CAN I ADD A SCANDI TO MY SKAGIT?

SCANDI TO MY SKAGIT



CAN I ADD A SCANDI TO MY SKAGIT?

By Mark Raisler

Sage Ambassador & Owner of Headhunters Fly Shop



I am a novice Spey caster. Not only am I a novice caster, I am a novice in understanding and negotiating the entire 2 handed game.

A bit of background about me. I am not new to fly fishing. I have moved through the ranks as recreational angler, commercial fly tyer, certified single handed FFF Casting Instructor, full time fishing guide, outfitter, and for the past 7 years co-owner of Headhunters Fly Shop on Montana’s Missouri River. I have immersed myself in fly fishing for the last 25+ years.

So why does it feel like I’m drowning in nomenclature, gear, and technique when engaged in the mysterious world of Spey?

I have struggled to keep my head above water while I have all the tools and knowledge at my fingertips. That is the honest truth. My business partner is a 25 year Spey guy. My father is a fanatic. I grew up on the Skagit River of all places. My best friend swings with a Spey rod 100+ days a year…

Are you in the same spot? Yes, I understand your pain. Daily.

Parallels of Confusion | 1 Hand vs. 2 Hands

Lets start with the parallels between single and double handed fishing. I assume that many of you became familiar with single-handed rods and fly fishing first. A somewhat natural progression to the 2 handed rod. Many of you have been fly fishing for your entire life, and then become Spey curious after seeing, fishing with, or discussing the virtues of this effective long skinny confusing tool!

I remember the confusion upon moving from the spin rod to the fly rod. Just having the rod with a reel and line on it did not insure fly rod success. At a local sports shop in central Washington the kind proprietor repeatedly explained the system. A floating line with some backing behind it and a butt section with this other mono leader tied off the floating line and then to a tippet piece or several pieces and then a fly. A butt section would help transfer energy to the fly line but if you tangle often as you would not have to replace the line, or leader, but maybe the tippet. You then can tie a second fly, or dropper off the bend with even narrower diameter tippet like 6X?

Huh?

All that stuff to try and catch a silly trout? Lots of different spools of monofilament, machine tapered leaders but you could tie your own? Maxima, Amnesia, SA, Medalists, nail knots, droppers, desiccant, blood knots, or I tie the surgeon’s knot in the dark ‘cause it is easier.

A Worden’s Rooster Tail tied onto the line of an ultra-light rod was much simpler.

Like most of us, I grinned, nodded, consciously hiding my total confusion and willfully jumped in with both feet.

So, if you think beginning the process of Spey education is difficult and totally confusing you are right. Just like going back to the 1st grade. Lots of terms, equipment, leaders, tips, styles, types of casts. Terms that I have learned and am still learning include Poly leader, anchor point, running lines, Scandi, Skagit, long belly, D loops, Snap T’s, Double Spey, Single Spey, Cackhanded, T-18, MOW Tips…all new learning. All of it.

As I stated above I am a strong Novice now and eagerly striding towards Intermediacy!

How did I negotiate the tide of information and nomenclature? Patience, persistence and practice.

There is a ton of information and misinformation on the web, in magazines, in books, in fly clubs, in fly fishing bars about this growing segment of fly fishing. Sorting through it all while sinking in metaphorical Spey fishing quicksand is a trick.

I think I have it nailed down. At least temporarily.

Spey Rods

Can I add a Scandi to my Skagit?

The first hurdle you may encounter is to understand the differences between Skagit and Scandi. Skagit is a system of both fly rod and fly line that is intended for sinking tips. If you want to fish big rivers with sinking flies, to get down to fish of which live on or near the bottom, you may find that the Skagit system is your preference

Skagit System

A Skagit system is a heavily weighted line with a sinking leader or tip attached to it. So, Spey lines have different parts. Like a weight forward fly line will have a head near the front, a belly, behind the head, and a running line portion towards the back of the fly line. Spey lines follow that same pattern. Skagit heads are large in diameter, bulky, relatively level meaning un-tapered, and turn over heavy objects like sink tips and heavy flies.

