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Skagit vs. Scandi Heads and Keeping it Simple

Posted on May 13 2013

Skagit vs Scandi Whitney
Spey women rule.  Photo: Bill Lenehan

Whitney Gould is a master spey caster and guide, and we’re really happy to have her back at Alaska West this summer.

Thanks to Whitney for this great overview of spey line selection, and the best applications for Skagit and Scandi heads!

Keeping it Simple

The phone rings, and when I answer my Mom’s voice blares, “Your brother is getting married.  You better get a dress. We’ll see you Thursday before the wedding”. (As though my brother didn’t already tell me, and I don’t know to show up dressed for the occasion!). But to my mom’s credit, as a guide living in my waders, I didn’t exactly have the appropriate attire.

So, I walk into the store and am immediately greeted by the perfect pair of boots. Wait. It’s a summer wedding, but I dreamily eye the boots, they’re perfect! Buying one-time-use items such as a pair of wedding appropriate high heels is outrageous in my line of work, but boots? That’s a different ball game; I can wear those to the boat launch.

Better focus. Brother’s June beach wedding, mom’s deadly gaze – that equals functional and practical shoes. Better keep it simple. I walk out of the store, bummed, with less money, and dangling a pair of plain black heels. It’s all about keeping it simple.

Fly fishing is the same (or should be). For my first timer clients interested in discovering how two handed fishing relates to them, I provide rod size and line configuration options, giving them the correct tools to be semi successful fishing the two-handed game for the first time. They often read on the internet about Skagit and Scandi casting, but the mixed messages, conflicting information, and stout devotees to either side totally confuse the majority of newcomers into the sport of Spey.

There are few anglers who understand the nuances and differences between Skagit and Scandi (Scandinavian) heads, and fewer still that know there are times that a Spey caster can use both. An angler needs to meet the fishing challenges with the appropriate tools required to get the job done and, in an ideal world, a caster adjusts the tools to the conditions they are fishing.

Skagit Heads and Lines

The most current, popular tools used at Alaska West are Skagit-style shooting heads. RIO’s Skagit Flight, IFlights and Skagit Shorts are the line of choice for many who enjoy a sustained anchor cast (casts that are associated with Skagit casting). Skagit heads tend to be thicker and offer more water resistance to get a better load on the two-handed fly rod. The line design aides the mantra, “it takes mass to move mass”. There is more mass in an equally sized Skagit head than that of a Scandinavian style heads, which is what helps Skagit lines throw large, heavy flies and tips. Density of the fly and sink tip is what sinks the fly. When lining your favorite rod, remember to match the line (head) to the rod and the tip to the line and fishery and the current fishing conditions.

Scandi Heads and Lines

Scandi Lines, on the other hand, are designed to throw smaller flies. They are a great line design for “airborne anchor” casts – casts such as the single spey and snake roll, and they are fun and enjoyable to perform. Scandi heads, such as RIO’s Steelhead Scandi, AFS and Scandi Short VersiTip lines, are thinner in diameter (particularly at the front end) and have a long front taper that allows the energy to unroll easily and efficiently to the end.

Line Selection

As with most things in life there are exceptions to every rule. An angler can quite easily use a Scandi head for sustained anchor casts, or fish a floating tip on a Skagit head and smaller flies. However, using the most suitably designed line for particular conditions will generally pay off best, and make casting and catching fish a whole lot easier.

I like to keep it simple and recommend to my clients that they utilize the relevant tips that are designed to complement the various Skagit and Scandi heads. I would suggest investing in a set of MOW Tips for Skagit heads and a set of Spey VersiLeaders for when fishing Scandi style heads. With the right balance of head and tips, you know that your gear is set up with every chance of success.

More on Spey Fishing

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