Yuba Spey Clinic
Last winter, in November, I took part in a Spey Clinic on the Lower Yuba River with Ryan Miller and Adrian Putsey. It was a warm and clear fall day, which was spectacular. I’m talking about the weather and could use the same expression for the clinic. I guess I could also use the words, informative, enthusiastic, fun, enlightening.
Ryan and Adrian covered the nuts and bolts of “switch” and spey casting from top to bottom. They really did not leave a stone un-turned. There were, I believe, 9 participants of which half were newbies, including myself, and the rest more experienced. The split us into two groups based on our experience and “schooled us”.
They spent time in a classroom type setting and talked us through the gear, rigging, and fishing strategies associated with “swinging flies” with switch and spey rods. They spent time on the water showing us and teaching us various casts. The basic roll cast, double spey cast, snap T, and the switch cast.
For this post I’ll focus on the different options of lining a switch or spey rod. I’ll pay more specific attention to the switch rod set up. Also, I want to apologise in advance if I have anything mixed up here as I am putting this together from notes taken at the clinic. You know how that goes.
I just purchased a Sage Z-axis 11 foot, six weight so I’ll share what information they enlightened me with.
Lining a Switch Rod
You can line a switch rod in essentially three ways, (1) a floating integrated line like a Rio Atlantic Salmon and Steel head line (2) a Scandi line or Head (3) a Skagit line or head.
Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead Line
Tony at the Nevada City Anglers and Frank Rinella, who is a guide, Sierra Guide Service, helped me get set up with a Rio Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead line.
The Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead line by “Rio” is basically a floating integrated line with a shooting head that can be used for fishing nymphs under indicator or for swinging flies on the surface and and in the top of the water column (up to 2 feet deep +/-). You can get deeper by adding a weighted “Rio”, “Versileader” but I’ll get into that later.
I purchased an 8 weight line that is two line weights larger than the rod size. Ryan Miller stated that if you are going to use an integrated line you will need to over line the rod by 2 or 3 line weights. The ultimate decision is a matter of how deeply you want the rod to load. This can be different depending on the rod manufacturer. I also emailed Sage to get their opinion and they agreed that the Z-axis should be over lined by two line weights.
With that said it is also good to let you know that when casting a switch rod with an integrated line it will take a more disciplined casting technique. In other words, it’s harder then learning to cast a 13 or 13 1/2 foot spey rod.
Skagit Lines vs. Scandi Lines.*
What the heck is a Skagit Line? Who’s heard of a Scandi Line? Not me, until three weeks ago. Try to figure this one out without help. Good Luck. Hence the clinic.
In a nut shell the Scandi lines can be purchased in an integrated line or as Scandi “mini head”. Typically they are purchased with the integrated line which is a floating line rather then purchased a running line and then attaching a “Scandi Head” with a loop to loop connection. If you where to use a Scandi head with a running line the Scandi heads are longer in lenght than the Skagit heads and have less grain weight. The head has a longer taper than a Skagit head. Scandi heads are not designed to turn over large flies and are best suited for use with small buggers, streamers, soft hackles and wets. The scandi lines are best suited for probing waters up to 2 feet deep. The Scandi Lines match well with switch rods and spey rods from 13 to 13 1/2 feet. “Air Flo” sells a scandi head that they call “Tactical Shooting Head”.
Ryan feels that for a versatile system for a switch rod or smaller spey rod, use a “Skagit” system.
The Skagit heads are not tapered and can also be used for turning over bigger flies and are used with T11 or T14 sink tips. I’ll also get into that later. Skagit lines are designated by line weight in grains and not by rod size. This system will allow you to fish deeper in the water column.
When setting up a “Skagit” system an economical way to go is to start with a good running line. I went down to Kiene’s Fly Shop in Sacramento and they set me up for my 6 wt. Z-Axis switch rod. I started with standard fly line backing and they added an “Airflo” Cold Water Floating Running Line which is 20 pound test. To that I attached an “Airflo” polyfuse XT, “Tactical Shooting Head” or otherwise called a “Compact Skagit Head”. This head is 22 1/2 feet long. This head matches up well with my Sage 11 foot 6 weight switch rod. The head weighs 390 grains and is mint green in color.
The folks at Kiene’s Fly Shop are the local experts in switch and spey rods, lines, heads etc. Go see them!