Winter steelheaders in the Northwest, i.e. the Skagit, use this system. It is designed to get out, and then get down. Steelhead are generally found near the bottom and will not rise upwards to the fly but will move laterally. Controlling the drift is imperative and the Skagit system can be manipulated throughout the drift making this an effective tool.

The bevy of Skagit casts relies on a sustained anchor to develop the cast. That is an important facet for any cast to be successful. As in single-handed casting, 2 handed casting success is based on loading the rod with the line. Period.

Those are the nuts and bolts of the Skagit system as I see it now. It is pure and it is simple. The longer I am engaged in the learning process, the more I will know. I hope?

So the Skagit system is designed for a purpose. Not every purpose, a specific purpose. If you want to fish bigger rivers, get your fly below the surface flirting with the bottom, then the Skagit system is your program.

Skagit casting styles include the Double Spey, Snap T, Perry Poke, and so forth. I’m becoming more comfortable every time I venture out to practice.

I now know there are formulas to figure out how long the head needs to be along with tip length to match up with your Spey Rod length but am not allowing myself that confusion. Yet.

Scandi System

Scandi system is a more accurate casting system that can be fished on any size of stream of river. Perfect for the trout world and fish that reside nearer the surface. The Scandi line is designed more like a weight forward single-handed fly line. It looks and feels like a fly line you can wrap your brain around. It has the same components. A running line, followed by the head in this case a Scandi line, followed by a leader. Sometimes you may tie on a tip like you would with the Skagit system. But not always. A Poly Leader or a Intermediate Tip would be all you could do. The Scandi system does not achieve the depths that the Skagit system is designed for.

The Scandi cast, or underhanded cast, is based on the touch and go cast. A single Spey cast. Not a sustained anchor like the Skagit system. A short lived timing anchor point that certainly requires more practice, teaching, and understanding.

Those two styles, rod and line families are important to understand allowing you to choose the system that will be appropriate for your intended use.

Switch?

How about the Switch conundrum? Today the term Switch, to me at my novice level, really means length of rod for most consumers. Switch rods are generally under 12’ in length and provide another misunderstanding point in the new world of 2 handed rods and lines. I don’t think I even want to touch this facet as my understanding of what Switch means to many audiences is certainly similar to the clarity of mud.

Brown Trout

Why can’t I just put a 6 weight line on my 6 weight Spey Rod?

As you may know that Spey Lines are measured in grain weight. So are single-handed lines, but the industry has decided to assign a general weight identifier to them. A 6 wt single-handed line weighs 160 grains, give or take 5% or 8 grains. A 6wt Spey line can range from 400-600 grains depending on length of rod.

2 handed Spey lines are measured in grains as well. The manufacturer states the grain weight on the box. So you may not know what grain weight you need for your 12’6” 6 weight Sage METHOD. The answer is not 160 grains. But why?

Longer rods require more energy to bend them, consequently they require more weight. So how do I know what Skagit line to put on my sparkling red METHOD 6126? RIO line charts of course. You know, just like you need for your single-handed rod. What?

There are conversations about various lines for just as various a rod selection going on in bars and living rooms across America at this very moment. I have often heard it stated in Spey circles, “There are not bad rods, just bad line marriages.” Often true with single-handed rods too. Finding the right line for you and any given rod is imperative for Spey casting success.

If you must know, there are two different line weights to make that Method 6126 load. Yep. Different systems, different lines. Same rod. Huh?

The METHOD 6126 can support a Skagit 425 grain to a 475 grain Skagit line. A Scandi on the same rod begins at 390 grains upwards to a 450 grain weight.

You just gotta get out there and try some different lines. The confusion is rampant in this sport. Sift through the info until you get a grasp!

The Language of Spey

You will get better at understanding the language of Spey. Once you begin to learn the basic language, then you will learn there are differing dialects too. Nuances among the Skagit and Scandi families are vast. Then you’ll bump into the Long Belly Spey crowd. Euro’s too. More confusion, more learning, more fun!

