Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fishing Fast Sinking Line with Double Hand Rod

On a recent trip to fish for jungle Perch (Sebarau) in the Malaysian jungle, I was advised by my good friend Nick to fish deep using fast sinking line casting split tail Clousers. And so a few weeks before the trip I dug out my old trusty BIIMx 6wt single hander, blew off the dust and started practicing to get back some form.

It has been a long while since I casted a single hander. Of late, I have been fishing exclusively with two hand rods and I thought it might be prudent to practice single hand casting before the trip. I paired the rod with a Albright XXT fast sink line and started zipping away. Before long it struck me.... single hand casting with fast sink line is just no fun. Unlike casting a floating or intermediate line, the finesse is not there. It's a chuck and duck affair.

My mind started drifting back to my double hand rod again. I kept thinking if only I could make fast sinking line work with a double hander. So I started tinkering ....set in my mind was this fast sinking Skagit head. Fast sink lines are notoriously hard to Spey cast because they stick to the water like glue and is hard to extract on the sweep. Undeterred, I chugged away with a formula in mind.

Digging through my old fly lines, I found an Albright XXT 350 grain 25ft shooting head (6-7 ips) that hardly see daylight. I knew 350 grain load my Sage ONE 4wt switch rod well and so that line gets to go under the knife. First, I snipped off the running line.... never quite like that sticky running line. Then to create an aggressive taper, I folded the rear 5ft of the body back to itself and secured the whole length with 50lb hollow core braid. That effectively shortened the head to 20 ft. Then to the front end, I attached a 7ips RIO 10ft versileader and the rear end loop-to-loop to my favorite running line.

As it turned out, this contraption way exceeded my expectation. I had 4 days of fishing from a boat chasing jungle Perch and this line roll cast like a champ. I was easily covering 80+ ft with roll cast and 100 ft cast with a Perry poke is easy. In fact I find that it roll cast farther than some of my Ambush line. Maybe because this fast sink line cuts through the wind like butter. The only adjustment I had to make when doing Perry poke is to do the speed poke. This photo below shows me casting from the front end of the boat.

The diagram below shows how I constructed the fast sink Skagit head from a 25 ft fast sink shooting line meant for single hander. Alternatively the folded segment can be secured by fusing/welding them together under heat and shrink tube. You can refer to the this Youtube video on how to do that.

Here is another good size jungle perch caught in Khao Sok, Thailand using fast sinking Skagit head.

**16 Jul 2015 update:
RIO has since come out with a RIO Scandi Body S4 that is fairly fast sinking. I have tested this line and it is good for both Skagit and Scandi casting. You can find my review of this line here <RIO Scandi S4 Review>

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fishing with Ultralight Switch Rod

I have been advocating ultralight switch rod since 2010 so when I did a web survey recently on 3wt switch rods, I was pleasantly surprised to see 3wt Switch offering by Echo and Mystic Rods. Echo came out with a new 3wt 10'6" SR Switch rod and Mystic has a 3wt M-series Switch rod at 11'3". Those interested can check out the Mystic 3wt review at 2handedtrout blog.

** May 2014 update: Here is another review of the Mystic 3wt Switch
** Feb 2015 update: Winston now has a 3wt Microspey rod and Echo has a 3wt Echo Glass Switch rod
** Aug 2015 update: Sage now has a 2wt & 3wt Sage ONE Trout Spey 

Being the adventurous pioneering sort, I was one of the very few who dabbled in a 3wt Switch rod in the early days. Back in 2010, there were non in the market and I had to fiddle around to get a set up working. When TFO came up with the BVK series of 10 ft Czech nymphing rod in 2011, I jumped at the opportunity. I took a 10ft BVK 3wt and converted it to a Switch rod by adding a 6" removable bottom handle making it a total of 10'6". This outfit gave me great pleasure when going after smallish fish in my local waters. This early blog post shows me taking my new toy out for a swing.

I started out this rod with a 235 grain Ambush line but found it a bit too heavy. Subsequently, I custom made an intermediate sink Skagit line for this rod by splicing 12 ft belly of an old Hardy type 2 line (approx 140 grain) to the tip 18ft section of 4wt SA Stillwater line. This turned out to be a great set-up for smallish Peacock bass and Tarpon.

