Guided Seatrout Adventure – the Danish way

 

Are you dreaming of fishing for sea trout (sea-run brown trout) on the island of Bornholm, Denmark?

Well now you have the opportunity to join Pro Guides Silja Longhurst and Bjarke Borup Bornholmfiskeguide on a fantastic guided fly fishing adventure on the island Bornholm in late April.- Viking style!

The island of Bornholm is at the far eastern geographical reaches of Denmark, and has earned global fame for its excellent sea trout fishery. The island has a very healthy population of sea trout; they reproduce naturally in streams and small rivers, thus no hatchery fish, which is quite unique in Denmark. Its raw and pristine natural environment is a stunning place to be in – and to fish!

The southern part of Bornholm has flat sandy beaches interrupted by productive sea trout territory such as points, reefs and slopes. In some areas good fishing spots are aligned like pearls on a string. Northern Bornholm is comprised of stunning and rugged cliffs with lots of fishing spots, and very deep water close to the shore in some places. Towards the east and west of the island you will find a mix of the above. These varied conditions and environments provide enticing opportunities for some challenging sea trout fishing.

Hopefully you will have time to try it all…. wading in a calm sea on a flat shale reef fishing for lively spring sea trout. Or wading on slippery boulders in strong winds; the locals called this ‘the Bornholm Calm Sea’, i.e. one meter waves!

 

 

One thing is certain; we plan our days on the water according to weather conditions. Fortunately Bornholm is a small island, and we can quickly find a place to fish almost regardless of wind and weather conditions.

We will take you to some of the spots that usually produce fish this time of the year, and show you how to fish the different spots effectively!

We promise to do everything we possibly can, so that you may enjoy a great trip with like-minded fishing aficionados.

For further information and booking please email to:

Silja Longhurst: silja@balticflyfisher.dk

Bjarke Borup : bjarkeborup@gmail.com

 

Fluekastekurser nu!

 

Lasse Karlsson Pike_1

Kom i gang med at lære fluekast med os her på BalticFlyfisher’s Fly Casting School. Fiskesæsonen 2015 er startet og vi synes ikke at fluekastet skal være en hindring for, at du skal vente længe med at fange din første fisk. Vi tilbyder 2 Begynderkurser i April og Maj måned til dig som gerne vil at lære fluekast med 1Hånds stangen eller 2Hånds stangen hurtigt!

 

 

25. April : UDSOLGT

1 Hånds Fluekastekursus – Begynder (4 timer min. 3-max. 6 deltager)

-Teori/grej

– Basis elementerne i fluekast som indebærer: overhånds kast, rulle kast og dobbelt træk

-en lille haps, drik og hygge snak

Gebyr: 500 Dkr (per person)

 


 

30.Mai:

2Hånds Fluekastekursus – Begynder (4 timer min.3 – max.6 deltager)

-Teori/grej

-Basis elementerne i fluekast til rettelagt for 2 håndsfiskeri som indebærer:  vandkast som rullekast, single spey/underhåndskast, dobbelt spey cast og snap-t kast

-en lille haps, drik og hygge snak

Gebyr: 500 Dkr (per person)

Siljas Salmon The Fight

 

Hvis du har yderligere spørgsmål eller bare gerne vil tilmelde dig til et af vores kurser, send os gerne en mail her. Vi tilbyder også enkelt undervisning.

 

Danish Salmon and Skagit – a new approach, why not?!

We have been to a great Flyfishingfestival at the River Skjern  in Skarrild,West-Jutland-Denmark over the weekend. Lasse and I were invited to give some Demo’s. Together with the organiser we agreed on that I would present and talk about a relatively new Casting Style here in Scandinavia – Skagit Style Casting. A discussion broke out after my Demo – pro Skagit and contra Skagit. Contra Skagit: the casts I was performing would disturb the water to much, are to loud hence I would scare the fish mmh…

Siljas Salmon The Fight

 

Let me shortly explain why Skagit Style suits not just the big rivers in Norway and Sweden but also smaller salmon rivers like the river Skjern in Denmark:

-the tackle used i.e. shorter rods, short floating heads, heavy weighted tips and flies fit to the fishing conditions on these rivers i.e. no back space, high river banks, reed belt.

