Casting Skagit line - help please

gbadgley

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Howdy,

So, I have a 9' 6wt rod. I have matched this up with the OPST skagit line 225 grain as recommended by OPST. I have a 5 ' sink tip, and 3 ', or more , of leader. I am having trouble casting heavier streamers. I was wondering if when I retrieve I bring the skagit line through the top guide, or maybe two. Right now, I just retrieve and bring it up to the top tip, but never through them. It just feels like the skagit head is too long. What's everybody doing to cast those heavier flies.

Thanks in advance!
 
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duker

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Welcome to the forum. Always good to have more Canadians here.

First, some questions. What kind of casts are you using, what kind of fish are you going for, and what kind of water are you fishing (e.g., lake or river or surf)? And what do you mean by "heavier" streamers--what patterns and sizes? Are you trying overhead casts with this or one of the "spey" casts (snap-T, snake roll, single or double spey etc.)? Timing is going to be more critical with a one-hander than with a two-hander, again, depending on the cast. A standard 6 weight fly line usually runs around 160 grains for the first 30', so 225 grains plus a sink tip and big streamer (especially an articulated streamer or Intruder-style) is going to be a lot for that rod.

I will admit that I have no experience with the OPST lines, and hopefully someone who does will chime in. I fish rivers for steelhead and salmon with two-handed rods between 12'8" and 13'3". I usually fish an Airflo Rage with a poly leader and between 3'-5' of tippet (if I'm swinging a wet fly or streamer). When I retrieve for a new cast I leave the entire head outside the rod tip--usually have betwen 6-12" of running line out there as well. I do that regardless of whether I'm fishing the Rage or dredging deeper water with a Skagit head and heavy sink tip. That's enough line for me to clear everything with a quick roll cast and either set up an anchor for the next cast or touch and go.

Anglers like the Skagit and similar heads because they're easier to learn with when you're starting out, and with that compact mass they can fling heavier sink tips and bigger flies. There is a limit, however.
 
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gbadgley

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Thanks Duker, for you comprehensive response!! The answer is to only bring the head up to the rod tip. I just couldn't understand why I couldm't make the basic cast: Snap C. With smaller flies my casts are not great, but certainly much better than the "heavier flies". I have yet to try my next adjustment, but I am pretty sure that is part of the problem. The adjustment is with the sink tip. I have to raise my rod really high to get the tip out of the water as much as I can before I start my C. The other issue may be choice of casts. The river I fish on is 80 feet across, and very fast. The current is from right to left. I am right handed. When I am standing in the water and complete the anchor and start the sweep toward the D loop, the line gets swept towards me very fast. I might be better to try a double spey cast over my left shoulder. But I would still start the whole process with making sure the sink line is out of the water as much as I can by raising the rod.

By the way OPST is a wonderful system. The Commando head is matched to the rod weight according to their instructions. It might just be however that I am trying to tackle a fly that is just too " heavy". A 4 inch articulated fly might be too much.

Pretty tough to have to put this together on my own. But, I think I am a long ways down the road now. Thanks again!
 
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duker

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Glad I could provide at least a bit of help. It sounds like you are well on your way, and will eventually get it down pat. As you say, maybe start with smaller flies and work up as you get more comfortable. And yeah, fast water is a challenge--totally throws your timing off.

I've heard great things about the OPST lines and know a lot of anglers who swear by them. I'm just too in love with the Rage to switch to a new system now.

Given that you live in Victoria, I assume you're fishing for pinks and sea-run cutties with that set-up? Which river(s)? My wife and I are going to be relocating to the Gulf Islands (Salt Spring) in a couple of months so I'll be exploring the rivers down there soon.
 
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okaloosa

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I bring the first few inches of the head into the tip top with my OPST line, but mine is integrated with the running line and I am not sure if that makes a difference. Mine is 175 gr for a 10 ft 4 wt and has no problem turning over heavy streamers although they dont exactly land like a #18 dry fly;)
 

gbadgley

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Glad I could provide at least a bit of help. It sounds like you are well on your way, and will eventually get it down pat. As you say, maybe start with smaller flies and work up as you get more comfortable. And yeah, fast water is a challenge--totally throws your timing off.

I've heard great things about the OPST lines and know a lot of anglers who swear by them. I'm just too in love with the Rage to switch to a new system now.

Given that you live in Victoria, I assume you're fishing for pinks and sea-run cutties with that set-up? Which river(s)? My wife and I are going to be relocating to the Gulf Islands (Salt Spring) in a couple of months so I'll be exploring the rivers down there soon.
No. Cutties are around, but there numbers are way down. Right now we are chasing Browns in the Cowichan River. But, unsuccesssfully. It's a long story, but my fishing buddy has had a couple of strikes in eight fishing trips on the river. I have had none, but early in February I did land an 18 pound stealhead, but that was on gear. The problem with the Cowichan like all the rivers in B.C., is that numbers of fish are way down. The Gold, and Thompson stealhead fisheries have collapsed. Pinks are plentiful up in the Campbell, and other rivers, on Vancouver Island. when they are running. But, the Cowichan is just tough. Too close to Victoria, and other factors have brought the numbers down. Drift boats do better. Stocked lakes are doing well, but I am a river fisherman. Not sure if there is a stocked lake over on Salts Spring, or not. Here in Victoria the lakes are stocked and the fisherman do well.
 