Fast forward to 2013 and this rod has since seen great action with fish big and small. I found new respect for this rod recently when I went salt water pond fishing with it on 8lb tippet. Typically, a Barra will rub through the tippet in no time but this is when the Czech nymphing pedigree of this rod really shines. The forgiving tip really helps cushion and protect the tippet even when badly abraded. As long as you have a smooth drag and let the rod and reel combo do its magic, big fish can be landed in good time. Photos below show some of the fishes I successfully landed with this rod on light tippet.

I am also very impress with the butt power of this rod. When need be, and if the tippet strength allow, you can really yank the fish in, capitalizing on the butt power. So this rod is no longer a small fish rod in my book. I now have great confidence in this rod having tackle numerous big fish on it, including a Giant Trevally.

The key to really having fun with this rod is to keep the fly smallish and manageable. Surf candies, Charlies and small Clousers are very manageable with this rod. In case you need to cast heavier fly, this rod can single hand cast very well too as long as the line is not too heavy. My 140 grain line works great as a shooting head when single hand casting.

Here is a nice video of Ed Ward casting with a micro Skagit set up....essentially a 4/5 wt single hand rod converted to a double hand....great fun.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Choosing the Ideal Spey Line

Here is a good video by Simon Gawesworth of RIO on how to choose the ideal Spey line for your application. It covers the 2013 range of Spey lines by RIO and is very informative on the purpose and usage each of the Spey line type from Skagit to Scandi to traditional long belly Spey.

Most of RIO Spey lines do not come integrated with shooting / running line. You will have to buy a separate shooting line to loop to loop to your Skagit or Scandi head. Below is another video that covers the 2013 range of shooting lines by RIO to help you select the ideal shooting line for your application.

For those who like to read about buying the right line for their Spey/Switch rod, here is a good article by American Fly Fishing Co.

For those who are still not sure on whether to choose Skagit or Scandi heads, here  is an article by Whitney Gould on Skagit vs Scandi heads.

The more recent RIO Spey line that caught my attention is the RIO Scandi body. The profile of this line is very similar to my favorite Wulff Ambush line but it comes in the form of head only in 3 densities, floating, intermediate sink and 5ips sink rate. This line is very versatile because it can cast both Scandi and Skagit style equally well as long as you match it up with the appropriate Spey versileader.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pond Fishing with Two-handed Rod

Freshwater species caught with Sage ONE 4wt Switch rod

Recently my Thai fishing guide and long time friend told me that lots of his clients find it difficult to do fly fishing in stocked pond due to limited back room. Most of these ponds were not constructed with fly fishing in mind, so back cast room was never catered for in the pond construction. Most people find it challenging casting in such environment where raised platform, overhanging trees, bushes and man made structures cluttered the background. This prompted me to share my experience in this article.

Firstly, let me say up front that two hand rod is the most efficient tool for such fishing. It is precisely this type of environment that got me started on Spey casting in the first place. After a number of years of playing around with two hand rods ranging from 10.5 feet to 12.5 feet, I find switch rod around 11 ft best for the job since they are light and not too cumbersome. Two hand rods that are too long can be tiring and risk snagging on overhanging trees and other structures.

Next the line system is crucial. Too many people made the mistake of coming with Scandi type line or worst still, traditional long belly line that is ill suited for such fishing. From experience, I find short belly Skagit type line best for the job, with preference towards modern Skagit line with a good aggressive taper. The older generation of level Skagit line just does not have the taper to give good roll cast in very tight situation (small D-loop). If I have to recommend a good line, it would have to be the Wulff Ambush line or the RIO Skagit I-Flight. More recently, the RIO Scandi body (or Scandi versi-tip) that is more like a hybrid between Skagit and Scandi head may have also made it to the list.

Next comes the casting. There are 3 type of cast that I usually use in a pond, they are the wiggle roll cast, Perry poke and the static roll cast, depending on the condition. I use the wiggle roll cast whenever there is very little backroom and yet I want to get the distance. The first video here shows how the wiggle roll cast is performed.

When there is sufficient backroom for a Skagit cast, then Perry poke will give you the best distance. The video below shows how to perform a Perry poke while standing high on a platform.

If the situation is dire and you are really tight on back room, then the static roll cast will be your only choice. This is where a line like the Wulff Ambush or Skagit I-Flight really shines. Due to high concentration of mass near the tip of the rod, this line gives deep loading even with minimal D-loop and roll cast 50ft - 60ft easily. Below is a video showing the static roll cast.

