Dec 29, 2020

Sink Tips, Polyleaders, Versileaders - A Buyer's Guide 2nd Addition

A variety of tips to get your fly swinging in front of steelhead, or trout!

Back on July 8th, 2012 the Gorge Fly Shop published an in depth blog article that clearly and wonderfully laid out the differences of Airflo Polyleaders, RIO Versileaders and Sink tips.  Here is a link to this article if you are starting fresh and need the information or would just like to revisit it:

Well, a lot has happened since then. New lines have been introduced, old lines have been improved and the ever changing world of single hand and two handed casting has reaped the benefits of the evolution.  Our goal here is to attempt to bring you up to date with all things new or fairly new in the world of Polyleaders, Versileaders and sink tips and piggy back all the previous well explained information from our 2012 article.

We won't be touching the previous information from the original article, but some of the lines that were mentioned in the first piece no longer exist and have evolved into new and improved versions, and with these newer lines there has been an introduction of newer tip options.

Let's take a look at some of the newer tips since the original article from 2012.
**Tips are in no particular order.

Airflo FLO Tips - (for a quick visual reference watch video below). I really like the Airflo Flo Tips, I especially like the fact that they are "tapered" and turn over flies in a smooth and efficient way.  They come in two popular sizes of 10' and 12'.  The loops on each end of the FLO tips are really durable and not too big.  

Airflo Flo Tip - A Great Choice.

Airflo "Flo" Tips Specs:

Features -
  • Looped on both ends
  • Head Loop colored for easy identification

Specs - 
Sink Rate
Loop Color
FLO-T710'T-77" per secondWhite
FLO-T1010'T-108" per secondOrange
9" per second
11" per second

These work great with any of your Skagit style heads.

Extra-Long, Powerful Tips For Big Flies And Windy Conditions For Spey Rods 13' And Longer

Features -
  • Extra-long, powerful tips for big flies and windy conditions
  • Ultra-low stretch ConnectCore
  • Front Loop
  • Rear Loop
  • EasyID

Powerful tips designed to cast large flies.  Each tip is 15' in length, with varying lengths of floating/sinking sections.  These Lone MOW tips are perfect for Spey rods of 13' and bigger, and for casters that find regular MOW tips too short and continuously blow their anchor.  All Long MOW tips are built on RIO's ConnectCore for ultra-low stretch performance.

InTouch Long MOW Tips - Medium - Good up to 575 grain heads
SKUMOWTotal GrainDensity LengthColorTotal LengthSink Rate
6-19156Medium165gr15' FloatBlack/Green15ft / 4.6mFloat
10' Float / 5' T-11Black/Green15ft / 4.6mFloat / 7ips
7.5' Float / 7.5' T-11Black/Green15ft / 4.6mFloat / 7ips
5' Float / 10' T-11Black/Green15ft / 4.6mFloat / 7ips
2.5' Float / 12.5' T-11Black/Green15ft / 4.6mFloat / 7ips
15' T-11Black/Green15ft / 4.6m7-8 ips

InTouch Long MOW Tips - Heavy - Good for 575 - 650 grain Heads
SKUMOWTotal GrainDensity LengthColorTotal LengthSink Rate
6-19162Heavy210gr15' Float
15ft / 4.6mFloat
10' Float / 5' T-14
Black/Blue15ft / 4.6mFloat / 8ips
7.5' Float / 7.5' T-14
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 8ips
5' Float / 10' T-14
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 8ips
2.5' Float / 12.5' T-14
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 8ips
15' T-14
15ft / 4.6m8-9 ips

InTouch Long MOW Tips - Extra Heavy - Good for heads 650 grain and up
SKUMOWTotal GrainDensity LengthColorTotal LengthSink Rate
6-19168Extra Heavy255gr15' FloatBlack/Gray
15ft / 4.6mFloat
6-19169Extra Heavy
10' Float / 5' T-17
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 9ips
6-19170Extra Heavy
7.5' Float / 7.5' T-17
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 9ips
6-19171Extra Heavy
5' Float / 10' T-17
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 9ips
6-19172Extra Heavy
2.5' Float / 12.5' T-17
15ft / 4.6mFloat / 89ips
6-19173Extra Heavy
15' T-17
15ft / 4.6m9-10 ips

