Sunday, November 15, 2009

Skagit and Scandi Lines Simplified

Brian Chou with a Sandy River Silver, Echo 6126 TR and a matching 450 Airflo Skagit Compact. Photo: Jaimie Delgado aka Jigging Jim

With all this hype about "modern, easier to cast Spey lines", I’d like to help simplify some of the buzz words that you may come across when eavesdropping on a conversation about these life changing lines.

First, let’s start with "Skagit". Quite simply put, Skagit is a type of shooting head that is designed to throw big flies and sink tips with little to no room behind you. Now, for the readers digest version. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we are faced with many occasions when you can only wade out 5-6 feet from the bank, with your next step in being over your head! Fishing at a distance really isn’t the goal here. The idea is to just get your fly out there far enough to "swing" it into the bucket. Given a traditional head length of say, 50-75 feet, it becomes difficult to get a cast out with this little room, much less turn over a fly of substantial (4+ inches) size and weight! I have yet to find a fly that is too large for steelhead (my largest fish thus far came on a 6'' fly). You might ask, “now why would you WANT to fish such a large fly?" Well, it’s fun. It’s intriguing to think of what this beautiful 17lb native fish is thinking when it sees something that large and says to it self "get that sh!t out of my face!" or "hey! purple is my faaaavorite color" or "is that a shrimp?? I’m famished!!" So again, the Skagit head was designed to turn over these flies in what some may feel an industrial manner. But needless to say, it gets the job done well. And what is the secret? The taper. Picture a very short rear taper at roughly 5% of the total head length, followed by the thickest part of the line (the body) taking up a full 80% of the head length, and then the front taper in the remaining 15% of the head length. The sink tip and fly in front of this powerhouse has NO CHOICE but to straighten out. Whammo!

The next buzzword is "Scandi". Most of you can figure this to be short for "Scandinavian", which describes the style of line and casting stroke that we have adapted from the northern Europeans. So, where the Skagit lines are designed to throw large, heavy flies and sink tips, these lines are more designed for floating to light sink tip work with small flies. To get flies very deep, a full sinking shooting head is typically employed. Along with their intended use, another difference between these two styles of lines is the taper. So, if the Skagit taper is shaped more like a Foster’s beer can, these Scandi heads are more like of an old Coke bottle. Picture it. A short rear taper at roughly 5% of the total head length, followed the flat taper in the body taking up 35% of the total head length, and then the remaining 60% of the head length going to the front taper. So by design, this style of line doesn’t possess the power and mass to throw the chickens mentioned above, but will jump at the opportunity to propel smaller ( < 2'') flies delicately (due to the longer front taper) and with minimal back cast room. These types of shooting head lines have grown a huge following among summer steelhead anglers swinging traditional flies and skaters for these grabby fish. And, while the Skagit taper handles, say, like a Dodge Ram, these Scandis are more like that BMW M3.

Both of these lines have a purpose, with each one doing its job incredibly well. In the same way that you wouldn’t take your M3 off-roading, you wouldn’t take your Dodge to the track. Well, I suppose you could. I do remember seeing a diesel F150 smoke some sports car in a drag race on YouTube.

Fish on fellow Jedis...

Brian Chou

This article was originally written by Brian for a Matt Klara's weekly on Sexyloops. It brought a lot of attention and discussion on Washington Fly Fishing. Another article worth reading on this topic was written by Jason Hartwick from Steelhead on the Spey Guide Service in Northern California. Simplifying Spey Lines: Skagit vs. Scandinavian.

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