Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Airflo Skagit Switch

The idea of Switch Rods was brilliant…  Build a rod that can do everything from Spey casting to overhead casting.  –They’re the perfect tools for small and medium sized steelhead rivers.  Problem is, the industry gave us these new toys but forgot to build fly lines that were actually fun to cast on them.

Enter the new Airflo Skagit Switch.  A while back I approached Tim Rajeff, (the US distributor for Airflo fly lines and general bad-ass caster) with the problem we were having with other switch lines on the market.  –Switch rods are designed more like a traditional single hand rod taper… They’re fast in the butt section and flex progressively through the tip giving the caster the ability to overhead cast them.  However, a Spey rod taper is typically slower in the butt section and faster through the tip section.  This allows the caster to form the D-Loop and change the direction of the cast without the rod wanting to unload too quickly. The load is sustained through the whole casting cycle until the cast goes outbound.  It’s the reason why Spey casting feels so good! 

Because switch rods want to unload so quickly, we needed to find a way to slow them down giving the caster the same sensation they get from their traditional Spey rod. Until now, there hasn't been a fly line that sustained the load on the faster tapers of most switch rods.  This is why it’s been difficult (and not fun) to perform double Speys and snap-T casts with the lines currently on the market. For those of you that have tried switch rods with what's been available, you’ve probably noticed “touch and go casts” like single Speys and snake rolls work alright.  However, if you want to jack a snap-T with a big sink-tip and a heavy fly you better bring a football helmet.  Yes, you could do it… No, it wasn't fun.  

Before we started our design process, we talked with some very influential anglers to give us input on the new line.  On the West Coast, legendary caster and angler Mariusz Wroblewski helped us with prototype design and testing.  Tim & I travelled to the Great Lakes to get input from some of the best Midwest steelhead guides.  Dave Pinzcowski, Jeff Hubbard, Jay Neiderstadt, John Kluesing, Ted Kraimer, Kevin Feenstra and Brian Pitser gave us their insights on the challenges of the Great lakes fisheries.   Like many small West Coast rivers, they deal with super clear water and spooky fish.  While many of their rivers are small, they still need to throw big flies and heavy sink-tips in ultra tight casting conditions. -We needed to consider the demands of both fisheries in order to make the ultimate switch line.  After a lot of thought and a couple of prototypes, we came up with the solution to the switch rod problem.

Tim Rajeff & Jay Neiderstadt on Michigan's Big Manistee

The new line has a huge rear diameter and two-foot rear taper.  This helps sustain the load on the rod giving the caster that sweet feeling of Spey casting we all love.  The front taper is a big 7’ wedge that turns over your biggest tips and heaviest flies.  Like all Airflo lines, the polyurethane coating is supple -yet tough.  This line was built to make switch rods not only fun to cast, but to make them legitimate fishing tools.  Plus, the heads go from 540 grains down to 360 grains in 30 grain increments.  Although we built this line for anglers chasing steelhead & salmon, the smaller sizes are perfect for trout anglers looking to swing streamers on switch rods.  All of the heads are marked on the loop sleeve telling you what the line is and the grain weight. If you’re a fan of the Airflo Skagit Compact, you will love this line!

As a side note, I’ve been fishing the head on full-length Spey rods as well.  While I love the Skagit Compacts, the Skagit Switch gives you the ability to throw your biggest junk with zero back casting room.  If you fish with tight casting conditions but still want the distance and control of a longer rod, this head will make your life really good.  That said, I probably wouldn’t put it on a rod longer than 13’6.  This line will really shine on short, fast rods. Think 11'9 to 13' sticks that you love but are tough to cast.  That said, Mariusz thinks the 480 on a 13'6 #7 weight is the best Skagit line he's ever cast!  As a general rule of thumb, go 30 grains lighter than what you normally fish in a Skagit Compact.  If you fish a 540 Skagit on your rod, go to a 510 grain in the Switch.

-Tom Larimer

We’ll have two full sets of the heads at our Spey Casting Schools on April 30th

Airflo Skagit Switch

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