Niagara River, Skagit, and two-handers - Fly Fishing Forum
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Old 12-04-2004, 04:25 PM
peter-s-c peter-s-c is offline
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Niagara River, Skagit, and two-handers

Spent a bit of time discussing the Niagara with one of Ontario's most accomplished Niagara anglers and tyers, Joe Penich, and he's put that river back into my mind. Joe usually fishes the river with float gear but he does get fish on flies as well (often on the end of a bottom bouncing, float rod). He's just getting started in the two-handed business so we were talking today, trying to find a fit.

The river presents some unique challenges for employing fly techniques and I've tried on and off since '97 to try and find a way to fish it effectively. I've tried overheading shooting heads, dead drifting using floating heads, Scan style casting with fullsink heads, and so on, never really finding a way to master the grainage needed, combined with the currents, combined with the lack of backcast room.

Having tumbled to Skagit casting recently, it's obvious that this method solves the backcast room, however, other challenges remain. We see fish boiling on top and gear chuckers tossing spoons, are taking fish when their lures are only getting down six inches or so. The 'pool is thought of as a place to go deep but it may take a different mindset to fish it well with fly gear.

We also have to seriously look at appropriate gear (another struggle of mine) as substantial tippet strength, high capacity reels, and long, seriously stiff rods would seem to be the order of the day, yet the river does get fished successfully with lighter tackle.

Just trying to get an idea of the people on this board who have fished the Niagara River (Whirlpool, ArtPark, etc.) using two-handers. Anybody fish it successfully with a two-hander?
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:00 PM
Gillie Gillie is offline
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I have been following your other thread on Skagit casting on the Grand with great interest. I too have been playing with techniques to move big tips in cold water with heavy flies. I have tried to employ Skagit techniques, but unfortunately I haven't encountered the success you have.

What I've found interesting is the question of backcast room. With my curiosity peaked I sat down tonight and rewatched the footage of Ed Ward at last years Sandy River Clave. At one point he talks about the need for more backcast room than he has available to him at the demo site, I assume due to audience in the way. He says he need at least the rod length plus a few extra feet. Did you have that much in the picture you posted or were you able to punch it out in tighter quarters than that ?

I ask only because I'm still in the phase of sorting out styles.

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Old 12-05-2004, 06:29 AM
peter-s-c peter-s-c is offline
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With the water levels being so high over normal, at times I was as little as an arm's length from the bank and never more than a rod length. In the photo, I could've reached back and touched those grass clumps that were sticking out of the water.

Yesterday, I tried a Loomis Kispiox (Skagit rod) on grass at Grindstone's open house. The rod is quite soft, much like a 7136, and I found I had to be very broad with my casting motions to get it to work. With my stiff Daiwa, I tend to remain very compact in my motions -- I think that compactness gave me an edge when dealing with the bank.
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Old 12-05-2004, 06:46 AM
Gillie Gillie is offline
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The long stroke with the softer style fits with where my undertanding of skagit casting is at. Despite the fact that it is a short head, the stroke is much more like the stroke you would use with a long belly line due to the full contact of the line on the water.

I will have to try the Dredger line this winter. I have been fishing T+T rods and using a very compact fast stroke ala Dec Hogan style. I'm wondering if the T+T is too stiff to be a good skagit rod (although I'm sure a better caster could manage it just fine). I just ordered a skagit cheater from Rio and getting the right belly length may also change my success.

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Old 12-05-2004, 07:35 AM
peter-s-c peter-s-c is offline
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I interpreted the slow rod requirement, not with it being a casting necessity, but rather that is makes the act of maintaining a continuous load much less difficult. Ed has said somewhere in one of his peices, that maintaining a continuous load with a fast rod isn't an easy thing to do. I think everything with regards to desired rod action and the broad sweep of the casting motions all derives from this original starting point.

AFAIK, if you can manage a continuous load with a fast rod, then there's absolutely nothing that prevents you from executing tight motion, proper Skagit casts.
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Old 12-05-2004, 07:39 AM
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juro juro is offline
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Two points I would offer, although I have not fished your waters and am 'Sunday morning speculating'.

1) fish different water
Winter steelhead success came to me when I started walking away from bottom bouncing hotspots and finding suitable flywater for swinging. Eventually I had a suite of spots that were totally different yet very productive to hit each weekend, often alone.