– the Skagit Casts like Snap-T, Snap-O, Double Spey ore Perry Poke (casts I performed at the show) are not only easy to learn casts (wasn’t that also one of the reasons why Skagit evolved?!) but especially great casts if castingspace is tight. And no way do these waterborn casts disturb and scare the fish. The anchor placement of the Snap-T or the Snap-O happen upstream of the fisherman/caster and the repositioning of the anchor placement when performing the Perry Poke happens infront (normally a rod lenght away) from the caster. Now where do we fish effectively for salmon? Right in front of us in the middle or opposite of the river? No, usually in a 40 degrees angle downstream of us, the zone we deliver the fly in and not place our anchor.

The great thing about all the different Styles we are being exposed to is we can mix and match. I would not perform old school Skagit Style on rivers like the Skjern all year long. Different times of the year need slightly different approaches. One can still use local fishing knowledge  for example : type and weight of fly, weight of the tip,  lenght of a rod etc.  together with Skagit Style Casting.

 

The weekend ended with a great final and underlined my Skagit approach on Scandinavian and especially Danish Salmon rivers;

Siljas Salmon Sjkern Å 2014

 

A bar of pure Danish Silver, 88cm, between 7 – 7,5kg,  C&R: caught on an  unweighted danish dressed fly, T7 ’10ft , Skagit Switch head 450grain on an ECHO3 #8 Switch Rod.

Siljas Salmon Release

 

I wish you all a fantastic season and…keep on learning 😉

 

Chucking Chickens

In her last article Silja gave a few tips for casting pike flies, however in this short article I want to discuss how you can lift your game and start chucking chicken size flies.

Chucking Chickens

I’m often asked if this or that rod can throw big flies.  The thing is, it’s really about choosing the right line for the fly size, rods are just tools to move the line around!

So we want to throw half a chicken (not literally, but a big fly with lots of material, and sometimes some oversized dumbbell tungsten eyes and stuff) and want to make it as much of a pleasure as possible, and less of a pain. Now normally I would start talking about casting mechanics, offering a course and stuff, but no! Lets look at the tackle part. A really excellent caster can throw  half a chicken on your average 5 weight rod and line, but that takes some really good skills, and is definitely not a pleasure to do all day. If that skilled caster is going to throw big flies all day, he/she will choose the right line for the job. Big flies are best thrown using a heavy line. And short lines are easier to move around than a long line. So short and heavy.

The twohanded people have long known that, but we also want to use a soft enough rod that fighting your average 5 lbs pike isn’t too much of a killer. Twohanded people have got that one sorted out as well;-)

Enter Skagit, soft rods for medium fish, but heavy duty lines to throw big bulky flies.

Well those twohanded lines are too heavy for my singlehander I can hear people cry. Nope, they come down in sizes that are easily matched to a singlehander. Your average 8 weight singlehander would have a grain window as a recommendation from 260-330 (17 to 21 grams) for normal scandi type shootingheads,  but will comfortably cast even more!

OK, but Skagit is all about sustained anchor casting and you shouldn’t try to overhead cast them without a helmet and exstra life insurance I now hear.  Ah, but we’re not going to go that heavy, it still has to be a pleasure and not a lot of pain to cast it. ECHO Skagit switch lines and ECHO skagit compact lines are very short, and even though they throw big flies, like the rubber chicken in the clip above, a little more length and less chuck and duck mentality is required. Enter the ECHO Rage compact! Originally a crossover between scandi and skagit (scandit!), it performs very well on a singlehander throwing huge flies 8)…  and for the really huge ones, size up,  turn it around 😎 😎 and shorten the leader

Happy chicken chucking pike hunting!

Skagit … a short history

DH_casting500x304

the casting method called “Skagit” originated in the early 1990’s to describe an offshoot system of spey casting methods used by U.S. steelheaders on Washington State’s Skagit River. This approach was developed to cast the relatively short shooting heads and heavy sinking-tip lines needed to to fish bulky flies up to roughly six inches (15cm) long in deep, fast water. The large flies proved to be enticing to steelhead when no other fly fishing methods would move them during cold winter flows and as an added bonus the take of a steelhead attacking one of these monsters was mind-blowing. Early disciples of the mega fly approach to steelheading included such legends as Mike Kinney, Scott Howell, Ed Ward, who developed the original “Intruder Fly”, and Dec Hogan who,  along with Tim Rajeff, developed the ECHO Dec Hogan Series of fly rods.

