Introduction and Warning
This is a somewhat dorky, technical post about Rio’s new Skagit Flight, a shooting head for spey fishing. If you don’t care about spey fishing and would rather look at pictures of fish, click here. Skagit-style spey lines have short, heavy heads that are good for casting the sinktips and big flies that are often used in the Pacific Northwest for steelhead and salmon.
Rio is just about to release their second-generation Skagit-style spey head, and it’s called the Skagit Flight. The original Rio Skagit line revolutionized spey fishing for those of us who spend a lot of time with heavy tips and big flies, and the Skagit Flight takes Rio’s Skagit lines to the next level.
The original Rio Skagit line basically has no taper – it’s short and heavy so it does a great job throwing those heavy tips and flies, but it isn’t exactly a delicate instrument. In the past couple of years, line designers have been working on refining the idea of the Skagit line, and some big improvements have been made to say the least. The most notable recent entrant was the Airflo Skagit Compact, released two years ago.
This past weekend we cast the new Rio Skagit Flight and the Airflo Compact Skagit side-by-side and we’re here to tell you all about it! First, a little more information on the Skagit Flight.
Length and Grain Weight
- Skagit Flight lines run in 25-grain increments from 400 to 750, giving you no excuse for not getting your rig completely dialed in.
- The length of the heads varies from 24 to 32 feet depending on the grain weight, with the heavier lines being longer. In general, heavier-weight spey rods are longer, so varying the length of these heads means that head length is more closely matched to rod length, without the use of a ‘cheater’.
Design and Taper
- In the Skagit Flight taper, a higher portion of the mass of the line is concentrated near the back end, which helps load your rod deeper and easier.
- After a flat midsection that’s about half the total length of the head, there’s actually some front taper here! Depending on the line, 4 to 7 feet of the tip end of the head is tapered.
We cast the 575 grain Rio Skagit Flight and the 570 grain Airflo Skagit Compact side-by-side using identical rigs that are right in the wheelhouse of what we often fish on the Kanektok and the Dean – a Sage 8134-4 Z-Axis, straight mono running line, the head of choice, 13′ of T-14 and a big weighted Jumbo Critter.
What We Think
- These are both fantastic heads and the differences between the two are really subtle.
- Both load the rod much more consistently than the original Skagit lines, and both throw tighter loops that turn the fly over better.
- The material in the Airfo Skagit Compact is a little more limp than that in the Rio Skagit Flight.
- The Airflo seems to throw loops that are a little tighter than the Rio.
- The Airflo loads your rod easier in situations where you can’t form a perfect D-loop.
- The Rio seems to turn over that particular tip and big fly more smoothly than the Airflo.
- They’re both really good.
In our opinion, these second-generation Skagit lines represent a big leap forward. Taper matters for turnover – these lines have a real front taper and that makes for easier, better turnover all the time. Having more mass near the back of the line makes for a much more forgiving casting experience – less-than-perfect D-loops will get your rod loaded much more frequently with these lines. Finally, varying the length of the heads means no more dealing with Skagit Cheaters – and simple is good.
We like the Rio Skagit Flight a whole lot.