Pairing Lines With Rods

Casting Heavier Sink Tips

Casting for Distance

Rods for Distance

Adapting to River Conditions

Pairing Lines With Rods 

Just about any Skagit head works with just about any rod.  This finding was unexpected and surprising to us, but we have now confirmed it though hundreds of hours of testing at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.

Suppose you are about to fish a particular steelhead run where experience has shown that a 15 foot, 190 grain, type 8 sink tip will get your fly to just the right depth. To cover all the water, you will start with short casts, and then gradually lengthen them out to a maximum of 85 feet. You can choose any Spey rod (see Tested Rods below) paired with any Skagit head from among the RIO 7/8, 8/9. 9/10, 10/11 (450-750 grain) series.  Of the many possible options, which rod-line combinations will comfortably support an 85 foot cast of a 190 grain 15 foot sink tip?

Amazingly, they all will.  It doesn't matter.  Despite manufacturers’ labeling of Skagit heads (that suggest, for example, pairing a 7/8 weight Skagit head with a 7/8 weight rod), we have found that virtually any Skagit head works with virtually any Spey rod. Though it might seem odd to pair a 7/8 450 grain Skagit head with an 11 weight 16 foot rod, this combination works fine for this task.  Similarly, you might not think of putting a 10/11 750 grain Skagit head on a 7 weight 13 foot rod, but this combination works fine for this task as well. So does every other line and rod combination we tested. 

What if you wanted to cast an 8 foot, 112 grain sink tip instead of the 190?  Same answers.  Similarly, same answers for all tips we tested of 225 grains or less.  Try it.  You might be surprised at how well you do with any of the Skagit heads paired with any Spey rod you already own.

If we had to pick a single Skagit head for use on multiple rods, we'd pick the RIO 650.  This head works especially well with all the Spey rods we've tried, including the smaller, lighter rods.

In our experience, Skagit heads enable casting sink tips with amazing ease, forgiveness, and flexibility. Casting a Skagit head with a sink tip is easier on virtually any spey rod than casting a WindCutter, a longer-bellied floating line, or any other Spey line we've tried. It’s so easy, in fact, that shorter, lighter Spey rods (12’ – 13.5’) comfortably deliver the moderate-distance casts (75-90 feet) that are normally associated with longer, more powerful rods.   For more information, see our articles Putting Skagit Lines to the Test and Harnessing the Magic in the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club (GGACC) Bulletin.

Tested Rods

Rod Action




Thomas & Thomas 1206-3 Medium 12', 6-wt, 3-pc
Sage 6126-3 Medium 12'6", 6-wt, 3-pc
Thomas & Thomas 1307-3 Med-Fast 13', 7-wt, 3-pc
Sage 7136-4 Slow 13' 6", 7-wt, 4-pc
Winston Boron IIx Medium 13' 3", 7/8, 4 pc
Loomis Dredger Slow 13' 9", 8/9, Kispiox
Sage 8150 Slow 15', 8-wt, Graphite III, 4-pc
Loomis Greased Line Medium-Slow 15', 8/9, Roaring River
Burkheimer 9143 Medium 14'3", 3-pc, 8/9/10
R B Meiser Med-Fast 13'6", 4-pc, 8/9, MKS
Winston Very Fast 14' 0", 9 wt
Sage 7141-4 Med-Fast 14'1", 4-pc
Redington Red Fly Fast 13' 8/9 3-pc
Thomas & Thomas 1409-3 Fast 14' 9-wt 3-pc
Sage 9141-4 Med-Fast 14'1" 9-wt 4-pc
Fly Logic 1409-4 Med-Fast 14' 9-wt 4-pc
Sage 9129-4 TCR Very Fast 12'9" 9-wt 4-pc
Winston Slow 15', 10-wt, 9.5 oz.
Sage 10150 Medium 15' 10-wt, Graphite III, 4-pc
Thomas & Thomas 1611-3 Fast 16' 11-wt 3-pc

Copyright 2005 Bob Pauli, Ray Christensen, Tom Keelin.  Used with permission.