thats a whole other story).
Looking back I think the grass leader did more to screw me up than anything- the timing of the different parts of the cast, as well as not having the water to place tension on the line makes a HUGE difference between casting on a river vs grass ( even with the grass leader). It allows you to go through the hand motions- so I guess it has some benefit- BUT ... then when I went on my first trip on an actual steelhead river with moving water- everything was way different- timing was the biggest thing I notice and my casts were horrible and embarrassing, and I felt like I had wasted numerous hours on the grasss.
As a disclaimer- Im still a really bad/horrible DH caster- but still working on it. Maybe for an accomplished caster- the grass system may have benefit- but looking back .. I should have at least gone to lake or pond to at least get the water tension working in my benefit
I agree with the previous post, it does mess with the timing, but the muscle memory is important and that does get better with practice, even just going through the motions with a pencil in hand while sitting in your easy chair.
I've found that when you get the river, doing about 50 switch casts to settle down and re-acquaint yourself with the current pull and wind will ease you back into the right timing. Then start with your best casts and work up the harder ones. So for me, it is switch, snap-t, strong side single and then the double.
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