Moody river with overcast clouds reflected on the water, lower south island
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Single Hand Skagit :

Single-hand micro-Skagit is a fun and effective way to fish streamers and soft hackles, and I am exceedingly glad I went this route. While it’s not suited to sight fishing on sparsely populated crystal clear back country streams – where extreme stealth is required and upstream nymph and dry fly on extra-long leaders work best – micro-Skagit comes into its own on the middle and lower reaches of New Zealand’s rivers, and its estuaries and lakes. Fishing a Skagit head and streamers is also an effective way to fish swollen rivers with good fish numbers, when nymphing is often a chore with low reward.


With the recent surge in popularity of fishing for trout with Spey methods, and a widely held opinion that all Spey casting should be done with two hands, there has been a rapid proliferation of light 9.75 -11.25 ft double-handed rods on the market in recent times. While I love my 11.25 foot 4wt Sage Trout Spey HD for casting 300 grain heads on larger rivers, I far prefer 9-9.5 ft single hand rods for 150 to 210 grain heads better suited to smaller to medium rivers; for the following reasons:

1. With my left hand doing the hauling and controlling of the shoot, and my right hand wielding the rod, I am more accurate, I cast further and also feel better integrated with the system.

2. I can cast heavier tips with the shorter heads that 9 -9.5 ft rods like, which is assisted by a haul and an extended single hand sweep.

3. Short heads cross fewer current lanes, and combined with high-sticking a thin mono running line I can achieve drifts not possible with longer heads or regular fly lines.

4. I have more control when stripping streamers.

5. I can handle bigger fish than I could on a one, two or even a three weight double hander, which is necessary in New Zealand.


Most of my nymph and dry fly fishing is done with a 9 foot 5 wt rod. A second reel or spool with a running line, a wallet of Skagit heads and sink tips allows me to fish anything from soft hackles right up to streamers that normally require a 7 or 8wt outfit, and to deal with a wide range of flow rate and depth.


Apart from being incredible fun and extremely versatile, other advantages of going Skagit with single hand rods are: less space is required to cast, there’s less tail wrap with mobile streamers, easy line management through long distance high sticking made possible by mono running lines and short heads, and it makes me a better angler.


Some of the casts I learned, such as the snake roll and switch, I now use to great effect with a regular floating line when casting space is tight.


And then, of course, there is the Zen of a good cast, followed by the pulse of the river, transmitted through the running line and congenially connecting three senses; shattered by a sudden hit of adrenalin. Be warned, it’s addictive!

Single Hand Skagit - Science behind the magic

+ Where it all began
+ Head design
+ Sink tips
+ Casting heavy sink tips
+ Running lines
+ Reels
+ Rods
+ Intermediate heads
+ Favourite outfits
+ Conclusions
+ Shootout of 12 Skagit Heads I tested
+ Table of Sink Tip Recommendations
+ Table of Lengths and Weights of Sink Tips

Trout Spey

+ How it all began
+ What is Spey casting?
+ Fly lines
+ Sink Tips for Skagit Heads
+ Single versus two handed rods
+ Effective Spey flies for New Zealand Trout and techniques for fishing them
+ Favourite Trout Spey outfits
+ Conclusions

Single hand Trout Spey : Getting started with a 9 ft 5wt rod

+ Getting started
+ Rods and Skagit heads
+ Sink tips for Skagit heads
+ Tippet for Skagit heads

Intermediate Skagit heads

+ Hybrid heads
+ Floating tips for Skagit heads
+ Running lines
+ Cost effective approach
+ Learning to Spey cast
+ A final word

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