The Scout is Airflo’s short Skagit head offering for single-hand and two-handed rods less than 12 feet long.
Scout heads are available in 30 grain increments from 150 to 540 grains and length, which increases with grain weight, ranges from 13.5 to 18.5 feet. Rear tapers are 1.5 to 2 feet long and the front tapers are around a third the length of the head.
The relatively long but gentle rear and front tapers are designed to slow turnover to increase distance, and improve presentation. Despite long front tapers, the tips remain thick enough to turn over decent sink tips.
Airflo’s unique method for creating loops produces thin durable loops, on comparatively thick tips, that don’t stick in the guides.
I have fished Skagit Scout heads of 150 to 300 grains extensively over the last three years, and this review is based on my experience with single-hand and two-handed rods.
Single hand rods
Tag: Airflo Skagit Scouts in 150 and 180 grains do not have the grains per foot to cast heavy sink tips, but presentation and distance with light tapered tips is exceptional.
Most of my single hand Spey casting is done on small to medium rivers with 9 - 9.5 foot 5wt single hand rods.
The 13.5 ft Scout 150 is best suited to a standard 4 wt or presentation 5 wt single hand rod. I found the best tips for casting soft hackles and regular trout streamers, such as beaded woolly buggers, to be 10 ft Sonar Leaders produced by Scientific Anglers.
These coated leaders are all 50 grains, regardless of sink rate, and being stiffer, cast better on light Skagit heads than other coated leaders. Because the coating extends all the way to the tip, i.e. not exposed nylon core, the S6 version also sinks better than the competition.
Adding a floating Sonar Leader to the the Scout 150 produces a great floating head system for swinging dry flies during the evening caddis hatch. Because the floating tip becomes part, and therefore increases the weight, of the head, this system is best fished on a regular 5 wt rod.
I have tested numerous factory and custom made floating tips on a wide range of Skagit heads, and the Scout 150 produces the smoothest casting heads systems and the best presentation, by far.
The 14.5 ft Scout 180 is a great match for a standard 9 ft 5 wt rod. While the Sonar Leaders worked well for soft hackles and wee wets, the ultimate sink tips for regular streamers on this head are 10 ft 5 wt Rio Replacement Tips in S3 and S6.
Because the 55 grain 5wt S3 and S6 Replacement Tips are density compensated through the front taper, the tips do not sink slower than the butt sections - which is an issue for coated leaders.
The Scout 180 and 5 wt Replacement Tip combo produces laser loops and incredible distance and presentation, casting more like a 2D Scandi head than a Skagit. My Scout 180 is actually 15 ft long, and it cast even better on a 9.5 ft rod (Sage X 597).
When it comes to larger weighted flies, e.g. 3 inch rabbit streamers with 5mm brass beads and some lead, the Scout 150 will handle 5ft and the Scout 180 will manage 7.5 ft of T-8. OPST micro-tips in 5 ft or 7.5 ft also fit the bill. Having said that, when I need to cast heavy streamers and and level-T tips I usually switch to a shorter Skagit head. My 11 ft SA Skagit Lite 180 easily handles a 10 ft T-7 Flo Tip and 9 ft of T-8 or even T-11. It can also be stripped closer.
In addition to my 5 wt single hand Trout Spey outfits, I also have a 9.5 ft 7wt single-hand rod I use with a Skagit head when I need to go deeper, cast larger flies, or when I am targeting larger fish.
A 15 ft 270 grain Scout proved to be too long for casting anything heavier than a 10 ft Replacement Tip or 7.5 ft of T-11 to be fun on this rod.
A 13 ft SA Skagit Lite 240, by contrast, easily casts Airflo Flo tips from T-7 though T-14.
Two feet makes a massive difference to the performance of Skagit head on a 9-9.5 ft rod.
The Scout 270 is, in my opinion, better suited to 10.5 -11 ft double-handers.
The 300 grain Skagit Scout is an exceptional floating head for casting heavy sink tips on 4 wt double-handed rods.
I have tried many floating Skagit heads on my 11.25 ft 4wt Trout Spey HD, and my favourite is the 15.5 foot 300 grain Skagit Scout. It is noticeably easier to cast tips heavier than 10 ft of T-8 with the Scout 300 than with other Skagit heads of identical length and weight, and presentation is better than most.
The Scout moves more quickly through the air than other heads - it appears to be constructed from a more dense material - and it experiences less tip wag or bounce back at the end of the cast than some do. It is also less impacted by wind.
The Scout 300 easily casts T-7 and T-10 Flo tips, 12 ft of T-8, 10 ft of T-11, and 110 grain 10 ft OPST bucket tips (8/9 ips). While it will manage a T-14 Flo Tip, this is not a fun combination.
There is considerable variation between brands in the lengths of micro-Skagit heads in the 150 to 240 grain range, and the Scouts are among the longest.
The 13.5 ft Scout 150 and 14.5 ft Scout 180 are less versatile than 11 ft Skagit heads, especially on on 9-9.5 fit single hand rods, because they cannot cast as much weight and cannot be stripped as close.
But where the Scout 150 and 180 heads really shine is at distance and presentation with light sink tips and regular trout flies. Think soft hackles on a hover or intermediate Sonar leader, or a size 6-8 beaded woolly bugger on a S6 Sonar Leader or 5 wt Replacement Tip.
Light Scout heads are therefore great choices for swinging small to medium streamers on wide slow or shallow rivers. Especially in clear summer conditions when presentation is important and fish will rise further to intercept a fly.
Adding a floating tip to the Scout 150 is also a great option for swinging flies during caddis hatches.
When it comes to two-handed rods, Airflo’s combinations of grain weight and head length in the Scout series appear to be spot on for sticks in the 10.5 to 12 ft range.
Although there is considerable variation in the lengths of micro-Skagit heads <250 grains, at 300 grains most are around 15.5 ft long, give or take six inches. Despite similar length and weight, the combination of unique profile and density make the Scout a clear winner when it comes to casting heavy sink tips a long way and with decent presentation on my 4 wt double hander.
I expect the slightly longer 16.5 -17.5 ft 360 - 450 grain Scout heads would perform equally well on 12 ft 5wt and 6wt rods. When I finally get my hands on a 5 wt two-hander, a Scout 360 is the floating head I’ll start with.