Monday, October 26, 2009



A friend of mine recently coined the term “Skagititis” to refer to the syndrome of the inability to cast a ‘normal’ flyline after spending a given amount of time with a Skagit head.
For those of you that don’t know what a Skagit head is, it is a highly shortened and thickened flyline designed to allow the user to throw larger flies with heavy sinking tips. If your standard floating flyline weighs 600 grains in a 55 –65 foot head, a Skagit line for the same rod would weigh around 700 grains in a much shorter length- say 25 to 35 feet plus tip.

Sufferers of Skagititis exhibit one or more of the following symptoms when casting longer belly lines.

  • Weak D-loop formation
  • Lack of body motion
  • Lack of body twist
  • Too much anchor in the water
  • Too short a stroke

Not everyone suffers with Skagititis. Some casters can switch back and forth and adapt the length and timing of their stroke appropriately. Others however, may suffer acute Skagititis and feel that they can’t cast at all. Skagit heads are so easy to cast that my Neanderthal friend Og can do it.

I suffer from this syndrome from time to time myself, but it is curable. Simply pick up that old windcutter, delta, long-belly, or even DT line and start casting in slow motion. It all comes back.

Skagititis sometimes comes with complications. Some of these are:

  • Runninglineitis:    The malady of buying every running line on the market in search of one that lasts and does not tangle. A related problem is forumitis, which is the widespread but minor disease of dominating internet forums by obsessively posting about running lines.
  • Tangleitis:    The problem of compulsively cussing at and picking knots out of your running line.
  • Sinktip tinkeritis:    The disease of constantly tinkering and futzing with length, weight, and construction of homemade and custom modified sinking tips. In extreme cases the sufferer no longer actually goes fishing, but spends all his or her time in the garage late at night with the shades pulled and grows a long beard.
  • Sinkintheriveritis:    The issue of carrying so many different heads and sinking tips stuffed in your vest and waders that you actually sink into the bottom of the river.
  • Depthitis:    The syndrome of losing all confidence that a steelhead will move to your fly without a heavy sinktip even in 50 degree crystal-clear water.


  1. Yeah Doc, but what is the cure?


  2. It is in there...

    I told the doctor that it hurts when I do this.
    The doctor replied, then don't do that.


  3. Bahhh! I'm fairly certain it is a contagious disease and I think I may have initially contracted it from you sir!

    Too bad I sold my only windcutter.

  4. You slay me dude! Man have I suffered from that! I even started suffering from sinktipinferioritis: Waking up in a cold sweat screaming "my t-14 isn't long enough!" I had switched to floating lines for a while, but I fell off the Wagon again last winter, and while I wasn't doing "extreme" skagiteering, it still screwed up my technique, I lost my single spey entirely and I'm still working on getting everything back. I don't care what certain Skagit luminaries claim, skagit heads ARE easier to throw. PERIOD. That is the whole point of the durn things... Anyway, I have decided that I don't really like to fish that way anymore so I'm back to the floating lines for good.

  5. Have you braided up any of those 'special kind' lines yet? I think it will be the next hot item...


  6. I have felt a great disturbance in the force. Those aren't the fish you are looking for....move along.....

  7. Hey permaskunk!
    Yes indeedy, I suffered from this dumb syndrome myself. It blew. Couldn't believe how the skills eroded. Good fishing with you yesterday!

    Trout chaser:
    "sinktipinferioritis: Waking up in a cold sweat screaming "my t-14 isn't long enough!"
    Now that is funny. I still will use sink tips when I feel them necessary, but only when actually necessary.

    W and C: Skagit heads kind of strike me like an offer from the Devil.
    Devil: "You will be able to cast large lures across the river and catch fish you never could before"
    Dumb Angler: "What's the catch?"

    Devil (in an inaudible voice)" will mess up your casting forever..."

    But... What the industry and George Cook never told us was that it had a catch... "Everything gets a free flight lesson..."
    Yea, even your skills.

  8. Sorry Erik but I cannot buy into your diss of Skagit casting.
    To say that a Skagit line is simple to cast does a great disservice to those who created it one of who (Mike McCune) is a personal friend.
    You should know that this type of casting is perfectly suited for the fast flowing winter rivers of the Pacific know where the REAL steelhead live?

  9. Shane,
    Not dissin, just poking fun at ourselves. Remember, I said I suffered from it too! Try switching back and forth between a long belly and a skagit head. Yikes. Nothing like wrapping the line around your head to wake you up in the morning.

  10. I put away the Windcutter and the Delta speys a long time ago. They just are not as practical as the Skagits and the Scandis.

  11. Flyfishing isn't practical by nature.


  12. Zzzzzzzzzzzz ker-PLUNK!

    That's the sound of a skagit line plowing a furrow into the water when it lands with half a dead chicken on the end.....

