One of the most confusing aspects of Spey casting is lines (and tips). Unfortunately, this has carried over to Trout Spey as well. This article is meant to accompany our Trout Spey Shootout and not to provide an in-depth analysis, review or explanation of every [trout] Spey line on the market. If you’re new to Spey, you should check out this video, which will give you a more basic understanding of Spey lines.
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While originally designed in the Pacific NW to cast big flies and sink tips for Steelhead, Skagit lines have evolved into the most versatile of Spey lines. They are easy to cast and fun to fish and definitely what we’d recommend using for your Trout Spey rod. Paired with the right tip, a Skagit line will give you maximum versatility from your Trout Spey.
Airflo Skagit Scout: The Skagit Scout is Airflo’s answer to OPST. It’s a great line designed by our buddy Tom Larimer. While this line wasn’t any longer than SA or Rio, it *feels* like a longer line and it was our recommended line for longer rods like the Loomis. If you’re blowing your anchors, try this line. Length @ 240gr: 15’
Rio InTouch Skagit Trout Spey: Rio’s latest and greatest Trout Skagit which replaces the Skagit Trout Max in their lineup. It’s a really great line that works well on most Trout Spey rods. Being a low stretch line, you’ll get more performance out of this line in terms of hook sets as well. Buy this if you’re a Rio fan and/or if you like the low-stretch nature of the line. *Important* While we tested with SA’s line, we found no significant difference between SA and Rio’s Trout Skagit lines and recommend this line in the same grain weight as the SA line. Length @ 250gr: 14’
SA Spey Lite Skagit: SA’s answer to Rio is the Spey Lite series. We found that this Skagit worked really well on most of the rods we tested, and, while it’s actually the shortest head we tested, it felt very similar to the 15’ Rio line. If you’re searching for a line, this is a great place to start. Length @ 240gr: 13’
OPST Pure Skagit Commando Head: OPST arguably started the whole Trout Spey revolution by being the first to put out super-short Skagit heads that make it possible to use single hand and short Spey rods for trout fishing. Unfortunately, OPST wasn’t our favorite line on any of the rods in the test – it just fishes too short for a longer rod. It’s a fantastic line if you’re fishing either a single hand rod or a shorter trout Spey (the too-late-to-test OPST 3wt is 9’9”). If you’re going with an OPST, don’t forget that you’ll need to go down in grain weight. We recommend starting with 50gr less than you’d fish with SA. Length @ 200gr: 13.5’
Scandi lines were designed in Europe for Atlantic salmon fishing. They are essentially a shorter and easier-to-cast version of traditional Spey lines. In the world of Trout Spey, Scandi lines are *very* new. Unfortunately, we found that Scandi lines are not yet up to the level of their Skagit cousins and for most people and rods, we’d recommend waiting for the next generation of rods/lines before giving these a go. If you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll want to consider a “Trout Scandi” line if you: 1. Mostly fish soft hackles and lightly or unweighted streamers, 2. Want to fish a full floating line, and 3. You like to Single Spey and Snake Roll.
SA Spey Lite Scandi: This was our line of choice for most of the rods we tested. It’s a short, easy-to-cast Scandi line. With the exception of the Sage HD, none of the rods we tested were all that great at Scandi casting, but for those that want to dabble, this line gets the job done on all of the shorter rods. It’s important to note that we didn’t find any significant difference between this and the Rio InTouch Trout Spey, so go with whichever brand you prefer. Length @ 300gr: 24’
Rio InTouch Trout Spey: Rio’s take on a ‘Trout Scandi’. We really couldn’t tell much difference between this and the SA version, but being a low-stretch line, you’ll likely get better hook sets with this line. See above for more info. Length @ 300gr: 23’
Rio Scandi Short: The Scandi Short is Rio’s go-to Scandi line for shorter Spey rods and Switch rods. Recently, they’ve also started making this in Trout Spey grain weights (down to 180gr). If you find yourself blowing your anchor or you have a longer rod (like the Loomis), you’ll want this line. It’s substantially longer than the two Trout Scandi’s. Length @ 300gr: 31’
Every Skagit line requires a tip. For our shootout, we paired a variety of tips with the Skagit heads and determined that a 10’ tip was the best combination of casting ease and fishability. For most fishing situations, we recommend a 10’ Versileader/Polyleader. These tips are very light and will work great for swinging wets and small streamers.
If your head feels a little light, you want to fish deeper, and/or turn over bigger flies, we recommend stepping up to a Light MOW tip. At 80 grains, these may seem like too much for a 3wt, but we found (generally speaking) it worked well on all the heads we tested. Sure, we’d prefer a 50-60gr version, but until that comes out, Light MOW tips are a great option.
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