Brian Kite, (inventor of the deadly Pick Yer' Pocket series of steelhead flies) pictured here using an Aiflo F.I.S.T. Skagit style Spey line. According to his fishing partner, while fishing the Hoh River, Brian (alias: the Wombat) was fishing behind two other experienced anglers who were using more conventional floating Skagit lines.
F.I.S.T. is a triple density shooting head designed to get your fly deep in flowing water when fishing for anadromous fish. From our initial tests it does that, and even more than that, it is the most controllable we have found for this purpose. With slight changes in angles and tension, this line can be presented at many different depths, and still retain the perfect speed of swing. There are many experienced anglers who believe that fly speed is the most important factor in getting bites. If the second most important factor is depth of the fly, F.I.S.T. will enable many anglers to fish water that was hitherto excluded to them because of the constraints of the lines that were available to them.
"But", you say, There have been sinking shooting head fly lines for a lot of years. What is the difference between them and F.I.S.T.?"
The main difference is the fact that with heads constructed with only sinking polymer material, the line tends to swing level with the bottom, and is in danger of getting wrapped around a rock sticking up higher that the rest, which can result in much line damage. F.I.S.T. is not the first line design to use a high floating butt built into the line to facilitate line control and visibility to the angler. In the beginning every Skagit head was made from floating material which became part of a system for propelling sinking tips and large flies. Then came heads made entirely of intermediate slow sinking material. When a sinking tip was attached to them, it became evident that they would fish deeper and slower than a floating head. But once again, these lines became invisible to the angler, and were prone to get hung-up on the bottom. The next logical step was to build a head, which had a floating butt and slow sinking tip. This kind of line sinks at a steeper angle, and still allows control through the floating rear portion of the line.
F.I.S.T. takes this train of thought one step farther in that it is a triple density line, which accomplishes a number of very desirable effects. When fishing your fly near the bottom, the only part of your tackle you want to be near the bottom is your fly. If your line and/or your leader are snaking along the bottom they are being abraded by the stream bed, and they are in danger of becoming tangled, and they are likely to be spooking fish as well.
Fly lines are rarely straight while sinking. There are many ribbons of currents in a river, both at, and below the surface. In a river of flowing water, the current speed tends to be concentrated right at the surface. All molecules in movement create friction on each other. Water is 800-times denser than air. Therefore air molecules create less friction than water molecules. Water flows against air with very little friction. As water gets deeper, it gets heavier. The heavier that water molecules get, the more friction they create on each other. The slower that water molecules move, the less friction they place on your fly line.
When fishing your fly on the swing for steelhead or salmon, fly lines are comparatively inefficient at getting deep in flowing water because they are fairly large in diameter, which creates more friction than finer diameter monofilament lines. Denser, finer-diameter sinking lines create less friction than larger diameter floating lines. Because the rod end of the line has a nearly stationary pivot point above the surface of the water, this tends to make this end of your your line skate, or seek an area of less resistance at the surface. Usually a floating line fished on the swing will stay on the surface to where a monofilament leader is attached to it. If you attach a sinking PolyLeader instead of one made of mono, the weight of the sinking leader will pull the tip of your floating line under the surface, and ultimately your fly will ride deeper. The same principle applies to Skagit lines in a more exaggerated fashion. Since the tip on a Skagit line is usually much heavier than a PolyLeader, this tip pulls more of that line under. When part of the shooting head is made from sinking line, the portion of the line that is under water is smaller in diameter, which creates less friction. It is also deeper in slower water, which also creates even less friction. When part of the tip-end of your line is made from even denser materail, the sinking efficiency becomes even more amplified. For this reason sinking lines being fished under tension on the swing, have a downward curve, which is to the anglers advantage.
Because the F.I.S.T. is so hydrodynamically efficient, there is a lot less pull on the line while the fly is swinging. This line is unbeleiveably sensative for feeling strikes. For these same reasons the line is easier bring to the surface to re-cast, thus cutting fishing fatigue.
Does this mean that the arsenal of Skagit heads that you have accumulated are suddenly obsolete? Probably not. Things that caught fish in the past are still valid. But, F.I.S.T. adds a new dimension to your tool box and will become the primary line for most anglers fishing on the west side of the Cascades. The closer you put your fly to the end of the fish that eats, the more of them are going to eat it. The the longer it stays near them, the more often they are going to eat it. Deep and slow is likely to never go out of fashion for anadroumous fish.
Since Chinooks often follow the main flow of a river, F.I.S.T. is definitely a line that anglers pursuing these fish will want to have with them. April, May, June & July will offer more Chinooks than steelhead in many rivers. Chinooks eat flies as well as winter steelhead, and they are often larger, and the weather is nicer, so why not try for Chinooks? We know how and will be glad to help you.