Over the past couple of years the major spey line manufacturers have come out with partly-intermediate and/or full intermediate Skagit heads – the Airflo Skagit Intermediate, the Rio Skagit iFlight and the SA Skagit Extreme Intermediate, to name a few.
Today we hear from Scott Baker-McGarva, BC West Head Guide, about why these heads are such a great match for the Dean River.
Intermediate Heads on the Dean
Dean River steelhead like FAST water, and I mean fast, fast, fast water. If I had a proverbial dollar for every time I put a Dean River rookie angler in the spot and saw the look on their faces when they surveyed the run, or should i say, ‘rapid’…I would have a small fleet of new ‘toys’…
Maybe it’s in the genetics, but for whatever reason, this attraction to all things quick within the Dean Steelhead mindset is even more obvious when the river is sparkling clear. It’s the nature of fast water that the surface is moving considerably faster than currents even 6″ below it, and for that reason, an intermediate head, or head with 60% of the tip as intermediate (with a sink-tip then added), will come across the current that much slower than a line floating on the surface. It’s actually quite obvious when one switches from one line to the other in a given run, with the intermediate design offering a slower swing and therefore better ‘look’ over a standard floater/sink tip combo.
It’s standard practice to gain the high ground and watch the fly swing when I can (since seeing the take is almost as cool as feeling it), and from there I can observe the relative swing speed of various lines and mending techniques as I can usually watch the fly come across the current. Without a doubt the slower swinging fly is going to been seen better by the fish. In cold water conditions, and the slower water fish seek out when temps drop, again the angler can present a nice slow presentation to more lethargic fish
Since the head sinks, or at least some of it sinks, it also provides more ‘stick’ to the water when casting, and for this reason some heads, like the Airflo or SA, are shorter than standard Skagit heads (but only just a couple feet on average) – others may be regular length. The sinking head, or tip factor also allows a lighter tip to be used to achieve the similar desired depths, without the horrors of casting super dense tips.
Of course another benefit is DEEPER…15ft of something evil and approaching the 10-12 IPS sink rate is going to be scraping bottom even faster if it’s attached to a head that is already sinking over the buoyancy of a floating head.
Casting these intermediate tips may take some getting used to for some, as more line stick is occurring and therefore getting it ‘up’ may require a stronger lift, snake roll, or down stream roll cast to get it moving first prior to a delivery cast, but once you get into a rhythm of casting them, their benefits become very obvious.
Tom Ehrhard says
Are you using T-tips with the intermediate skagit head, or do density compensated tips work better? With either type of tip, what would you say the conversion factor is with an intermediate, i.e., if you would use a T-14, could you use a T-10 to get the same depth? Thank you.
It seems the whole world is using T type tips, and in this case T-8 could achieve the depth that perhaps T-10 may have done on a floater and so on. i noticed 10ft of T-14 fishes like 14-15 ft with a floater, without the casting pains. We have also used the new IMOW tips with an intermediate section that combines nicely with the intermediate head.
Hope this helps
ryan buccola says
As far as lining a rod with the intermediate head, is there a “magic conversion” based on the grain weight of a scandi head or a Skagit head (which are usually different grain weights) to determine how to line said rod?
Tom Ehrhard says
Ryan: Everything I’ve heard from the experts says to use the same grain weight for an intermediate as you do for a standard Skagit head. I seem to like a bit lighter, though. My 8124 Beulah Platinum, for example, casts a 570 grain Airflo Skagit Compact nicely. I prefer, however, a 540 grain Airflo Skagit Compact Intermediate with that rod for some reason. It does need a bit more “oomph” on the pickup and seems heavier to me. It definitely swings differently; as mentioned, you need to get it set up early and let it go because mending is not as easy. There is a noticeably slower swing that is fantastic and that is coupled with a seemingly more direct link to the fly which transmits more information to you during the swing and the take.
Ryan, I’m just chiming in to agree with Tom – I also think you can drop down a line size with the intermediate heads. They seem to ‘stick’ more so it feels like it just takes a little less to load the rod.
Scott Baker-McGarva says
Yeah most drop about 25 grains with an intermediate from a full floater Skagit.