Choosing the Right Length of Spey Lines and Leaders

UWOTF Women Fly Fishing Guide - Oregon - Amy Hazel
Last Weeks Recap – The most commonly used types of Spey lines are shooting heads. These shooting heads attach to a running line/shooting line which is a thin line that shoots out easily through your guides as it follows the head out across the water.  The main two types of shooting heads are Scandi-style and Skagit-style.  Both styles are designed to do two very different jobs for the Spey angler.

scandi heads

These are primarily designed to fish floating leaders and unweighted traditional hair-wing flies or skaters. Scandi heads are tapered so that they are fat in the back tapering down to a fine tip where the line attaches to the leader.

scandi leader length suggestions

Scandi heads, as a rule, should be 2.5 times the length of the Spey rod. The leader used with a Scandi Head should be 1.5 times the length of the Spey rod.

Example: a 13 foot Spey rod should have a Scandi Head that is roughly 32-33 feet in length and the leader should be 19-20 feet in length. In total, the head and leader length should be 50 – 55′ for a 13′ foot Spey Rod.  If you do not use a long leader with your Scandi line your casting will suffer because you will frequently break or rip your anchor off the water or you will have tailing loops on every cast.



Casting a Scandi Head is like driving a convertible sports car – they are light and maneuverable, and they are meant to be used for summer steelhead fishing when floating lines and unweighted flies are most effective.

If water temperature is over 50 degrees and the water has good clarity, a Scandi Head is the preferred head of choice for steelhead anglers.

skagit head

These are primarily designed to fish sink tips and weighted flies. Skagit heads have very little taper – they are more or less one fat diameter from back to front and usually 20-25 feet in length.


Skagit Head Casting

Casting a Skagit Head is like driving a dump truck – they are heavy and clunky, and they are meant to be used for winter steelhead fishing or any time when you need to move around a heavy sink tip and a weighted fly. If water temperature is in the 30s or 40s and/or the river only has a few feet of visibility, the Skagit head is the preferred head to use with a sink tip and a weighted fly.


For most anglers getting started in Spey casting, it is a good idea to buy both a Scandi head and a Skagit head to prepare you for fishing in all conditions. Because these heads easily attach to the running line via a loop-to-loop connection, you only need one reel with running line to which you will attach the appropriate shooting head for the conditions.

There are many other line designs on the market to fit different niches – but the Scandi and Skagit will do nearly everything that a Spey angler would want to do while fishing with a two-handed rod.

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