A continual ever-winding path towards understanding is what you are searching for. It’s what we are all searching for. Omniscient of all things Spey.

So how do you get closer to understanding all that is Spey. Find a mentor. He may be at your local fly shop. He or she may be a casting instructor. You may find that person at a Spey Casting Clinic of which there are many. Attend them and if you want, just stand in the shadows for a while. It’s OK.

Then put one of these awkward long rod in your two hands and move it wildly around. You may even enjoy the technology, the art of the cast, and the solace you can achieve while fishing. It will slow your heart rate down.

Just Do It

Just Do It!

Negotiating the perpetual twists and turns is a lot of fun. New fly fishing Spey learning is fun and wildly entertaining. When you begin to discover the magnitude of depth within 2 handed world, your eyes will be forced wide open.

While I am closer to getting this thing arranged properly in my head it is one of those things that the more you know you realize how much more you don’t know. A slippery slope? No, it’s just not that bad. You will graduate from Spey 101.

I have just made it to Spey 201. I think. I spent over a year in 101. It may be a couple in 201. I for one am looking forward to it. Spey is something you can learn at your own pace. You and I certainly did not learn how to chuck a single-handed streamer cast into the wind at 80’ the first couple of years. So I do not expect to achieve those 100’+ casts that I see some of the fellows firing off in the Spey videos. No, no not yet.

Find that Spey mentor and begin the un-confusion process. A great first question might be “Hey I overheard in a bar that I could add my Scandi to a Skagit…?”

Look at the RIO PRODUCTS web site for Spey line recommendations for nearly every 2 handed rod on the planet. Roam around for a while and see what additional Spey info is contained. You may learn a few things about Spey!

Find a Mentor. They are out there. Cling to him or her and soak in the knowledge. The more you know, the better you cast. Right?


SOUTHERNMOST SHAD

Shad Cover




SOUTHERNMOST SHAD

By Jon B. Cave

Each year, one of the most prolific yet little known runs of anadramous fish occurs during the winter months in east-central Florida as American shad migrate from the sea to spawn near the headwaters of the St. Johns River. After a 4 to 5 year absence, the fish are instinctively returning to their natal waters to produce a new generation. Florida has the southernmost migration, but there are other runs of American Shad in many rivers along the Atlantic Seaboard. Tags indicate the fish travel from as far away as Canada’s Bay of Fundy.

The American, or white, shad is the largest of the herrings. In Florida, they average 2-3 pounds, and 5-pounders are caught with regularity. In rivers to the north, the average size is somewhat larger, mostly because some of the northern fish are repeat spawners. Those in the St. Johns die after reproducing – probably the result of making such an exhaustively long trip, but also because the warm southern river drains the fish of the energy necessary for a return to the Atlantic.

Staying tight to a jumping shad

Shad begin to enter the river mouth at Jacksonville sometime in December when seasonal temperatures begin to cool the water. Male shad, or “bucks”, are the first to arrive, followed shortly thereafter by the larger female “roe” shad. Once the fish enter the river, they wind their way a distance of more than 200 miles to the uppermost reaches south, or upstream, of Lake Monroe where 80 percent of the river’s fall occurs and currents are the strongest. There, females release their eggs freely in the moving water while males swim alongside and disperse milt. The strong flow of water facilitates the fertilization process by mixing eggs and milt together and it prevents the eggs from settling in the bottom silt where they are likely to perish. The height of spawning activity occurs in January, February, and March when water temperatures hover in the mid-60’s, but a very small number of shad may still be alive well into April.

The shad’s preference for a location with a strong current should be the foremost consideration in selecting a productive fishing spot. Places with the swiftest flow include the main channel, the edges of steep banks, deep holes, the outside bank of sharp turns, and drop-offs. On occasion, the fish will even move into tributaries if the current is substantial enough. Among the locations with the best opportunities to flyfish for shad are those in the vicinity of Mullet Lake, Lemon Bluff, Highway 50, Lake Harney, Hatbill Park, and Puzzle Lake.

