Skagit Casting

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Skagit Casting
Skagit Casts are water-loaded casts developed for presenting large flies with sinking tip lines.
Skagitology Revised 2010
By: George Cook/Ryan S Petzold

Over 5 years have passed since the introduction of the vaunted Skagit Line. However, despite its effectiveness and popularity, misconception, confusion and lack of overall clarity of the use of Skagit Lines remains.  The following is a short but specific conversation regarding the history and usage of the various Skagit lines in the Worldwide spey fishing theater.
Beginning in the 1990’s many of today’s most recognizable spey authorities independently where developing Skagit type of lines. Noted casters and anglers such as Ed Ward, Mike Kinney, Scott O’Donnell,  Scott Howell. Mike McCune, Jerry French and the legendary Harry Lemire among others were at the forefront of the Skagit revolution.  Along the banks of northwest rivers coupled with late nights in the depths of fly tying rooms of the Pacific Northwest the chop-shop artist and line theologian were hard at work developing what would become today’s Skagit Lines.  Some would cut and splice their way, others would utilize bumped up WindCutter bodies to perfect the craft.  The shorter belly approach was underway.  The day had come to maximize the spey rod for winter conditions with large outsized flies.  The use of Northwest hybrid and Skagit Casts such as the Snap Tee, Perry Poke, Snap Z and Wombat lent themselves to the shorter belly approach.  Today the Skagit line approach is “the” approach to sinking line endeavors worldwide.  Be it Kings in Alaska to Sea Run Browns of the Rio Grande from the Umpqua to the Babine and all points in between.  The Skagit Line has become the omnipresent tool.  Originally developed purely as a sink tip line, the Skagit line also can be an effective full floating line particularly on 12’ to 13’9” rods.  To be sure the spey caster will endure a greater level of stripping of line to recast (applies to all Skagit lines versus long belly lines) but the reward is a undeniable highly energized long and straight cast.

Types- The original Rio Skagit Line worked from a 27’ body that still today serves as the basic Skagit Spey approach.  In 2009, the Skagit Short came onboard providing an ideal line for switch rods as well as shorter spey rods in the 12-13’ range.  These lines are specialized shorter 20’ Skagit lines.  Often times the Skagit Short serves the ardent spey caster well in strategic tight corridor situations often found in such steelhead haunts as the Oregon Coast, Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island.  New for 2010; the arrival of the Skagit Flight head.  The Skagit Flight redefines the Skagit Line concept with a new focused entry.  The Flight comes in 25 grain increments from 425 to 700 grains with one last 50 grain jump to 750.  These lines feature a taper that produces outrageous line speed coupled with tight loops.  The head features lengths ranging from 24’-32’.  These new lines have you covered whether you are a rank beginner or seasoned expert.  It might also be noted that the Cheater concept as an add-on piece is not required nor needed with the new Skagit Flight lines.

Usage- Specific Skagit Line size (grain weight) match-ups come with a degree of variability coupled with angler opinion.  Line speed versus load, moderate versus fast action all add up to a witch’s brew of variables that must be fleshed out on any given rod regardless of manufacturer.  The great casters often find themselves 25 to 100 grains apart on any given rod.  In the end the angler must boil it down and get the details.  Often, the “bump up weight” theorem coincides with a naked (no cheater) approach.  In the end, one must discern the details before going forward.  All in all, most spey rods 12’ to 15’ in length will have as many as three different Skagit Lines that will work.  Generally one will be ideal.  To discover this the angler must seek out opinion within the spey community, be it guide, angling buddies, factory rep or retail representative.  Again, be sure to discern the details (i.e. line grain weight and cheater consideration, etc). 

