For those that don't know me I'm a HUGE two-handed spey and switch guy. I personally use them in every aspect of my fishing life -- from kings to steel, smallmouth to trout, and at this stage in my life it's what I live and breath!
In this product review I want to take a look at the new Rio Elite Skagit Max Power which hit the market about a month ago. I'll compare this with an oldie but still a goodie, the Rio Windcutter - yup we are stepping back in time!
Going back to the late 90s to the early 2000s, two-handers for us in the midwest were just in its infancy and hardly anyone even knew the term switch rod. When I started to play with two-handed rods, switch rods were not even a thing yet. The rod of choice at that time was something around a 14ft 8wt. At that time the Rio Windcutter for me was the way to go. For an 8wt rod, the Windcutter came in a 7/8/9 wt line. One line for multiple rods. At the time you got one integrated line and a set of precut heads. With these lines often you were dealing with a "one line fits all" type of idea, so the heads were a bit longer and the design of the head was much more minimal -- things were not specialized if you will, the heads were much longer which made it a bit of a cumbersome experience for those of us not fishing the monster rivers of the west coast. I still have a Windcutter line thats in very good shape that on a rare occasion I will take out but with the new lines of today I really have no need to.
Now let's fast forward 20 years and the industry made huge leaps and bounds! You now have so many choices that it can be a bit daunting and with this review I hope to alleviate a bit of it, especially for those in the midwest. Here in Michigans Upper Peninsula where I do the vast majority of my two handed work I fishing small to medium sized rivers so the use of long rods is almost non-existent for me. So I have gravitated to small spey rods and switch rods, the majority of which is around 11-11 1/2 feet long and in a 7wt. Ok, with that context, let me tell you how great the new Rio Elite Skagit Max Power is!
When Rio designed this line they had smaller rods in mind. Keep in mind, smaller rods do not mean short casting ability. With the compact nature of this line, a shooting head lined with the appropriate shooting line, you'll get casts in the range of 70-90 feet with great ease. The big reason for this is that this particular short Skagit head was developed with a high grain weight per foot, making it ideal to throw 10-14 foot sinking heads and large flies.
Another great feature that we did not have back in the early days is advanced color coding. This particular line is color coded in two ways. First, there's blue color coding to indicate the sweet spot for casting when you are stripping in your line, this spot allows for the rod to load properly and then to shoot (see pictures). Secondly, if you know the distance you are trying to hit (say a particular run) the shooting line is also metered (see pictures). In my opinion, these two things are priceless, as years ago we would use sharpie markers to mark up our lines and now the guess work is taken out. The quick connect loops also make for very easy work to change out all of your head work from a floating head to a big hunk of T-14.
Now if there is a negative to the new style of compact shooting lines some people would say it's all the loop connectors. You have loop-to-loop connections connecting your heads to the body and the body to the shooting line. In my opinion, and after years of using these types of lines, the only issue I have is when there is ice build up in the guides. On very rare occasions the loop connection point will get hung up, but using an ice off paste such as loon basically relieves this problem. At the end of the day this line more than covers all the bases and is an absolute home run for those of us who love the two handed realm!
Thanks for giving us a read. Hope this helps you have some productive two-handed fishing. Please feel free to drop us a comment or question below. And if you're interested in trying out some amazing Upper Peninsula fly fishing give us a shout. We chase steelhead, smallmouth and trout year round in our home waters near Escanaba, Michigan.