2) forward snake vs / in addtion to perry poke
In these fishing situations I find myself using a 'forward positioned snake'. Although not 'officially' a Skagit cast per se, it achieves the same goal and solves the same problems on the river with a very concise and efficient motion. The same rod actions are suitable for this cast as with a perry poke, thus I use the Skagit Specialist for instance which also allows me to put on a mid-belly and fire out long casts in the next pool.

forward snake...
With a shorter stout line (Skagit, Scandi, WC with mid-removed, etc) and a rod that loads up well (read - not stiff) but recoils strong (high modulus) it's possible to create a snake roll "further out in front" that takes less than a rod length of backcasting room and consistently works casting distances relative to rod length and ability but for most 70-90ft.

No voodoo - just that the lift and initial spiral occurs further out front. The forward cast is similar to a perry poke because of the way the rod has to load in a more forward 'tilt'. When I was playing with the upriver snake, I learned that a snake roll can be made with the path of acceleration leading up to the spiral out front so far that it crosses the body to the other side.

In a normal snake roll this initial path of acceleration becomes the centerline of the spiral and it's in line with your body to the downriver side. In an upriver snake, this path of acceleration is made out in front and allowed to cross over to the upriver side, then turned inside out with a spiral. Or it can be dropped into a snake poke, my other pet cast.

However the out-front path can also be spiralled on the downriver side. This dramatically reduces the amount of backcasting room needed, and it can be adjusted as needed.

Care is taken to manage the shape of the d-loop and anchor so that an underhand-strong forward-tilted cast can be made. The final delivery feels very similar to a Skagit cast in that the angle of tension has a more downward force like the perry poke, and it's important to avoid excessive force or velocity such that the line lifts rather than tears from the surface. This is a gentle move that uses a deep load in the rod thus it moves sinktips very effectively. Even though the rod is used to pull tension further down toward the water, the line (wedge) is directed to go forward higher toward the target so that it all evens out. I'd bet that if you stopped high as you do with a traditional cast the line would fly too high.

It's very helpful to be ambidextrous because with one cast either bank / wind can be fished in tight quarters without much fuss.

This is definitely a short head technique but a reduction of backcasting room can be had with long bellies in a similar fashion, just not as easily and the risk of excessive anchor grip is greater with long bellies when fished in a forward orientation.

The snake has so much dynamic tension throughout that the forward cast can be made "Skagit style" (or any style for that matter) and the benefits can be had without the extra motions that a perry poke requires when needed.

That being said, only a poke can get you out of extreme situations and it's a good cast to have under the wader belt.

All this talk has got me pumped to do some casting this morning! Off to the river for a few.
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Old 12-05-2004, 10:01 AM
Riveraddict Riveraddict is offline
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Niagara and Skagit

Good morning gentlemen! (west coast-wise anyways)

I am one of those persons that gets really peeved at finding out that something does not live up to expectations because someone exaggerated or overhyped its capabilities. Therefore, when it comes to me putting forth a personal opinion about something such as casting, I tend to either understate things a bit, or I will use as examples the more "extreme" of conditions. So, to clarify things better, let me say that in stating the capabilities of Skagit casting, I use as an example for backcast room, the Doublespey with a superfast sinktip and fairly large/heavily weighted fly. The Doublespey requires the MOST backcast room, while the fast sinktip and weighted fly compounds this need. "One rod length plus three or four feet" is generally the MAXIMUM amount of room needed for Skagit casting, and this is for making longer casts. Lighter tips, lighter/smaller flies, will reduce the amount of rearward room needed. Also shorter casts require less room. Plus, the Perry poke uses less backcast room than the Doublespey. Using the same size rod, with similar lines and flies, I have yet to see another casting style match Skagit casting's capabilities in tight quarters. This is not to say that it can't happen, I just have not seen it so far.

"Slow rods" are not the best for Skagit casting. Rods with light tips, and medium butts work best (medium to medium-fast actions). The light tip is needed to "carry" the load around in the sweep to casting stroke phase. The medium butt drives the light tip over into the casting stroke with speed, but enough "feel" to allow the caster to perceive the feeling of load throughout the whole process. The casting stroke in Skagit casting is actually of medium length compared to Underhand (short) and Traditional Spey (long). In fact, it is actually very similar to a single-handed casting stroke.
I would argue that the Sage 7136 (green) is a medium actioned rod. Most people peg it as slow because they are more used to casting rods rated for heavier lines (8, 9, or 10), and therefore they way overpower the rod, which "collapses" the tip, thus driving the "load" way down into the butt of the rod, making it feel "soft" (and making it cast like doodoo). Correct Skagit casting loads the rod during the "sweep" of the cast, well before the casting stroke occurs, thus when it does come time to accomplish the casting stroke only a modicum of additional power is applied at that time. When done properly, the "feeling" is actually one of casting from off the tip of the rod, not the butt.

Peter, I would really pay special attention to Juro's advice labeled #1.
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