Our buddy George Cook is back with another great post on the finer points of all things spey. George is the Northwest rep for Sage, Redington, and RIO (along with other leading outdoor brands). He’s also been a dedicated spey bum for more years than we care to ask! Today’s topic? Understanding grain weights and how they relate to your particular casting personality.
Getting Your Brain Around the ‘Grains’
Skagit this and Scandi that, load, speed.. I Just Wanna Cast! The never ending world of Spey Lines can be confusing. Skagit, Scandi, Mid belly, Long Belly where does it end? Hell, where does it begin?
While today’s manufacturers continue to bring us the very finest in spey and switch Rods, these tools continue to be rated by “line weight.” For example a 12’ 6” Sage Method is known in the spey world as a 7126-4 METHOD. This tells us it is a 7 weight spey rod, is 12’ 6” long, and 4 pieces. Okay, cool but what is a 7 weight spey line, exactly? Good question Watson, and the answer is surprisingly convoluted.
Sure, you could jump on any number of forums and post a question asking what line should I run on my new “fill in the blank” 7 weight. However, I reckon in 24 hours you might get 24 answers, and I’d wager good Vegas money that in those 24 responses there might be 8 or more different answers. Not to mention a wide range of validity based of caster’s ability, preference, and so on. By the time you have read them all, you might be inclined to dust off the old 9’ 8 Weight single-hander instead!
When choosing the correct line, it’s important to figure out your ‘Casting Personality.’ Everyone has a particular casting personality that can narrowed down into two preferences; Load Preference and Speed Preference. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter which you may fall into as long as you find your preference, are comfortable with it, and are able to ‘get it done’ in that particular style. Which preference do you favor? Keep reading to find out.
Here, the caster leans toward feeling the road LOAD. In the Spey game that will center around a parabolic flex that pulls the load completely down into the bottom end of the rod. This can be accomplished by virtue of the rod “action.” For example, by using a truly “moderate action” spey rod. Again, following the previous 7 weight example, the new Sage 7126-4 ACCEL spey rod, AKA “Mr. Wiggles,” fits this build and will provide all sorts of load experience with a mere 500 grain skagit head (such as the Skagit Max).
Now, let’s go back to that Sage 7126-4 METHOD mentioned above, a rocket of a 7 weight. By comparison, this rod is a much faster action then the same length-line designation of the 7126-4 ACCEL. Therefore, it is a different animal in terms of grain weight line choice. If I desired that deep parabolic load (load preference), I’d likely run a 575 grain skagit head (something like a Skagit Max SHORT) on it. Why a shorter head? Well, with that weight differential I’m opting for the more compact approach in which to harness that deep load and keep my casting stroke relatively tight and in control.
However, if my casting preference was based more around speed than feeling a deep load (speed preference) I would opt for a skagit head around 525 gains (such as a standard Skagit Max) as that will produce a straight up blistering cast. At 525 grains, Load and Speed meet on the curve in a most impressive manner.
All in all, the ‘load preference’ speaks to a desire to feel the load process take place throughout the casting stroke, and this can be accomplished by both rod action and/or line weight application.
Here, the caster seeks the need for speeed. Load “feel” is bypassed by the idea that the casting stroke is a given and the forward stroke is desired to come out fast, with line speed being the main driver for the cast. Some anglers seek this preference in the skagit theater of things, but overall this is a minority group. Sink tips and large flies, often prevalent in the steelhead and king salmon game will more often than not dictate otherwise (load preference).
Now, where the speed preference comes into clear focus is most often in the use of the Scandi style heads where the history, as well as the mastery of use, surrounds the line speed equation. Scandi lines are the “Lines of Summer and Fall” where the floating line becomes the omnipresent tool of choice. Tipped with Poly style Spey Versi-leaders, these Scandinavian style heads will produce insane levels of line speed. Speed that is incredibly advantageous to the summer and fall anglers who are battling ass kicking wind conditions once those sun based thermals cut past the morning air (think Oregon’s Deschutes and Idaho’s Clearwater rivers).
Line weights here would call for a much lighter head in the form of a 480 RIO Scandi upon “Mr. Wiggles,” the 7126-4 ACCEL, or potentially a 510 grain scandi for the vaunted 7126-4 METHOD.
Because scandi style heads should be selected in lighter weights than their skagit comparison, you can immediately get your head around the use of smaller summer/fall style steelhead flies (think more traditional stuff here). The scandi game, based on lighter weights and a more delicate front taper, coupled with the Poly-Spey Versi leaders is simply not mechanically geared toward heavy sink tips and flies.