2017/11/14 Single Hand Skagit with OPST Commando Head – Part 1

If you want to skip the background and learn about single-hand micro skagit, please jump to #3.
For the specific information about OPST Commando Head including line chart, please skip to #4.

  1. Two-hand Scandinavian Outfit – Not Always the Best Tool
  2. Single-hand Skagit Outfit
  3. OPST Micro Skagit Commando Head
  4. Into the Field: Lake Chuzenji
  5. Tackle Information


1. Two-hand Scandinavian Outfit – Not Always the Best Tool

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 Platinum Spey 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. Regular Scandi rod is designed to cast shooting head 3-3.5times longer than rod, Platinum Spey is on the micro side of this spectrum which let me adopt easily to skagit cast to save even more back space or water-touching front space to keep me safe in rough terrain such as rocky reef.

However, I realized this outfit cannot cover fishing situation in lakes or rivers where stealthy presentation is essential such as laying dry fly slowly onto the calm surface of lake or quickly casting/re-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’s attention away from your fly. Two-hand rod simply isn’t compact enough to do those jobs. I needed to make something out of single-hand outfit.

2. Single-hand Skagit Outfit

Single-hand Skagit outfit may not cast as easily as its two-hand brother, but it has all the advantage of compactness. You can pick up and re-shoot much faster and you get to use much lighter weight for shooting head that won’t impact the water surface too much.

But because the very reason you want to do this is to provide a perfectly personalized system just for you, it’s  very important that you know what you want to get. In my case, I needed something lighter than 9′ 4wt having medical problem in my right shoulder, so I had to make something out of my R.L. Winston LT 8’9” 3wt. First, I listed my requirements:

  1. Shooting Head – it saves weight on outfit having only thin shooting line going through rod guides.
  2. Just Weight – one that doesn’t require false cast while don’t over turn to ruin presentation
  3. Compact – So that short rod such as 8 feet or 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. Scientific Anglers, RIO, Airflo, Loop, Ken Cube, etc and etc… Then OPST’s “Micro Skagit” 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 8’9” 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 (12′) to match 8’9” 3wt rod
  • Attach Airflo 8/10 ft trout polyleader (10′ the best)
  • Use tippet as long as required

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

3. 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.

OPST Commando Head Line Matching Chart for Single Hand Fly Rod
Rod Weight | 番手Rod Length | 長さCommando HeadSink TipsFloat Tips
3wt9' or under150 grainOPST 5'OPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10', Airflo 10'
3wt10' or up175 grainOPST 5'OPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
4wt9' or under175 grainOPST 5'OPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
4wt10' or up200 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
5wt9' or under200 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
5wt10' or up225 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
6wt9' or under225 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
6wt10' or up250 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
7wt9' or under250 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
7wt10' or up275 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
8wt9' or under275 grainOPST 5', OPST 12' 96 grainOPST 5', OPST 7.5', OPST 10'
8wt10' or up300 grainOPST 12' 96/132 grainRIO 10' MOW or RIO Replacement Tip

In my case with 8’9” 3wt rod, as recommended by Ben, I picked up 150 grain that comes in 12” long. In single-hand skagit, skagit head + tip should be about 2.5 times the length of rod, so I really should be getting 10” polyleader, but I could only find floating poly leader at 8” at the time.

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.

How did the fishing go…?

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 10′ 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 MSL 2

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