Skagit heads combined with modern Spey rods have changed our approach to sink-tip fishing not just for steelhead but also for Atlantic salmon; we now have the ability to fish heavier sink-tips and larger flies than ever before.
Skagit heads combined with modern Spey rods have changed our approach to sink-tip fishing not just for steelhead but also for Atlantic salmon; we now have the ability to fish heavier sink-tips and larger flies than ever before. However, with this change has come some confusion. With the wide range of Skagit heads and sink-tip materials available on the market today it’s difficult to know what’s right for your type of fishing and moreover what’s right for your Spey rod! In this series of articles we hope to throw some light on the subject.
The first article of the series is an introduction to sink-tips, the second is all about is matching Sink-Tip grain weight to your Head weight, this the third explains how to determine the correct Sink-Tip length for your casting style and Rod, the fourth explains how best to cast heavy sink tips and the final article pulls it all together and shows you how to lift your game up to the next level.
While sink-tip weight is extremely important, sink-tip length cannot be overlooked. Back in the early days of Skagit there was there was a formula that said your total length of your Skagit head and sink-tip should be about 3 to 3 ½ times your rod length. Say what??? Not only did that formula confuse the hell out of the majority of anglers, it also goes against the point of casting Skagit heads. In an effort to create a formula to standardise the length of Skagit heads, it made things far more complicated than they already were.
Sink-tip length is all about personal preference and casting style. A taller fly fisherman will cast differently to a shorter angler; the taller guy will naturally have a longer casting stroke, which means he can cope with longer sink-tips e.g 12ft to 15ft. Whereas the shorter caster will probably prefer shorter sink-tips say in for example 10ft to 12ft range. Casting style will also effect the length of your sink-tips; a relaxed long stroke style is good for longer tips, and a compact aggressive style is better for shorter tips. And of course, finally a longer 15ft rod will potentially handle much longer tips than a 12ft rod.
This all sounds pretty complicated but to sum it up in our experience most anglers who fish with a 12ft to 14ft rod seem to get on best of all with a 12ft’ish sink-tip. A 12ft’ish sink-tip will cover most of the fishing situations found in European salmon rivers.
However if you would rather determine your ideal sink-tip length yourself and not just take our word for it then we suggest starting with your heaviest sink-tip cut approximately to the length of your rod. Then go to your local river or lake, tie on a length of leader and the largest fly you intend to use for salmon (or steelhead) and cast a few times. If it doesn’t feel good, then cut back the sink-tip (by say increments of 10cm) and keep repeating until you have found the ideal length for your stroke. According to Tim Rajeff (and he explained the process to us) it is absolutely critical to start with your heaviest sink-tip.
Once you’ve found your preferred tip length of your heaviest sink-tip, you can cut down your other tips to match the length and grain weight. Let’s start using some hard values to help explain this a bit better. For example let’s say your heaviest sink-tip for your ECHO 13’0 #7 TR Spey rod is 12ft of T-14, at fourteen grains per foot it weighs approx. 170 grains. Your slower sinking tips should weigh no more than 170grains and the length should be no longer than that of your heaviest sink-tip. If we cut 12ft of T7 we end up with a sink-tip which weighs approx. 94grains and you now have two sink-tips with different sink-rates for the same length.
Ultimately, your goal is to end up with a set of sink-tips that match your casting stroke and Skagit head of choice; if you decide 12ft is your preferred length, ideally all of your sink-tips should be around 12ft. By having a consistent length, your casting stroke won’t have to change every time you change your sink-tip. It is of course possible to cast using different lengths of sink-tips, however your stroke length will have to change as your sink-tip length changes. For good Spey casters this is a no brainer but for beginner and intermediate anglers having a consistent casting stroke takes the pain out of casting which results in a massive boost of self-confidence.
Skagit heads combined with modern Spey rods have changed our approach to sink-tip fishing not just for steelhead but also for Atlantic salmon; we now have the ability to fish heavier sink-tips and larger flies than ever before. However, with this change has come some confusion. With the wide range of Skagit heads and sink-tip materials available it’s difficult to know what’s right for your type of fishing and moreover what’s right for your Spey rod? In this series of articles we hope to throw some light on the subject.
The first article in this series introduced Sink Tips or CCT’s (Custom Cut Tips), this the second is about Sink-Tip grain weight, the third tells you how to set up the correct Sink-Tip length and the fourth pulls it all together and shows you how to lift your game up to the next level.
Sink-tip Grain Weight
Before we start discussing how you match sink-tips to your Spey rod, we need to understand a little about sink-tip grain weights and density. The weight of sink-tips (and Skagit heads) is measured in grains (!!). One grain equals 0.065grams but before you get out your smart-phone and start calculating, the industry has simplified things; T14 weighs 14grains per foot, T10 weighs 10 grains per foot and so on. So for example, a 10ft AirFlo T-14 sink-tip (AirFlo call them CCT’s or Custom Cut Tips) would weigh 140 grains (14 grains x 10 feet = 140 grains). AirFlo sink-tips are available in 10ft and 18ft lengths, with colour coded loops on one end for ease of use and weight/density recognition
CCT’s are impregnated with Tungsten and sink like a brick.