The term “Skagit” describes a method of casting using a sustained anchor point rather than a “kiss-and-go” approach of a scandi or modern Spey cast. The theory behind the Skagit cast is to use the drag of the water in a continual motion during the D-loop, carrying the load into the forward stroke. The guys that created this cast used this method because it takes very smooth loading of the rod to deliver large heavy flies efficiently and safely. This type of casting and the slower rhythm employed proved to be less fatiguing than most other approaches. Some of the more popular techniques used in the Skagit method have interesting nicknames… the Snap-T, the Circle Spey, the Skagit Doublelspey and the Perry Poke. The casting stroke is precise and efficient, requiring the least D-loop space of all spey casting methods. Skagit casts and Skagit equipment has migrated far from the Pacific Northwest, and is now employed from the tip of South America, across the Baltic and out into the most remote fisheries in Russia and Mongolia.

Go on treat yourself to a Perry … poke 😀

 

 

Skagit versus Scandi

The Scandit Approach

When we started on “this Skagit thing” about  5 or 6 years ago just after Tim Rajeff introduced the ECHO Dec Hogan Range of Skagit rods, we were extremely sceptical and like most other European salmon fishers we had all the standard clichés firmly embedded in our heads: too much splash…, disturbance is enough to scare pheasants let alone salmon…, ‘don’t need lengths of T18 (what the #+*~%  is T18 anyway?) …, what can a Skagit do that a sunk line can’t …. Now some years down the road we have been converted. Not only do we use Skagit Heads but also Skagit Switch Heads (approx 5m long), also crossover type heads like ECHO Rage Head and more recently the ECHO Skagit Intermediate Head on our 1Handers, Switch-Rods and grown up 2Handers.

Become a believer
But why? Simply because they are very very easy to cast with. Casting becomes a no-brainer. Skagit heads were designed by guides (not the industry) on the PNW to fulfill one purpose: to get their clients into fish, quickly. IMHO that’s totally customer driven from the guides if you like a “service” push: the faster the client gets a fish, the more he can catch (in a day) (the more he speaks about me as a guide, the more customers I get, etc etc) and not a product push from the industry.

Most of our salmon fishing is in the summer, simply because “our” spring time is full of shows all across Europe and we just don’t have time to get on a river. Because we fish in the summer we don’t generally need to use long lengths of Tx and large flies stuck on the end. We use normal sized salmon and sea trout flies. However we have adapted the line weight accordingly and we use a “Scandinavian underhand” casting style ie dominant lower hand for delivery.
If you like we could call this “scandit casting” (now there’s another one for the pundits )

Scandit what the #+*% is that?
We cast the Skagit Heads the same way as we would cast a modern Scandi-shooting head, normally with a single spey (right or left), snake roll, snap-“x” or the favourite perry poke. As mentioned above we go for [much] lighter head weights for this Scandit style of casting than our cousins over the pond would use for “normal” Skagit. We use at least the lowest weight in the grain window for a given rod, sometimes even going below it. As a general rule of thumb use the same weight as you do for a scandi head, however if you decide to use a skagit-switch (5m length) on a grownup 2hander, you might even consider going below this weight (grains per foot are higher for the short lines – enormous amount of mass – awesome to cast with). The same applies for a skagit intermediate; because of the reduced diameter you can generate much higher line speed (lower wind resistance).

Where to use Skagit lines?

  1. In tight very tight corners or on heavily overgrown stretches of water. The short heads are ideal if you do not have room to form a decent D-Loop, combined with a perry to place the anchor its an awesome combination.
  2. On the coast fishing for sea trout in the sea
  3. Using large wake flies for sea trout or bomber-type flies for salmon
  4. When fishing in high winds
  5. Pike fishing

Give yourself a push, drop the clichés, find out for yourself try the “scandit” approach we are sure you will not regret it.

