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Spey Page | Page Four

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Sink-tips for Skagit Heads

Spey Page Sink Tips
Skagit heads combined with Spey rods have changed our approach to sink-tip fishing for steelhead. We now have the ability to fish heavier sink-tips and bigger flies than ever. However, with this change has come some confusion. With the wide range of sink-tip materials available, how do you know what’s right for your fishery? More so, how do you know what’s right for your Spey rod? Many of us have old shooting head wallets stuffed with sink-tips from Spey lines from past eras. Here at SteelheadBum, we’re often asked if these old sink-tips can be used on the newer Skagit lines. Many folks also seem confused by how long their tips should be. We hope to answer all of these questions and more in this article.

Sink-tip Grain Weight

In order to start talking about how to match sink-tips to your Spey rod, we need to understand a little about sink-tip grain weight and density. The weight of fly lines and sink-tips are measured in grains. One grain equals 0.06479891 grams. Before we loose you by getting too technical, the important thing is to realize is most sink-tip packages will tell you how many grains you’re dealing with. For example, Rio’s T-14 sink-tip material is 14 grains per foot. That being said, a 10’ sink-tip of T-14 would weigh 140 grains. (14 grains x 10 feet = 140 grains) Besides T-14, Rio also makes T-17, T-11, T-8 sink-tip material. These sink-tips come in 30’ rolls that are designed to be cut into different lengths. For example. you could cut the 30’ roll into three different sink-tips of 12’, 10, and 8’ in length. The package comes with three braided loop sleeves that are secured to the sink-tips once cut. The loops must be nail knotted and Aqua Sealed (flexible glue) before using them. Airflo offers two sink-tip materials, CCT200 (10 grains per foot) and CCT330 (16 grains per foot), both of which are designed to be cut to length. (CCT stands for Custom Cut Tip) The Airflo material comes in a 20’ length with factory loops on both ends. You cut it somewhere in the middle and end up with two sink-tips with factory welded loops. In 2010, Airflo is coming out with 18’ sink-tips with a factory loop on one end. You can cut it down to whatever length you desire. As an added bonus, the loops are color coated for different sink-rates. For those of you that don’t want to deal with braided loops and Aqua Seal, go with the Airflo Custom Cut Tips. Both Rio’s “T” series and Airflo’s Custom Cut Tips are impregnated with Tungsten and sink extremely fast. Rio also makes 15’ sink-tips in Type 8, Type 6, Type 3, and intermediate sink rates that come pre-looped.

Understanding grain weight is important for two reasons. First is the sink-rate, or density, of the sink-tip. Usually, the higher the number on the package, the faster it sinks. That said, Rio’s T-14 sinks at 9 inches per second while their T-8 sinks at 7 inches per second. However, Rio’s 15’ Type 8, Type 6, Type 3 and intermediate sink-tips are rated by sink-rate and grain weight. A Type 6 for a #12 weight line weighs 190 grains. Conversely, a Type 6 for a #5 weight weighs 75 grains. They both sink at 6 to 7 inches per second, but the grain weight is dramatically different. You must consider this when choosing a sink-tip. The second reason is how much grain weight your Spey rod can handle. If you put a 15’ sink-tip of T-14 (210 grains) on a little Spey rod like a #5 or #6 weight, the cast would crumble. There isn’t enough energy in the rod and Skagit line to turn over that heavy of a sink-tip. You might even break the rod! Conversely, if you put a #5 weight, 15’ Type 3 sink-tip (73 grains) on a #10 weight rod, the sink-tip would hinge terribly. There is too much mass turning over too fast for that little amount of sink-tip grain weight. It’s essential to understand the balance between your sink-tips and your Spey rod for maximum casting efficiency. Below we have broken down average sink-tip grain windows for rod weight. The “grain window” is how much weight a rod can cast comfortably. Keep in mind a faster action rod will handle more weight than a slower action rod in the same line size.

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