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peter-s-c 01-14-2005 10:45 AM

Skagit Lines for the GLs
Having had a chance to see, feel, and cast a genuine, Marlow Bumpus Skagit line, it’s given me a few ideas for GL adaptation. The general concept behind the custom Skagit lines is simple enough -- it forms the basis of the WC design -- a heavy, thick, short, floating head driving a sinking tip. The custom Bumpus Skagit lines take this a step further by making custom tips out of differing lengths of T-14 and level floating 11 wt. line to produce a set of heads of overall constant length of ten feet – very handy for consistent casting.

These T-14 heads likely will only be useful on certain GL rivers, while on others, they’d probably end up being counterproductive. They’re intended to produce a hinge at the level belly – head loop, drooping the tip sharply downward to fish slots and boulder gardens. The problem as I see it comes from trying to apply this sort of system to a broad range of conditions on various GL rivers. Some places it will work and some places it won’t so a more adaptable system is needed.

Some time ago, I bought a 11/12 Rio SSH, cut it back to 26’ – making it effectively a 9/10 line -- and reversed it, for use as a tip driver. The standard SSH has roughly a reversed WC profile, so reversing a SSH turns it back into roughly a standard WC belly. It’s a cheap, quick way to produce a head that is similar in profile to the belly of a Bumpus custom line. From that point, we can hang pretty well anything we like off the end of it.

The 11/12 cut at 26’ was chosen so that it the overall head length would range from 41’ to 50’ depending on whether I was using a 15’ tip or a 24’ BigBoy while retaining the total grainage needed to load the rod, and the average grains per foot needed to turn over the really heavy stuff.. There’s no doubt that there’s enough mass in it to drive lengths of T-14 as well if it was needed. The Bumpus line was 39’ overall so the 26’ SSH + 15’ tip puts us in the same ballpark.

Buying tips lines is damned expensive so if you already have one or two, then the acquisition of one or two SSH lines can cover any Skagit-type requirements. I contemplated buying a couple of Windcutters just so that I could employ the belly sections in this fashion, but it’s much cheaper, and I find more effective, to convert SSH lines instead. While SSH is supposed to stand for Scandinavian Shooting Head, it makes more sense to me to think of them as Skagit Shooting Heads.

Rio has been kind enough to post a chart on their website that lets us calculate total grain weight after cutting off the back end of the SSH. That’s how I ended up selecting the 11/12 at 26’ for use on my 9/10 rods.

If you want to dabble in Skagit lines and you already have a set of tips, then an SSH is a simple and relatively cheap way to make a custom Skagit line for experimentation.

h2o 01-14-2005 07:55 PM

Thanks for explaining the Skagit line system. I have been interested in it and seeking information. From what you wrote, it looks very simular to what was done with lines for single handed rods in that part of the country years ago. In fact I think RIO used to make some but, the market was to small to keep producing it. This is very simular also to lines I have spoke with SA about for single handers............but more for "dribbling" or bottom bouncing a streamer, rather than swinging.

I appreciate these type topics and find them interesting here are some thoughts.

In my oppinion the "system" looks like it is built for ........quarter cast upstream .......deep drift to ........quartered down. Rather than a down & accross type swing. It does not matter if a tips is 3' long or 30' long if it's lets say 6" per second stuff. The 3 footer goes down no slower than the 30 footer in still water. In current casts upstream (near dead drift down) they are still both about the same........but, a longer tip will line fish that a shorter tip wouldn't............hence the short (for out west )10' heavy tips and thats why they appear to be a "quarter up to quarter down deep drift rig" me. Because the big differance in the two exact sink rate tips comes when fishing downstream. The longer tip holds the fly down in downstream current much better, as in downstream swinging.

The other thing I have found with this theory is the "hinge factor" which is wanted as you noted here . "They’re intended to produce a hinge at the level belly – head loop, drooping the tip sharply downward to fish slots and boulder gardens". (again looks like a quarter to quarter drift rig because its sure not going to hinge much hanging down in the current)
I have found that there is little hinge once in the water at the loop, unlike when casting over head in air, water has viscosity. A portion of the fat belly including the wanted "hinge loop" gets pulled under. The hinge is more of a slight angle because of the weight distribution accross the tip (poor spelling... oh well) than a hinge as wanted. With a indicator rig, there is space .........mono, between the belly and the indicator. From there the shot is several feet from the indicator with mono in-between, rather than distributed accross the tip (sink tip) right up to the fat belly which is trying to act like a indicator.
I have worked with SA and personally built many versions of simular lines for single handed rods including reverse tapers and bullet heads.