Have fun debating –  the next article in this series is in the making…

Flyfishing for Seatrout in the Baltic Sea

Seatrout in the Baltic  seatrout_3

When going seatrout fishing and you are a novice to the sport it can end up in being rather frustrating; hours on ends of casting, standing in cold water, freezing of your bits. (Yes although I am a woman I do can freeze of me toes too, you know 😉 ). It gets even more frustrated, if you go out fishing with a friend who is a so called ‘fish catcher’. Your friend is heaving out one fish after the other and you…nada, nothing, nix, not a single nibble. In these hours of distress you want to give up fishing in the whole. It is the darkest hour in your fly-fishing history…so it feels. But before you give up fly-fishing in total, think about your fly-fishing history. You might realize that you have caught fish and loads of them. Hence, you can catch fish and you shouldn’t give up fly-fishing, as you love it! Believing in yourself that you can catch seatrout is a good way to start standing at the coast. However, as with all other fish species it helps if you know more about their lifestyle and feeding habits.

The seatrout is an anadromous fish, spawns in the rivers and returns to the sea. It travels miles along the coastline to feed, solitary or in small groups. It feeds nearly on everything; we shouldn’t forget it is still a trout. However, there is a difference in the variety of food depending on location. Is there structure in the water: stones, vegetation, a reef? Is the reef leading into deeper water? Is there a strong current? The location can give you loads of clues in what the fish is feeding on and herewith can help in finding the seatrouts behavior pattern. Shallow water with loads of structure/vegetations gives hiding places for mysis and shrimp; choose a copper fly or shrimp imitation. Reefs with a connection to deeper water function like gateways and fish big and small use them as highways to travel  and feed along them. You might want to choose a baitfish imitation here.  pentax 608

According to the choice of fly imitation you should think about how to retrieve it; and here again be aware and observe. Observe how mysis move in water, how does a shrimp act when being cornered? How does a baitfish? Observe the most obvious movement patterns of the bait to be used: is it swimming fast/slow, with pauses/halts, direct or indirect and change your retrieve pattern accordingly.   seatrout

Although fishing most of the time in shallow waters, presenting the fly in the right depth can make a difference. Remember it is just a trout and it sometimes need to have the food presented in front of its nose. This doesn’t mean we have to wade up to our nipples (very cold in winter, believe me). Let the tackle do the work J The easy to cast Rio Outbound Short float and intermediate with a handful of different sinkrates of Versitip leaders, will give you enough choices in covering different depths of water.

As with all fish one just has to crack the code. Believe me; it is no different with the seatrout. Go out and study its world, use it and it will eventually lead you to your goal Yes!

Fisk 011 Fisk 014

Going for Gold

Come along and meet us and all the other great casters on 24.08 and 25.08  at the World Championships in Flycasting 2012 in Fagernes (approx. 180 km. from Oslo), Norway. BalticFlyFisher has two great casters on board casting for the Danish Team. Silja will be competing in Trout, Seatrout and Salmon Distance as well as 15′ ft Spey. Lasse will be competing in Trout, Seatrout and Salmon Distance as well as Trout Precision.

We will be using ECHO TR 15′ #10, ECHO3 9’6 #8 and the ECHO3 9′ #6 and self-made spey lines in the competitions..

Come a long, give us some support it is going to be a sizzling weekend 🙂

Skagit Cheaters … what the

Its confusing enough for a normal salmon loving,  scandi-style, 2hand European caster to have to come to grips with grains, but our fly-swinging friends across the Atlantic have come up with something else in the form of a skagit-line extension called a [skagit] cheater!

One of the original ideas behind Skagit casting was to maintain a constant ratio between the rod length and the length of the line body or head. A lot has been written about this “ratio”, some time back the experts were of the opinion that 4:1 was the ideal ratio, then 3.5:1  and 3:1 appeared on the scene. Now 2.2 – 2.5:1 seems to be in fashion. Independent of the current “ratio de jour” it is important that you find your happy ratio, this may be 4:1 or 3.5:1, 3.0:1 or  even 2.5:1. Lets assume  for the purpose of this example, that you feel comfortable with a ratio of 3:1 (its easier for me to work out as well – but that’s just a coincidence) . So based on this a 12 ft (oops feet, yes once again its easier for me to work it all out instead of having to convert to the metric system) rod would require 36 ft of line and a 15 ft rod will require 45 ft. If you keep to this ratio you will not have to adjust your casting stroke, independent of the length of rod you have in your hands.