Shad are filter-feeders who nourish themselves by opening their mouth with gills flared to strain food, mostly plankton, from the water as they swim. However, studies by biologists indicate that shad, like many other anadramous fish, stop feeding once they enter the freshwater environs of their home river. Some skeptical anglers doubt that scientific research because they have witnessed shad pursuing minnows (a rather common occurrence) in spawning locations and mistake that behavior for feeding when, instead, the shad probably regard the smaller fish as egg-eating predators and are chasing them from the breeding area.

American shad

Despite the fact that they don’t feed in freshwater, shad can be enticed to strike small flies if they are presented effectively. Flashy patterns tied on size 6 hooks and weighted with a set of bead-chain or extra-small dumbbell eyes are standard for the St. Johns River. The presentation needs to be made at either a 90 degree angle to the current or, preferably, just slightly downstream. To allow the fly sufficient time to sink, dead-drift it with an occasional mend until it is quartering down-current. Then simply strip the fly slow enough to feel it occasionally bump the bottom. That being said, there are occasions when shad inexplicably prefer a faster retrieve with the fly closer to the surface – so it pays to experiment a little to find the most successful technique at any particular time.

I normally opt to use 6-weight tackle for American shad, but going a weight lower or higher is just as effective. The river’s water level largely determines which fly line density is appropriate. When the water level is high and currents are strong, a full-sinking line may be the best choice. On the other hand, a floating line is ideal when the water is low and in situations where the fish are near the surface. A sink-tip line is a good all-around choice as it will handle the widest variety of conditions. A tapered leader approximately 8’ long is a good match with any line density and a tippet size of 0X or larger will assure a good turnover with the weighted flies.

American shad jump as frequently as baby tarpon - but fight harder

Like other anadramous fish that must withstand the rigors of a lengthy migration to reproduce, American shad are extremely strong and determined fighters that don’t come easily to the net. When hooked, they become flashing, silvery missiles that repeatedly launch themselves from the water. These characteristics, as well as the fish’s willingness to strike flies, have made them an increasingly favorite target among flyfishers in Florida where redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish, spotted seatrout, and largemouth bass also vie for status as the most popular gamefish.

For more from Sage Ambassador Jon Cave, please visit www.jonbcaveflyfishing.com

Claremont Isles

Claremont Isles




Spectacular multi-species fly fishing in the Claremont Isles in northeast Australia.

Renowned fly fisher and Sage Ambassador Peter Morse is featured this must see fly fishing documentary about a never before filmed area of isolated islands, sand cays, reef flats, offshore reefs and river systems. The variety of species here is amazing and between the spectacular camera work and great fishing you’ll be educated and entertained. Check out the trailer here.

Buy the DVD here

Northern Exposure

Russ BC Buck

Northern Exposure

by Russ Miller
Sage Pro Manager

I am not sure what it is when you cross over the border from the U.S. into Canada. There is a weight that is lifted, perhaps it’s the knowledge that your phone is no longer in service, and that for the next three days all you have to worry about is which run to step into next.

BC

This morning it was easy to choose what run we would start at for first light. As we fired up the stove at the camp spot for some hot coffee, I could hear the river song playing in the background. It had been the same tune that we fell asleep to every night. Instead of getting in the car, we would fish our home pool at the doorsteps of camp. As we rigged up in the pale blue pre-dawn light, the 14 foot Magnum red METHOD rod glowed a little as I strung it up. This rod was an easy one to fall in love with; it is ultra-light, ultra-powerful, and has the soul of a champion. I was able to hit seams that were out of my previous casting range and keep my fly swimming through water that was untouched.

Contemplating my fly choice for the morning, last night’s drinks still sat heavy in my head and the late night fish stories motivated me to make a change. Rumor had it that black and blue was the ticket. That was all I needed to hear as I had been on a pink fly bender the past two fishless days. Digging through my box I found the one, a black marabou head with a blue prom dress tail. It certainly caught my eye even in the dim glow of my headlamp. Steaming coffee in one hand and rod in the other we made our way from our camp, through the foliage, and out onto the gravel bar. Harry and I sat and watched the river flow, sipping coffee and waiting for the morning to start.

