Monday, August 22, 2011

Airflo Rage Compact -TL's thoughts on design

The Rage Compact -Airflo's newest floating Spey head.
Working as a fly line designer for Airflo the past few years has been a great privilege.  We've built a solid family of Spey lines including the Skagit Compact for sink-tip fishing, the Scandi Compact for finesse dry line work, the Tactical Steelhead for those that appreciate a longer casting stroke and want the versitility of a multi-tip line, and the new Skagit Switch -Which is by far the best sink-tip line for switch rods and shorter Spey rods.  However, there was a void in the line-up.

I've always loved Scandi heads for floating line presentations.  From the moment I first cast them over ten years ago, I grooved on the line speed and tight loops I could throw.  However, Scandi heads have their faults.  First, they suck in the wind.  The long, delicate front taper which gives Scandi's there finesse-like feel, crumbles in even a modest breeze.  Not sure if it isn't windy in Europe, but the summer steelhead rivers I guide -mostly the Deschutes and the Klickitat, are windy places.  As are every other big western river.  The other problem with Scandi heads is they struggle to turn-over foam skaters and large wet flies.  (Yes, I know you can do it... But it's not fun.)  There just isn't enough mass in the front of the line to give the caster sufficient turn-over.  As long as I'm ragging on Scandi heads... Another shortcoming is that most anglers struggle when they switch from their Skagit to their Scandi.  These lines cast so dramatically different!  I hate watching anglers waste precious fishing time trying to shift gears!

So why not just put a floating tip on a Skagit and call it good?  Good question!  The problem is when you cast a Skagit with a sink-tip, most of the sink-tip is in the water during the D-Loop formation.  The caster is effectively feeling the load of the Skagit head alone.  When you loop on a floating tip, you need to arialize more D-loop.  Consequently, you feel the weight of the Skagit plus the 60-some grains in the floating tip.  -60 grains is an entire line size!  Ever notice your floating tip makes your rod feel mushy?  And, its awfully easy to throw a tailing loop.  That's because your rod can't handle the added grain weight in the D-loop.  The Skagit + floating tip was a band-aid solution to a bigger problem.

What I really wanted was a Spey line built for surface and near-surface presentations that bucked like a Skagit but still had the finesse of a Scandi.  Tim Rajeff, the US. distributor of Airflo and over-all fly casting guru, gave me the green light to start working on a new breed of line.  With the help of Tim and the design team at Rajeff Sports, we came up with the answer to all of our problems.

The new Airflo Rage Compact is the perfect floating line to compliment your Skagit Compact.  To be blunt, it is by far the best floating line I've ever cast.  As a general rule of thumb, line your rod 30 grains lighter than your Skagit.  If you like a faster -livelier feel to your floating line and have a very bottom-hand dominant stroke, go 60 grains lighter.  Either way, the thing jacks!  Like all of Airflo's Spey heads, the line comes in 30 grain increments and is available in 360 grains to 600 grains.  I recommend using a 10' Airflo Poly Leader with 2' to 4' of tippet.  I fish an intermediate leader even with skaters.

Awesome for sinking Poly Leaders
If you fish shallower rivers in the West like the John Day or smaller rivers in the Great Lakes, the Rage will easily handle a sinking Poly Leader and an unweighted fly.  It's a great line on rivers where a full blown sink-tip is overkill.  I wouldn't try casting a big weighted bug, but it'll jack an unweighted tube a mile.

The Rage is also a killer floating line for switch rods!
I was blown away how well this thing casts on a switch stick.  Line it exactly the same as your Skagit Switch.  Just for reference, most #7 weight switch rods are taking a 450 grain head.  It made me re-think the rods i'll be fishing this fall!

Airflo's new loop labels...
A new feature on all Airflo Spey lines is our labeling of line type/size on the front loop, plus the old color coded system.  Now you have an easy way of identifying your Spey lines!

Smart... Very smart.

If you love the feel of casting Skagit heads and want a floating line that cuts through the wind, turns over with total ease and doesn't take a PHD. in casting to make it huck, give the new "Rage" a try.  I guarantee it will elevate your floating line casting and fishing.

-Tom Larimer






53 comments:

  1. Sounds great. And,why didn't someone put a label on the lines like that before?????Your the man! I guess a 400 would be the one for a 6110 sage switch.

    Beau

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  2. Tom, how does it do with airborne casts (single spey and snake roll)?

    Mark

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  3. Beau,
    Thanks for the note. My guess (I haven't cast it yet) is the 6100 Sage would take either a 420 or 390 -Depending on how you like your rod to load. The 420 will give be a fat, groovy load -And the 390 will be fast and sporty.
    Happy casting!

