RIO's Simon Gawesworth on Skagit Lines
The most recent style of spey casting is called Skagit casting (pronounced ska-jit) and named after the Skagit river in Washington.
This style of spey casting utilizes an even shorter head length spey line than the WindCutter
- something in the region of 27 ft. This exceptionally short head
length allows the fly caster to make long casts in extremely tight
situations. Even the most basic of spey casters can make a 70 ft cast
with no more than 3 ft of room behind. Added to the shortness of the
line is the fact that the head weighs about the same amount as the
corresponding WindCutter, but at half the length. This means that the Skagit line has almost twice the weight per inch of the WindCutter line. This extra weight per inch is an immense asset for lifting out deeply sunken tips or heavy, large flies. Nothing will pick up big flies or T-14 or LC13 style sink tips as easily as a Skagit line will.
The most confusion with Skagit lines comes with something called “Skagit Cheaters”, which are 2½ ft, 5 ft and 7½ ft extension pieces for a Skagit line.
One of the ideas behind Skagit casting is that you want to maintain a constant ratio between the rod length and the head length of the line. It maybe 3 times the rod length, it may be 4 times the rod length, and each caster will find their happy ratio.
the purpose of this example, let’s say a caster likes a ratio of 3½:1.
A 12 ft rod would require 42 ft of line and a 15 ft rod will require
52½ ft. By following this ratio, it means that the caster never needs
to adjust their casting stroke, regardless of which outfit they pick
If a caster likes this ratio and uses a 12 ft rod, they
are going to need 42 ft of line to feel comfortable. The Skagit line
has a 27 ft head. Add a 15 ft sink tip and you get 42 ft, which means
there is no cheater needed. The next day, the same caster casts a 14 ft
rod - 14 x 3½ = 49 ft. So, to keep the same casting stroke, the caster
needs a total head length around 49 ft. A 27 ft Skagit line, plus the 15 ft sink tip is only 42 ft. Plug in the 7½ ft Cheater and the head length becomes 49½ ft and much closer to the required ratio.
whole idea is pretty confusing to a novice, but once the concept is
grasped, it is very easy to understand and allows for a caster to
develop a consistent style, regardless of the size of rod used.
A final note to mention on the Skagit lines is that the sink tip does not form part of the calculation for line weight. If you look at the spey line recommendation chart and decide on a Skagit line for your rod, make sure you use the weight of the Skagit body. If the chart suggests you need a 550 grain Skagit line, it does not matter which
size sink tip you add on to the front end of this (as long as it is not
heavier than the Skagit body). The reason for this is that the sink tip
usually does not form part of the D-loop and, therefore, plays no role in loading the rod.
A typical example is that someone is told that they need a 550 grain
Skagit line. They know they are going to use a 150 grain sink tip, so
they buy a 400 grain Skagit line (thinking that the two added together
will give them the correct load). This is very wrong and will result in an under loaded outfit. Make sure the Skagit body weight is correct, regardless of the sink tip.
lines are, quite simply, the easiest
way to cast large flies
or fast sinking
The mass of the head and the short body length result in incredible
lifting power, making it child’s play to cast otherwise “nasty” rigs.
It is a very easy line to learn
to cast with and also extremely useful for casting in tight situations
. The Skagit line is available in: 300 (new for 2008), 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700 and 750 grain head weights
lines have a thin running line extending from the 27 ft long head that aids in easy distance and shooting
The front end finishes with a loop and to this loop you will need to
attach some kind of tip. The line does not come with a front tip of any
kind, so if you purchase this you will need to add a tip to your
purchases. As explained earlier, you may also need a Skagit Cheater
, depending on your rod length, casting style and size of sink tip used. RIO makes five
15 ft tips to choose from:
(1.5 to 2 ips)
3. Type 3
4. Type 6
5. Type 8
In addition you can purchase T-8, T-11
and cut to the desired length and weight.
The Skagit VersiTip
is a Skagit line, packaged with a 5 ft floating Skagit Cheater
a 15 ft Type 6 tip, a 15 ft Type 8 tip and one of RIO’s shooting head
wallets. For those that don’t know much about the Skagit technique and
tackle it is a good purchase as it has pretty well everything you need
to start with. The only possible add on would be a 15 ft floating tip
, for conditions when you don’t need to be deep. The Skagit VersiTip
is available in 450, 550, 650 and 750 grain sizes.
Skagit Shooting Head
The Skagit shooting head
is the head from the Skagit line. It is 27 ft long and has a loop in both ends
. To the front end you attach a tip
as recommended for the regular Skagit line, while the back end loop is ideal for attaching your favorite RIO shooting line
. These heads are available in 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700 and 750 grain sizes.
very simple fishing set-up is a reel loaded up with either SlickShooter
or a floating Powerflex core shooting line and have a wallet with a
couple of AFS heads (floating, slow intermediate and Sink 4 for
steelhead fishers and floating, slow intermediate and intermediate sink
tip for Atlantic salmon fishers) and a Skagit shooting head with some
tips. With a rig like this, each fly fisher would be primed for
everything and any situation they would encounter.
Rio on Skagit Spey Line
Modern Spey fly lines were pioneered
and developed by Jim Vincent, with the help of other proficient spey
casters. RIO Products, the Spey Line Specialist, is the only company
with five different spey taper designs so casters can choose the right
line for their individual preferences. RIO has done it again by
introducing the revolutionary Skagit Spey for 2006. RIO has the most
comprehensive array of floating and interchangeable tip spey lines to
fulfill the needs of every situation, every spey rod design and every
The Skagit Spey is a revolutionary new
line designed for the Skagit-style spey casting. This casting technique
requires a line with a very short, 27 ft (8.3 m), heavy head that will
propel heavy sink tips and big flies great distances with a very short
casting stroke. Skagit casting is easy for novice or experienced
casters to learn. For casting the Skagit Spey, the total head length
and weight must be matched to the rod. The total head length including
the sink tip should be no more than 3 - 3 1/2 times the length of the
rod. To adjust for rod length and loading, simply add a 5 ft or 10 ft
Skagit Cheater to achieve the desired load and length. The RIO 15 ft
sinking tips or T14 may be used to achieve the desired depth. The
Skagit Spey features RIO's welded loop for fast tip changes and is also
available as a full floating line with a 44 ft (13.4 m) head to cast
bombers and weighted flies for summer steelhead. The head is green with
a yellow running line for optimum casting control.