Have you recently heard the terms shooting heads, floating tips, commando heads, sink tips, or skagit casting? It seems these terms are becoming more common along the banks of the local trout streams. The folks over at Olympic Peninsula Skagit Tactics or OPST are part of the reason for these trending techniques. OPST is a growing fly fishing brand based in the Pacific Northwest. They specialize in developing line systems for anglers around the concept of Skagit Casting. This type of casting and line setups had been a preferred method for targetting anadromous fish like salmon and steelhead. But, in the recent years, their line systems have translated to all applications of fly fishing being a popular line system for many anglers here in the Western Rockies.
What is Skagit Casting?
“Skagit Casting is the most recently innovated “Spey” or anchor-based type of casting. It is our (OPST) preferred methodology because of its wide latitude of angling versatility. It is distinguished from other Spey-type styles of casting by its use of a casting mechanism known as the Sustained Anchor. The Sustained Anchor is key to Skagit casting versatility and we here at OPST strive to optimize that effect by utilizing SAS (Sustained Anchor Systemology). By concentrating on SAS, the utmost potential of Skagit casting is achieved. We call the entire concept “Pure Skagit”.”
“From casting delicate soft hackles out 60 feet with a 3 weight, to blasting four inch weighted steelhead flies through sideways wind and rain, to bouncing heavily-weighted crayfish patterns into wood-lined bank pockets for smallmouth- it can all be accomplished through the use of Pure Skagit. This is one casting concept that can effectively meet the demands of many different angling situations. This singular focus also equates to a quicker route of learning and achieving effective casting consistency and proficiency.”
The video above shows exactly how versatile and simple the casting techniques and line system is. In my mind it is just a glorified version of the roll cast. The creative “Pure Skagit” style can be utilized on a variety of different conditions on numerous rivers. So how what makes up a line system like this and how would you set it up?
How to Setup the Line System:
So you are contemplating trying out the “Pure Skagit” method of fly fishing and want to get the right line setup. Unlike a normal weight forward floating fly line, the OPST setups are split up into three parts, the running line, commando head, and sinking/floating tips. The different parts of the line system allow for versatile out on the water to adjust to the changing conditions.
The Lazar Line (Running Line)
OPST’s model of running line is called Lazar Line. The line connects to the backing and then to the shooting head or Commando Head. The purpose of the Lazar Line it to shoot line out of the guides as fast and efficient as possible. Like other running line’s there is no taper to the line. The Lazar Line is made of monofilament, it is very supple, slick and memory free, making it very simple to handle. Lazar Line comes in 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 pound test. It comes in green, pink and orange. A loop to loop connection is what connects the Lazar Line to the backing and commando head.
The Commando Head (Shooting Head)
Commando Tip or Micro Tips (Sink or Floating Tip)
The final part of the Commando System is the Commando Tip. The Commando tips are connected to the commando head with a loop to loop connection (The command head and commando tips have pre-welded loops). These tips add the element of versatile to the equation. You can adjust your tips based on the conditions you are fishing. If you are fishing a deep fast run, the heavier weighted tips are preferred. Or if you are swinging caddis soft hackles through pocket water the lighter tips are the way to go. I even use the floating tip when I’m nymphing, making this system very versatile to all changing conditions out there on the water.
The Commando Tips are 12 feet long, and they come in three different grain weights- 96, 132 and 168 Grains (which equal 8, 11, and 14 grains per foot) to match a variety of different rods. There are three different sink rates- a slow, medium and fast sinking version, the Riffle, Run and Bucket series. “The back half of the tip sinks one sink rate slower than the front half. This prevents a belly effect and allows for a more direct connection between you and your fly.”
After you have the tip selected all it takes is your preferred size and brand of tippet. OPST has also developed a line of fluorocarbon tippet that is perfect to complete this setup.
Choosing the Correct Size Setup:
So you have finally decided on a rod to setup as your “Pure Skagit” casting machine. OPST has this nifty line chart (pictured below) to help you figure out which size commando heads and tips you should line your rod with.
Benefits of Skagit Tactics
- It’s Fun! Anyone that has tried out some sort of spey casting technique understands the casting element is enjoyable. It is fun to try out the different Skagit style casts. The OPST setups are also easier to cast than your traditional Scandi style spey setups. As the taper of the line shorter and fatter, sort of like comparing a streamer or nymph line to a dry fly line.
- It’s Versatile! The tip systems allow you to switch tips in a matter of minutes. If the streamer bite slows down and you decide to toss on the nymph rig you can easily do this by switching out the tip.
- It’s Effective! The ability to bomb a 40 foot cast across a river with brush behind you opens up many new opportunities for anglers. It can result in more hookups based on the ability to effectively fish certain types of water.
- It’s Affordable! All said and done the setup is only around $100.00. The Lazar Line is $31.95, the Commando Head is $54.95 and the tips range from $15.00-25.00.
Be sure to check out our online store for the full selection of our OPST line. Or feel free to call or email the shop if you have any questions about getting this line system set up on one of your rods.
Patrick Perry, @patperry, Former Guide and Content Contributor