In the end my conclusion was for the Great Lakes just use a weighted fly and or shot on mono and cut back a fat belly GPX type line a few feet. Out West it may not be enough to get down............hence the T 14, or lead shot make be illegal. Here you would just not use 10' of T 14. How many grains is that ? Casting wise.............not much differance.........both have some kick. In fact on a single hander anyways it is probably less with the shot if one builds a nice stiff heavy butt leader. I could see it maybe on the Niagara.............but, those guys are using copper tubes and long leaders mostly.

You could use that system in the Great Lakes with lighter tips or you can just use a weighted fly , shot etc. It's not that exstreme nor hard to "get down" in the Great Lakes region............................thankfully. To me anyways may be needed to dredge with out West in certain rivers............but not here. I will wait until line tech. develops further for now. Again thanks.........I was trying to figure what this Skagit lines were. It's a new western two handers name for a old select western single handers tip system................been around a long time.

Just some stuff

peter-s-c 01-15-2005 08:20 AM

To sum it all up, there's a time to go vertical and there's a time to go horizontal (and I'm not referring to bedroom gymnastics either). :)

The Skagit rig or mono and shot presents the fly more or less vertically in the water column and moves the fly more or less "vertically" in the current, only going across current to any great degree as we swing out at the end. Conventional swinging being the horizontal presentation. It's nice to be able to do both on the same river without changing everything up. That's why I'm looking at the SSH lines as a Q&D way of switching between vertical and horizontal presentations as I move down the river.

The lower Grand is a pretty wide river, but as I sit here typing, I'm think of more and more opportunities for vertical presentations on it -- ordered some T-14 last week with no confidence that I'd ever use it, but now I'm not so sure. . . .

twohand 01-17-2005 09:13 AM

Peter, from what I understand the skagit method has very little to do with how the fly is presented to the fish. The fly is still swung down and accross as it would be in any other method. The style of cast and line was designed to deliver large flys and get down fast...simple as that. Seems to me that everyone is trying to over analize the poop out of this subject. ;)

peter-s-c 01-17-2005 09:28 AM


Originally Posted by twohand
Peter, from what I understand the skagit method has very little to do with how the fly is presented to the fish. The fly is still swung down and accross as it would be in any other method. The style of cast and line was designed to deliver large flys and get down fast...simple as that. Seems to me that everyone is trying to over analize the poop out of this subject. ;)

Ya, I clarified that in the other thread on Speyclave. Still, a vertical presentation is very useful in pocket water. Over-analyzing doesn't hurt sometimes as a little nugget came out of the other thread that hadn't been mentioned here before, to the best of my knowledge. If you don't ask, you don't learn, and if you don't think, you won't ask.

Dornblaser 01-18-2005 05:22 PM


I have not fished (nor even seen) your home waters. I am wondering when it is time for you to go "vertical" what is the range of depth that you are trying to achieve? And, how fast of a flow are you fishing in? Big Ugly Flies or nymphs? I did read the thread on the speyclave.


peter-s-c 01-18-2005 05:34 PM

There are spots on the Credit, Catt, Saugeen, and a few other places where there are fast chutes that are laterally compressed, which dump out into small pools -- usually 4' to 6' deep, often behind a big boulder or severe dropoff. You can't conventional swing a fly in them -- not enough room and you'd never get it deep enough anyway. The bobber brigade usually wins in these spots, but if we can get vertical with a swung fly, we have a shot.

Think of it as swinging a fly through places that normally only the bobber brigade or bottom bouncers can fish.

To illustrate this point further -- there's a spot on the Grand midway between the island and the shore (about 100 yards total) where bedrock runs laterally at about a 45 degree angle across the river. On the bedrock ridge, you're ankle deep. Step off and you're crotch deep. This forms a channel about 100' long and 30' to 40' wide. Single handers with mono & shot or short tips can fish this stretch effectively nymphing or swinging but a two hander swinging gets handcuffed because the tip is too long and won't get down until you're almost swung out. A quick 'get-down' with a short tip will fish it well.

I've had a couple of 5' extra sooper-dooper sinking saltwater polyleaders in my wallet for a long time -- about time I started dredging them out for this sort of situation.

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