Saturday, October 31, 2009

Skagititis redux

Skagititis redux

Somehow I seem to have touched a nerve in the Skagititis humor post, and some guys think I am getting all preachy. Far from the case. The intent of the entire post came from several personal experiences of myself and other anglers switching back and forth from skagit heads to short or medium length spey lines, and resulting comedy of errors that resulted. Under no circumstances should the (I thought rather humorous post) be construed as Erik disrespecting the pioneers of Skagit casting such as Bob Strobel, Harry Lemire, Ed Ward, or others too numerous to name.

Just because I choose, when the conditions allow, to use a dry line does not mean that I disdain any other form of fly fishing, nor does it mean that I believe that I am a better angler. Experimentation and learning is what it is all about. What if I do this? Will this work? How can I present my fly in these conditions? How big/small can I get away with? I am an avid fly-tier of classic flies, so that is what I use, because I think they are pretty and artful, not because I think they are better than what you are using.

As fly anglers we tend to place ourselves into groups. This is a normal process of identity forming. Inherent in human identity is both who you are and who you are not. We all tend to classify ourselves in this manner. I am better than that guy because… or I belong to this group and not that one. As Permaskunk pointed out, it can be quite silly really.

Skagit casting is a very effective method for winter steelhead. Often on our rivers with your back against the wall and overhead branches, it is practically the only way. It allows the delivery of large flies to dour fish, and allows us to fish dirty water as well. Guess what? I use it too.

What does bother me though is that seemingly the entire world of two handers jumped on the Skagit bus and now are unwilling to do anything else. Tackle companies have followed suit and the sale of running lines and short heads dominate everything. RIO discontinued the Grand Spey. It didn’t sell. If you want to find a DT line, good luck… Try the UK. The midspey was discontinued, the XLT dumbed down, etc. etc.

This leads to encounters such as the following from this past fall on a run in the PNW.

Guy from California (GFC):    “Say, saw you fishing, you land a steelhead?”
Me:                “Nope…no runs, no hits, no errors in that piece of water.”
GFC:                “What Skagit head are you using?”
Me:                “No skagit head. A Hardy mach 2”
GFC:                “Oh. The reason I asked is that I saw you stripping a lot of line.”
Me:                “That is because I was throwing the entire line.”
GFC:                “Oh… what kind of tips are you running?”
Me:                “Mmmmgfff!”

So, in conclusion, chill out. Fish the way you want, have confidence in the swung fly, and enjoy yourselves on the water… whatever line you are using. I don’t care.



  1. Sufficiently chilled!
    Skagit is a northwest phenomena mostly and if I lived in say Scotland I would probably go with something different.
    I use a Scandi floater for most of my Deschutes fishing though.

  2. Shame,

    The only problem I have now was your "REAL Steelhead" potshot. That was low sir.

  3. I don't know a whole lot about Great Lakes area steelhead. I had always assumed that they ran back and forth from the various lakes in the region, making them effectively if not actually anadramous. Semantics aside, if it looks like a steelhead, smells like a steelhead and acts like a steelhead... Anyway, I think Shane's comment was most likely tongue in cheek. At least I read it that way.
    What strikes me as fascinating, is the way definitions shift as spey casting expands. As one example, I had a fellow on the Ronde refer to my 8136 and Delta spey as a "long rod/long belly" outfit. So I was standing there slightly stunned thinking "this is the shortest rod I own, and a Delta is only a half step away from a shooting head..." Anyways, the various "sects" have always poked fun at each other, sometimes gentle, sometimes vitriolic. The problem is when folks are too darn serious and reactionary. As sportsmen/women and conservationists we gotta stand together instead of squabbling amongst ourselves. And I do think there is a difference between teasing and fighting.
    Apologies for that short rant. Fish what ya got, love what ya fish. Rock on Dudes!

  4. I worry about anyone who's orthodoxy is only the right way. Long rods and long bellies are fine if you're on broad gravel bars in Snake River Country or on some manicured beat in the UK. God knows most steelhead fishing opportunities don't fit into those neat little categories. I'd love to take some of the Cearwater boys and their 15 footers and long lines out fishing with me... It's all good, but once again the people with the one size fits all attitude need to check it at the door.

  5. willied,

    Long rod and long bellies are fine if the person wants to use them. There aren't any stipulations that come with that tackle where its OK or politically correct.

    Not sure what this means: "I'd love to take some of the Cearwater boys and their 15 footers and long lines out fishing with me"

    Are you stipulating the guy who wants to use such tackle, or spends time fishing the CW, is somehow not going to 'get it' when they fish with you? Like you are going to spin circles pulling fish from every which way because they 'don't get it'?

    Some guys out there, pretty serious anglers, are far more concerned about challenging themselves through casting skill, water reading skill, presentation skill, all the while intentionally making sure there are limitations. Where everybody around them might be hooking 5 million steelhead to their none...they are just fine with it. Their ego isn't dented. They don't care. They aren't judging others. They aren't defined by numbers of fish. It isn't a competition.


  6. Eric,
    I too use skagit setups and have gone though the casting adjustment phase that is nescessary when switching between skagit and long bellies. I do enjoy skagit from time to time but I find throwing long belly lines to be the most fun, at least for me personally. There are times when fishing skagit may have been the wisest choice but I find myself using the long belly lines just because I enjoy the challenge of learning to throw and fishing them effectively. You are also right about the tackle industry of this country abandoning the longer belly lines. Thankfully this is not the case in Scotland where the great Carron long belly lines are still available. In addition, the CND lines are very good as well. They are made for CND by Rio but in my opinion Rio doesn't have a line of there own that will match them.

  7. William-
    All I meant to imply is that there are many tools availible to the angler and it's up to them to choose how and where to use them.

    The quote you are referring to is to that affect. I don't claim to catch more fish than anyone, and I really don't care how many I catch, steelheading is not a numbers game. You must have me confused with someone else. My point was that in many angling situations the long lines and rods cannot get into and fish in many of the places that I enjoy going after steelhead.

    I'm not trying to dog anyone, and I have great respect for many of the fine anglers over in Snake River country. It's just that many of the rivers that I fish are very tight which does not allow for the long rod/longline approach. Feel free to fish however you'd like, and I'll do the same. No one way is "better" than another.

  8. Thanks all for your comments and contributions. Obviously we are all passionate regarding our sport. I think that we had a nice civil and lively discussion here. Hope you all are catching fish too!


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