The great thing about the RIO  M.O.W. (stands for McCune, O'Donnell and Ward) tips in addition to the original M.O.W. tips is that for the most part the length's are the same in each of the family categories.  This is beneficial to the caster because if you were to us a 10' straight T-8 sink tip in one run and then need to use a shorter one, say 5' before the M.O.W. tips you would have taken the 10' tip off and put on a 5' tip and now you "system" would be five feet shorter.  This causes a lot of problems for the caster who hasn't quite learned about adjusting their casting stroke to accommodate the shorter system.

The question that gets asked a lot while on phone calls with customers is which MOW tips can I use with my set up? That is a great question and there are a few things to think about when choosing your tip.  To choose the "Ideal/Perfect" tip for your set up look at the list below.  The grain weight of your head will marry perfectly with the MOW tip suggested.  That being said, just because you have a Skagit head that is 540 grains, does not mean that you can only use a Medium MOW tip. You could easily use T-8 or even T-14.  The MOW tip recommendation is more of a guide line.  Now, that also being said you would find it hard to throw T-14 with a Skagit head that was only 240 grains.  Not going to work.  Just remember that If you are throwing a 540 grain Skagit head, you can just about throw any tip down to the smaller sizes.

Ideal situations for the right sink tip size:
  • Light Tips are perfect for Skagit lines of 475grain and lighter.
  • Medium Tip are perfect for Skagit lines of 475 grains and 575grains.
  • Heavy Tips are perfect for Skagit lines between 575 grains and 700 grains.
  • Extra Heavy tips are perfect for Skagit lines heavier than 700 grains or when large heavy flies are used.

Although O.P.S.T. (Olympic Peninsula Skagit Tactics) are recently new to the scene, they are backed by tons of talent and experience when it comes to chopping up heads and sink tips to create something that will specifically work for specific situations instead of using something that is more universal in purpose.  The master mind behind the product is non other than Ed Ward, one of the original Skagit Masters of our sport. The great thing about these tips that OPST has created is that they match up perfectly with their heads.  This doesn't mean that you couldn't use an OPST sink tip on an Airflo Skagit Scout head, but each manufacture of heads also has a line up of tips to marry with their heads.

Below you will read the run down from O.P.S.T. regarding their tips and how to use them.

"For rods from 10 to 12 feet or so, our 10 foot Commando Tips make a great choice. These come in 8, 11, and 14 grains per foot, or 80, 110 and 140 grains total, making them identical in weight to industry standard sink tips. Again, each grain weight of our 10 foot Commando Tips comes in three different sink rates: a Riffle, Run and Bucket.

  • Our lightest 10 Foot Commando Tips, the 80 Grain series, comes in S2, S4 and S6 of level sink tip. These tips are good for 2-weight spey rods up to about a 6-weight spey rod. They are optimized for switch rods, but they can be used on spey and single hand rods as well.
  • Our 110 Grain and 140 Grain Commando Tips come in S3 for Riffle, S6 for Run and S9 for Bucket. The 110 Grain series is best for rods from about a 6-weight switch to an 8-weight switch, or about a 275 grains to a 375 grain Commando Head.
  • Our 140 Grain Commando Tips are best for heavier rods, from about a 7-weight switch to a 9- or 10- weight spey rod, or a 375 to a 475 grain Commando Head.

Again, you might notice there is some overlap here. You could probably cast a given rod with any of our three 10 Foot Commando Tips, but one would probably cast the best for you. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are struggling with your cast, the solution might be to go down in tip size.

OPST now offers Commando Tips, completing your Pure Skagit system from hook to reel. Presenting your fly at the depth where fish are holding is one of the most important factors in successful fishing. Commando Tips are ideal for making swung fly presentations to steelhead and salmon. It's a fact that not every run calls for the fastest, heaviest sink tip. Riffles and shallower runs can be just as important as deep holes, especially in high water. In such conditions, a shallower, yet still level, sink is the way to go.

Commando Tips will make you a more complete angler by allowing you to choose, within a set grain weight, from between three different sink rates: Riffle, Run and Bucket, for shallow, medium and deep water, respectively.

