Mar 1, 2013

Skagit Lines: Which One is Best for Me?

Just because it says Skagit on the box, doesn’t mean that they all cast identically. For instance, when we talk about the big guns in skagit lines, namely Rio, Airflo and Scientific Anglers, they are all tapered just a little differently. Yes, Skagit lines are designed to handle dense sink tips and cast in relatively tight quarters. But finding the right one to suit your style and fishing applications may demand a little more thought.

Here’s the deal: Each one of these brands has an outstanding line. However, you first need to answer a few of your own questions when deciding which one is the perfect fit for you.  So let’s start off with:

Where am I fishing most of the time?

The idea behind this question considers the amount of casting room you have for most of your fishing. If you are constantly finding yourself pinned up against the shoreline with very little room to open up for a cast, then yes, one line does perform better than another. However, if you are normally fishing with adequate room -for instance, from sweeping gravel bars - then you might consider a different line to match your style as a caster.

What is my personal casting stroke like?

What am I talking about here? Well some people’s casting strokes are more compact, while others are more open by nature. So, from the sweep up into the start of the forward cast – when your D-Loop is built – the broader the stroke means that more line will be elevated from the water behind you. The converse is also true for compact strokes. The reason that size and speed of this stroke is important is because each line has an ideal stroke to load the rod. For a spey rod to load adequately, there has to be mass (line weight) sitting at the top of the D-Loop. The longer a line’s back taper, means the longer you must open up into the backstroke to center the "heavy meat" of the taper at the top of the D-Loop. Skagit lines with short back tapers will perform better with a more compact stroke, while lines with a longer back taper necessitate a more open stroke.

How long is my spey rod?

For long spey rods (14 feet or more), anglers should consider a line that has a longer rear taper. Conversely, shorter speys (12 1/2 feet and under) are likely better off with a skagit that has a shorter rear taper. Spey rods between 12 1/2 to 13 1/2 feet are very common with skagit-style anglers and all of these lines perform very well depending on the caster's style.

What spey line do I use when I am not fishing a Skagit line?

Switching between various types of spey lines can be hair pulling. But you can ease the transition a bit by choosing a Skagit line that more closely resembles the stroke you use while fishing other lines. For instance, for those who are used to fishing long spey lines, like mid-belly (55 plus feet) and long belly (70 plus feet) spey lines , they will far prefer a Skagit line that performs best with a broader stroke.

How long do I need to cast and how important is the need for delicacy on the lay down?

Let me first say that all three of these Skagit lines go for distance, however there is one that is built to turn over smoother , with tighter loops at greater distances. The longer the rear taper, the smoother the energy flow while going for distance. Also, the longer the front taper, means the smoother the turnover and the softer the touch down on the water, while going for distance. So while these lines are similar, there are differences in this regard as well. These short, fat lines are not built for delicate presentations, generally speaking. Big tips and long setups before getting that fly into the fish zone are typically the norm. However, if you are concerned about spooky fish, then again you might consider the “less of the evils” in this regard.

So now I am just going to break down each line and highlight the pros and cons of each.

Rio Skagit Flight

-Best of all the lines for smooth, tight-looped turnover at extreme distance.
-Affords the easiest Skagit adjustment for mid and long-belly casters
-Smallest disturbance when spey head lands on the water (this is really tip dependant!)
-Best fit for long spey rods (14 feet or more)

-Of the three lines, this is the toughest one to cast while fishing in tight quarters.
-Heavy tips are more difficult to turnover in tight quarters than the Airflo or Scientific Anglers lines

Airflo Skagit Compact

-Loads rod with little physical effort
-Great for casting in tight quarters
-Best for handling heavy tips in tight quarters
-Better for short spey rods

-Fair in the extreme distance category
-Hard adjustment for mid and long-belly casters
-Causes the biggest disturbance on the water when line touches down

Scientific Anglers Skagit Extreme

480 grain - rear taper: 1.2', belly: 12', front taper: 9.2',  tip: 0.5', overall length: 22'

-Loads rod with very little physical effort
-Easy loading in tight quarters
-Better for short spey rods
-Solid tip turnover in tight quarters

-Difficult adjustment for mid and long-belly spey casters
-Fair in the extreme distance category


By considering all of the above questions, it should really help you determine the correct fit. These lines all perform exceptionally well when your style matches the design of the line! However, it is fair to say that casters who prefer a more open stroke will enjoy the Rio Flight; while those who like a more compact stroke should lean towards the Airflo and Scientific Anglers. Consider the Scientific Anglers line to be the middle of the pack when it comes to loop integrity at distance and line lay down.

Note:  If you are using a switch rod or a short spey (11.5 - 12.5 feet), then you should seriously consider either the Airflo Skagit Switch or the Rio Skagit Short.  Although I am personally partial to the Airflo for reasons I won't completely dive into (smoother turnover for distance), they both excel for short-rod, skagit-style fishing.

As far as which grain weight to consider, well that is yet another can of worms that hopefully we can crack open soon.

The Gorge Fly Shop

Spey Lines
"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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