Skagit Cast Killers?

I’m casting my trustee Beulah Classic 7/8 Spey rod with a 19′ 570 grain chopped beer can Skagit head and 10′ of t14 with a weighted fly.  It’s pretty old school and too heavy for my personal liking but the rod can handle it and it’s what I had for Skagit artillery at the moment.  

For one of the casts I’m using a 325 grain OPST Commando head and 12′ of T11 and a lightly weighted fly. Its about 100 grains low for what OPST recommends for that particular rod.  Truly it does not put quite enough bend in the Beulah to push it to capacity nor does the head weight flying through the air have the balls to rip the running line off of the water like I prefer but it does pretty darned ok and its about 250 grains less than the old Beer Can and T14 so its more pleasant in terms of fly fishing nimbleness.

Any died in the wool C/M C/T (continuous motion, constant tension) Skagit caster will tell you that drifting high after the sweep, ie. lifting of the hands or pausing too long any time after the sweep is initiated will produce slack in the system and kill the cast.  

Except it doesn’t kill the cast.  But it does wound the cast if you pause too long or basically do anything that allows the tip and fly to dig in too deep and cause your D loop to get all saggy.

Why? Because if you’re casting heavy junk, which I am in these video clips, any slack in your D loop will cause it to sag and your tip and fly sink rapidly. This makes extra work digging that heavy tip and fly out of the water and casting it forward. It can be done, especially with this big tank of a shooting head. And it can be done impressively but it does make it necessary to hammer that forward stroke pretty hard.  Its definitely more work. Fun work but it can wear you out fishing like that all day. Particularly if you like to pop the forward cast.

You don’t want to rush the cast but you don’t want to dilly dally around either….Santa Clause

Nevertheless for effortless and efficient Skagit casting I have found that the lighter the anchor, the tighter and more fully inflated I keep the D loop; the better the cast flies and the easier it is on my body after a day of fishing.  Except I’m just getting it dialed after years of fishing less efficiently so I have not fished all day casting as economically as I do now. That is keeping my hands closer to my body, using smaller hand and arm movements and not letting my casting arm flail around outside the box as if it were an unruly chicken’s wing. Its all good clean fun no matter how you slice it.  Skagit casting is the easiest way to fish with a two handed rod but it does take practice if you want to hit the sweet spot, effortlessly, every time!

Merry Christmas and tight lines everybody!





11 thoughts on “Skagit Cast Killers?

  1. I see that lifting rod tip after the back cast is finished and D- or line loop forms, both when Spey- or Overhead casting has only negative effect. Resulting higher rod angle cause tip to dip very easy in the beginning of the forward casting stroke and cause a Tailing Loop. And instead of making following casting stroke longer it shortens it slightly. Raising hand(s) makes following casting stroke more powerful which is one good featue of Drifting but lifting should be done so that rod tip moves back and comes down and line stays straighter when that move compensates the line sac what gravity cause.

    I don’t believe rising rod tip after the line loop begins to form make anchor lighter but rising rod tip just before the line loop begins has an effect and can make anchor lighter when it directs line loop higher.


    1. I think we are on the same page Esa. Yes, raising the tip too much prior to the forward cast only shortens the casting angle and causes tailing loop tendency as you can see this still happens in some of my casts. I think the secret though, as you eluded to in your comment is the incline sweep which gives the bottom leg of the V loop the correct trajectory. Also, there is the incline curve which Robert Gillespie also teaches. The trick is to have the correct angle at the key position, as you recomend. Nice eye for detail Esa.

  2. Nice video, Tim. That water is moving fast. Sometimes anglers don’t give enough consideration to the water speed and flow when they position their anchor and the formation of their D loop. The speed of the water affects the sink rate of the tip and the timing or speed of the casting sequence. In faster flows, with lots of choppy riffle-type water on the hang down, I find it easier to lift the sink-tip out of the water. You have good techniques. Taking video helps provide good critique and learning for everyone. The “devil is in the details” – it’s those details that separate the good casters from the great casters. I want to be a great caster. Someday.

    1. Thank you Ben. Those are excellent observations. That water was moving and now that you mention it that is the reason I was unable to make a “wrap” cast suitable for the video in that water. The wrap cast was filmed on another day, up river, in slackish water. It also made casting longer lines more challenging. I got some ok footage but yes, that fast water makes a big difference. I think it helped me to peel the line off the water right away though, which is what Ed Ward recommended, to improve my sweep. Thanks for taking the time to comment buddy. I have some pretty nice footage waiting in the wings that I’m sure you will be interested in seeing!

    2. Ben,
      Good catch on the water speed and its effect on which cast to choose and how it affects the technique!

      That upstream Perry Poke in very fast water feeds line to the rod tip like a conveyor belt as long as you increase the pace of the sweep enough to maintain proper tension. The result is a narrow sweep that ends in a D loop directly behind the rod tip without adding any compensating moves.

      Sometimes two handed casting feels like trying to hit a good pitcher who never throws the same pitch twice!

  3. “CM/CT”–I see what you did there! Very clever. I was one of the first to advocate for the term “tension” over “load”, and am glad to see it being used, especially in the context of sustained anchor casting.

    The only thing I can make of the notion of a “lift” killing a sustained anchor cast is that when it is done too soon in the sequence it can measurably reduce line tension. Botsari well noted the difference between simple visible tension and dynamic or added tension in the line system–in other words, “stretch”.

    When a “lift” is inserted after the D loop is well behind the caster, I believe it can be used without much danger of killing the cast because line momentum to the rear will preserve the stretch better than if the lift is used while the D loop is alongside the caster. Does that seem possible?

    1. Good points you make Greg. I do remember years ago that you brought up the word tension in conversations and now it’s pretty much commonplace to use it when describing Skagit casting. For me it has a lot to do with how big of tip and fly are being cast. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of wiggle room at all with big,heavy wet sock flies for making a lift too late. It seems to me like the rotation of the top hand wrist from sweep position to firing position is all of the drift necessary or even possible to keep the anchor from bogging down enough to make hitting the forward cast harder necessary. I really had to pound that thing to pry the gear out of the water. I was surprised at how well it flew! I think with a lighter tip, fly, and shooting head a later drift works well as is evident here. Of course If done the Skagit way a longer soak time would be implemented and that drift may not have been neccessary.
      Its funny you should bring up the word “stretch.” That old beer can stretches an amazing amount just in my hands. I should probably stretch it overnight before I use it again but I was given a 425 Grain OPST Commando head as a gift so I doubt the beer can will be used on that stick again. The Beulah Classic is an amazing twig. I’m sure it could handle 600 or 650 grains but I don’t think it would be necessary. Or fun. But you never know!

  4. I can’t tell from watching the wrap cast at 1:10 if the “payload” of sinktip and fly are in the “heavy” category or not, but if so, it should have felt about as sweet as anything you could do with a short heavy head, heavy sink tip and big fly. It is also IMO the least disruptive and most efficient method of delivering this category of payload. It may be less powerful than a perry poke and is more difficult to execute on turbulent or uneven surface conditions, but it is pure pleasure when you hit it right. You hit it right. Your smaller hand motions have proved your suspicions right!

    For lighter payloads, snake rolls and singles create fine presentations with less disruption as others have pointed out. Whether those casts are the best for heavy payloads in tight quarters is highly debatable. That doesn’t seem to temper the strong opinions of either group though, does it?

    Thanks for posting, nice work.

    1. Thanks Greg, excellent observations and I agree wholeheartedly with your statements so there is not much I can ad except to thank you for your great comments and for your help and persuasion to pursue the wrap cast and small hand movements etc. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *