How to Select a Spey Shooting Head // 2021 Buyer's Guide for Full Spey Heads
I realize this is techy stuff for many of you, but I am certain that some of this information will be incredibly helpful to a few of you hoping to have a "one rod to rule them all" spey rod quiver for your Steelhead, Salmon, and Trophy Trout game. If you have some time, you can also listen to a recent Podcast but the jist of its right here in the blog.
Which RIO Spey Shooting Head is Right for Me?
The first step is to determine which head or heads is right for you. Most anglers should consider purchasing multiple heads for varying waters and conditions. Watch this video, take a few notes and decide which spey head(s) are right for you.
Find the Correct Grain Weight for Your Spey Rod
Step one is to find out what grain weights match up with your chosen rod. The best way to do this for "full spey" setups is to consult with RIO's Spey Line Selection Chart. There will be an "A" and "B" column. B will typically flex the rod a bit deeper and the A will be a slightly lighter load with less feel. When in doubt, go with the "B" column.
What Sink Tips or Leaders Do I Need?
Skagit style heads must be matched with the corresponding sink tip in order to function at its best. Heavy rods need heavy heads, which in turn require heavy tips in order for the line and rod to work together dynamicaly. Scandi lines are often fished purely as a floating style system, or integrated sinking system like the Scandi 3D. This requires only the use of a traditional tapered leader 9-12' in length.
Skagit Style Sink Tips
The most common tips are RIO "MOW" style tips in Light, Medium, or Heavy with sink rates varying in each category. There are individual styles of MOW tips, but if you start with the standard InTouch RIO MOW you can't go wrong. Here is a very basic guideline on selection:
RIO MOW Light T-8 - 6 weight Spey Rods
RIO MOW Medium T-11 - 6/7 Weight Spey Rods
RIO MOW Heavy T-14 - 8/9 Weight Spey Rods
MOW tips are 10' long and come in variations ranging from full floating, to full sinking.
Leaders and Polyleaders for Scandi Heads
Skagit heads require a sink tip (or floating tip) that weighs between 80 and 140 grains in order to complete the line system and make it heavy enough to load the rod. Scandi lines on the other hand are built with the intention that you'll be fishing them as a floating line or in conjuction with a short sinking Polyleader that has very little actual weight yet still sinks because its very thin. I personally don't like more than a 6' Polyleader on my Scandi setups. I'll combine that with 5' of tippet for a total length of no more than 12'. When I fish floating setups, I'll use a 9-12' RIO Salmon Steelhead leader and the exact choice will vary. I'm a good caster and typically prefer 12', but will use 9' leaders when using a fly that is larger or tends to hold more water during flight.