Reels are the least important component of a single-hand Skagit system for trout, but there are a few factors, largely related to choice of running line, that are worth considering.
Reels for Mono Running Lines
When using thin monofilament running lines, a reel with a full cage design will eliminate the risk of pull-through, i.e. running line squeezing between frame and spool. Although one could probably get by with a reduced cage reel with a low cage to spool tolerance, there is always the chance of a blow-out with a good fish. While most purpose made Spey reels have full cages, they are designed for heavy heads and to balance long two-handed rods, and consequently are too large and too heavy for 9 - 10 ft single hand sticks.
A large arbour reduces coiling of both mono running lines and Skagit heads. The higher rate of line retrieval is also helpful when getting rid of loose running line once a fish is hooked, especially when stripping flies, or when a fish turns and swims back toward the angler. Reels with wider arbors are less prone to line stack with thick Skagit heads, and they tend to have larger arbours, and hence higher retrieve rates for a given diameter.
An excellent large-arbour, full-cage, machine-cut reel for 5 wt single-hand outfits (180 -200 grain) is the Danielsson F3W 4Seven (dia. 3.75”). This reel is also perfect for 7wt outfits (240 - 300 grain heads) when loaded with 50 m of mono running line and 100 m of 50 lb gelspun backing (dia. 0.33mm).
For Skagit heads less than 200 grains and rods 9 ft or shorter, I use the Danielsson F3W 2six. This 3.4” large arbour reel easily accommodates a 180 grain head and a floating tip, when loaded with 75 meters of gelspun backing and 30 meters of mono running line. To my eye, the smaller reel looks better on 8-9 ft 4-5 wt single hand rods without fighting butts, and the wider than average spool reduces line stacking with thick Skagit heads.
Danielsson Fly Reels are made in Sweden, built to last a lifetime and nowadays are sold direct from the factory via the internet. These classic large arbor reels were originally produced in collaboration with Loop, and now have drag systems that are waterproof to 100 meters depth and use composite disks (not pure carbon) that do not break down under extreme temperatures.
Danielsson F3W reels spin like roulette wheels, which enables rapid retrieval of loose running line by slapping the wide rim of the reel when a fish is on - especially important when using skinny mono running lines and stripping streamers. Models appropriate for micro-Skagit cost around $175 US.
The Sage Trout 4/5/6 (3.5” dia.) and Trout Spey 1/2/3 (3.7” dia.) reels are also great options for single-hand Skagit outfits. These machined full-cage reels, released in 2019, have a classic retro look, but underneath the round-hole porting lies a concave large arbor and modern sealed drag system. Rock solid and incredibly smooth, they retail for around $375 US.
Reels for Braided Running Lines
A full cage reel is less important for single hand micro-Skagit outfits when using running lines with larger diameters. Miracle braid is substantially thicker than 25-35 lb monofilament running lines, and I have used it on several reels with reduced cages and low spool-frame tolerances, without any problems.
An important consideration when using thicker running lines is reel capacity, as they take more space. There are three main options for accommodating backing, running line and head:
a. Use 50 lb gelspun braid (dia.~ 0.33 mm) to reduce backing volume – 8 strand braid works best for backing because, being round and smooth, it is less likely to cut fingers.
b. Cut the running line in half if it is 50 yards long - 25 yards is more than enough for most single hand micro-Skagit applications.
c. Purchase a larger reel, e.g. Danielsson L5W 6nine, or Sage Trout Spey 3/4/5.
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|