Want to know which Spey line do you need?
Many people contact us with the question which spey line they need. In the following article I hope to inform you about which line is right for you. There is a big difference in swinging a large Intruder with lead eyes for winter Steelhead and hitching a tiny tube trying to entice an Atlantic salmon to rise and take your fly. Both methods ask for a very different type of spey line and tip. For example, the large heavy Intruder asks for a Skagit Compact line with a heavy Flo or Sink-Tip. You need this line for you to be able to even cast the fly to were the fish is. On the other hand the hitched dry fly calls for a delicate presentation and a Mackenzie Shooting Head or a Scandi Compact coupled with a floating leader would be the best choice. To make it even more complex not every body has the same style of casting, by that I don't mean Skagit v.s Underhand or even level of expertise. Every body is different quit literally, so some line will suit your personal casting stroke best. A thing that can help out is for the more aggressive casters like myself, is to use a longer tip or poly leaders. I even go up to 18ft for my Skagit sink tips and 14ft for the poly leaders. Because of all this I would like to ex-plane to your what the differences are between the different lines out on the market today.
There are ruffly two different main categories of lines or styles, sustained anchor and touch & go. Or better known as Skagit and Underhand/Scandi/Spey. The sustained anchor cast we make with the Skagit lines loads the rod with the resistance from the line ripped off the water. While the touch & go method uses the line or 'D' loop to load the rod in order for you to make the cast. That is also why they are not designed the same way!
The Skagit and Switch lines are short and fat at the front, the switch lines are even shorter in order to work with short rod around 11ft in length. The Skagit lines are perfect for casting big flies and heavy sink tips. You could cast small flies and even dry tips with a Skagit line but I will explain later why I prefer a Scandi or Shooting Head type line for this. Unlike touch & go, timing isn't as important with casting Skagit lines. Combined with the short heads these lines are very easy to cast, even with big flies and heavy sink-tips. The downside for me is that your presentation isn't as nice as with a Shooting Head or Spey lines. Because this style makes a lot of commotion when you rip the line of the water in order to load the rod. Plus these lines aren't tapered nicely towards the front like a touch & go line is, combined with a clunky 'T' or sink tip they don't land very delicately on the water surface. The Skagit lines come in floating and intermediate (33% floating - 66% intermediate) heads and are designed for using them together with 'T' or sink tips and new for 2015 the Airflo Flo tips. The latter are tapered and have a very short piece of intermediate tip that gradually goes into the 'T' section. They are like the 'T' tips available in T-7, T-10, T-14 and T-18. The normal 'T' tips come in 18ft and are pre-looped, but can be cut to any length if you wish to do so. The Flo tips are 10ft and also feature loops for easy rigging on both sides. You normally add about 3-8ft of tippet, with 4-5ft being used most common. If you purchase a set of tips, a floating and a intermediate lines you can be assured you can deal with any situation you can face while being on the river chasing your favorite species. The switch lines are basically micro Skagit lines, balanced for the smaller and lighter rods. This is not used a lot over here in Europe, but I think this will change with more and better switch gear becoming available. It is so much fun casting a 11ft #4 switch rod for trout or even a 9ft #6 with one of the new OPST micro Skagit lines a 10ft sink-tip and a large sculpin, big trout be ware!
Skagit style was invented in the USA and still is the most popular way of spey casting over there. When you look at the circumstances they face and the fish the chase it makes perfect sense fishing this way and it's a lot of fun too! So if you want to cast large flies and sink-tips Skagit lines are the way to go. They are usually between 18ft and 27ft depending on the grain weight of the line.
