Aug 16, 2016

Trout Spey - New Line Options

Trout Spey Lines

I quoted in the my last article Winston Microspey vs Sage Trout Spey, "Awesome time it is for the New Trout Spey Angler". It's great to have such awesome rods available to us but the best rods really don't mean anything without lines to do what we need them to do. Last year at this time I was writing Trout Spey Lines - No Perfect Answer. This year I am stoked to say I have some perfect answers. Maybe not all the answers but the two hand trout angler is wading up a better creek than ever!

In addition to the search for better trout spey / microspey lines I believe I have found an awesome single handed skagit lines. In pursuit of the quest for better lines for pint size spey rods we got more than we asked for and we now have what I have come to believe is the best single hand skagit heads yet. I'll get into this detail later in the article.

Update: 8/26/2016

Airflo Skagit Scout - Just arrived...NOW IN STOCK

I just got my samples of this new Skagit From Airflo. Can't wait to try them out. Compared to the OPST heads these appear a little longer. NO one is telling us to line up light so I would plan to go with your rod's recommendation.

You got to love this Airflo description...
"They allow trout, steelhead, and salmon fishermen to use their single-hand and switch rods to cast any sink tip in their bag."
That's what I want to hear!

Head Length

Airflo Skagit Scout
New Skagits
Really Short Skagits! With the addition of the new Airflo Skagit Scout there is now three offerings in this category including the RIO Skagit Trout Max and OPST Commando Heads.

OPST Commando
OPST or Olympic Peninsula Skagit Tactics was founded by innovative spey masters Ed Ward and Jerry French. Commando Skagit Heads are specifically designed to work on the OPST principles of Pure Skagit Sustained Anchor water loaded cast and are optimized for switch rods in the 10-12 foot range.

OPST Commando 325gr w/10' - T8 tip on Winston 4110 Microspey
So what does Pure Skagit Sustained Anchor casting mean? What OPST did with the skagit is take away all that was not necessary and get right down to just enough head to anchor and maintain a fixed position of your fly while keeping the head in constant motion throughout the casting stroke. By using out and around method your casting stroke becomes one continuous motion. This allows the angler to keep a tight casting box and minimizes the space needed for large D-loops and reduces the pause needed for critical timing to get a formed D-loop. In my words if you can perform a roll cast than adapting to an out and around swing with a Commando Head will naturally come easy.

OPST Commando Head Specs

How different are the lengths? I make some comparisons here to demonstrate just how drastic of a turn we've taken.

Winston BIII Microspey 4110 likes 325gr
  • Airflo Switch Streamer 330gr head length 18.5'
  • Rio Skagit Max Short 325gr head length 20'
  • OPST Commando 325gr head length 15'
Sage One Trout Spey 3110 likes 275gr
  • Airflo Switch Streamer - N/A - lowest available line is 300gr
  • Rio Skagit Max Short 275gr head length 20'
  • OPST Commando 275gr head length 13.5'
  • RIO Skagit Trout Max 275gr head length 11'

Courtesy of OPST - Recommendation Chart
One thing you will notice in the recommendation chart provided by OPST is the grain weight to switch/spey rod sizes are much less than we currently recommend. Using the Winston 4110 Microspey for my example I like to load it with 325-330 grains but according to the OPST chart they recommend 200-225 grain. I have experimented with both grain windows and at this time I still prefer the heavier load for my rod. This may change as I become more adept to this Pure Skagit form of casting but that is a whole another area that will need it's own article to tackle. The single hand specs I find to be dead on with what I have experienced.

Using OPST Commando heads for single hand rods becomes very interesting especially for trout anglers but also steelhead anglers who fish tight quartered water. These heads give your single hand rod a freedom you have never experienced before. Once you get the feel of it you can add a haul to your forward stroke for more distance. I have been experimenting this year with several single hand rods ranging from 8' to 9'6" and 4 to 8 weight with amazing results. Even rods I didn't really like very well seemed to have a new life with skagit single handed spey.

RIO Skagit Trout Max
Single hand spey brown
If OPST Commando heads are short than the Rio Skagit Trout Max are "micro". Skagit Trout Max heads come in only 4 sizes and all are 11 foot long. Grain weights include a 200, 225, 250 and 275 grain.

Although designed for light two hand switch rods I feel they really adapt better to single hand rod, Single handed spey applications. At 11' these short heads can easily lose anchor with rods in the 10'6" to 12' lengths but with rods in the 8' to 10' length they can take trout fly rods and make them very effective single hand spey casting tools. They are capable of turning over some serious T-series sink tips for example I have been using 8' of T-8 for most my single hand trout swinging but one day I looped on an 8' piece of T-11 on a 9' 7 weight rod with a 275gr Skagit Trout Max to swing a fast tailout. It paid off with two nice browns taken on a #8 Sculpzilla and no trouble at all casting the rig.

The RIO Skagit Trout Max Heads also work very well with polyleader tips. A piece of froggy water I fish often has small depressions scattered throughout a large area shirted with small riffles. Often at times fish can be found in these depressions and on the seams of the riffles. With a 9 foot 5 wt and a Skagit Trout Max 200 grain head tipped with an intermediate polyleader I can wade and work these depressions and seams with a simple swing around into a touch a go cast shooting about 20 feet of running line. I let my two fly rig (usually a small nymph and a soft hackle) swing into the depressions. Strip back to head and move a couple steps and do it again. Most anglers are indicator fishing this water but I find it more rewarding using a tight line swing technique. Of course the skagit doesn't provide a soft presentation but than again neither does a thing-a-ma-bobber hitting the water. Ease along and first work the edges before diving all in and lining the fish. The polyleader will present well when you soften up your stoke and let this short skagit do the job of turnover.

A note about single handed spey:
Single Hand Spey Caught Brown
I can assume that anybody reading this article probably has a 9 foot 5 weight rod or a close equivalent in their arsenal. For many reasons maybe you have hesitated going all in on a trout spey outfit? I know the times I do walk and wade trips the preparation question of what rod do I want to carry always comes up. If you're like me carrying more than one rod just becomes a hassle. But you don't have to let that stop you from enjoying the benefits of spey. Now with OPST Commando's or RIO Trout Max Spey heads you can simply set up a second reel and swing flies on those couple good runs in your water and switch to a dry line when a hatch appears. If you are just learning spey techniques your single hand rod can be a valuable asset. If you can make effective roll casts than you are already on the way to learning single handed spey. With a short skagit you can easily learn to shoot line on a roll cast and perform forward stroke line hauls.

Trout spey has taken a giant leap forward this past year with these two new skagits. Breathe new life into your Switch, Microspey or Trout Spey and/or add a new dimension of Single Handed Spey to your trout arsenal. It's been a real game changer for me. I hope you find that true for you too!


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Read more of Greg's Post


  1. I got away for a couple trips up the Naches this summer. Still using a Skagit Compact 360 on the TCX 5119-4 for floating line work.

  2. Paul, That TCX 5119-4 is such an awesome stick. I've always wanted to fish the Naches. Maybe one day I'll call on you and take some time and do a Northwest Trout Route. Swinging up Cuts has got to be an incredible rush!
    Thanks, Greg


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