Well, an opportunity presented itself and I could not resist; so I picked up a brand new TFO Professional 12' 6" 6-wt spey rod for under $100, and then also caught the tail end of the Orvis clearance sale, and picked up an Orvis Battenkill Mid-Arbor V reel for under $90. So basically I have the spey rod & reel for under $200 (including shipping) - I figured at those prices I just had to buy them and try fishing with a two-handed rod. So now I need a little advice about line, backing and leaders.
I read a couple of articles and forum posts that indicate that the TFO 12'6" 6-wt works best with a line that has a weight of 400-450 gr. (is this correct?) - my following questions are: as a beginner with a two-handed rod would I be better off with a Skagit or Scandi line to start learning? Assuming the answer is a Skagit line, I looked at the Airflo, Rio and SA lines and wondered if the SA Supra Skagit Spey line be a good choice for a beginner (450 gr., comes with 4 tips)? Since the SA Supra Spey include a built-in running line (no need for an additional shooting line?) what do you use for backing - 30lb dacron? and finally, what do you usually use for a leader with the two-hand rod - furled leaders, knotless leaders, knotted leaders, or just straight mono/fluor? and how long should the leader be - as long as the rod or something a little shorter (e.g. 9' or 10')?
A lot of questions, but since I have now have the hardware I want to get started on some practice (I already understand the mechanics of some of the spey casts). I can always progress to a different line down the road, and of course possibly another rod/reel? Any input will be appreciated.
For line weights I would follow rod recommendations.
For line type; I bought Scientific Angler Short Head lines. I seem to be casting well and the lines are a bargain if you don't mind taking last years (or the year before) colors. You can to turn the Spey rod into 'rocket science' or you can make it as simple as you want. I keep the tackle simple and concentrate on the fishing.
I have posted a leader in the Spey Section here; it shows a step by step for making he connector and then specs out the leader that I use. this is a sinking leader and I use it with great results with un weighted flies here.
Diver Dan is real good with his leader and casting advice. A PM sent his way will get you connected with a guy who knows his stuff.
I agree - I do not want to make this into a science project - I just want to learn a different (more effective?) method of casting and fishing. I looked up the rod recommendation on the Rio website, and they show a recommended weight for that specific rod of 400gr-450gr in a Skagit line, and 385gr-435gr in a Scandi line. I looked at the SA Short Head line called the "Extreme"; when you use a short head line, what are you using for a running line?
You need to consider how you want to fish the rod when making the line choice.
For more of a touch, splash, and go approach, you may want to work with either a short head traditional line (Rio Windcutter Spey) or a Scandinavian shooting head (Rio AFS or Steelhead Scandi).
If you want to dredge deep for fish, it is hard to beat a Skagit setup. That way you can throw heavier tips and bigger flies. Compared to traditional or Scandi, Skagit style is not pretty, but it is darn effective.
I have found that most casters pick up Skagit style casting quicker than other styles. The slower and methodical technique of setting up an anchor allows the caster to feel the rod load up. It is just like learning how to single had cast with a slow rod when it comes to feel. You just know that the rod is loaded.
If you were at my shop, here is what I would recommend if you wanted to go Skagit first for that rod.
Head - Rio Skagit Flight 450 grain
Shooting Line - Rio Powerflex .030" floating shooting line
Backing - 20 pound test Micron
Tips - Rio 12' Floating Skagit Tip to start with then various lengths of T-8 and T-11
Leaders are very simple. Tie on a foot long butt section using 30 pound test mono. Then tie on three to five feet of leader material.
I thought a Skagit was the best line to start with because everyone seems to agree that it is the easiest for a beginner to learn. However, I keep seeing the comment that a Skagit line is best for heavy flies and deep sinking tips.
If I primarily plan on using floating tips and/or intermediate tips, would I be better off starting with a Scandi line? Like Ard commented, he found a short head (e.g. a medium length line) to work best for his fishing. I guess the short head is similar to the Scandi lines (at least from what I have read on the SA and Rio websites).
I used to fish a Rio Windcutter Spey for floating line fishing. It is what I learned on.
I now prefer a Scandi head. Being shorter, it is much easier to control my cast since I don't need a large d-loop. I can replace it with a Skagit head when I need to do so. It is also better at presenting traditional Steelhead flies.
One of my favorite lines on the market is Rio's Steelhead Scandi. It is a hybridized Skagit and Scandi shooting head. It can throw polyleaders and sinking tips. For the TFO rod that you have, I would recommend the 32 foot 435 grain head. It may not throw big Intruders well, but it can throw some moderately sized buggers as well as traditional Steelhead flies.
Thanks for the input. What is your preference for a a running line with the Rio Steelhead Scandi? I have a couple of old WF S-H flylines (5wt & 4wt) that have had the front WF sections damaged. If I cut off the entire head of the WF S-H line, could I use the body/running line of the old S-H WF line for a running line with the D-H Scandi line?
I think there are a couple of spey lines that probably fall into the category of "hybridized Skagit and Scandi", including the Rio Scandi Steelhead you have recommended and the SA Supra Skagit - both have heads shorter than a traditional Scandi but longer than a regular Skagit. I had a couple of recommendations to get a shooting head (and running line) so I could switch between a Skagit or a Scandi head, but if I get one of these "hybridized" lines, in your experience would there be any reason to switch back & forth? I ask because the SA Supra Skagit (28ft head 450gr) has an integrated running line which would defeat the ability to switch shooting heads.
Again, thanks for sharing your experience - it is appreciated!
---------- Post added at 11:37 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:11 AM ----------
I have continued to do some research this morning, and I see what you are talking about with the Rio Steelhead Scandi being a "hybridized Scandi/Skagit". I was probably wrong in my statement that the SA Supra Skagit was a hybridized line - it has a longer than normal Skagit head, but the profile would still be the same chunk (e.g. 'splash') when it lands in the water (not a problem for sinking flies, but definitely with floating flies). Your Rio Steelhead Scandi recommendation appears to have the ability to throw fairly large flies and sinking lines, and will also handle floating leaders for dry flies much better, but also appears to be fairly easy for a beginner to learn to cast. Last question about the line: how big of a D loop do you normally have when casting the Steelhead Scandi, e.g. how much backspace is required?
Other than my questions about running lines and leaders, I am beginning to feel more comfortable about a spey line choice. Thanks again for your help.
In a pinch, you can use a running line off the back end of an old floating line. I know a few people who have done that. Just add a braided loop.
I use the Rio Powerflex Shooting Line. My preference is the .030" size because it is skinny enough to move through the guides but big enough to handle. Airflo and Scientific Anglers have good running lines, too.
As for d-loops with the Steelhead Scandi, about 10 to 15 feet is required.
Location: Lake of the Woods/Rainy River Minnesota Canada border
Re: Grabbing a Spey Opportunity
I did a bit of checking and it has a traditional taper. That does not mean you can't use a Scandi line on it, but I don't think it's a scandi type rod. The Red Shed fly shop who are experts in all things spey said the 6/7 Airflo Delta tactical spey is a great line on that rod. They also have the best price I have seen on one. That's the line I'd get first.
How deep and fast are the waters where you plan to fish this at? Do you have anyone near you to show you how to cast these? How much have you single hand spey cast? What are next weeks winning lottery numbers?