We carry 6 different types of Touch & Go lines from Mackenzie Shooting heads to Scandi compact lines, Rage lines and the amazing Mackenzie Spey lines and we carry them in many different weights. So there is alway the right line for you favorite rod. They are always longer than their Skagit companions starting at 30ft to a 72ft Mackenzie competition Spey line, some brands even have longer lines. These lines are perfect for delicate presentations using Poly leaders instead of 'T' sink-tips or Flo tips. These poly leaders come in Floating, Intermediate, Slow sink, Sink, Fast sink, Super fast sink and even Extra super fast sink. All though our experience is that the Extra super fast sink leaders don't turn over very nice and we never use them because of this reason. By changing your Poly leader you can control how deep you fish your fly. Mackenzie even has Intermediate tip and sink 2/3 Shooting head lines. But the favorite line of many Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead anglers is the Multi-Tip line from Mackenzie. These multi-tip lines are much better than the old ones, and you can't feel the difference between a 'normal' and a multi-tip anymore. Now you have even more flexibility, you can change the 15ft tip on the line from Floating to Intermediate, Sink 2/3 or sink 4/5. With the addition of changing your poly leaders sink rate. Just make sure that the sink rate of your poly leader is higher than the sink rate of the tip of the Shooting Head. With these multi-tip lines you can even fish the deepest pools with confidence your fly will be presented in the fishes zone.
Rage, this line sits between a Scandi and a Skagit line, with a average length of 30ft and the weight is concentrated at the front of the head. This is what we call an aggressive taper, and it allows you to cast even when it's very windy. You can make either sustained anchor (Skagit) or Touch and Go (Scandi Style) casts with this line. But it is designed to do Touch and Go with Poly leaders and best suited for this job. Just add an 10ft - 14ft poly leader and 4-8ft of tippet material and you are good to go. The disadvantage is again the not so delicate presentation, the Scandi Compact or even better Mackenzie Shooting head lines are better for that. But when the wind is blowing... this is my weapon of choice and I never go on a fishing trip without one in my line bag.
Scandi Compact, the Scandi or Scandinavian style lines are a little longer than the Rage lines, about 34ft in total for the head. They have a very nice tapered tip, so they land softly and don't spook the fish. Because of their short length they are very easy to cast with, even if you are a beginner. We like to fish the Scandi Compact on our shorter rods ranging from 11,6ft to 13,6ft. One of the big pluses is that even with a small 'D' loop you can load your rod properly. Ideal when you don't have a lot of space behind you to make your cast. You fish them with a 10ft to 14ft poly leader and 4-8ft of tippet and small or medium sized flies.
Mackenzie Shooting Head, without a doubt our favorite Spey line we have ever cast with! The Mackenzie Shooting Head lines are a little longer between 12m and 13,5m depending on the weight. These lines are designed like no other and have the nicest turn over and presentation of any line we ever fished with. Best suited for rods from 13ft and longer these lines will enable you to cast very far, but without trying hard to do so. As an example the 44gram SH combined with the Mackenzie DTX G2 will enable even a mediocre caster to reach 35m - 40m. If you are a good caster you will even reach 45m+ They come in 32gr, 38gr, 42gr and 44gr and they should be about 2gram heavier than you would normally fish with. This has to do with their unique taper and you won't feel that it's heavier at all. We think these lines are ideal for summer Steelhead, Seatrout and Atlantic Salmon fishing. We fish them with 10ft poly leaders and 4-6ft of tippet or no poly leader but just a 16-18ft leader for grease lining.
Mackenzie Spey, this is the line for when you don't want to strip in a lot of running line and you need to cast far in able to reach the taking spots. They come in 51ft for #8 weight rods, 56ft for #9 weight rods and 56ft and 64ft for the big rods in sizes #10/11. You need some experience for you to be able to cast with a long line, all though will still consider these lines mid belly spey lines. Another thing that is great about these lines is that they are great for getting better at Spey casting. Hold up... wait... what? yes I said it! Because you can't get away with faults like you can with a short Scandi Compact line. So it forces you to work on you technique, making you a better Spey caster! These lines easily turn over 10ft poly leaders and they all feature an integrated ridged, low stretch running line. We recommend using these Spey lines on rod from 14ft and up. The presentation is delightful and again you're not stripping in running line like a maniac every time you have to make another cast... and the more time your fly is in the water... well you know were I'm getting at ;-) The only thing is you do need some space in order to create a big enough 'D' loop, but we absolutely love these lines!
the shorter the line, the less space you need for your 'D' loop