** Tackle set up for these videos:  Sage ONE 4 wt Switch rod / Lamson Speedster 3.5 reel / Wulff Ambush line / 15ft RIO clear versileader + 10ft mono leader

Monday, June 3, 2013

Roll Cast vs Wiggle Roll Cast vs Switch Cast

Here is a video I made to demonstrate the difference between a static roll cast, a wiggle roll cast (WRC) and a switch cast. The switch cast is considered by many to be the foundation of all Spey cast. Roll cast is obviously necessary as well since all spey caster will need to roll out their line (taking out all the slack) in preparation for the actual Spey cast. The wiggle roll cast (WRC) on the other hand is a relatively new cast I invented for still water spey application and it is an excellent cast for situation where you have limited back room for a proper switch cast and yet want to get better distance than the conventional roll cast.

In this video, all three cast are executed one after another in succession so that you can directly compare and gain appreciation of  the difference between them. Note that the static roll cast has the smallest D-loop and the least energy in the D-loop. With the WRC, the D-loop did  not get very much bigger but has a lot more energy in it. That energy helps load the rod for a better cast. Last of all, the switch cast has the biggest and most energized D-loop and therefore produce the most powerful cast.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SAGE ONE 4wt Switch Rod Review

Saltwater Spey casting in Maldives

After some quality time with my new SAGE ONE 4116-4 and fishing with it extensively in my recent saltwater fly fishing trip, I think it is time I write a mini review on this rod. From the onset, I really like how this rod zing out the 350 grain Wulff Ambush line but that did not quite prepare me on how well this mini Spey rod perform in Maldives. For this trip, I matched the rod to a light weight Lamson Speedster reel and a 350 grain Wulff Ambush clear intermediate sink head.

We had 8 solid days of flats fishing in Maldives and I used the SAGE ONE 4 wt everyday except for day 3 when I decided to switched over to my trusty TFO Deer Creek (6wt Switch rod) casting the same 350 grain Ambush on Lamson Speedster. After just a few hours however, I began to feel weighed down and started yearning for the ONE. It also made me wish for a stiffer tip on my Deer Creek after noticing how much better the SAGE ONE 4116 turn over the fly with the final kick of the tip.

Anyhow, I switched back to SAGE ONE the very next day (and thereafter) and was happily feeling light again. Throughout the 8 days, this rod performed flawlessly in all kinds of condition. I know some may consider a 4 wt switch rod  too light for saltwater but in the case of ONE 4116, I think it is a champ for flats fishing.

I met condition where storm wind was so strong that it made it impossible to cast directly upwind but tightening up the loop with ONE 4116 was easy and that made it possible to cast quartering up-wind.

There were also situations where strong cross wind  from right/left shoulder made it impossible to set the anchor for the poke. In such cases, I found the Double Spey to be godsend. Just send the fly down wind, set the anchor upwind, sweep and go.

I casted Charlies, Clousers, crab fly, baitfish pattern throughout the trip and the ONE 4116 handles it all with aplomb. For heavier flies, I just have to remember to bring the anchor further in when doing the Speed Poke. That gave me a deep enough D-Loop / power to lift the heavy fly.

The ONE 4116 is light, fast recovery and yet regressive enough to feel the rod load. When a fish is on, I like how the rod bends well down giving a great feel. In short, the rod not only cast well but it also fish well. Overall, the SAGE ONE 4116-4 Switch is a winner.

Note: You can access all my blog post on saltwater spey by clicking on the "Saltwater Spey" link located on the right hand side under Labels.

Landing Bonefish with Sage ONE 4wt Switch rod

**Jul 2015 update:
Here is a review done by Simon Gawesworth on the Sage ONE 4116 switch rod.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spey casting in Saltwater

In a month's time, I will be heading to Maldives again. Maldives has become my annual pilgrimage destination for saltwater fly fishing. Last year I started  using Switch rod / Spey technique exclusively in saltwater with excellent result and this year I plan to do more of the same. Coming with me this year will be my new Sage ONE 4 wt Switch rod. Although a 4 wt may seem a little light for saltwater but the power level of Sage ONE is impressive. After proving itself on big freshwater catfish and carp in Thailand, I have no doubt the Sage ONE 4116 will perform well in Maldives. This rod will be loads of fun on Bonefish.

