How to choose either a Skagit style or Scandinavian style shooting head for your Two-Handed spey rod. By Whitney Gould
Fly casting is as important as the techniques it takes to catch a fish. When done right, it’s an elegant act, something beautiful to feel and watch. It is a worthy pursuit to aspire to, and a great pastime which can take someone outside of themselves for a moment. The art of fly casting embodies a learned new skill that will provide a better understanding of an attainable goal; catching a fish.
The Fly Casting Instructor
My task as an instructor is to build the beginner’s trust and understanding of their own abilities so that they can explore fly casting with confidence. Confidence is gained by feeling and understanding the specific movements that make a fly rod work, a feeling that can be repeated again and again. This solid foundation allows participants to learn other elements of fly fishing and to improve their abilities as anglers. It also allows for one to choose equipment that suits their learned style of fly casting. Never underestimate the perfectly balanced fly rod, fly reel and fly line combo. When choosing a set up I go for something that feels right, I don’t have to think about it. The last thing I want to think about while fishing is wether or not I have the correct fly line for the task at hand. I want to be in the moment of fishing.
Whitney pictured with her Epic 411 Trout Spey
How to choose either a Skagit Style or Scandinavian Style shooting head for your Two-Hand Fly Rod.
For the purpose of this article Im going to stick with a standard 6 weight two-handed spey rod. If I go to buy a fly line I can choose between a Scandinavian style head (Scandi) and a Skagit Style head. What’s the difference? Both Lines are the same grain weights overall, but have different tapers, consistent with their intended use. They are available in integrated and non-integrated versions.
Scandi style heads are longer and finer than the skagit style heads, and are complete with long, tapered leader. The length of the leader is dependent on the length of the fly rod. Common belief is that the leader length is to be one and half the length of the fly rod.
Skagit style heads are shorter but have more grains per foot. The weight of the fly line allows you to cast heavier sink tips, and larger flies with a positive turnover. They require a sink or floating tip. The tip acts as a forward taper and completes the fly line. Because the sink tip is heavier in mass, a non-tapered, a straight monofilament leader in length is used to attach the fly. The weight of the mono is dependent on the weight of the fly and the size of the fish. For length I use somewhere in between 3 and 5 feet.
Scandi heads are designed to throw, near surface, smaller flies. As stated earlier, a true Scandi line is finished with a long tapered leader.
It is a line designed for “airborne anchor” casts – casts such as the single spey and snake roll. Longer line results in a longer casts.
Skagit Style Heads are designed to cast sink and floating tips. It is a line designed for the waterborne cast such as the double spey, circle spey and the snap-t cast.
The fly in the Scandi ointment
There is always a fly in the ointment, and here is my observation. Fly line manufacturers are beginning to blend the two lines. In my opinion, many Scandi style lines are no longer true scandi lines. This is not a bad thing, just an observation. They are becoming thicker in diameter, which makes them perfect for both the airborne anchor casts and waterborne cast. There are also sink tips built specifically for Skandi style heads. They are thinner in diameter than the skit and often have a taper.
Regardless of manufacturing, both styles of shooting heads require a running or shooting line. The running line is what enables you to control your fly line and fly. The running line is thinner in diameter than the fly line. Mono running lines make for a thinner diameter line. Perfect for distance. Coated running lines are a fly line style of shooting line. Thicker in diameter. Easy to handle. Great for fishing in the cold!
WHITNEY GOULD. FLY ANGLER | GUIDE | CAPTAIN
“Fly fishing isn’t about catching the most fish. If it was, none of us would be fly fishers to begin with. It’s about catching fish on your own terms. Spey tackle offers a different perspective on traditional trout fishing. It challenges you to come up with new solutions to old problems. Spey has become the means of targeting trout that I not only find the most rewarding, but also the most interesting.”
- Whitney Gould, Spey Tackle and Techniques For Montana Trout, Fly Fisherman Magazine, April 2020
Whitney currently guides for HeadHunters Fly shop on the Missouri River in Montana. She is an angler, full-time fishing guide, casting instructor and part-time painter. She has a degree in Painting from Temple School of Fine Arts and a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design. Fishing allows Whitney to merge her creativity with her love for fishing and the outdoors.
Whitney is a seven-time Spey-O-Rama World Casting Champ and is an FFI Certified Casting Instructor.
Whitney serves as a visiting guide for Warriors and Quiet Waters, a therapeutic program that takes post- 9/11 combat veterans, their caretakers, and their families fishing. Angling enriches people’s lives by generating deep connections to the fish and river against Montana’s backdrop of amazing spaces.
Epic is Whitney’s fly rod of choice. "Well constructed and durable, Epic is an elegant workhorse that generates a smooth flow and a superb cast. These rods store energy quickly and efficiently and perform brilliant spey casts. Whitney also thinks the color variety is sweet."