Here are the results of my shootout of the 12 floating Skagit heads I tested on single hand rods.
Please note my findings are in terms of my casting style, ability and physical dimensions.
1. Rio Trout Max:
The Trout Max heads were easy to cast, on rods of any action, and each head cast well with a wide range of sink tip weights. They required a slower casting stroke than the longer Scouts.
a. Casts of up to 60 ft (rod tip to fly) were a breeze, but greater distance required more effort and the system became unstable, with less than optimal presentation.
b. The 175 grain Trout Max was better suited to fast 4 or medium-fast 5 wt 9 ft rods and ideal tips for this combination were the iMow light, 9 ft of T-7 to T-8 and 10 ft Rio #5 Replacement Tips. Although the Trout Max 175 could not manage the weight the Trout Max 200 could, presentation with the tips described above was a lot better, making it a better head for small to medium rivers in clear conditions.
c. With a 200 grain Rio Trout Max I could comfortably cast 10.5 ft T-7 (114 grain) and T-10 (130 grain) Airflo Flo tips, as well as 9 ft of T-8 or T-11 on 9 ft 5 wt rods.
d. With a 275 grain Trout Max I could easily cast T-7 to T-14 (165 grain) Flo tips and 9 ft of T-11 on a 9 ft 7wt.
e. Favourite tips for the 200 and 275 grain Trout Max heads on 9 ft rods were Airflo Flo tips, because the thick intermediate butt sections functioned as extensions of the Skagit heads, enabling longer casts, and the substantial taper resulted in better presentation than nine feet of T-8 and T-11.
2. Scientific Anglers Skagit Lite:
Scientific Angler’s Skagit Lite series in 150 to 240 grains were without doubt the best Skagit heads for casting heavy sink tips on 9 and 9.5 ft 5 wt to 7wt single hand rods. Although short enough to cast 9-10 ft level-T sink tips, the long compound front tapers slowed and smoothed turn-over, resulting in amazing distance and presentation for their respective lengths. Rear weight distribution also made for easy rod loading and exceptional roll casting.
a. The 11.2 ft Skagit Lite 150, suited to fast 4wt and presentation 5 wt rods (e.g. Loomis NRX LP), was a real show stopper. Not only was it capable of casting 9 ft of T-8 and a heavily weighted rabbit streamer a long way, but it also achieved great distance and exceptional presentation with 10 ft Polyleaders and Replacement Tips in the 50 -60 grain weight range.
b. The 11.2 ft 180 grain head worked exceptionally well on medium fast and fast 5wt rods and easily handled 9 ft of T-8, 9 ft T-11 and iMOW light, 3D light MOW and T-7 Flo tips, with better distance and presentation than any of the other heads tested. This head also worked very well with #6 Replacement Tips, producing great presentation with light to moderately weighted streamers. If I was restricted to just one head for a 9 ft or 9.5 ft 5 wt rod, the Skagit Lite 180 would be it.
c. The 12 ft 216 grain Skagit Lite 210 worked best on fast 9 and 9.5 ft 5 wt rods, and I had no trouble casting 9 ft of T-11 and T-10 FLO tips, with better distance and presentation than the Trout Max 200. This head paired well with the Sage X 597, and would also work well on medium fast 6wt rods.
d. The 13 ft 247 grain Skagit Lite 240 paired brilliantly with 9-9.5 ft medium-fast 7wt rods, and distance and presentation with 9 ft T-11 and 10.5 ft T-7 to T-14 Flo Tips were exceptional. This head would also be good on a fast action 9.5 ft 6wt.
Thin mono running lines dig much deeper into the loop at the rear of the Skagit Lite heads than they do into the loops of the Airflo Scout or Rio products, and the deep indentations remain a long time after removing the heads from the running line. Concerned the mono would eventually cut the PVC coating, I created 5cm long braid connectors, with spliced loops at either end, to protect the Skagit Lite heads (see photo 1).
These connectors, created from 30 lb braided mono, worked a treat for the intended purpose, but also created a much smoother connection between the head and the running line - retrieving the head through the tip eye was hardly discernible when the rod was pointed in the direction of the line.
The connectors are not recommended, and nor are they necessary, for other brands of Skagit head, because the nylon braid does not bed into the harder coatings, and therefore results in a clunky connection.
Running line head connectors made for SA Skagit Lite heads using 30lb braided mono
3. Airflo Skagit Scout
The Airflo Scouts included the longest Skagit heads tested. Fewer grains per foot meant they could not cast the weight of tip the shorter heads could, but distance and presentation with light tips was significantly better. Larger D-loops required a faster casting stroke and a slight pause before the forward delivery. Timing was more important than with shorter heads.
a. The Scout 150 was better suited to a 4wt (or medium action 5 wt) rod and although presentation with Polyleaders was better than with the 180, distance was around 10 ft less because it was shorter (12.2 vs 15 ft, based on actual rather than advertised lengths), and therefore turned over more quickly.
b. The 15 ft Scout 180 and 10 ft 50 grain clear Extra Strong Polyleader was the ultimate light tip combo for a standard 9 ft 5 wt rod. The Scout 180 also worked exceptionally well with a 10 ft Rio Sink 6 #5 Replacement tip, forming an integrated head system capable of tight loops, good distance and delicate presentation.
c. Although not as proficient at casting 9-10 ft heavy sink tips on 9 ft rods as the 11 foot heads, both the Scout 150 and 180 could easily handle weighted streamers on 7.5 ft of T-8 – which is often plenty for small to medium rivers.
d. The Scout 270 was in my experience too long for a 9 ft rod. Although this combination could manage a 10 ft Polyleader or 7.5 ft of T-7 to T-11, presentation was not nearly as good as with the 5 wt outfits. When I cast a head heavier than 200 grains I need it handle 9 ft of Level-T, or a 10 ft compound tip. The Scout 270 is better suited to 10-11.5 ft rods.
4. OPST Commando Head:
Lack of front taper on the Commando head resulted in significant tip kick, which impacted on presentation. Performance of the 200 grain Commando head, in terms of weight and length of sink tip it could cast on a 9 ft rod, was intermediate between the Trout Max 200 and Scout 180. The Commando could manage an iMOW light, or a T-7 Flo Tip, but the T-10 Flo tip was out of the question. The 200 grain Commando head was at its best on a 9 ft rod with 7.5 ft of T-8 or a 7.5 ft OPST Micro Tip.
5. Rio Skagit Trout Spey:
The 200 grain Skagit Trout Spey, being almost 3 ft longer than the Trout Max 200, and with a four foot front taper ending in a really skinny tip, did not have near the lifting power of its predecessor, or the same ability to cast heavy sink tips longer than 7.5 ft on a 9 ft rod. The 300 grain head, recommended for 6/7 single hand rods, is 16 ft long. It would appear the Skagit Trout Spey heads are better suited to double handed rods in the 10-12 ft range, and that the Trout Max heads were better for casting heavy tips on single handed rods <10 ft.
Single Hand Skagit - Science behind the magic
|+||Where it all began|
|+||Casting heavy sink tips|
|+||Shootout of 12 Skagit Heads I tested|
|+||Table of Sink Tip Recommendations|
|+||Table of Lengths and Weights of Sink Tips|
|+||How it all began|
|+||What is Spey casting?|
|+||Single versus two handed rods|
|+||Favourite Trout Spey outfits|