If you like this ratio and you use a 12 ft rod, then you are going to need roughly 36 ft of line to feel comfortable. If your Skagit line has a head of 27 ft and you are using a 10 ft sink-tip (Txyz) adding the two together results in 37ft; so this means you do not require a cheater. If however you decide to fish with a a 14 ft rod then by applying the 3:1 ratio you would ideally require a total “line” length of  roughly 42ft.  Using the same head/tip set up as before the total line length is still only 37 ft, so, in order to keep the same stroke length you would need to add a 5 ft Cheater (27 + 5 + 10 = 42).

The whole idea is can be pretty confusing to a humble European skagit novice, but once the concept is grasped, it is very easy to understand and enables you to use a constant stroke length , independent of the length of rod and line/tip used…

… you may prefer of course choose to ignore the whole thing and just cope with varying stroke lengths like we do.

From Spey to Skagit

This article was written by Ed Ward and first published on Dana Sturn’s Spey-Pages site about 10 years ago. Since then Skagit casting has begun to roll-over to Europe and Skagit lines and rods have developed further. Even if this article is now a few years old and refers occasionally to more-or-less obsolete items of tackle (in particular 2Hand double taper lines)  I nevertheless hope that you will find it as interesting as I did.

The evolution of a casting style:

FROM SPEY TO SKAGIT

By Ed Ward

In the twelve years that I have fished with a double-handed fly rod, I have seen its popularity and use increase dramatically, especially these last four to five years. The number of rods available now, along with specialty fly lines and videos on how to cast them, has at least quadrupled.

I have also seen an apparent but previously unrecognized divergence of methods used to cast these rods. These seem to have confused many anglers who are, or want to be involved in this aspect of  flyfishing. On one end of the spectrum is the traditional use of the double-handed rod, the Spey cast, and on the other is a newer technique that I call the Skagit cast, as that is the river  where it originated here in North America. I believe that part of the bewilderment about double-handed fly rods in the last few years can be attributed to the lack of distinction and recognition between these two styles of casting. Unfortunately, exacerbating this problem is the insistence by some anglers schooled in traditional Spey casting to either refuse to recognize the merit of the new style of casting, or even to malign its existence.

After spending more than a decade participating in, and watching this new method become established and refined, I feel that I can positively state that Skagit casting is legitimate and for real. I think that it is high time that something in-depth be said about a style of casting that was developed on our own rivers and our own fish, and how it compares with traditional Spey casting.

Therefore, I have been compelled to offer up my own personal observations, opinions, and conclusions on the subject. I fully expect to, and would, in fact, be disappointed if this did not encourage further discussion among anglers who have also used double-handed rods for a considerable length of time. I welcome constructive debate. I consider it to be one of the best and most impressive avenues for learning.

Here is a brief description of each style of casting followed by my explanation of their basic differences:

1. Spey: Traditional Spey casting employs the use of full-length double taper flylines that most commonly range from 80 to 120 feet in length.

Because of the extended amount of line involved in making long casts, (no line is stripped in prior to the cast) once the motion is started, to move the line from its initial or starting position, there is no hesitation or stopping of the now aerialized line at any point in time. This is true all the way through to the completion of the casting stroke. Contact of the line with the water, the “anchor” which allows for the cast to be routed in a different direction from that which the line assumes at the starting position, is brief and minimal and sometimes described as a “kiss” of the line to the water’s surface. Well known casts used in traditional Spey casting are the single Spey, double Spey, and the snake roll cast.

