Tom Larimer is more than a good buddy of ours – he’s one of the top handful of guides in the Northwest, and he also hosts a couple of trips each year to Alaska West and BC West.
Tom also happens to have worked directly with Tim Rajeff at Airflo on the design of their Skagit Compact Shooting Head. This head is really popular today for good reason – it was the first ‘modern’ Skagit head, incorporating real tapers to provide better casting performance.
We asked Tom to give us a little background on the design of the Airflo Skagit Compact, and he was happy to oblidge.
Tom Larimer on the Airflo Skagit Compact
Being a steelhead guide, I test my gear to its limits on a daily basis. I’ve come to realize there are many spey lines that perform great on a casting pond but fail miserably in real life fishing situations. The proving ground for me is the rivers I guide in Oregon and the waters of Larimer Outfitters’ hosted trips, the Kanektok and the Dean.
On all of these rivers, we deal with tight casting conditions, relentless wind, tough wading, extreme temperatures, and long days. We’re often fishing big flies and heavy sink-tips, especially when chasing monster kings on the Kanektok and Dean. If a fly line can perform on these rivers, it can get the job done anywhere.
When I helped Tim Rajeff design the Skagit Compact shooting head, we had one goal in mind… to build a fly line the average angler could cast in real fishing situations. We wanted to build a fishing tool – not a line that throws pretty tight loops with a piece of yarn. More so, we wanted to help anglers catch more steelhead and salmon. After numerous prototypes and a bunch of cut up fly lines, we came up with what is now the most popular Skagit head on the market.
Taper and Overhang
The reason this fly line has become so favored by anadromous anglers is multifaceted. First, the taper of the line is built to efficiently load the rod from the moment the caster begins to form their D-loop. The old saying, “let the rod do the work” is all fine and dandy. Problem is; if you don’t feel the rod loading it’s hard to let it do the work.
The back taper gives any spey rod that smooth groovy feeling we all love to feel. The rear taper also allows the caster to utilize overhang. Overhang is the amount of running line left between the rod tip and the end of the Skagit head before making a Spey cast. If you’re in a tight casting situation, you can strip the Skagit head right up to the end of the rod tip. This allows you to make a small D-loop behind you and still have the power to get the cast to turn over. Conversely, when you have the room to move, you can use three or four feet of over-hang. Now you can use more line speed, create a mega-huge D-loop, and unleash some monster casts.
The front taper is the “business end” of the line. Once the cast is outbound, the massive front wedge kicks everything into over-drive. Bottom line, it chucks big sink-tips and heavy flies with minimum effort from the caster.
Taper isn’t the only reason for this line’s success. Airflo fly lines are built with polyurethane. Most fly line coatings are built using PVC. The problem with PVC is it lacks durability. Ever notice how most fly lines feel really great right out of the box, but after a few days on the water they quickly loose that magical feeling? After a while they will dry out and eventually crack.
On the other hand, polyurethane has way more longevity. It feels good from day one to the day a big Dean River steelie decides to festoon it through the trees on the far bank and you lose it – that actually happened to me! The stuff is indestructible. Plus, a supple line allows you to throw laser tight loops. Most fly line companies don’t use polyurethane because it’s a pain in the ass to work with. That being said, Airflo has mastered it and it shows in all of their products.
If you’ve never tried the Airflo Skagit Compact, I think you’ll be surprised by how easy it casts. Personally, I know it’s improved my two-handed casting. Plus, I can honestly say it’s helped my clients catch more fish with less effort. Give the green line a try this season – I know you won’t be disappointed.
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