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.