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trev

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What I'd do is strip line in until the head is at the rod tip then roll cast that sinktip to the top so that all the line is at the surface and extended with the rod low, then start whatever cast you want to use. But that is with standard lines, I've no experience with the OPST stuff. Raising the rod to bring the sink tip up uses up all/most the cast before it starts.
 

duker

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Not to hijack the thread. . .

I've definitely heard of the Cowichan and look forward to giving it a try (we're practically right across the way). I've also heard that numbers there are not good, like most places. Salt Spring has a few stocked lakes--bows and smallmouth--and the local salmon and cutties. Like you, I prefer to swing in a river. All that Haig-Brown and Noel Money country to explore, except it's all a shadow of what it used to be.

And yeah, ifitswims, the Skeena drainage isn't doing well either. I've been fishing the Bulkley the last 11 years for steelhead and the numbers were way down the last two years. Hope that isn't the trend.
 

gbadgley

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Not to hijack the thread. . .

I've definitely heard of the Cowichan and look forward to giving it a try (we're practically right across the way). I've also heard that numbers there are not good, like most places. Salt Spring has a few stocked lakes--bows and smallmouth--and the local salmon and cutties. Like you, I prefer to swing in a river. All that Haig-Brown and Noel Money country to explore, except it's all a shadow of what it used to be.

And yeah, ifitswims, the Skeena drainage isn't doing well either. I've been fishing the Bulkley the last 11 years for steelhead and the numbers were way down the last two years. Hope that isn't the trend.
Shadow is the perfect word. It's a tragic state of affairs. As I mentiioned, two of B.C. prime rivers for stealhead have collapsed. Both, are world famous rivers. The mighty Thompson showed a hundred fish on the last swim, or whatever the number was. It is closed. And the famous Gold, showed no fish, or 12 fish on the last swim. It is closed. The Skeena, Nass, Bulkley,, and all the rivers North, still have fish, but numbers are way down. I am Alaska bound as soon as I get the chance. But, even there, the fish are under significant pressure from climate change, and other factors.
 

fatbillybob

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Last I fished the Cowichan I thought it was me. I was just passing through and hired a guide. It was tough fishing. What are the top causes of this drop in fish? If it is climate change that is happening everywhere and lots of other places the fish are fine. What about plain old local population increase changing the habititat? The same week I nearly struck out on the Cow I cleaned up in the heavily populated provincial park on the mainland.
 

gbadgley

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Last I fished the Cowichan I thought it was me. I was just passing through and hired a guide. It was tough fishing. What are the top causes of this drop in fish? If it is climate change that is happening everywhere and lots of other places the fish are fine. What about plain old local population increase changing the habititat? The same week I nearly struck out on the Cow I cleaned up in the heavily populated provincial park on the mainland.
Well, my theory, is that the water levels in the summer have been allowed to go too low. The water level to a large degree is controlled by Catalyst pulp and paper, with a dam at the head of the river. They use the water for production. In the summer, in recent years, it has been almost bone dry. Mind you, that has been the story for a lot of the streams on the Island., as we have been experiencing drought conditons. But, the Cowichan is different with the pulp and paper company sucking even more water out of the river. I understand starting in 2019 there has been massive pumping of water out of Lake Cowichan at the head of the river, over the dam, into the river, to try to keep the levels up.

Plus, you have an insane amount of people tubing down the river in the summer. There are businesses being operated to provide a floating experience. Much of the tubing is done by party types who raft their tubes together, and proceed to drink, littering the bottom of the river with their bottles, and cans.

And, of course, the fishing pressure, with all the guide boats drifting.

So, that is my theory. The return of the Chinook and Coho runs in the fall have been promising. At least, the Chinook. Coho less so..
 