For those who have interest in venturing into saltwater Spey, here are some advice/guideline:
  1. Get yourself a good Switch rod. Any Switch rod that cast well with 350 grain to 400 grain Skagit line is ideal in my opinion. 400 grain will handle the wind much better. Typically a 6wt Switch rod will handle this grain window well.
  2. Get yourself a good Skagit line. My preference goes to Wulff Ambush clear intermediate line (350 grain - 400 grain). You can also opt for the floating Ambush line paired with with 15ft clear intermediate versileader/sinktip. A full intermediate Ambush line will however be more versatile in covering various depth.
  3. Stripping basket - this is a must for saltwater flats fishing as the waves/rocks/corals will wreak havoc on your fly line. The Orvis stripping basket is a favorite or you can DIY but make sure there are enough cones or "fingers" protruding upwards to prevent tangling.
  4. Learn to do the Speed poke. Of all the Spey technique, this is the one I find most effective in handling big heavy Clousers. Dumbell Clousers tend to sink fast and cause "stuck anchor" if not manage properly. The Speed Poke gives little time for the Clouser to sink thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the cast. Speed poke is also a godsend for intermediate sink line for the same reason.
Note: You can access all my blog post on saltwater spey by clicking on the "Saltwater Spey" link located on the right hand side under Labels.

I have recently updated my video to show the Speed Poke in slow motion as I have included in this post.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tongariro Roll Cast Revisited

Here is a much better video I found recently on the Tongariro roll cast. The Tongariro roll cast appears to have developed independently of the the Perry Poke but they are functionally the same.  It was developed in the Hydro pool of the New Zealand Tongariro river to effectively deliver heavy nymphs/bombs a good distance with little back cast room. For those who are interested, I found a detail write up of this cast here.

In still water spey casting, I face a similar challenge when trying to cast big water-pushing bait-fish flies with small switch rod set up. These flies tend to stick to the water like glue when you let it get a chance to sit too long in the water. Drawing from the inspiration of the Tongariro roll cast, Perry Poke and the Snap-T, I came up with a cast that I named Snap Poke. By combining the Snap-T with the Poke in one movement, the fly essentially never get a chance to sink much before it gets fired off. This way, I managed to cast pretty big flies with light 4/5 weight switch rod. I recently remade my Snap Poke video in slow motion and posted on Youtube as below.  Snap Poke is good choice when using floating Skagit head. For intermediate sink Skagit head, Speed Poke will be a better choice.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Selecting fly lines for Switch rod

Here is a good introductory video on how to select the right fly line for your Switch rod. A Switch rod can be used for either overhead casting or Spey casting. If you want to know more about Switch rod, please refer to my earlier post on Why Switch Rod .

To supplement this video, I am including a more comprehensive guideline below:

Lines suitable for Skagit Spey casting with Switch rod:
1) Wulff Ambush line - wonderful line that cast easy even with minimal D-loop. Available also in intermediate sink as Ambush Clear Head or the slower suspend sink Ambush Neutralizer.
2) RIO Skagit Short - good for turning over very big fly or very heavy sink tip but clunky
3) RIO Skagit Flight - a more refined version of the skagit short. Available in intermediate sink as Skagit iFlight.
4) SA Skagit Extreme - SA version of the Skagit Short but with a more refined front taper but still plenty powerful. Available also in intermediate sink.
5) Airflo Skagit Compact - a favourite of many skagit caster in the early days
6) Airflo Skagit Switch - a shorter version than Skagit Compact more in tune with Switch rod

Lines suitable for Scandi Spey casting with Switch rod:
1) Wulff Ambush line - make sure you match it with a 15ft floating or clear Versileader before attempting Scandi casting with this line or it will prove too short
3) RIO Scandi Short - this line was designed after AFS to cater to shorter Switch rod
4) RIO Switch line - this line has long back taper suitable for mending but not so good for shooting line
5) RIO Steelhead Scandi - designed for rods 13 ft or less. Long 22ft front taper design supposed give better presentation.
6) SA Scandi Extreme - a very long front taper scandi line.
7) Airflo Scandi Compact

Lines suitable for double hand overhead casting with Switch rod:
1) RIO Outbound short - 30ft head. Comes in floating and intermediate sink; tropical or cold water formulation.
2) AIRFLO Forty Plus - 35ft head. Comes in floating and multiple sink version.
3) Wulff Ambush line - This line is so versatile that it can shoot with the best of them. Just match it with a 10ft versileader to form a 30ft head and shoot away.

Lines suitable for indicator nymphing with Switch rod:
1) RIO Switch line - the long back taper ensures easy mending
2) AIRFLO Speydicator - with 12- 15 ft rear taper for good mending.
3) Wulff Ambush line - This line works great for indicator nymphing as well. It will turn over heavy flies easily even in tight quarter.