Skagit Cheaters- With the demand for shorter belly lines growing in popularity, here is a tool that allows the spey enthusiast the ability to completely dial in their Skagit Line (longer). Essentially the Cheater theory allows the customization of a Skagit Line pursuant to the given length of rod.  Generally, spey rods 11-13’8” feet will utilize no cheater “naked”, although is should be noted that 13 to 13’9” rods may possibly work well with a 2.5 foot Cheater.  Rods 13’9”-15 feet will utilize a 5 foot cheater.  Rods 15-16 feet will use either a 5’ or the 7.5 foot cheater.

Skagit Short Lines- Ideal for switch rods in the 10’6” to 11” range along with application for shorter spey rods in the 12’ to 13’ range, 7 weight and under.  These are specialized shorter 20’ Skagit lines.  These lines are also perfectly at home on 9 to 10 foot single handed rods in a single hand spey approach.  New 2010; Skagit Short 525 along with a full array of 20’ head format lines that allow easy changeover with other shooting head style spey lines such as the AFS.

New 2010; Skagit Flight Line- The Skagit Flight redefines the Skagit Line concept with a new focused entry.  The Flight comes in 25 grain increments from 425 to 700 grains with one last 50 grain jump to 750.  These lines feature a taper that produces outrageous line speed coupled with tight loops.  The head features expediential length from 24’-32’.  These new lines have you covered whether you are a rank beginner or seasoned expert.  It might also be noted that the Cheater concept as an add-on piece is not required nor needed with the new Skagit Flight lines.

Building a la carte Skagit Floating Lines- The Skagit line as a floating line is both an effective and elegant match up particularly on 12’ to 13’9” spey rods. The a la carte construction for a full floating line works as follows;  Skagit 550 body as an example (27 feet) plus 5’ cheater (8/9/10 Skagit Cheater Pack) along with a #9  15’ Skagit Floating Tip (which so happens to be the front end of a WindCutter 8/9/10) which makes a 47 foot Skagit Floating Line.   This format gives you a complete VersiTip approach with your Skagit line.  It should be noted that with the new Skagit Flight heads, that based on their “dialed-in” length pursuant to expected (length) rod use that the use of a 5’ Cheater is not needed nor desired in the a la carte floating line approach.

No doubt spey casting has more opinion out there than any other sport other than maybe Archery.  In this, one thing remains true to form.  Sink tip lines in conjunction with intruder type flies get free flight lessons long and straight with the Skagit taper line.  Floating line enthusiasts upon acceptance of extra line strip will enjoy the benefit of highly energized long straight casts with dries and summer patterns as well.  

