Airflo Skagit Switch Fly Line
Several of us at the Caddis Fly Shop have had the opportunity to fish the Airflo Skagit Switch Fly Line during 2011 and – if you can contain your excitement – I will report very briefly on my own experience as well as reaction from our customers and several of our Pro Staff here at the Fly Shop.
As an aside, but not an inconsequential note, all of these Skagit Switch fly lines by our friends at Airflo are marked not simply with a color coded loop at the business end of the line, but with a nice neat actually readable label showing the line type and grain weight of the line. This feature is really nice for us fuddle headed old timers who can’t remember what the color codes are.
First thing one might ask, is why fish a Skagit Switch instead of simply fishing a Skagit Compact? Good question. At about 25’, a Skagit Compact is pretty short already, and going down to 20’ or so (depending on the grain weight) does not, at first blush, seem like much of a difference.
Wrong. It turns out that a shorter Skagit head really elevates (ups, improves, makes superior, and such forth) the level at which a relatively short (sub 12′) Spey rod will perform, and this is especially true on genuine switch rods in the 10-11′ range. My first hint that this might be the case came last winter, fishing with my friend Jeff Hickman. I was fishing a Burkheimer 7115-4 with a 510 gr Airflo Skagit Compact and casting adequately, for my skill level. Jeff wanted to check out my gear and politely mused that performance might be improved with a shorter head and maybe even going down to 480 grains. I was interested, I listened, but I had no such line on hand so simply continued fishing. But Jeff’s comment/question nagged at the back of my mind.
Spring Chiook season put a halt to my Spey casting even though I continued to fish this Burkie along side an Echo 8 wt Switch Rod. Both rods were fished with shooting heads and integrated lines like the Airflo 40 Plus, the Airflo Sniper, Rio and SA shooting heads, Airflo Ridge Clear lines, and Rio Outbound and Outbound Short lines.
September found me unexpectedly in BC, with seven straight days to do absolutely nothing but fish for summer steelhead with Spey and Switch rods. This was not only pure concentrated steelhead fishing time, it was also pure play-time when I could explore new lines, fiddle with flies at the vise every night, and smooth my rusty skill sets.
BTW, the anonymous angler above, is not me. I am tall, slender, muscular, and quite recognizable as an expert on the river. The steelhead is not a BC fish, being far too small for such, but is most likely a fine summer fish from a secret river within 45 minutes of the Caddis Fly Shop, but it might have been caught on an Airflo Skagit Switch line, but possibly not, because the rest of the Pro staff are just now catching on (play on words) to this fly line, and besides, they are occasionally known to fish dreaded nymphs under strike indicators, then with an Airflo Speydicator Fly Line .
Two fly line facts stood out clearly on this trip. First, the Airflo Rage Compact Fly Line earned a dedicated fly reel spool for dry line fishing in wind and when throwing bushy wind resistant skaters. Second, and to the point in this review, is that the Airflo Skagit Switch Fly Line upped my game to levels that made my jaw drop, when fished on my Burkheimer 7115-4 and the Echo 8 wt Switch rod. People who have fished with me know that I am a Spey caster of what I would call average skill – and I sure ain’t no Tom Larimer, Jeff Hickman, or Rob Russell, or ……. well, you get the idea. I may shine or struggle on each cast. But unequivocally, both Airflo fly lines, the Rage Comact and Skagit Switch – combined with my normal human being casting skills, allowed me to make presentations that were previously waaaaaay outside of my comprehension.
A few fishing stories and more tech details on the Skagit Switch are in the Product Description section of the Caddis Fly Internet Catalog, where these fly lines are available in grain weights from 360 to 540. That range should pretty well cover the 5-8 wt range more or less, depending on your rod’s temperament and your casting style. If you care to go to the Caddis Fly Internet Catalog you can read more about this line and perhaps enjoy a little entertainment too. I highly recommend that anyone who fishes sub- 12′ two handers consider giving this Airflo Skagit Switch Fly Line serious consideration. I have only fished sink tips with this Skagit Switch head, but wonder if a floating Airflo Poly leader, or Rio floating Versileader would cast well, or at least well enough? I have fished T-14, Rio 15′ sink tips, Airflo Fast Sink Poly leaders in 10′ and 14′, and Mow Tips of heavy and medium configuration on this line. More to think about when fishing close quarters with shorter two hand and switch rods, eh?
Post Script: Found a few photos on a wet camera card left over from my BC summer steelhead trip. I have dropped these in for fun below with brief interpretive text for each. Since I wrote this post in October, I have found the Airflo Skagit Switch fly line very useful fishing for Chinook – paired with Rio MOW tips strung on an 8 wt. Echo Ion Switch rod. The effective combination has been a 480 gr Skagit Switch, a Rio MOW T 11 with 5′ floating + 5′ sink tip, and an Echo Ion fly reel. This has offered fly presentation advantages near underwater obstructions, allowing me to fish a floating line and put my fly deep right along the fly grabbing / fish holding structure. A standard shooting head starts to swing and drag my fly away from the giant fly eating fish immediately after hitting the water, but the floating Skagit Switch with the Rio MOW tip allows me to mend and keep just the business end of my line and leader in the zone where I imagine salmon are cruising. Nice.
Not all BC steelhead are found in broad classic boulder studded runs that provide perfect casting conditions for two hand fly rods. This is one of the tactical situations I encountered in BC: tight, in-close boulders under a canopy of alders. This called for two rods I carried on the trip. An Echo 8 wt. Switch rod and Burkheimer 7115-4, both fished with an Airflo Skagit Switch and MOW tip.
A beautiful, mysterious BC summer steelhead from the Upper Dean River. This fish is now probably taking advantage of higher flows and making its way to upriver spawning areas.
BC, stream-side lunch, September 2011. Thanks Mike.
Burkheimer 7133-4 and 7115-4, matched with Saracione fly reels and Airflo Rage and Airflo Skagit Switch lines. Blatant commercialism at its finest. Ha ha.