Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

Anchor difficulties with switch rods

While out fishing with a switch rod, one of the interesting things I've been playing with is the idea of relating head length to sinktip weight. In other words, I'm turning heavier tips and bigger flies using shorter heads versus using longer heads with lighter tips. Both the long and the short heads are the same weight. The idea behind this is to make our casting as consistent and easy as possible by making anchor management easier.

As an example, on one trip to New York's Cattaraugus Creek I was using a 25' long 510 Compact Skagit head on my PRO4X 11'6" 9 wt. plus a T7 FLO sinktip and it worked great. I wouldn't have wanted to hang T18 off the end of it for an all day trip. Ya, I could cast that combination, but it would not have been fun. Later I fished the same creek at higher flow rates using the same rod, only this time with a 20' 510 Skagit Switch head and heavy tips with weighted flies. I would have no problem with a FLO T18 tip plus a big fly, thanks to the head's shorter length and more concentrated mass.

Normally a short head leads to blown anchors, but if we reserve that short head just for big flies and heavy tips, that solves our anchor difficulties. When teaching Skagit casting using other people's switch rods, I've often found that their very short Skagit heads leads to blown anchors when using the lighter tips that our local rivers require. In their hands, a short head plus light tip inevitably leads to blown anchors. I have to go with one of my longer heads on their rods with their lighter tips to help them manage their anchors. Even just a two foot increase in head length can make life easier for a student. Yes, we can manage this with our casting by slowing down and being more compact in our motions, but why be forced to adjust?

The reverse problem with the anchor occurs when we combine big, weighted flies and heavy tips with longer heads. Then we have trouble getting the sinktip out of the water, the cast staggers out and collapses. The longer head leaves too much sinktip in the water to make the extraction easy. Yes, we can manage this with our casting, by concentrating on making a wider sweep and bigger D-Loop, but when teaching I prefer to set the tackle up so that a student doesn't have to change his or her casting very much when changing sinktips.

Most of the time when we're out fishing, we're not alternating between very light tips and small flies, to very heavy tips and larger, weighted flies, so initially setting ourselves up with either a shorter or longer head to match our tips, should not be a problem.

So if you're having anchor problems either with blowing them or being able to cleanly extract the tip, as a general rule of thumb for switch rods, use heavy tips with a short head and for light tips, go to a longer head. The anchor grip then remains about the same for both, but the load is a bit heavier for the shorter head.

So if you're having anchor problems with your switch rods, try this approach. Here's the result of the short head, heavy tip, and weighted fly approach.

Credit River Brown
Photo courtesy of Eric Belanger.