As someone who has always held a love for the art of casting, naturally, I found myself infatuated with skagit casting. I spent hours watching YouTube videos and reading anything that I could get my hands on when it came to casting a two-handed rod.


What are the Benefits of Skagit Casting?

Minimal Back Cast: With no backcasting required, two-handed casting allows you to cast with little to no interference from obstacles behind you.

Less effort: When those long two-handed rods are loaded with a heavy shooting head, they create a ton of energy, therefore, allowing you to cast with a lot less effort than your standard weight forward floating line.

Longer casts: With a little practice, you should be able to cast further and cover more water that may not have been accessible to you with a single-handed rod.

Line Selection, Scandi versus Skagit:

There are two styles of spey lines, Scandinavian (Scandi) and Skagit. When it comes to two-handed fishing in Alaska, we generally migrate toward the shorter more compact Skagit lines. Skagit lines are preferred because we generally fishing weighted flies and sink tips, in order to reach the desired depths to catch our target species. There are specific instances Scandi lines may be applicable, however, our rivers tend to run deep and can be quite fast so Skagit is often the line of choice.

Skagit Casting Basics:

Photo: Toby Nolan

Loading the rod- While preparing to make a cast, the weight of the line either on the water or in the air bends the rod, which is called “loading the rod”. When the rod is loaded, it is collecting the energy necessary for the following cast. While setting up your spey cast, this can be achieved a couple of different ways, either by using a waterborne anchor cast or airborne touch and go cast.

In order to properly load your spey rod, there are a few fundamentals that must be developed.

D-Loop- A “D” loop is when the line forms a capital “D” shape behind the rod prior to forward acceleration. This is the most important step to two handed casting. If properly formed, your “D” Loop holds the responsibility of loading your fly rod.

Photo by Owen Humberg

Anchor point- Your anchor point is the point at which your “D” Loop makes contact with the water. For waterborne anchor casts, it should be placed slightly ahead of you and roughly one rod length away on your intended casting side (usually the downwind side so you do not hook yourself in the back of your head). On touch and go casts, your anchor should briefly touch down to form your “D” loop, while loading the rod and preparing for your forward cast.

Straight and Level- In order to be accurate with a spey cast, the fly rod should travel along a straight plane toward the intended target. This is the same concept as single hand casting. Imagine there is a piece of string running through your tip top guide, which points directly at your target.

Skagit Casting Tips and Techniques: 

Photo: Toby Nolan

Pull don’t push- A very hard habit to break if you are used to fishing with a single hand rod. Pulling, as opposed to pushing, helps ensure a high stopping point on the forward stroke. This helps eliminate a wandering rod tip, which can either open your line loop or close it causing a tailing loop.

Slow down- As with all fly casting, it can be easy to rush a cast. If you accelerate too quickly you can “blow your anchor” and your casting will not prosper. Every single movement, during a skagit two-handed cast, should be controlled. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

Relax- Spey casting and skagit casting should be effortless (respectively). Trying to force a cast will get you nowhere and often end in frustration.

Grip- Grasp the fly rod with a relaxed grip. I took some advice from an experienced spey/skagit caster, my good friend Tim “The Muddler Man”. He said, “grab the bottom handle of your fly rod with only the top two fingers of your bottom hand. Just enough to control the rod, but don’t squeeze the bejesus out of it”. What I found is this not only helps me relax but forces the “pull” with my bottom hand.

Understanding the Basic Skagit Casts:

Photo by Gaby Mordini

Waterborne Anchor Casts – Waterborne anchored casts utilize both the surface tension of the water and the “D” Loop to load the rod.

The Double Spey 

The Snap-T Cast

The Perry Poke 

Touch and go/Arial Anchor Casts: A touch-and-go cast contains a continual stroke, in which the line remains off of the water for most of the cast.

The Single Spey (A highly efficient cast but can be challenging to master)

The Snake Roll (one of the more complex touch and go style casts)

How to Setup a Skagit Setup:

Unlike other fly fishing line setups that you just attach the fly line to the backing on your reel, a Skagit setup typically requires a few different pieces of equipment including a running line, a shooting head, a sink tip or leader, and tippet. From your backing, you attach a running line like the Airflo Ridge Running Line. Many people just use straight Mono as the running line’s purpose is just to shoot out of the reel when you cast. You want it to be slick but also want to be comfortable grabbing it with your fingers. After your shooting line comes the shooting head which is the tapered part of your setup. Below we outline different shooting heads as they do vary based on equipment, conditions, and casting style you are doing.

After your shooting head, you will attach a sink tip or leader. For the most part with skagit setups, you will use a sink tip like an Airflo Flo Tip. The Airflo Skagit Flo Tips are a range of highly versatile hybrid sinking tips that combine an intermediate section and a heavy tungsten sink tip for smoother casts. Looped at both ends for easy connections and color-coded for line identification. They come in different sink rates and sizes based on conditions. The Airflo Flo Tip Set is a great beginner’s set that will give you the essential sinking leaders. After your sink tip you will attach a couple feet of tippet.

Skagit Line Shooting Head Recommendations:

AIRFLO SKAGIT DRIVER

This is my line of choice when swinging bigger rivers for trout, steelhead, and smaller salmon species. This is a fantastic mid-length Skagit head that allows me to cast big flies while still being able to achieve a good amount of distance. This is your all-around Skagit head. It can do everything from throw heavy sink tips to light flies and leaders with ease. If you are going to choose one line, this is it.

Total Length 24′

AIRFLO SKAGIT SCOUT

Short, compact, and powerful, these lines perform well on switch rods and single-hand rods. From casting aerodynamically challenged foam mice to unweighted epoxy smolt patterns, these short compact Skagit heads allow for quick casting on smaller creeks and streams.

Total Length 15.5′

AIRFLO SKAGIT COMP F.I.S.T.

This is my go-to Skagit head when swinging for King Salmon and Winter Steelhead. It has a sink tip built into the head so it gets down in a hurry. This line has the ability to get down deep when paired with an appropriate sink tip.

Total Length 22.5′

AIRFLO RAGE COMPACT

A hybrid head, the Rage bridges the gap between Skagit and Scandi heads. Its thick tip and aggressive taper turn over any leader/fly combination imaginable. This head is great for year-round steelheaders that want to throw lighter tips and small flies in the summer and fish in the winter. This head can cut through the wind like none other Scandi style line will.

Total Length: 31.5 Feet

Skagit casting is a fun and effective way to fish and should be a tool in every fisherman’s quiver. With the amount of information available to the public, it no longer takes years of practice to become proficient in the two-handed casing game.

Jake from Airflo testing a two-handed line out at Airflo’s Headquarters in Montrose, Colorado.

For more information on finding the right Airflo fly line shoot Airflo an email at orders@airflofishing.com, or check out https://airflousa.com/ and be sure to follow them on Instagram at @airflofishing.

Words by Oliver Ancans (@Olleyeh). 

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