George Cook/July 09

Grand Ronde Adventure,   By Josh Linn
Grande Ronde  Marcy Stone on the Grand Ronde...
Fall is a special time in Oregon. If you like to chase steelhead there are quite a few options. Pretty much any Columbia River Tributary east of the Cascades has steelhead in it…you just have to decide where you want to go. I have been guiding all summer on the Deschutes and have been looking forward to a change of pace. The fishing has been really good which, in turn, brings the crowds. All I want to do is go somewhere where the people are not. There are very few rivers where you can do that, but the Grande Ronde is one of them if you know where to go.  By the number of fish in the Columbia this year the Ronde should be fishing very well. I talked with Marcy and we planned the date . We included two more anglers to our party, Ken Anderson and Eric Gunter.
  We would launch almost 600 miles from the mouth of the Columbia. We would spend 6 days floating the 40 or so miles of river. Rarely do you run into another fishing party this late in the year. The days are short, the weather is bad, and the river is really skinny that time of year. As the trip got closer I started to check the weather. The first Fall steelhead trip I did down there a high pressure system moved in. The fishing was nonexistent, it was miserably cold, and on the last day the river froze over. I guarantee that I will never forget that trip! This trip would be different, the weather was shaping up to be in our favor:  semi warm, rain was falling, and the river was coming up a little bit. The rain signified two things in my mind.  First, the rain will pull some fish into the upper river and, second, if it’s raining then it’s not freezing! As our trip neared, the weather report started changing for the worse, now they were calling for snow all week. Some of the days were supposed to get inches of accumulation. No big deal, I thought…we have the gear to handle this sort of thing. We would be comfortable.
Josh Linn on the Grand Ronde...
We packed up my truck, loaded the boats, and headed for Eastern Oregon. We got to La Grande around 7pm and checked into the  Hotel for one last night of warmth. When we got up the weather was surprisingly nice. It was cold with high cloudy skies, no rain no snow. Perfect for packing and launching the boats. The majority of our float would be in the Wild and Scenic section. The upper river consists of steep walled canyons, thick forests and open grasslands. The Grande Ronde drains an area of the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa mountains on the Columbia Plateau it then flows into the Snake River in Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. By late afternoon we made it down to camp. Late in the evening the weather reports become true--the snow starts to fall. The excitement is growing in anticipation of the next day’s fishing.  The next morning it’s still snowing. We break camp. Marcy and Eric fish the camp water and Ken and I head down around the corner. Everyone in the party is fishing some kind of 5wt spey rod with a light sink tip and flies that are 1” – 2.5” long, black or purple are the primary colors. The morning starts off well. We hook 4 fish and land one. Marcy and Eric catch up with us, saying Marcy had hooked a fish as well. This is going to be a great trip! By the end of the day the snow has stopped, the skies have parted, and everyone has hooked fish. The following day we continue with the same type of progress. We fish, we hook fish, and we fish some more. Close to the end of the day I am fishing a pool that I have fished many times before. I am fishing the Sage Z-Axis 5126-4 with the new Rio Skagit Short Head 425gr with a 2’ cheater and 13’ of 8wt type 6 sink tip. This setup bombs! I can easily launch a 3” weighted fly across the river at a steep angle and hang the fly on the other side. I am casting to the base of a cliff and there is a deep trough on the other side with a few boulders close to the tailout. The fly is starting to swing into the boulders and then it happens. I feel the weight. I hold my breath and don’t do anything, trying to figure out if this is going to happen or not.
GR Steelhead

The line starts getting heavier…I can feel the fish, I set the hook and it’s on!  Let the battle begin! When it’s all said and done I have landed one the largest fish that I have ever seen in that area, somewhere around12lbs and chrome bright. By this time it’s getting late. Ken and Eric show up and we push for camp. The trip continues with more of the same. Everyone catches fish, everyone is happy.

And not another soul around.

Rio Skagit Shorts
Skagit Short Spey Body Skagit Short Shooting Head NEW 2010 !!!
These are the lines for fishing sinking tips with Switch Rods.
Marcy Stone on the Grand Ronde River...
Rio Skagit Short Spey Body
Skagit Shorts are Skagit lines designed for shorter rods, both single-hand and switch rods. The heads on these lines are 20' (6,2m) long (the perfect ratio for rods between 9' and 11') while head weights are light enough for rods down to 5-weight. The line is bright green with a black loading point for easy casting control. As with all other Skagit lines a front tip needs to be added to complete the set up. Line length without added tip is 100'.
Rio Skagit Short Spey Body
Item Description Size Price To Top
21820 Rio Skagit Short Spey Body 275gr $99.95 SALE ENDED
21821 Rio Skagit Short Spey Body 325gr $99.95 SALE ENDED
21822 Rio Skagit Short Spey Body 375gr $99.95 SALE ENDED
21823 Rio Skagit Short Spey Body 425gr $99.95 SALE ENDED
21824 Rio Skagit Short Spey Body 475gr $99.95 SALE ENDED
21825 Rio Skagit Short Spey Body 525gr $99.95 SALE ENDED

Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head
These lines are interchangeable with other heads within your shooting head system (such as Rio AFS).
Skagit Shorts are Skagit lines designed for shorter rods, both single-hand and switch rods. The heads on these lines are 20' (6,2m) long (the perfect ratio for rods between 9' and 11') while head weights are light enough for rods down to 5-weight. The line is bright green with a black loading point for easy casting control. As with all other shooting heads, a shooting line needs to be added, and as with all other Skagit lines, a front tip needs to be added to complete the set up.
Rio Skagit Short Spey Body
Skagit Short Shooting Head
Item Description Size Price To Top
21840 Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head 275gr $49.95 SALE ENDED
21841 Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head 325gr $49.95 SALE ENDED
21842 Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head 375gr $49.95 SALE ENDED
21843 Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head 425gr $49.95 SALE ENDED
21844 Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head 475gr $49.95 SALE ENDED
21845 Rio Skagit Short Shooting Head 525gr $49.95 SALE ENDED

MOAL Leech (Mother Of All Leeches) as developed and tied by Derek Fergus
MOAL Leech, Black/Blue MOAL Leech, Black/Purple MOAL Leech,  Pink/Purple
MOAL Leech, Black/Chart. MOAL Leech, Hot Pink MOAL Leech, Purple
Derek Fergus and I have shared a lot of very productive steelhead trips. Every one has been an adventure. We have had days when we turned every fish loose, and days when we filled the smoke house with keepers. Derek has steelhead instinct, and is an intuitive fly designer and meticulous fly tier. Derek keeps himself sharp by being on the water weekly. He's a great team player. One day he picked my pocket with a winter buck that grabbed the fly no more than 10-feet behind me. It attacked a 9-inch long, bright red MOAL Leech. This fish was caught during our second pass through the run, and it was in the bright sunshine. The feat was witnessed by our mutual friend, Don Roberts who often joins us on our local steelhead fly fishing escapades. On our trips we have experimented with many different fly designs. Early on, Derek became more & more interested in the "String Leech" style of fly and decided to put his imprint on it. There are many string-leech styles and patterns. At present we sell four other series of string leeches. They are all extremely popular. Derek developed a way to build his fly on a doubled strand of gel spun fly line backing. A rabbit strip is spiral wrapped around this string so it acquires a large soft silhouette. These flies are front end weighted with a nickel plated brass cone. The beaked hook is at the tail. Each fly becomes an inviting target when submerged. Derek designed the fly so that it rarely fouls, but hooks cleanly. MOALs are soft and chewy. Fish hang on to them.
Derek Fergus with a winter steelhead caught with a Hot Pink MOAL Leech.
Derek chases down a steelhead that battled him in rough water. A near limit of keepers for three anglers.
MOAL Leech means "Mother Of All Leeches". The design came under focus during Desert Storm.  Saddam had predicted that he would wage the Mother Of All Wars. Derek predicted that the MOAL would become the Mother Of All Leeches. In the past, production problems kept this from happening. At present the MOAL is known only to a select few anglers. Production problems have finally been straightened out. The batch we just got at The Fly Fishing Shop are very well tied. Derek says I'm the Pickiest Mother Of All Fly Byers. I hope it's true. Don't worry I wrote up a number of MOAL's out of the last shipment for my own steelhead kit. Some will get wet next week.
At present we have a good supply of MOAL Leeches in all six colors, but who knows how long they will last. Besides there are fresh steelhead in our home rivers just waiting to eat them.

MOAL Leech, Black/Blue

This has become one of the most popular color combinations for steelhead in glacial streams. We have been successful using very fast sinking tip Spey lines. Fish this fly slow and deep. This fly seems to be at its best when the water is relatively cold in late fall and early spring.

MOAL Leech, Black/Blue

Item Description Size Price To Top
MLBD4 MOAL Leech, Black/Blue 4 3 for $8.25 SALE ENDED

MOAL Leech, Black/Chartreuse

The Green Butt MOAL is effective on many rivers. Don't go to the Umpqua without a few of these. This color seems most productive when fished up off the bottom with a slower sinking tip. Works any time of year.

Item Description Size Price To Top
MLBC4 MOAL Leech, Black/Chartreuse 4 3 for $8.25 SALE ENDED

MOAL Leech, Black/Purple

This is a must have fly anywhere you fish for summer steelhead. This is one of the great color schemes for British Columbia and Idaho. This fly is fished with every type of fly line from floating to deep sinking.

