Bad Shoulder, Just Solution, Great Fishing: Single Hand Skagit with OPST Commando Head

2017/11/14 Bad Shoulder, Just Solution, Great Fishing: Single Hand Skagit with OPST Commando Head

First an apology for not being able to write anything new while keeping myself busy for business.

1. Cold Shoulder

I realized I was having funny kind of fatigue on my neck and shoulders for sometimes since last winter, but had to ignore to keep myself busy at work. Then during the boat fishing in Yokohama for Japanese seabass when swinging single hand 8wt rod, my right shoulder finally gave up.

Out of blue, my arm lost contact with fly rod. Then every rod stop forward or backward during overhead casting caused my arms go numb which later turned out caused by pain. I managed to finish the fishing with agreeable size seabass, but I was already using both arms to be able to stop the rod.

Later in hospital, it was diagnosed the recurrence of hernia causing my right shoulder to go off control which also caused some internal injury. Whatever it is, this means my right shoulder could no longer cast anything heavy beyond 9 feet 4 weight overhead and I needed solution for the rest of 2017 season.

2. Two-hand Scandinavian Outfit

One way to compensate the work of single hand fly rod beyond 6wt range is using switch rod or two-hand rod. I have been going out with my two-hand Scandinavian outfit built on Beulah 12’6” 6wt for sometimes where I expect to have not much back space while needing to cast heavily weighted fly or sinking line in lake, river, and ocean. Beulah, supported by skagit guru such as Ed Ward and Jerry French, design their rods minding variety of Spey casting styles.

This set up came quite handy when having this shoulder problem, because most casting work is done by my left hand while my right hand only needs to hold the rod in position.

I picked up additional shooting head and headed to just opened Lake Chuzenji. However, this outfit cannot cover fishing situation when stealthly presentation is essential such as laying dry fly slowly onto the calm surface of lake or quickly casting emerger ahead of school of rising fish without causing too much impact with fly line which doesn’t necessarily spook the fish, but distracts fish away from small fly. Two-hand rod simply isn’t the best tool for those jobs. I needed to make something out of single-hand outfit.

3. Single-hand Skagit Outfit

But how the hell could I do single-hand spey casts when I can’t handle anything beyond 9 feet and 4 weight…? But then I realized I could handle 8 feet 4 weight rod quite easily during the demonstration to guiding clients. Hang on a minute. Perhaps, there is something I could use within my limitation?

I had R.L. Winston LT 8’9” 3wt for sometimes, so I listed requirements:

  1. Shooting Head – it doesn’t add additional weight on fly rod having only thin shooting line going through guides.
  2. Just Weight – one that doesn’t require false cast while don’t over turn to ruin presentation
  3. Short – So that short rod such as 8 feet and less can manage to handle anchor & sweep
  4. Designed for interchanging tips – I need to use this set up to fish all of my 3wt situation

I looked for variety of single hand shooting head spey casting solution, then OPST seemed to provide the right solution in my case. I sent email to OPST’s Ben Paul for following questions:

  • I want to set up my Winston LT 3wt single hand rod to be able to cast dry fly/emerger without overhead casting
  • Because my main target will be both highly pressured lake fish feeding on surface and cherry salmon who has dynamic vision that inspects fly still in the air 6ft away, entire leader system including tippet has to be at least 14ft long to get the fly into fish’s vision without spooking them with the presence of fly line or its shadow

Out of rich experience, Ben sent me precise recommendation on my peculiar questions:

  • Pick 150 grain Commando Head to match 3wt rod
  • Attach Airflo 8/10 ft trout polyleader
  • Use tippet as long as required

Taking this advice, I bought everything at Sansui Shibuya fly shop.

4. OPST Pure Skagit Commando Head

Ed Ward promotes the concept of “Pure Skagit” that is to extend the easy & practical skagit cast into the situation of small river or even bass & light saltwater. Thanks to his great vision, OPST Commando Head comes in wide variety from 150 to 475 grain. I picked up 150 grain that is only 12 feet long, so I should be able to handle this on my short fly rod under bad shoulder.

I set out for practice run in near by city river:

As you can see, very first trial was already very comfortable without even setting firm anchor or any single haul (not that I could with this much pain…). I felt 12 ft (8ft polyleader + 4ft tippet) was bit too short to hold firm enough anchor, so later extended that to 14ft then lowered the casting arc closer to water which gave much better grip. I could cast 50-60ft at ease with this no-firm-anchor style, and managed to skagit cast over 70ft with single haul added. I felt 90ft is attainable when I recover enough to add double haul to produce more kinetics using 9 feet rod using line basket.

4. Into the Field: Lake Chuzenji

Testing gave me great confidence to take this new weapon into the field where I was struggling to make presentation for wary fish with two-hand set up who can come into the casting range of single hand 3wt if I could stay quiet.

Worked on wary brown trout with size 10 dry fly from his hiding.

Worked on beaten up rainbow trout who are extra careful even on size 18 soft hackle. And….

Mission complete with the largest cherry salmon I have ever caught on fly (and new sub-species) took size 10 dry fly like a candy. Proven with wild fish:)

5. Tackle Information

Single-hand 3wt Skagit:

  • Shooting Head: OPST Commando Head – 150 grain 12′
  • Tip/Leader: Airflo Trout Polyleader 8′ Floating
  • Tippet: Seagur Ace Fluoro Carbon 4lb test x 6′
  • Shooting Line: Ken Cube EX Shooting Line – floating 0.22
  • Rod: R.L. Winston LT 893-5 – 3wt 8’9”
  • Reel: Bauer

I picked up 225 grain for my saltwater/bass 6wt rod. Let’s see how this one goes in new article.