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Rio, OPST, Beulah, SA, ? Just looking for some opinions on the various Skagit heads out there. I am looking for a 500-525 for a 7wt. I know like everything else there are lots of varying opinions on heads just as there are on rods, running lines and reels. I am just looking for the pros and cons for the heads out there. Thanks
 

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They are all good to be honest. I have an Airflo skagit switch on my 12'9" 7 weight and it is great - maybe a tad short. Then, I have a Rio skagit max on my 13'0" 6 weight and it is great too. I think all of the lines are really good these days.
 

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I would have said last year my preference was airflo. best loops imo. but they discontinued the skag switch and the scout is too short for all but the shortest rods imo. I love the 20' skag swtch on a 13'4 8wt. don't think anyone still has a 20' head anymore. the skag compact is great, the most versatile and I use them most, but I don't always want the longer head, as I regularly fish the longer rod with my ass in the forest. intermediate and triple density heads might be useful at times, but if I had only one head, it would be floater. all the companies tapers are fine by me. opst only has ultra short heads, I think Beulahs Q.C. and loops suck. I have seen heads from all of them that very +/- 20gr from spec, so buy a 10 dollar grain scale and weigh em if in doubt. haven't tried any current SA skagits.
 

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I also have more or less slipped into mostly airflo, but use all kinds. With a skagit head you will have to go with secondary characteristics, like Mike with liking the loops, as skagit heads don’t have a bonafide taper. They are fundamentally just a section of level line with loops on the end. In that they are all the same.

Now if you want to match one to a rod that is a different question, as are personal style preferences. Since some matches that are especially liked by some (e.g. the ultra short, dense commando heads) are especially disliked by others - it is all a matter of taste. As Arlo Guthrie once said, “a light is not any good without a dark to put it in.” If this is a first skagit head I would recommend you just stick with either a 510 or 540 airflo skagit compact, one of the most popular skagit heads. Once you get used to that middle-of-the-road head you will be better able to judge your personal tastes. Or as likely as not you will just be happy with it and not bother with experimenting further.

Either of those should be great on that rod - as would probably also be the case with the 480 - but if in doubt maybe go with the heavier if this is going to be a new experience. The 540 may give you a little bit more tactile feedback - if you are learning that is.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
This is all new to me. I have been on the water with rods with different heads, but being such a newbie it is hard for me to know what is working. Mostly they have been Rio’s but used one rod with an Airflow. Really couldn’t tell the difference YET. And I am sure it will just take time on the water to get me tuned into the different feels. I am sure part of the issue for me on feel is that each rod I have used has been a loaner and the set up was for that rod. All cast well from my point of view. One thing I have been told is that most will use a 525 grain head but also that they felt their rods worked better with a 510..I think they were using their 510s on their rods while I was using the 525s. Thanks for all your insights.
 

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IMO, don't get too caught up on small grain weight differences - 510 vs 525 is essentially the same thing. Often, the different tips you are using will vary by many more grains than that - more so with scandi lines and poly leaders (some poly leaders are 35 grains, others are 75 grains) but also with skagit style sink tips. Also, some people will love one line and others love another for the same rod and the weights can easily vary by 50 grains or more.
 

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This is all new to me. I have been on the water with rods with different heads, but being such a newbie it is hard for me to know what is working. Mostly they have been Rio’s but used one rod with an Airflow. Really couldn’t tell the difference YET. And I am sure it will just take time on the water to get me tuned into the different feels. I am sure part of the issue for me on feel is that each rod I have used has been a loaner and the set up was for that rod. All cast well from my point of view. One thing I have been told is that most will use a 525 grain head but also that they felt their rods worked better with a 510..I think they were using their 510s on their rods while I was using the 525s. Thanks for all your insights.
Yes, it is a matter of the feel more than “works better” at that level of difference - remember a dime weighs about 35 grains so I would not sweat it much. It is definitely hard to make a judgement on what you personally prefer until you get more experience, and that preference will depend a bit on the way you like to cast. This will be after you can cast them all just fine by making adjustments and have removed the technique part as a variable. There are even factors like which lines feel best when you are practicing and trying to impress your friends, and which you will enjoy more casting all day long. So there is no objective “best weight” - within reason of course. But 510 is about middle of the road for most 7wt spey rods.
 

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Because the head weight is up to 500grain, everything has to be heavy duty. The durability is the most important thing to be considered. Airflo>SA> > > RIO
Everyone's opinion and experience differs. I happen to think durability is the least important thing to consider. Then again, I take pretty good care of my heads.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks all, the quality of the heads is what I was basically looking for. If I am reading this right it looks like Airflow has a slight edge over the others. I am sure they are all good lines...and I am also sure there have been issues with every line manufacturer over the years. It's the same with everything, 99% great and 1% with issues. I appreciate everyones input a whole lot.
 

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Actually in practice these days I just get the first one with the desired specs, regardless of brand, that comes up for half off or less in the classifieds here. The vast majority of the time they are being sold because of never being used. Works both for saving money, or if you just want to play with more lines. :)

You can even ask specifically for one in the classifieds and a lot of the time it works insanely well on here - 6 to 8 wt is the sweet spot with tons of stuff out there. Just sayin’
 

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Vikingson57, after you are well acquainted with whatever floating head you choose I have a recommendation for your second one. Consider the Rio Skagit Max Game Changer F/H/I 500 grains which has Floating/hover/intermediate sections built in to the head. I use it with a medium iMOW tip on a 12'9" 7wt fiberglass Spey rod. It helps present unweighted, easy to cast flies at an effective depth. Its "stick" in the water helps a beginner make good sustained anchor casts. It performs well in windy conditions. It has helped me improve my sustained anchor casts in distance, accuracy and presentation. It seems to get my flies to a "fishy" depth with a straight swing. If you fish deep waters they sell Skagit Max Game Changers with F/H/I/S3 and F/I/S3/S5 profiles which will present sink tips at depth with straight swings, but I don't know how easy they are to cast. I know the F/H/I is great to cast. Just one man's opinion.