BC Buck

About a third of the way down from the head during another rhythmic swing, my fly got crushed. I didn’t have to worry about my loop or setting the hook, I just had to hang on and enjoy the ride. Minutes later Harry was grabbing the wrist of my first BC buck and I was ecstatic! After celebrating and high fiving, I sat down to re-live the experience and soak the scene in. Harry stepped back in, anxious after feeling and seeing the power of these native fish. I let my nerves calm down for about 15 minutes and stepped back into the head. Three casts later the matching hen came to hand.

When it rains … it feels so good!


A Different Take on a Little Rod

Sage 370-4 Response

A Different Take on a Little Rod

Joe Mahler

Hidden within the SAGE line-up is a gem. The Response 370-4 is a seven-foot three-weight rod that is a true workhorse – ok, a pony. I realize that it is not likely that a rod of this stature will never be the talk of fly tackle shows and expositions, but maybe this one should be.

I have never owned a rod lighter than a four weight, but last spring I was kayak fishing with Steve Gibson in a lake near Sarasota, Florida. It was tough day for sure. Windy, chilly, and the bass, bream, and crappies had a chronic case of lock-jaw. I had a seven and six-weight rod with me, Steve was armed with a two and three-weight. At the end of the day, Steve had caught 17 respectable fish, while I caught only two. We were fishing close to each other, even using the same flies, but Steve, with his diminutive equipment picked the shoreline apart like a micro-surgeon, while I simply blew through some of what proved to be the best spots. Steve explained that the down-sized outfits that he was using somehow changed his view of the shoreline and made him more focused. So, hat in hand, my search for the perfect three-weight began.

When it comes to equipment, “If it’s worth using, it’s worth abusing” definitely applies to me. While terms like “Lifting Power” and “Backbone” aren’t usually tossed about in light rod discussions, I knew that, although I was looking for a small waters rod, I never look for small fish. The rod I chose would need to cover a range of waters– from canals to lakes to backcountry creeks, on foot and by paddle, as well as a variety of species including bream, exotics (oscars, cichlids, and peacock bass), largemouth bass and even small tarpon. Kayak fly-rodders are usually from two different schools of thought on rod length. The first argument is that since the caster is usually seated, therefore closer to the water’s surface, a longer rod is helpful in keeping the back cast from hitting the water and help with distance overall. The other side is that being able to tuck a shorter rod inside the kayak will make it easier to navigate twisty backcountry creeks and, since super-distance casts are seldom necessary in a stealthy kayak, a short rod is a better choice for most situations. I tend to agree with the latter.

The Response 370-4, to me, is very much in line with the popular SAGE Bass series rods. It’s a fast-action rod that will handle more payload than one would expect. I often use flies ranging from #8 cork-bodied poppers, to #4 bucktail streamers on salt water hooks. The key with throwing the larger flies is to use a shorter and heavier leader than is typical. For bass and small tarpon, I use a seven foot 12-15lb. leader with a 20lb. butt section. Initially, I paired the Response 370 up with a 3 weight RIO gold line but found that, for my purposes, a 3 weight RIO Grande helps load the rod better.

In the six months that I have been fishing the 370, I have landed largemouth and Peacock Bass to 18” and baby tarpon to 27”. I have definitely put a bend in the rod, but I’ve not felt under gunned. The four-piece 370 comes in a tube that measures less than 26” in length. It fits in my travel bag, and is always under the seat of my truck. It has become a staple in my casting instruction sessions as an aid to build line-shooting skills, which the Response 370/ RIO Grande combination does beautifully. If you are looking for a little rod with a lot of attitude, take the Response 370 for a test drive.

Joe Mahler is a Sage ambassador, casting instructor, author, illustrator, and experienced kayak angler in Florida. To learn more about Joe, head over to his Facebook page and website.

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