MOAL Leech, Black/Purple

Item Description Size Price To Top
MLBP4 MOAL Leech, Black/Purple 4 3 for $8.25 SALE ENDED

MOAL Leech, Hot Pink

Great steelhead fly for cold water. Great Coho fly too. When all else fails, show them the pink worm. This pattern works under all conditions and is the go to fly everywhere for several knowledgeable anglers.

Item Description Size Price To Top
MLHP4 MOAL Leech, Hot Pink 4 3 for $8.25 SALE ENDED

MOAL Leech, Hot Pink/Purple

Another searching fly for summer steelhead on either side of the Cascades. This color combination can be a winner any time of year. Seems to be more favored through the warmer months.

MOAL Leech, Hot Pink/Purple

Item Description Size Price To Top
MLPP4 MOAL Leech, Hot Pink/Purple 4 3 for $8.25 SALE ENDED

MOAL Leech, Purple

Don't leave home without some of these in your fly box. This is a very good fly on the Deschutes River, and all other summer steelhead rivers. The same thing might be said for winter rub fish rivers as diverse the Sauk and the Umpqua.

MOAL Leech, Purple

Item Description Size Price To Top
MLPU4 MOAL Leech, Purple 4 3 for $8.25 SALE ENDED

Sherars Falls Fish Ladder Counts
Our first attempt at bridging the gap between fly fishers and fish managers was a resounding success. Positive feedback from the readers
of the article: Columbia River Summer Steelhead in the 11/08/09 "Insider" illustrates that fly fishers are hungry for information about the waters they fish. Each year our managers spend mega-bucks gathering much of the very information we are seeking. However, this information is often hard to locate, and is not in a format that is easy to understand. In this, and future issues the "Insider" will attempt to act as a free conduit of pertinent information between fish managers and fly fishers.
It's all about the rivers we love.

The picture of the Sherars Falls fish ladder and the wording back-grounded in white are copied directly from ODFW's web site.  Admittedly, only a fraction of the migrating fish use the ladder. Many others swim over the falls. Total numbers for 2009 will not be available until about May of 2010. In the row marked 2009 is our own tabulation of the existing counts through the end of October, 2009 . This table is raw data only.
No biological or political conclusions are offered by "Insider".

"The Sherars Falls Adult Salmon and Steelhead Trap is located at river mile 43 on Oregon's Deschutes River. The trap captures an unknown proportion of adult fall Chinook salmon and summer steelhead that are passing over Sherars Falls. A fish ladder was constructed around Sherars Falls in the 1930's to enhance natural passage above Sherars Falls. During the 1970's, researchers designed and installed a fish trap in the top The fish ladder and trap at Sherars Falls
 portion of the fish ladder to conduct annual monitoring of Deschutes River salmon and steelhead.
Since 1977, we have estimated the number of summer steelhead and fall Chinook that pass upstream of Sherars Falls by marking all adult fish captured with a Floy tag and later recapturing marked and unmarked salmon and steelhead at designated locations in the upper river." 

Table XX.  
Estimated number of steelhead that migrated past Sherars Falls, by run year.

Run Year


Round Butte





























               500  a/










            1,200  a/





            1,249  a/



              8,228  b/


            7,684  a/



              7,721  b/


            3,824  a/








              9,624  b/


            5,056  c/



              6,207  b/


            9,803  c/



              5,367  b/


































































































































a/     May include some AD CWT marked steelhead that originated from Warm Springs NFH although few of these ever returned to that facility.
b/    May include some unmarked hatchery steelhead out planted as fry into the Warm spring River from Warm Springs NFH.
c/             May include adults from a release of 13,000 smolts from Round Butte Hatchery that were accidentally marked with the same fin clip as steelhead released from other Columbia basin hatcheries. 

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark & Patty