Long Belly, Scandi, Skagit, or Scandit?
In the modern Spey methodology there are three main accepted philosophies or divisions dictated by the types of fly lines employed. There are traditional long belly lines that started their evolution before there were rod guides that would enable the shooting of fly line. When the sport of fly fishing began a fly line was simply tied to the end of a flexible pole. The longer the pole and the longer the line the further an angler could cast. The addition of a winch (reel) and rod guides allowed the line length to be adjusted. The first fly lines were made from lengths of horse tail hair tied to together, and they weren't very smooth or slick. The first rod guides were metal rings that were held in place by a strip of metal tied to the rod. These guides flapped around and pinched the rough line, so the line was still very hard to adjust for length. Many of the fly fishing lines from this era were braided square. Shooting line wasn't part of the fishing game during this era. Allegedly an angler by the name of Alexander Grant was able to make a Spey cast 60-yards (180+-feet) with such an outfit, but that wasn't while fishing. Supposedly Mr. Grant used a 21-foot long rod carved from green heart wood. Suffice to say that no one has been able to best the length of that shot without shooting line.
In our era fly lines are round in cross-section and slick as glass. They are built by machines that can finely control weights and tapers. Anglers still use long belly fly lines to fish large rivers, and long belly lines
dominate the Spey distance casting competition games. However, most competition long belly lines are now shooting heads of 90-feet or less attached to some kind of shooting line. Being able to shoot line is just more efficient that casting a whole length of line, especially with the shorter/lighter rods used for fishing today. Shorter shooting heads take less back cast room and are less subject to wind.
In North America there are very few rods used for fishing of over 15-feet. Since the year 2000 the most popular rods for steelhead are now around 13-feet long for a #7 or #8 line. These rods fit the size of our fish and the size of most rivers. There are plenty of anglers who are now fishing rods under 12-feet in length for #4 to #6 weight lines, even for winter steelhead. Some Skagit style shooting heads are under 30-feet long (including the sinking tip). These small rods combined with shorter shooting heads will cast nearly 100-feet in the right hands, although casts of 50-feet to 70-feet are more practical under most fishing conditions.
During the winter months, or during bright light periods during the summer, Skagit heads with fast sinking tips dominate our fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. During low light periods of summer mornings or evenings small flies fished on, or just under the surface of the water are proven to be very reliable for attracting both steelhead and Atlantic salmon. Most anglers use Scandi style shooting heads for these kinds of presentations.
shooting heads evolved during the same period of time, but in different locations on the planet. Both type of lines and the rods used to propel them began their evolution in the 1990's. Scandi lines were developed for fishing Atlantic rivers in Scandinavia, and Skagit lines were developed for fishing for winter steelhead in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Both lines evolved because the general public was able to access water owned in common by their governments. In other words they had access to lots of productive, but manicured rivers. Whereas longer belly lines were developed during a period when the best water was owned by large estates with caretakers, American and Scandinavian rivers were intentionally left in their wild state. The lack of back-cast room on these rivers demanded that lines had to be more compact to be effective.
Scandit lines came into play as communication between the Scandinavian countries and the US became more easily accessible through modern technology. This naturally created cross pollination of tackle, flies, and technique between the Spey crowd stateside and the Europeans. The Scandit type line is a hybrid of sorts. It is longer than a Skagit but shorter than a Scandi. Its taper is more powerful than a Scandi but more delicate than a Skagit. It can be both water loaded or use touch and go cast such as single Speys and snake rolls. It falls right between the Scandi and Skagit.
An example of a modern Scandit line would be the Aiflo Rage Compact
. It meets the criteria stated above and is able to throw summer steelhead flies and poly leaders as well as light sink tips and modest sized intruders. The Rage Compact was specifically designed by Tom Larimer with one big goal in mind; to cast a floating line and summer steelhead flies with ease into the afternoon hurricane force winds of Oregon's Deschutes River Canyon. It does this quite well with the extra mass that a Scandi lacks but is still more graceful than a Skagit line.
Hopefully this can shed some light on the point of these lines and the niches they fit. If you have any further questions or need help selecting the right grain weight for your particular rod call us toll free at 1800-266-3971