When building flies to swing for steelhead, keep in mind how big in the water you want the fly to be.
For big profile flies, wrap a ball of chenille or dubbing behind your hackle to help the fibers stand up against the current. You want enough material that the fly doesn’t compress. Streamlined flies don’t need the support. Tie up both varieties to use in different conditions.
Regardless of the profile you’re tying at the moment, use less material than you think you need. You want your fly very sparse so it can sink through the water column. Too much material and it’ll never get down, and the movement of your oh-so-fancy natural materials will be limited with overdressing!
Intermediate Skagit Heads are a relatively new product to the fly fishing world and have created a stir in the spey fishing scene. Rather than a traditional full floating shooting head, these heads sink at an intermediate rate. This allows the angler to achieve a slow, deep swing that keeps the fly in the “ZONE” for a longer period of time. The sinking nature of this Intermediate head enables you to break heavy surface tension, and maintain consistent depth throughout your swing. When coupled with a Type 3 or Intermediate sink tip you have the ability to fish shallow tail-outs and riffles. On the flipside, the short length of this head allows the heaviest tips to be turned over with extreme ease, allowing you to dig deep and cast the largest flies in your box. This shooting head really shines in the high water, winter steelhead scene where the fish are holding in slow, deep “tanks” as well as choppy water with heavy surface tension. This head produces a much slower presentation than your floating shooting heads because it travels lower in the water column, instead of on top of the water.
Total head length is no longer than 29ft on the heaviest 800 grain head. You can expect the same quality welded loops that SA produces, as well as a labeling system on the head determining front/back a grain weight. The only downside to this line, in my opinion, is at the end of your swing a downstream roll cast is required to break surface tension and bring your head to the surface. Overall I was very happy with the performance of this head.