Skagit casting and Skagit fly lines
- for fishing deep and slow

Spey casting tuition and instruction

Introduction to Skagit casting

skagit river
Skagit River Washington State

Skagit casting takes its name from the Skagit River in Washington State, USA. This large, deep and powerful watercourse with its substantial tributary, the Sauk requires that winter steelhead fly fishermen get their big flies down quickly to meet the fish at almost eyeball level. Fast sinking tips customised from tungsten impregnated fly line are the most common and effective way to sink a fly to the desired depth and fortunately there are a number of types and densities to choose from. T-14 and T-17 are the most commonly used types for Skagit casting tips but of course other and less dense line can be used successfully to reduce the fishing depth whilst maintaining a similar casting weight and if need be the Skagit head length can be increased by using cheaters to compensate and that would allow for instance lighter 15ft Versi-tips to be used. Cheaters are short extensions to Skagit lines designed to make adjustments for rod length or line weight and they are usually made from floating or slow sinking line such as Type 2. For Skagit casting a fly line head or shooting head length of 3 to 3.5 times the rod length is ideal.

skagit fly line
Skagit fly lines

In order to cast heavy tips and large flies the fly line itself must have sufficient mass to carry the load so it is easy to understand why the heads of Skagit lines are massive to carry weighty flies and tips and once cast they have enough inertia to travel a long way. Skagit heads are also short and have high floatability. This is because they are extended by adding a tip and because the main floating portion and about half of the sink tip has to be kept out of the water during casting to minimise water drag. Skagit lines are made either with running line attached or as shooting heads to be attached to shooting line and in any case they are effectively shooting heads. Skagit lines drift more slowly than conventional lines during the swing, an important advantage when the water is cold and slow is best. The short head profile also makes these lines relatively easy with care.

All of the casts designed in the Skagit style are based on the basic roll cast with a “sustained” anchor. This simply means that the fly and leader are relocated for the intended forward direction before the D loop is formed. Line is arranged on the water and lifted, the D loop is made opposite to the target direction and the cast is completed in a similar style to the Double Spey cast which is one of the most popular Skagit techniques. Many of the American casters using this style do not change their hand positions on the rod handle when casting off the “other” shoulder, instead they cast “off shoulder” or “back handed” using their dominant hand up the handle but for a normally able person there is absolutely no need to do this and the casts are best performed ergonomically using the downwind hand towards the top of the rod handle rather than the arms being crossed. Skagit casts are not the prettiest, the very heavy, bulky line and the need to lift it from the water causes more disturbance than a Spey line would but they are effective.

To make a successful cast with a Skagit line it is necessary to contain at least the entire heavy floating portion and about half of the sink tip in a D loop (in the air) and tension the remainder of the sinking tip which is submerged so that when the delivery is made all of the line, tip, leader and fly assembly are projected forward without encountering slack. The main difference between the different types of Skagit casts boils down to simply how the fly gets moved into the desired anchor position. Delivery always uses the same technique of picking up the line, forming a D loop and casting that is used for the Double Spey. Skagit Double Spey.

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.