 

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Actually in practice these days I just get the first one with the desired specs, regardless of brand, that comes up for half off or less in the classifieds here. The vast majority of the time they are being sold because of never being used. Works both for saving money, or if you just want to play with more lines. :)

You can even ask specifically for one in the classifieds and a lot of the time it works insanely well on here - 6 to 8 wt is the sweet spot with tons of stuff out there. Just sayin’
yep, that right there. what length/weight are you looking for ?
 

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vikingson57, I have that same Beulah 13 - 2 7 wt rod (my go-to rod). I use a Beulah Tonic (skagit) 500 gr 26 ft long head on that rod and it bombs long casts with big or weighted flies and 10 ft of T11 with ease. If I have both a big and heavily weighted fly, then I shorten my mono leader and that seems to work fine for me. When trying to dial in the line for this rod, I spoke with Bruce Berry and the Beulah 500 gr was his hands-down and definitive recommendation. I've had others cast the rod, including several experienced guides (who know far more than me) and all agree - this is a perfect pairing. Hope this helps some.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
vikingson57, I have that same Beulah 13 - 2 7 wt rod (my go-to rod). I use a Beulah Tonic (skagit) 500 gr 26 ft long head on that rod and it bombs long casts with big or weighted flies and 10 ft of T11 with ease. If I have both a big and heavily weighted fly, then I shorten my mono leader and that seems to work fine for me. When trying to dial in the line for this rod, I spoke with Bruce Berry and the Beulah 500 gr was his hands-down and definitive recommendation. I've had others cast the rod, including several experienced guides (who know far more than me) and all agree - this is a perfect pairing. Hope this helps some.
This is very helpful. I will look at getting one of the Beulah heads. Thanks for the information.
 

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Seeing as how you are new to this game, I suggest leaning more towards the upper limit of the rod's grain window. And if big flies are gonna be part of the equation, Skagit wins over Scandi, every time! And since you're starting from scratch, loop a T-14 MOW tip on the end of a Skagit head with a beefy tip diameter, & you have a system that will cast anything!

fwiw: I used to shoot for 2x rod length heads & 1x rod length tips. But heads are getting shorter & tips are still 10 /15 ft long. All that really means is the loop to loop connection is a little further back.

P.S. I would also recommend staying away from the multi density lines/heads until you become comfortable with the conventional floating head, single density sink tip. That goes for fishing as well as casting.
 

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SA Skagit Extreme in my opinion one of the best casting Skagits around! I feeel like it’s a scandi casting t-11 to t-14 depending on what rod. Single Spey all day..
 

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Skagit Rec!

While I agree that a dime weighs 35 grains and an average pair of fly tying scissors weighs 450 grains if memory serves me, I don't agree that a dime up or a dime down does not make a difference. If that were true then the same up or down dime would not make a difference on a 9'6" 6 weight SH rod...but...it does make a difference. Sometimes it will make enough of a difference to make a decision about loving the rod or wanting to sell it. Going up a dime in weight would be an 8 weight line that is slightly on the light side of spec and a dime down would be right on the cusp of a 4 weight line. I have never met a fisherman that prefers a 4 weight line on a 6 weight rod.

For the 13'2" 7 weight:

People newer to the game often times do like a slightly heavy grain load. Tonic 525 would serve that purpose. I think 540 and 550 are too heavy for good casting and proper timing of the rod bending and un-bending.

Folks that tend to lean on T14 or heavier also tend to prefer an up-tick in grains (ala 525) as it takes mass to move mass. This would also take care of flies that are not carefully crafted to shed water quickly or infested with Rabbit among other materials that are akin casting the proverbial wet sock

The rod is at home at 500 grains...Proper! if you choose not to go Rio or Beulah 510 is the same thing as saying 500...even if it is slightly heavy of spec and weighs 517 or whatever that is optimum for most casters, most casting conditions and is versatile from T8 -T11 -T14 provided you are not going much past 10' of T14.

That said, I fish T8 and T11 and prefer our Tonic Switch 475 on both our Platinum 13'2" 7 weight and our Onyx 12'9" 7 weight rods. My flies are crafted with movement and are easy casting flies. I feel like I am fairly technically proficient and consistent when it comes to casting in various casting lies and conditions. More often than not I single spey 10' and 12' sink tips and bigger flies unless there are gnarly obstructions like overhanging tree branches etc.

Other options would be our Tonic Short 500 that is a 22 1/2' line that was recently added as an option where our Tonic Switch stopped at 475 and Tonic Spey 500 is 26' long. Nice easy casting tweener line that has good carry and does not start turn prematurely, robbing distance when necessary.

I did find it odd that Beulah lines were said to be suspect with Q.C., Loop and overall quality while Rio, S.A. and Airflo were said to be reputable. It is no secret where our lines are made for those in the know can look at the spool and go, "oh you guys are having your lines run by S.A." Yep~ I have weighed a lot more lines than you guys would probably believe. Being it is my taper I wanted to make sure that S.A. was as good as the sample lines would suggest. I have never weighed a Tonic V2 that was more than 8 grains light or 7 grains heavy. That is a pretty tight window. Yeah, every once in while a turd slips through. Give us a shout we'll get you taken care of!

BB~
 
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