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flav

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I'm thinking that heavy 4 inch fly in ripping current is probably a bit much for a beginner to easily cast, especially if it's tied with bunny strips or some other material that soaks up a lot of water. It certainly isn't because your head is too long, a 13 foot head and 5 foot tip is pretty short. Even experienced guys can easily pull their anchor if you don't slow down and use very short casting motions with a setup that short. I have used a 175 grain OPST and a 5 foot poly leader on my 9 foot 4 weight, it casts ok, but I now use a 12 foot poly and I like it a lot better. It's a whole lot more forgiving.
In fast current you might want to consider a downstream anchoring cast like a double Spey. You'll probably find those casts much easier. Of course it depends on the wind. If the wind is blowing upstream you anchor off your upstream shoulder (snap-T or Perry poke) and with a downstream wind you cast off your downstream shoulder (double Spey). If you don't, the wind will blow your D loop towards you, you'll hook yourself, and it'll hurt bad. Every Spey guy has casts for his upstream shoulder and for his downstream shoulder.
When it comes to getting your tip out of the water, it's pretty easy unless you're using a super heavy tip. Once your swing is done, just stripping in your line till the head is just outside your rod tip should get the fly and tip close to the surface. Then do a slow lift straight up, this gets the head and tip moving. Once the whole setup is moving it's easy to go into whatever cast you're using. The secret is start your lift slowly, and smoothly increase the speed, then go into your cast.
 

gbadgley

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I'm thinking that heavy 4 inch fly in ripping current is probably a bit much for a beginner to easily cast, especially if it's tied with bunny strips or some other material that soaks up a lot of water. It certainly isn't because your head is too long, a 13 foot head and 5 foot tip is pretty short. Even experienced guys can easily pull their anchor if you don't slow down and use very short casting motions with a setup that short. I have used a 175 grain OPST and a 5 foot poly leader on my 9 foot 4 weight, it casts ok, but I now use a 12 foot poly and I like it a lot better. It's a whole lot more forgiving.
In fast current you might want to consider a downstream anchoring cast like a double Spey. You'll probably find those casts much easier. Of course it depends on the wind. If the wind is blowing upstream you anchor off your upstream shoulder (snap-T or Perry poke) and with a downstream wind you cast off your downstream shoulder (double Spey). If you don't, the wind will blow your D loop towards you, you'll hook yourself, and it'll hurt bad. Every Spey guy has casts for his upstream shoulder and for his downstream shoulder.
When it comes to getting your tip out of the water, it's pretty easy unless you're using a super heavy tip. Once your swing is done, just stripping in your line till the head is just outside your rod tip should get the fly and tip close to the surface. Then do a slow lift straight up, this gets the head and tip moving. Once the whole setup is moving it's easy to go into whatever cast you're using. The secret is start your lift slowly, and smoothly increase the speed, then go into your cast.
Thanks so much for the help!! I feel a whole lot more confident now, and safer! Cheers!
 

huronfly

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Lots of good points so far... I occasionally use OPST heads on smaller rivers, and unless I am standing up to my waist in water I run a good 2' of overhang(from rod tip to rear of head).

I do agree with flav that 13' head and 5' is a very short setup, so you may be blowing your anchor. I find it easy to blow anchors even with 10' tips, actually I use 15' tips more often than not - the additional overhang can also help with this.

Another thing I've noticed while casting is that it is much easier(for me) to chuck bigger flies if I have a bottom handle to pull on. I've experimented with SH vs DH and found that I really do dislike single hand skagit casting... It's harder on joints and muscles and I don't get that same oomph that I would by pulling with the bottom hand - which is VERY important in 'skagit' casting. Maybe try hauling your line a little harder with your line hand?

And most importantly, keep your fly light when you are first learning!
 

fatbillybob

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I hear what you say about SH skagit. I like the bottom hand too. I actually wonder what it would be like casting a SH rod with a fighting butt to sort of mildly activate the lower hand? Did you find that more aerialized casts like snake roll work better on SH rod vs. Fully water anchored casts?
 

huronfly

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I've seen guys do it with single handers, trying to think who it was... Maybe I saw Ed Ward doing it? I believe one of the guys on the Spey Daze dvd was two hand casting a single hand rod as well using the fighting butt. I didn't have as much trouble with aerialized casts, but I was also using smaller flies... I think it's the setup of the anchor, and sweep that really throws me off if I was using one hand. Maybe I'm just used to using the bottom hand a lot more that it just felt weird to me.
 

LOC

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I've seen guys do it with single handers, trying to think who it was... Maybe I saw Ed Ward doing it? I believe one of the guys on the Spey Daze dvd was two hand casting a single hand rod as well using the fighting butt. I didn't have as much trouble with aerialized casts, but I was also using smaller flies... I think it's the setup of the anchor, and sweep that really throws me off if I was using one hand. Maybe I'm just used to using the bottom hand a lot more that it just felt weird to me.
You can take any single hand rod place your hands in a two handed position and execute a two handed cast. No big whoop!
 

ghostrider408

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A foot to 18 inches of overhang is ideal on a Commando head. If you can manage more overhang, you will tighten up the loop and gain line speed. I fish Commandos from 175 grain to 300 grains on my single handers from 4 wt. to 9 wt. and on trout speys from 3 wt. to 5 wt. Also, utilizing some overhang helps if you're blowing your anchor (anchor not sticking). If you are having problems blowing the anchor, try increasing the amount of overhang and that will cure blowing an anchor. Commando heads are fantastic.
 
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