2. Skagit: This style uses manufactured weight forward, or homemade shooting head fly lines as its basis. The casting portions of these lines, or “heads” as they are often called, generally range from 32 to 56 feet in length. When fishing at distances beyond the length of this line, one is required to strip in running or shooting line until the back of the head is reached before making the next cast. There is a definite stop involved in this style of casting. It takes place subsequent to the “set” of the cast. After the line has been picked up from the starting position and then placed once again upon the water’s surface, that momentary repositioning of the line is the set of the cast. The momentum of the line, at this point of the procedure, has been stopped. This is then followed by the loading stage of the process, or “sweep” which forms the D loop and provides the energy for the actual cast. The casting stroke is the next step and final operation of this process.

For clarification, I will describe the most common casts employed in this style for a double-handed fly rod, as portrayed for a right-handed caster.

Double Spey, River flowing from left to right: Starting position, line dangling straight downstream, rod tip low and also pointing down river.

Rod tip is lifted from right to left and ends up pointing upstream off of one’s left shoulder. The majority of the line lands upriver and off the left shoulder, the fly and last few feet of line drop onto the water a few feet downstream and to the right of the caster. This is the set of the line and where the stop occurs in this cast. The rod is then swept out and around, from left to right, to form the D loop. The casting stroke is now applied.

Zip T and circle or C Spey, River flowing from right to left: Starting position; line dangling straight downstream to one’s left, rod tip low and also pointed downriver. Rod tip is snapped up and across, in front of the caster, and then back down again in a motion that mimics the letter “Z” minus the bottom leg (Snap T, or Zip T, ) or rod tip is raised to about a 45 degree angle and then scribes, in a constant speed, a large, reversed image of the letter “C” Rod tip ends up, once again, pointed nearly downstream and low to the water. The majority of the line and the fly end in a position describing a loose semi-circle that starts from where the fly is located, upriver and off of the caster’s right shoulder, to follow out and around in front of the caster and end at the tip of the rod. This is the set of this cast, and the point where the line comes to a stop. The next stage is the sweep, from left to right, followed by the casting stroke.

Perry Poke, River flowing from right to left: Starting position: line dangling straight downstream to one’s left, rod tip low and pointed downriver. Rod tip is rotated to a near vertical attitude, then thrust straight up and at the same time brought across the front of the body, from left to right, to end up on the caster’s right or upriver side. As soon as the fly passes upstream of the caster’s position, the rod tip is “poked” or “dumped” out in front of the caster and this motion effectively checks the upstream flight of the fly and also “folds” the line in half on the water out in front and trailing back off of the caster’s right shoulder. This is the set portion of this cast and the point at which the line comes to a stop.

Next, the rod tip is kicked back and up off of the right shoulder, the sweep, followed by rotating the rod tip around and over for the casting stroke.

These are the most common casts that I have seen employed in Skagit casting. The set and stop are the distinguishing characteristics of this style, and are crucial to making this cast work. The set and stop of this method maximizes line contact with the water, which is the total opposite of traditional Spey casting. It is this prolonged contact of the line with the water surface that sets the rod up for loading during the next stage of the casting process, the sweep. It is the friction created against the line as it is being unstuck from the water during the sweep that is the element that loads the rod in this style of casting.

Let me reemphasize; in traditional Spey casting, the line is picked up from its initial starting point, the rod is loaded, and all that is needed to complete the cast is just enough stick or contact of the line to the water, at the proper moment, to allow the line to change directions. Minimal stick is a requirement to make the cast work. On the other hand, in Skagit casting the energy to make the cast does not even exist until after one has set the line, stopped, and then, once again put the rod in motion for the sweep. Maximum stick is needed to make this cast work. I hope that I have made clear the differences between the two styles of casting.

How do these two methods influence one’s fishing or conversely, and perhaps more importantly, how do the requirements of fishing influence the development of these casting styles? These answers will also help to determine the results of the prior question, therefore I will tackle the latter subject first.

Remember that traditional Speycasting was invented for Atlantic salmon fishing, and Skagit casting for Pacific Northwest steelhead. First, let me sate that I have never fished for Atlantic salmon, and the knowledge that I have has been gathered from books, videos, friends and acquaintances who have fished this quarry, as well as from European and other world-traveled anglers that I have guided. However, the conclusions that I have drawn, as far as I can tell, are generally accepted facts.

The most important aspects that have a bearing on this subject are:

Atlantic salmon typically are caught in areas of the river that are consistent in flow, such as the main body of pools, and the smooth currents of tailouts.