For our 80 grain tips, Riffle corresponds to S2, Run to S4 and Bucket to S6. For our 110 and 140 grain tips, Riffle is S3, Run is S6 and Bucket is S9. Those familiar with MOW tips will be able to choose from three different grain weights: 80 grain, 110 grain and 140 grain, (T8, T11 and T14 grains per foot) for use on 2 weight switch rods up to 9 weight two handers. Our Commando Tips fit perfectly into our OPST Sink Tip Wallet!"

O.P.S.T. also do 5' tips, which they call "Micro" Skagit Commando Tips.  These tips are great for trout fisherman using single handed or shorter trout spey rods. These 40 grain tips come in S2, S4, and S6, for Riffle, Run and Bucket. These tips are for true micro applications, rods under 9 feet long. That being said, we have used them with good results on 10 foot rods. But most users will find that these tips work best on 6 to 9 foot rods. These tips work best on rods from 2-weight to about a 6-weight, or about a 150 grain to a 225 grain Commando Head.

OPST also has a series of Trout Floating Tips that come in 5, 7.5, and 10 feet long, and weigh 20, 35 and 50 grains, respectively. They work well on Commando Heads and Commando SMOOTH lines from 150 to around 250 grains.
  • 5 footers are for rods from 6 to about 9 feet long.
  • 7.5 footers are your standard choice for trout rods in the 8 to 10 foot range, including that go-to 9 foot rod
  • 10 Foot Trout Floating Tips work best on switch, Microspey, and Trout Spey rods from 10 to 12 feet.
We're known for Skagit, but what some people don't know is that if you harness the power of a Skagit head, and finish it with a tapered, floating tip, you get something that can be described as "micro Scandi". Lazer-sharp loops and delicate presentations are now possible with a Commando Head, with our new floating Commando Tips in 5, 7.5 and 10 foot lengths. They match with rods from 6 to at least 11 feet long, making them ideal for just about any trout rod you own. They can be fished with straight tippet or, for ultra-delicate presentations, tapered trout leaders up to 9 feet long and even longer. These Commando Floating Tips come with loops at both ends, and are 25 pound test to withstand any trout you may encounter. These trout floating tips have changed the game for us. They allow for delicate dry fly presentations as well as nymphing. You will be amazed at the loops you can throw with these tips. Rediscover your Commando Head, and rediscover trout fishing with Commando Floating Tips.

The OPST SHS Floating Tips come in 7.5, 10, 12 and 14 foot lengths, and weigh 55, 75, 90, and 110 grains, respectively.

These tips are meant for swinging light wet flies, skating steelhead flies on the surface, and also nymphing. With these tips, rod length is more important than Commando Head weight in making a choice.
  • 7.5 footer is a great choice for 6-through 8-weight single handed rods up to about 10 feet, with Commando Heads from 250 to around 300 grains.
  • 10 footer is your best choice for switch rods from 10 to 12 feet, with Commando Heads from about 300 to 400 grains
  • 12 footer excels with rods from around 11 to 13 feet and Commando Heads from 350 to 450 grains.
  • 14 foot SHS tip is for what we consider really long rods from 13 feet and up. 14 footer is primarily meant for heavier heads from 400 to 475 grains.

Last Cast Quote from April Vokey regarding Skagit Sink Tips:

"Truthfully, one could spend a lifetime trying to analyze every factor that plays a role in a presentation that they feel the fish prefers to see… or one could find something that simply works for them and just go fishing." - April Vokey.

I couldn't agree more with Miss April. I am not the type of angler that "geeks out" on specifics, although I do know that it can pay dividends at times for those who do. The main thing that I care about is that it works for me and gets the job done. I am thankful for the folks that do geek out on it and I take full advantage of their work and knowledge.  In addition to the 2012 blog article, hopefully this information will help you make choices when it comes to the right tips for your situation. If you have any questions regarding sink tips, floating tips or anything related to tips, give us a call at 541-386-6977 and we would be more than happy to answer your questions.

GFS Team
John G.

"The Gorge"

Gorge Fly Shop Team - 541.386.6977

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

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