  13. I think I have heard that sound before...kinda like a baitcaster with pencil lead ;)


  14. Now, now William. Let’s not get pretentious here. Baitcasters and the FLW are a far cry from Skagit/Scando shooting heads and sink tips.

    I get a kick out of considering how each of the "cliques" in fly fishing, or fishing in general get all worked up about the "purity" of their technique.

    Consider that at the very bottom of ladder is the unpretentious guy sitting on his bucket. Fishing his $30 Wal-Mart fluorescent saltwater rod at the locally stocked trout pond. Ironically, he likely doesn’t care about what equipment or bait he’s using. He just sits there, possibly drinking his beer, fishing a worm off the bottom, looking for something to eat.

    A couple rungs up from Mr. Bucket is the guy fishing for panfish out of a $500 Jon boat. He might even look to the bank and wonder how that guy just sits there all day, not catching anything while he says “Glad I’ve got a boat. I’m eatin’ good tonight.”

    Further up this ladder of pretension is the guy with his $50,000 Ranger boat and his FLW/BASS jacket. A $40,000 GMC Dually and 14 tackle boxes of spinners, crankbaits, tube jigs, and various plastics. No bait in the “I want to be a tourney fisherman” boat.

    At the very top of the pretentious ladder is Mr. Bamboo. He only fishes Bamboo, braided horse hair or silk lines, and cat gut leaders. His flies are beautiful replicas of traditional flies, tied sans synthetics using only the finest of endangered species. He wears canvas waders, a tweed jacket and a knit hat which proudly accentuates the ridiculous nature of his waxed handlebar mustache.

    Mr. Bamboo only fishes for wild trout on the most expensive and private of Montana and Idaho rivers. He quaffs at the carbon fiber, breathable waders, and synthetic variations of endangered species those other “fly fisherman” use. Heaven forbid one of those modern “fly fisherman” try and talk to Mr. Bamboo about the benefits of a Plastisol line. Spey casting, a 1960 Hardy Perfect, a 130’ double tapered line and a Lady Caroline tied to 15’ of hand tied Nylon leader is all for naught when “You’re a walking plastic factory, son.”. “100% all natural is the only REAL way to fly fish.” says Mr. Bamboo as he pulls a silk gut leader from a tin, and attaches it to his pristine $20,000 1896 Vom Hofe.

    Interspersed on this ladder is Mr. Centerpin, Mr. Chuck n’ Duck, Mr. Orvis, and Mr. Spey. Each of whom has some amount of disdain for the other and their respective techniques. So the moral of this story…..there is always someone who thinks they are doing it better, laughingly looking down on the “purity” your technique.

  15. Permaskunk,

    My baitcaster comment is really only a TIC remark.

    If you knew me you would understand I poke fun at anyone and everything. Myself included.


  16. Permaskunk:
    Thank you for that. How correct you are. Well written and funny too! Since this post has been misconstrued somehow, and seems to be causing a rift, I am going to post a clarification.

  17. Permaskunk,

    After some thought about your post I do have a few comments to add.

    My two handed casting journey started in late 1993. With a homemade sink tip line as none were commercially available (in the PNW) at that time. 16' 11 wt rod. Line made to 'skagit' specs of the time similar to Lemire/Strobel/Green and Kinney. Guys who are your skagit line originals.

    Worked just fine.

    Spent a lot of years casting just about every line that came along. On a ton of different rods. An insane amount of time practice casting everything. Cane two handers and greased silk DT's as well.

    Somewhere along the way specific tastes develop. Rod lengths, actions, lines, etc. We all do it. Earlier, as those tastes were being developed, they frequently changed. Matured as I did.

    I finally found what I was looking for in two handed rods. And yet, when the skagit lines hit the shops, being a 'student of the sport' I had to dig in and spend a reasonable amount of time with them.

    Considering my two handed history, and now 'slower to change' tastes, I find the lines great at a very specific task. Others find them far more versatile. Which is as life should be. Choices. What is fun for one doesn't have to be for another.

    Your post seems to focus on gear choices. Where attitudes are reflected through their choice of gear (trucks, boats, rods, reels, whatever) or methods. A hierarchy of of purity.

    Judgemental. As in calling someone pretentious who left a sarcastic remark.

    As has been written a million times by now there are steps anglers take on their life journey through fishing. Some guys are happy just catching fish for the table, sitting on a bucket, drinking beer. A noble pursuit. Some guys want to take the road less traveled. Learn and explore for themselves. Not be swayed by what is popular. Using self restraint impose limitations- be it gear, methods, or both. The possibilities are endless.

    At a certain point the knowledge/skill gap between different anglers widens. That does not mean one or the other is a better human. Nor does it always equal more fun.



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