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  4. Mark,
    It hucks with singles and snakes. Just make sure you keep a nice "Compact" stroke and let her fly. The head length is 32' to 28' long. If you're used to casting a Scandi, it will jam for you.
    Good luck!
    -TL

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  5. Thanks for the reply! What length and grain weight will match a Z Axis 6126? I love scandi lines

    Mark

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  6. I would try a 420 grain Rage. It wouldn't surprise me if the 390 cast well on that stick either.

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  7. Tom,

    sounds like a great product! I wonder if you can put up the line shape/ configuration for us? I would love to see the front taper design if possible, Thanks!
    Mark

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  8. I will work on a schematic! In the mean time, the front taper is around 17' to 15' depending on the size. It has a much larger diameter than a Scandi giving it better turn over. The rear taper is 4' and has a huge diameter when compared to a Scandi. -It's slightly smaller than a Skagit Compact. This is the same concept I used on the Skagit Compact and the Skagit Switch. By putting the "Mass In The Ass" the caster instantly feels more load during the D-Loop cycle than most spey heads. This equates to less line speed needed to load the rod -thus the ability to throw a tighter D-Loop. It also allows the caster to use significant over-hand when they do want to use a lot of line speed and shoot for the moon. Happy Casting! -TL

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  9. Can't wait to get my hands on one. I am currently using the 390 Compact Scandi and like the "lively feel" so think that is what I'll go for. Mark

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  10. Lookin' forward to test-driving one of these on the 7115-4 that should be on it's way soon... Nice work, well done.....

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. Tom, thanks a lot for the description! I can't wait to try some out! much appreciated!
    Mark

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  13. Have fun Mark! Let me know how it works for you!

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  14. "Mass in the ass"...love it!

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  15. How does this line compare to the Airflo Dec Hogan Tactical Steelhead(tip removed)

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  16. I've never cast the Tactical Steelhead with the tip removed but I would suspect it probably throws a very open loop and clunks over. The diameter at the front loop is sufficient enough to through T-10 sink-tips. -This would make the line clunk. The Tactical Steelhead also has a fairly small rear diameter which is done intentionally. This delays the load making the caster create more line speed in order to flex the rod during the D-loop formation. Consequently, this would make sustaining an anchor very difficult. That line (With the tip) was designed for Dec Hogans long casting stroke with rods in the 13' to 15' range. So, i'd be willing to bet the Rage would greatly out perform the Steelhead with no tip. If you do cast them side by side, please let me know the results!

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    1. crap - "I never cast but."......keep to yourself. .........and Dec has a "long casting stroke" huh?.........thats laughable.

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  17. Tom,
    what weight would you recommend for the Z-axis 8110 for throwing big skaters...and what weight for a Z-axis 7136?
    thnks

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  18. I cast the 7136 with a 480 and it felt good but I'd like to try it with a 510. (Rajeff sold out of them already) I'd go 510 on your 8110.

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    1. Hey Tom, did you ever try the 510 on the 7136? If so, I'm curious to hear your recommendation on best match. I recently bought the 510 for my 7136. I like the 510 Skagit Compact on that rod which drove my decision, but I'm just wondering if the 480 will be better on this rod or not, having never cast it. I'm coming from an AFS for Deschutes so this line is already clearly way better in the "breeze"! Paul

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  19. Really looking forward trying this line out! It should be a perfect line for those big Sunray shadow type tubes and other big(ish) tubes that we use a lot here in Scandinavia. Does it have the same nice "low float" ability as the other Compacts? As for wind in Scandinavia, especially in the northern parts, it blows hard and heavy. The Rio AFS and Airflo Scandi are too "soft" for scandi work in Scandinavia... So something with more "beef" is the answer around this part of the world too. I've used Compact skagit's as a "scandi" since they came out but haven't found a good floating tip for them. I guess I don't have to look any more as I can just change to the Rage when the need for floating line work arises.

    Jari Koski
    Finland

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  20. Jari,
    Thanks for the note! Glad to hear you guys deal with the same problems we have on our rivers! The Rage should work well for you. It's a bit stiffer than the Scandi Compact but the diameter and taper are what you'll notice the most. It does sit low in the surface film like the other Compacts. Please let me know how it works for you!
    Thanks!
    -Tom

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  21. Your last comment is interesting to me. The Scandi Compact sits lower in the surface film than the Vision Ace. I've always considered this a fault, but perhaps it's by design. Most of the time, I prefer the intermediate poly leader for swinging wet flies and thought that might pull down the line, but lower in the surface film has been noticeable. Is that an intended result?

    Thanks for all your responses to this thread. Your others are great - I enjoy the Klick in the fall and would love to fish the Dean someday. But with two kids in college, it's not happening now.