A greater percentage of fishing for Atlantic salmon is accomplished with a floating line as compared to steelhead fishing.

Atlantic salmon generally prefer a fly that is moving faster in relation to the current of the river than steelhead do.

These facts determine presentation, the most important aspect of catching fish on a fly, and presentation establishes the angle of the cast, mends that are required and lines to be used. the traditional way in which an Atlantic salmon fisher introduces the fly to the fish is to cast down and across at a 45 degree angle and then allow the current to belly the line and thus add speed to the swing of the fly. There isn’t any mending involved. this translates into a distinct advantage for the Atlantic salmon fisher, especially when the need for a deeply sunk fly arises, as it means one can use a full sinking fly line, , a line that is at best difficult to mend once it is on the water, and the flow of the river acting against the belly of the line will actually aid in the presentation of the fly, not hinder it. This also translates into a benefit for the traditional Spey caster. A full length sinking line as well as a full length floating line are consistent in density and weight along the whole  of the line except for a small percentage on the gradually tapered ends. The are constant and congruous throughout their main body. The uniformity of these lines provides for fairly smooth, predictable behavior once they have been aerialized for the Spey casting process, and this allows for repeatable conduct on the part of the line cast after cast, a very necessary ingredient for Spey casting. One other important point worth noting is that, especially when using long lengths of line over 70 feet, traditional Spey casting works best when the casts are made at a 45 degree angle or less from the position where the line originally started. Think about the correlation.

Now let’s talk about steelhead and Skagit casting. Thee are the parameters of presentation that have the most influence upon the whys of the differences of casting methodologies that we are discussing.

Steelhead seem to have an affinity for lying in pockets or on current seams and other parts of the river that are generally composed of variable, conflicting currents.

A large percentage of steelhead fishing is done with sink-tip lines.

Steelhead usually prefer a fly that is traveling slower than the prevailing current speed.

Steelhead are not as apt of move long distances straight up in the water column to intercept a fly near the river’s surface, but will move great distances laterally in the river to pursue a fly, and can often be coaxed to gradually rise in the water column when engaged in a lateral movement.

These guidelines for presentation mean that the year-around steelheader often has to sink a fly quickly while still maintaining control of the line throughout the drift, from beginning to end, in order to adjust the fly’s speed and depth. Most of the time all of this has to be achieved under conditions of varying current. To accomplish this end, we steelheaders regularly employ the use of sink-tip fly lines and often cast these lines at angles far greater than 45 degrees upriver of the original dangle of the line. In some cases the cast will be upstream of the position that we occupy in the river. The presentation requirements that are so often encountered in steelheading thus usually rule out the use of the full length sinking line as a mainstay tool by most steelheaders.

For sunk line work, the sink-tip line is without a doubt the favored choice and, as in traditional Spey casting, the makeup of the lines used in fly fishing for steelhead can have a great influence upon the casting aspects of this type of fishing. Sink-tip lines are not uniform in density throughout the whole of the line but rather change density at the point where the floating portion of the line meets the sinking section. On the more radical sink-tips, not only is there a change in density, there is also a change in weight, with the sinking line actually weighing more than the floating line in grains per foot comparison. What this means from a casting standpoint is that sink-tip lines, when they are aerialized, can be very erratic and unpredictable in the flight behavior as compared to other types of flylines and therefore hard to control when kept continuously in the air. This characteristic is compounded if one adds to the equation a weighted fly. Attempting a traditional Spey cast with one of these lines and a weighted fly can be an exercise in frustration; one out of five casts achieves the momentary stick or kiss of the line on the water, while the other four casts dive into the river like a merganser evading an eagle. The solution is to be able to stop the line at a judicious moment, regain control and change the direction of the line and then proceed with the remainder of the cast. Skagit cast, anyone?

Now that we have established how the fishing environment has influenced the direction in which traditional Spey and Skagit casting were developed, let’s go back to the question of how this affects one’s personal choice for fishing. What follows is my opinion of each style based on what I have seen out on the river. Keep in mind, I am without a doubt biased towards and willingly plead guilty to favoring Skagit casting. However I also recognize that traditional Spey casting is in itself an effective and enjoyable means of using a double-handed rod, as well as being the origin of Skagit casting.