I know it may seem strange for those of us used to metric based systems, but getting our head around grain weight is important for two reasons:
1. Sink-rate: with AirFlo CCT’s the higher the number on the package, the faster it sinks. For AirFlo CCT’s the weights/densities/sink rates are:
- T-7: 7 grains per foot, white loop, sink rate approximately 7ips (inches per second)
- T-10: 10 grains per foot, orange loop, sink rate approx. 8ips
- T-14: 14 grains per foot, brown loop, sink rate approx. 9ips
- T-18: 18 grains per foot, black loop, sink rate approx. 10ips
To help you get a feeling for the sink rate of the CCT’s an AirFlo Extra-Super-Fast-Sinking Polyleader has a sink rate of approximately 6.5ips and a “type 7” head/line approximately 7ips.
2. Head Weight: Head weight! What the +~ß% has head weight got to do with my sink tip? In the world of Skagit, head weight has everything to do with sink-tip weight; you need mass to move mass. Heavy sink tips require heavy Skagit heads to cast them … ideally by about a 2:1 ratio. For example, couple a 390 grain ECHO Skagit Compact with any sink-tip up to 145 grains; match a 450 grain ECHO Skagit Compact head with any sink tip up to 225 grains; a 540 grain Compact Skagit head with any tip up to 270 grains; the 660 head with tips up to 330 grains; and the 810 Skagit Compact for long heavy anchor chains. Get the idea?
In the next article of this series we will be discussing sink-tip lengths.
Skagit heads combined with modern Spey rods have changed our approach to sink-tip fishing not just for steelhead but also for Atlantic salmon; we now have the ability to fish heavier sink-tips and larger flies than ever before. However, with this change has come some confusion. With the wide range of Skagit heads and sink-tip materials available it’s difficult to know what’s right for your type of fishing and moreover what’s right for your Spey rod? In this series of three articles we hope to throw some light on the subject.
This, the first article, introduces the sink tips or CCT’s (Custom Cut Tips) we use, the second is about Sink-Tip grain weight, the third tells you how to select the correct Sink-Tip length and the fourth pulls it all together and shows you how to lift your game up to the next level.
CCT’s – Custom Cut Tips an Introduction
CCT’s or Custom Cut Tips is the name given to the type of sink tip we use. They were designed by Tim Rajeff and Tom Larimer for use with the ECHO series of Skagit Lines and they are manufactured by AirFlo in the UK. Although primarily designed for use by anglers in the PNW for targeting steelhead, we have used them extensively for pursuing Atlantic salmon in Europe and we believe that combined with the appropriate Skagit head they offer an excellent “easy to use” alternative to fishing with a heavy sunk line.
CCT’s come in two lengths 18ft/5.5m and 10ft/3m. So if you fish 10ft/3m or shorter sink-tips, purchase the 10ft/3m tip and fish it “as is” or cut it back to the required length, conversely if you fish longer tips, go with the 18ft/5.5m tip and cut to length. Most anglers seem to prefer a 12ft/3.65m sink tip for salmon or steelhead, however if you’re fishing a big Springer or Winter Steelhead River or alternatively chasing Kings up in Alaska, then you’ll want 15ft to 18ft tips.
Each of our sink-tips has a heavy-duty factory welded loop which is colour coded to identify the density; the black loop is T-18, brown is T-14, orange is T-10 and white is T-7. Basically, the darker the loop, the faster it sinks. So even if you have no idea what the density is, if you’re fishing a sink-tip with a brown loop and you keep hooking the bottom, mount the sink-tip with the orange loop on to your [Skagit] head. If you still continue to hang up, put the white loop sink-tip on. We think that Tim Rajeff’s colour coded system makes sink-tip fishing a no brainer!
The next article in this series talks about sink tip grain weight to Skagit head weight ratio’s ….
With all of the ECHO shooting heads, sink-tips and Polyleaders we use for chasing salmon and sea trout, the question of how to organise all of this stuff pops up on a regular basis. The guys at ECHO gave it a ton of thought when designing their current products and packaging.
To start off with, they made it very easy to distinguish the grain weight of all of their shooting heads; there are colour-coded loops (great for quick visual recognition) and if that was not enough they have clearly labeled them with the line type and grain on the front loop. The rear loop (that’s the one which attaches to your running line) is black and provides a distinct visual break for easy load point identification.
Tim Rajeff and his crew took on the challenge of organising sink-tips and made it easy. The ECHO Custom Cut Tips are available in a length of either 10ft or 18ft with grain weights of T-7 (white loop), T-10 (orange loop), T-14 (brown loop) and T-18 (black loop). Each Custom Cut sink-tip comes with a colour-coded loop on one end; the darker the loop colour, the heavier the grains per foot. So even if you have no idea what weight sink- tip you’re actually fishing, just change to a lighter or darker colour as you need to adjust to specific fishing conditions… It’s that simple. You can fish these “as is” or cut them down to match specific fishing situations or casting preference.
Another useful tool for organising all your Spey gear is the Airflo Shooting Head Wallet. It’s a simple soft-sided binder with zip- lock style bags and a Velcro enclosure. We use them when we go to fairs, but also when we go fishing; we have one for every rod we take with us, pre-loaded with the corresponding shooting heads and accessories. Each wallet easily contains your ECHO Skagit Compact or ECHO Skagit Switch and Custom Cut Tips for subsurface work and your ECHO Rage Compact or Scandi Compact and Polyleaders for surface and near surface work. We also add extra leaders, tippet, flies and other terminal tackle. That way you’ll never get to the river without the right tools.
All ECHO spey heads are now packaged in the same zip-lock style bags that fit right into the wallet. Not only helping you stay organised, but it reduces unnecessary waste by eliminating the plastic spools. Plus, the wallet is small enough to fit into a hip-bag, rucksack or your waders.
It’s a great system for keeping all of your Spey gear organised.