    Mark Freshley

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  22. Mark,
    Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts! The buoyancy of the line, or what's called "specific gravity" in fly line design, has more to do with the casting than the fishing. The higher a line floats in the water, the less dense it is. Density helps punch through the wind and turn over the fly. Density will also effect loop stability. The trick is finding the balance between all of these elements. From a fishing standpoint, I personally like a line that sits low in the surface film. (-I also like the way it casts into the wind.) Its less effected by wind chop and pushy surface current during the swing. -The line just seams to fish better. I use intermediate Poly Leaders almost exclusively for dry line work, even for skaters. The one exception would be skating heavy pocket water. I will use a floating leader in this situation. See you on the Klick this fall... You'll get to the Dean someday!

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  23. I have searched everywhere but can't find anyone who stocks these lines...where can i buy the "Rage" Tom?

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  24. Poppy at Red Shed has them. I just ordered mine. Probably will have it this weekend.
    Mark Freshley

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  25. I know the Gorge Fly Shop in hood River and the Silver Bow in Spokane have them for sure.

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  26. I really like the low float thing with these lines. They give a different feel on the swing then the lines that float like a cork. The "cork" lines are better for nymphing though.

    The only thing that concerns me a bit about these Rage's is the lenght. At around 30' they fit only my switch rods. Do you guys plan on making a bigger version of this for 13'+ rods? Or is the plan to use long polys with longer rods?

    Jari

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  27. Jari,
    The lines were developed for full length Spey rods up to about 13'9. Very few anglers are fishing rods over that length here in the West and in the Great Lakes. Some casters may like a longer leader, but I prefer a leader length as long as my rod... A 10' Poly Leader plus tippet. A word of advise when casting the Rage, Skagit Switch and Skagit Compact, many anglers start their sweep with the rod low to the water and climb in a rising plain into the firing position. By doing this, you throw a fairly high D-loop with very little "stick" at the anchor point. So, a longer Poly Leader is needed. Give this a try on your "water-born" anchor casts... Once your anchor is set, make a distinct vertical lift with the rod up to about 45 degrees, just slightly over your head. Make your rod tip sweep into the D-loop fairly high and very flat. -The hight of the plain being just be just over your head height when wading knee deep. By making a higher, flatter plain into the D-loop, you effectively throw the D-loop lower to the water. -Thus creating more stick. Essentially, you have lowered the pitch of the D-Loop. This will more than likely throw your timing off a bit when you start. Listen to the line rip during the sweep. When the rip stops, you go. The tempo will be slightly faster then what you're used to. By casting this way, you create a sustained load on the rod during the D-Loop which is very effective in tight casting conditions. -Also, this line was built to use up to 4' of overhang out the rod tip on longer rods. (When you have the backcasting room) So, the 600gr. head at 32' becomes 36' of working fly line. It will also delay the load which makes you create more line speed and a longer stroke length. When you want to shoot for the moon, use overhang! I'm working on a "Short Head" casting video this fall. It will explain this concept and others in detail... Stay tuned!
    -TL

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  28. Tom,

    What length poly leader do you use with the compact scandi line? I'm using a long leader.

    I look forward to your video. I learned a lot from the clinic you did in Spokane last year. Kicked my fishing up a notch!

    Mark Freshley

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  29. Mark,
    I like a leader about the length of my rod for both the Scandi and Rage, slightly longer with a small fly. -So a 10' Poly leader and some tippet works well. A lot of guys fish leaders 1.5 x rod length or longer. That formula is based on super fast Scandi style rods. Most steelheaders fish a medium to medium fast rod which don't need as long of a leader to generate a good anchor. I see a lot of 16' to 18' leaders crumble! However, it really is personal preference.

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  30. Tom,
    What would your recommendation be for the Winston Biix 7/8?
    Thanks,
    Dave

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  31. Dave,
    I would roll a 480 on that stick.
    -TL

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  32. Poppy rules! Got the line today. Will try in the morning and report.
    Mark F.

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  33. Tried the line this morning along with my Compact Scandi. I really like the Rage - good design! The water was high and my back was against the trees. When I dialed it in, no problem getting a good distance. I really had to slow down and use less power. Retrieved a few flies from the trees, but finally got the hang of it. I also used the 10-ft intermediate leader on both lines with a 3-ft tippet. That made a huge difference! My casts straightened out much more consistently. Guess I have some 14-ft poly leaders for sale...

    Can't wait to use both lines on the Deschutes the week after Labor Day.

    Thanks Tom.

    Mark Freshley

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  34. Mark,
    Glad to hear the lines worked well for you. Check out the recent comment I made to Jari about the flat plain. Remember this, the tighter you get the trees, the higher the sweep. This will throw the D-Loop lower to the water thus giving you the ability to increase your stick, and your tempo. -In essence, a smaller D-loop with more power. It takes a little practice but if you get good, no tree lined run is safe. -TL

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  35. Working on that. You showed us the same technique in the Spokane clinic last year. You showed us the double spey, then got on your knees in 12 inches of water and showed us how to cast with the tip on a higher plane. I understand the concept, just working on consistency.