Traditional Spey works best with double-taper lines or extended length weight-forward lines in excess of 60 feet. Optimal lines for this style of casting are of uniform density whether they are designated for floating or sinking. Sinking-tip lines can also be cast well with traditional Spey if they are of a longer, more transitory nature, such as a 15 foot type, 1,2 or 3 sink rate. As one departs from these parameters casting ease and efficiency deteriorates. Also, flies weighted with barbell eyes do not seem to work well with this style of casting. Preferred rods are generally of fairly long length, 15 and 16 footers being common, to facilitate the movement of the great amounts of line involved in the casting process. The ability to work such long lengths of line minimizes the need for stripping which does save time during the act of fishing and also is very advantageous in periods of cold weather (no ice in guides, fingers stay dry). Mending capabilities are greatly extended when using floating double-taper lines. Traditional Spey casting definitely requires a fair amount of body movement and physical effort in the casting and handling of the larger rods that are employed. Swaying and rocking of the body and above the shoulder arm motion are characteristics of this style of casting.

Skagit is best accomplished with weight-forward or shooting -head lines measuring under 56 feet. Floating and sink-tip lines are what this method excels at casting but full length sinking lines do not work very well. Weighted flies, even bar bell eyes, are very manageable. Preferred rods are on the shorter side of the double-handed spectrum, with 13 to 14 footers being a very popular choice. When casting beyond the length of the head line does have to be stripped in prior to the subsequent cast but the shorter, heavier heads used in Skagit casting seem to produce higher line speeds with less effort on the part of the caster than does traditional Spey casting. The following is an example. In a situation where a traditional Spey caster uses a 15 foot 10 weight rod to produce casts of 100 feet with a standard 15 foot type 4 sink-tip and 2/0 fly, a proficient Skagit caster will achieve the same results with a 14 foot 9 weight rod and expend less effort in the process. Body movements are less vigorous than with traditional Spey and arm motions are fairly compact and tight to the body.

There is one more facet to be examined before stating my conclusions. If you are an angler just entering into the arena of fly fishing with a double-handed rod or if you have been involved for awhile but seem to be getting nowhere in the casting department then carefully consider all that you have just read. Based upon this information  choose just ONE of these styles of casting and learn that particular method and ONLY that method. Do not attempt to learn any part of the opposing casting style until you have become very proficient at the first. Choose your rod, line and instructional information accordingly. To mix or interchange the components of the two styles of casting will only be to your detriment. For instance, to buy a 14 foot 9 weight doublehanded fly rod outfitted with a 9,10,11 Windcutter line and then learn the Skagit style double Spey for your river right cast and mix that with a single Spey for river left cast is to introduce inconsistency into your learning equation.

The double Spey is a convertible cast. In other words, it is a cast that can be accomplished either Skagit style or traditional Spey style by changing one’s casting fundamentals. Even though both are called “double Spey” and appear similar during execution , they each work on different principles. Each requires a different timing, line placement and application of power, which all culminating in a completely different feel for each cast. The single Spey is not convertible, therefore to learn the Skagit style double Spey for river right and a C Spey for river left is to learn ONE casting foundation that applies to TWO casts. Makes more sense, eh?

In closing, my purpose has been to separate and delineate what I has seen as two distinctly different methods of casting that have not been formally distinguished from one another in the fly fishing community. My hope is to get the ball rolling within the fly fishing industry to recognize Skagit casting as a distinctly identifiable method of casting apart from traditional Spey casting.

Currently the fly fishing industry, as well as most anglers, consider traditional Spey and Skagit casting as being one and the same. I could not disagree more and believe that this article has presented clear and undeniable evidence as to the distinction between the two methods. Not giving due recognition to the differences of these two types of casting has, and will continue to confuse, frustrate and hinder the progress of those participating in this sport. I have I have seen irrefutable evidence of this in my occupation as a professional fishing guide in Washington, Alaska and Russia. The only effective remedy to this situation is a clear, well defined and undisputed recognition of traditional Spey and Skagit casting as two unique and separate methods.

Ed Ward

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