New Article From Ed Ward - Skagit Floater. Worth your attention, great technique!
originally posted on the Skagit Master Forum: LINK Anyways, I am/will be out of my usual PNW salmon/steelhead environs more so than ever for the foreseeable future. It's not necessarily a bad thing as this circumstance has prompted me to continue expanding my applications of Skagit principles beyond the "usual" salmon/steelhead arena. As of late that has meant floating line tactics for bass. I have presented some thoughts on floating Skagit in the past, but my most recent focusing of attention to this aspect of Skagit is really firming up some of those previous thoughts and quite frankly proving quite exciting in actual capability. Of course, I can't "prove" or demonstrate a system's capabilities via a written post, the "best I can do" being at this time presenting an example that some of you may be able to duplicate. My example is a 9'6" Loomis Streamdance singlehander that has had a 4" lower handle added on. The line is a Beulah Tonic (can't remember the original configuration... sorry) that has been cut back to 256 grains @ 17'. To this line I have attached a floating tip of 50 grains @ 6' in length. This tip taken off the front end of a Cortland 9 weight Bass Bug line. The leader is a 31" butt of 20# fluoro, followed by 26" of 16# fluoro, then ending in a tippet of 32" 12# fluoro. There's nothing "scientific" about this configuration, just something I threw together for the purpose at hand and it worked well enough. I'm sure that with a bit of research and/or effort, one could come up with a more efficient graduation than this. The purpose is the casting of 2 1/2" - 3 1/2" streamers weighted with 1/60th ounce lead eyes. Now for the results. This setup casts the described flies with very impressive loops (considering the size/weight of fly on a class 6 rod) and really impressive line speed. Distances of up to 70ish feet were very do-able and bear in mind that this is with confined backcasting room. What really "wowed" me is Skagit casting's ability to "slide" flies under overhanging obstructions. Now, I'm not saying that it is quite up to par with sidearming an overhead cast with a singlehanded rod, but it seems fairly close and it is definitely several degrees better than I've ever seen anyone accomplish with a T&G based cast, especially with a barbell-eyed fly. Also, at distances of 50', 60', 70', I don't know that I could best the Skagit casting performance by using instead a sidearm overhead when casting a 3 1/2" weighted streamer at those distances. I believe that the "line ascending off the water into the D-loop" property of Skagit casting (a very seldom talked about or even recognized difference of Skagit casting from T&G casting) offers up an advantage for accomplishing very low trajectory forward casts as compared to T&G's "descending towards the water into the D-loop". In the T&G casting procedure there is an upward "thrust" of the rod into the D. In Skagit casting there is instead a separating-of-planes Turnover. The separating-of-planes Turnover is suited to being performed in quite a lateral aspect and can thus be manipulated to project the D also into quite the lateral attitude which then results in a very low trajectory Forward Cast.
Another thought on casting. I must admit that for the longest time I was not an advocate of the C/Snap type casts... I saw way too many fly-to-rod-or-angler collisions. I learned over time that the most common cause of this circumstance was "pre-loading" the rod. In other words, too much power was being applied too quickly at the very beginning of the cast, which then "loads" (pre-load) the rod PRIOR to the line actually coming out of the water. The pre-loaded rod then "casts" the line into uncontrollable flight when the line does finally in fact clear the water, often resulting in the aforementioned collision scenarios. A major key to "safe" C/Snap casts is an initial slow, smooth acceleration which "breaks" the water tension on the line. Once this tension is broken, THEN the significant power application/acceleration is applied. This process then produces an aerialization of the line that is smooth, controlled and predictable. Since learning that fact and being presented with considerable angling scenarios involving slow or still waters, the C/Snap has become one of my most used casts for slow/still waters. The version I find most useful is in between a full-on C or full-on Snap. Basically it is a slow initial pull of the rod tip to break water tension, then a smooth but quick acceleration of the rod upward, using just enough power to aerialize the line, then follow "around" with the rod using just enough speed to just maintain "contact" with the aerialized line, and then just before the line plops back onto the water I give a slight push of the rod tip towards the water's surface, but angle that push of the rod tip directly away from me. This then results in the line forming an upside down "U" that starts at the rod-tip-on-the-water, and then scribes away towards the intended "target", to then turn in the upside down "U" and trace back towards and alongside me. Yeah, the description is complicated, but it is intended to just give an idea of what's happened. The shape and location of this line layout results in very powerful, high speed casts that produce the type of casting accuracy needed for casting under overhanging obstructions or into confined pockets. Of course describing casts in "writing" produces a very subjective conveyance... hopefully the next SkagitMaster DVD will remedy the situation.
Using the system as described, with mostly the cast described, I have found that angling on a wading-friendly river that generally ranges from 50' to 100' in width, with a 9 1/2' 6 weight singlehanded/doublehanded conversion is not only do-able, but quite efficient and enjoyable... in other words it isn't just a "novelty" rig or gig. For someone that truly considers the fun of doublehanded casting to be a necessary part of the angling experience, this type of rod configuration can be cast singlehanded for "close-in" accuracy (25'-40') and then doublehanded for distance work. Also, there is noticeably less physical strain casting/fishing this rod in a conversion capacity all day long with 3"ish weighted streamers, than there is using the same rod strictly in a singlehanded capacity all day long.
Lastly, I want to describe my "validation" process for the super short floating tips so that the credibility of the advice I give/have given via internet forums can be more thoroughly understood. I first started playing around with sub-10' floating tips on Skagit line some 5-6ish years ago. However, due to my experience using them being of rather, in my mind, limited nature (mousing in Alaska, some drylining for Grande Ronde Steel), I did not present any info about them publicly even though they were showing a lot of promise. About 4 years ago, circumstances provided me with ever increasing needs for using a floating line as quarry such as Washington Searun Cutthroat, Alaska Silvers, Montana and Colorado trout, Texas and Wisconsin Bass, became more viable subjects for doublehanded tactics due to the "advent" of light class Switch rods and with that increased experience I felt confident enough in the system to start suggesting that anyone interested in "experimenting" might find it worth their time to try a 5'-6' floating tip on their Skagit line. Then, finally, in the last year I took the short float tip approach and really put it through the gauntlet by pressing it into service through circumstances beyond where it "should" function in order to determine the window of capability. I now feel extremely confident that using a 5'-6' floating tip on Skagit lines is the optimum system for Skagit floating line work and recommend that anyone that is versed in SA concepts should acquire or manufacter one for their Skagit setup and experience the advantages that are yielded over the 10', 12', or 15' tips usually prescribed. I am so confident in thie short float tip approach that I have cut my MOW floaters back to 5' or 6' in length! So, now you know that story and hopefully the description of my "process" also conveys the fact that advice, recommendations, and/or opinions that I offer up in public on or about Skagit casting are not arrived at "lightly" and are pretty much about as thoroughly researched as Skagit subjects can get.
My first casting DVD that I learned how to cast a fly line. learning fly casting from the super instructor! I was amazed today how much useful information in there when I re-watch it again, how much useful information can be apply to spey casting as well... importance of the initial lift for all fly castings!
I am a biologist grew up with a fishing rod in my hands. I have been fortunate enough to embrace my love of art and science in my career. Most of my free time were well spent in the nature, either studying bird behavior or chasing variety of fish with fly rods. My favorite art medium is watercolors, I love the natural and spontaneous feel created by watercolor pigments. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University. Welcome to my website. Mark