    See you on the river!

    Mark

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  36. Just fished the 480 Rage on a 12'3" 7/8 B2MX Winston this morning with some big "fluffy" skaters. One word ......... frickinawesome. Stellar work buddy. Singles, reverse singles, snake rolls .... I couldn't find a cast that it didn't like.
    Cast the 570 on my 8133-3 ACR straight into the wind with some guys from the local shop last week. It only took one cast to get them excited about it.

    Laker

    p.s. and it let me cast more than 30 feet of running line :)

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  37. Tom,
    Can't seem to locate a "Rage" 510 anywhere; and from what i am hearing it will be a while b4 they are available. You recommended a 510 for my z-axis 8110. Will a 480 preform well, or 540?(and not just get by), or will it be too light/heavy?...I need a line by Sept 20th so waiting for the 510 might not be an option. So, it's either go with the Airflo "rage compact 510 if available or 480" or a Skagit Short + MOW Floater (for tossin' big bushy drys, short-med casts)
    thnks,
    Doug F

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  38. Laker!
    Glad to hear the line lived up to my claims... I'm really stoked about it! Thanks for the support. Also, can't wait to fish the Dean with you next season... Frickinawesome.
    -TL

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  39. Doug,
    Airflo should be sending them in a couple (That means 3-4 weeks out for Airflo). Round one didn't meet specs so they're re-doing the 510's. Which sucks, but -I'm glad to hear they will be right. Good things come to those that wait I guess. I would role the 480 over the 540. It will probably feel really good. I've been trying the 480 on a few rods I thought would take a 510 on and they hucked. More Scandi feeling but i just needed to increase my line speed. Let me know how it works.
    Thanks!
    -TL

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  40. Hi Tom,

    Sounds like a line I could get tons of use from. Do you have a rec for the sage 7130 VT2?

    thanks!
    Ryan

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  41. Ryan,
    That rod feels more like an #8 weight than a 7 to me. I like a 570 Skagit Compact on it so I'd try a 540.
    -TL

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  42. Doug,
    A buddy of mine just got back from the North and fished a 480 gr. Rage on the 8110-4 Sage. He said it was by far the best dry line he's ever fished and the 480 rocked on that stick!
    -TL

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  43. Thanks Tom! It's def an 8 wt.

    -ryan

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  44. Tom,

    What grain would you suggest for an Echo TR 6?

    Thanks!

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  45. "However, Scandi heads have their faults. First, they suck in the wind. The long, delicate front taper which gives Scandi's there finesse-like feel, crumbles in even a modest breeze."
    With all due respect, Tom, that's not at all true. I've been using scandi shooting heads for years in Patagonia, and I can tell you, to have a wind-free half an hour is quite uncommon, throughout the whole season, and AFS, Guideline and Vision heads perform just fine, from floaters to S4, skaters to heavy tube streamers.

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  46. I'm getting to this idea late. I keep on fishing a Sage 8126 with a Compact Skagit all around the mid-Columbia. I keep fishing it with sink tips nearly all the time, although I go with some real short and light tips in shallow rivers and warmer temperatures. And in most places in the Klickitat, I just want to go deep. I have a home made floating tip with a long poly leader that I hardly ever fish because it's hard for me to adjust to the extra length. I can eventually do it, just have to slow down, let the leader provide the stick, let the bigger loop form.

    So maybe a Rage and a 10ft poly leader might be a way for me to enjoy floaters more. Maybe I'd actually cross the river and fish the Deschutes more.

    So I'm fishing a 600 Skagit Compact on this old broom handle. Do I want a 600 grain Rage or something lighter?

    Paul Huffman

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  47. How does it land on the water?

    I ask as i had a trip to northern norway last year and After watching some scandies they were fishing quite delicately. Aftwards they watched me casting a 9/10 afs to what amounted to a tidal waves. When i looked up they were lookin' at me as if i was some alien from outerspace! Pretty embarrassing at the time. Still accounted for 20kg+ of atlantic salmon a few days later.

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  48. Hi Tom,
    Thanks as always for the great info that you put out there, I've learned a lot from you, especially on Skagit Master IV. I fish Great Lakes tribs all the time and video is really helpful. I just bought a Sage 4116-4 switch rod and have lined it with a Rage compact 300 grain head for starters. I am mainly going to use it this summer swinging streamers for trout on the West Branch of the Delaware River. Would you recommend using 5' or 10' trout polyleaders for this application? I am a little concerned about the 10' leader with a few feet of tippet...will that be a bit much? Thanks again!

    Bill

    Syracuse, NY

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