When we fish the Kanektok and the Dean for kings and steelhead, most of the time we’re fishing Skagit-style spey lines with tips made of Rio T-14.
T-14 is a very versatile material for constructing sinktips used when Skagit casting. The ’14’ means 14 grains per foot – it’s pretty bulky and sinks pretty fast, and it’s great for turning over and then sinking the big flies that are most often used when fishing in the Skagit style.
Unfortunately pre-made T-14 tips aren’t readily available, and that means you need to cut the lengths that you want to fish and put loops on both ends. Rio sells T-14 in bulk spools as well as in packs that combine 30 feet of T-14 with some braided mono loops to be attached to the tip. Unless you’re going to turn your basement into a tip factory, the 30-foot packs probably work just fine.
Here’s how we make our tips. Much credit here goes to Ed Ward, one of the grandfathers of Skagit casting and our head guide at Alaska West.
- Cut T-14 to the desired length (more on this below).
- Slip a braided mono loop over the butt end of the T-14.
- Tie a single nail knot over the end of the loop to hold it in place.
- Bonus tip: Whip a colored section of fly tying thread just past the nail knot on the side closest to the loop. Come up with a scheme that maps the color of the thread to the length of the tip.
- Seal the nail knot and the colored thread with UV Knot Sense for durability.
- Slip a braided mono loop over the leader end of the T-14.
- Tie a single nail knot over the end of the loop to hold it in place.
- Bonus tip: Color the entire braided loop on the leader end of the tip with a black Sharpie, so you don’t have a big white worm-looking thing swimming near your fly.
- Seal the nail knot on the leader end of the tip with T-14 with UV Knot Sense.
This construction method results in strong, extremely durable tips – the UV Knot Sense makes the connections really hold up. We’ve got 3 seasons of heavy use on our tips with no signs of wear.
Most of the tips that we fish on the Kanektok and the Dean are between 10 and 18 feet long.
- A basic set of tips to cover most conditions would include 10-, 13-, 15- and 18-foot tips.
- If you wanted to be really prepared, you could make 7-, 10-, 13-, 15-, 18- and 21-foot tips (with the 21-foot tip probably only applicable for chinooks on the Dean).
- If you wanted to be super-prepared and/or you want to rig multiple rods, you could make 2 tips in each of the lengths listed above.
Ross Slayton says
A couple of pictures would do wonders! just a pic of the finished end that hd the tying thread on it. Otherwise excellent and very informative piece.
Loc Vetter says
When I was fishing with Ed Ward in the Fall he mentioned that he had changed how he does the fly end loop: He now stripps off the tungston coating of the T14, exposing the core mono — which is about 20 to 24 lb test. With about 2 1/2 inches exposed one can tye a nice little perfection loop.
He wrote something about it on Speypages recently.
I tried it, and it seems to work very nicely and looks cleaner.
If one takes a couple of feet of 8 to 12 lb tippet material and holds it in a loop, then hitch that loop near the end of the T14, and yank, the coating comes off nicely. A couple of times I took off less than I needed, which is actually easier, then repeated to get a bit more.
Has anyone else tried this? Mor importantly, has anyone tried it on a really big fish???
Any idea what size the braided loops are that come with the T-14 package, or what size works best for T-11 and T-14? The loops come in regular, large and XL I believe.
philip walker says
In my relatively few trips to Kanektok for chinook fishing, I have used a Rio Regular braided loop for my T14 or T17 tip butt end, as I think the Large is too loose. I nail-knot it three times, the final nail-knot near the neck of the loop, which may be over-kill but even so, then I add a drop of Zap-a-gap glue, so these loops then NEVER come loose. The Rio XL loop is meant for the butt end of shooting heads I think.
For the “point” of the T sinktip, I use about two feet of 40 or 20 pound Maxima, doubling-back the tip of the T14 and tie an Albright knot or nail-knot, with a tail you can then trim to suit after you do a perfection or rapala (non-slip loop) onto which you can tie loop-to-loop or alternatively double surgeon knot, tapered down to 15 pound Ultragreen which is plenty strong enough for kings in my experience. If you want to keep it really simple, just albright 20 or 15 pounds Ultragreen straight onto the T14, about 5 feet will do. The reason I use the heavier stuff and taper-down, is to help turn-over the big king flies. Some folks might think the tapering-down only introduces more potential failure-points in the leader, but I haven’t experienced that. Using 15 pounds at the point, means you don’t lose the whole shooting head if you hit a snag and have to use some muscle………yet it’s still strong enough for any king I’ve hooked so far.
Final touch is to use indelible marker pen to color the braided loop black. Happy fishing. We are already confirmed to return for two weeks next June/July !
Thanks for all the great info Philip!
John Gaynor says
Having now used MOW TIPS I would be reluctant to use anything else.The guys who invented these deserve a medal.It saves having to learn all those knots and wondering if your self applied loops are going to hold when you hook into that monster fish!(MOW TIPS have welded loops on both ends)The other advantage is the predictable way they act when you cast as they all have the same line weight regardless of sink rate or length.(someone correct me if I am wrong about this please).
The Skagit line has now come of age in my opinion with MOW TIP option.
Thanks for the comment John. The MOW Tips have definitely lessened the need to make a huge number of custom tips. These days we’re still making tips in longer lengths (e.g. 15′) and in unusual configurations (e.g. a short tip without a floating section for a switch rod) – but a lot of the time we’re using a more common configuration, we’re using MOW Tips.
Fred Lee says
MOW tips make a lot of sense, but I assumed the line casting weights (grains) would be different depending on the length of the sinking portion. Does a MOW tip with 7.5 ft of T-11 weigh more than one with 2.5 ft of T-11. Or does the weight of the floating section cause them both to weigh the same?
Yes, the grain weight of the floating section of each MOW tip is very similar to the weight of the sinking section, so all of the tips in a given set (say the MOW Heavy set made with T-14) have very similar grain weights.
You’ll notice I said very similar – Simon from Rio told me that the floating sections don’t have exactly the same number of grains per foot (so for example on the heavy tips, the sinking sections are 14 grains per foot but the floating sections are just a few grains heavier per foot). They built them that way to help with turnover and energy transfer. The difference is pretty negligible though – you can basically rig and fish all the tips in a given set like they’re the same total weight.
Perhaps a silly question, but, not having any experience with sink tips I would like to know the best way to tie a tipit to the sink tip line? Any help would be appreciated.
There are a couple of different options. My preferred method, assuming there’s a link in the front of the sinktip, is to tie a loop in the back end of the leader, and attach it to the front loop on the sinktip with a loop to loop connection. If there’s no loop on the front of the sinktip, some folks like to tie a butt section of heavy leader material to the sinktip with an Albright knot, and then tie the leader to the butt section – but I don’t trust my Albrights so I usually go loop to loop.
Have fun out there!
Steve Bodely says
having used Rio Spey versi lines and sink tips and now using Airflo Compact with their polyleaders I cannot seem to fathom out how to compare the tips , if I use a Rio type 8 I can usual find bottom but if I use a Airflo polyleader extra super fast sinking 10 ft I cannot, should I use a weighted fly or a short length of T14 or any other suggestion,
PS the airflow with polyleader casts like a dream.
Gary goodman says
I use single handed rods 8 wt 10 wt. I will be fishing some of the tidal rivers in AK for silvers relatively shallow not flowing real fast and not very deep can wade across them.
In making a weighted leader , using weighted flies how does one determine the length of the butt section, length of the t line and tippet material to get a good result. Is there one type of T line better for single handed rods.