We recently purchased a Mystic 8wt switch rod from Au Sable Angler at the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo. Our review of that product will be available shortly, but we decided to pair the rod with the OPST Commando head. Those in the spey world out west will likely be familiar with this company, they have been at the forefront of the skagit revolution since its inception. But here in Michigan we are just catching on to the advantages of two handed rods, and more specifically, skagit style casting. Although our typical salmon and steelhead rivers are smaller than the ones in the Pacific Northwest, we share similar difficulties with limited back casting creating tight quarters. Because of this most people are going with larger brand names for their skagit head needs. Now, I love Rio lines, and Airflo has developed into a leader in this category, but I was pleased to find that the Muskegon River Fly Shop stocked OPST heads when I stopped in before my first trip out with my new switch rod.
The guys in the shop were knowledgeable about both the Mystic rod and the OPST heads. In my research prior to purchase I noticed that the OPST suggestions for grain weight were less than most other heads. The crew at Muskegon River Fly Shop confirmed this, but still recommended a head on the heavier end of the spectrum of OPST’s suggestion. So I ended up purchasing a 425 grain head and a custom made 10′ T-14 sink tip. The shop didn’t carry the OPST Laser Running Line, so I ended up purchasing Rio’s Grip Shooter line instead in a pinch.
I drove to my put in spot on the Muskegon and spooled up my new goodies. I spent most of my actual fishing time running a chuck-n-duck rig as I felt that was going to be my best shot at a fish. So after I had finished my day on the boat I decided to wade in at the boat launch and put the OPST Commando Skagit Head through the paces.
Like many people in Michigan I had very little previous experience casting two handed rods. Most of my knowledge was of the arm chair variety, watching Youtube videos getting pumped for this trip. So consider me a novice at best.
I started off with the OPST Commando Head, 10′ of T-14, 5′ of tippet, and a large jointed deceiver pattern. My form, understandably, was very suspect at first, and I was having trouble turning anything over with my double spey and snap-t casts. I knew I was doing something wrong because the OPST Commando Head was doing a great job with simple roll casts and overhead casts. I just couldn’t get it to shoot any line with my two handed casts.
To simplify things I took the streamer of the end of the line and tried my casts again. Wow, what a difference. I started shooting line and turning over the head and sink tip with ease! I drew the conclusion that I wasn’t loading the rod enough during my stroke. I needed a little more power to pick the streamer out of the water more consistently.
I made some adjustments to my set up and really started paying attention to where I was placing my anchor. I noticed the rod loading much better, and I started turning over my large streamers. With a little more refinement I was shooting line too and started really seeing what the OPST Commando Head was capable of.
So, I know this isn’t a real technical product review. It is more of a beginners point of view, my experience of how this line made it easy and enjoyable to start spey style casting. With no hands on experience with a skagit line, I went from not being able to beat a simple roll cast, to shooting 20-30′ of line while turning over a large jointed streamer, all in about 30 minutes. I have no doubt that with a little more refinement on my form I will be reaching distances beyond what I will need under normal fishing conditions. Actually with the 50-60′ I was hitting after a 1/2 an hour I am probably already at that point.
Final Thoughts: OPST Commando Head
OPST Commando Heads are specially designed to perform on switch rods as well as single handed rods down to a 3wt. After my initial experience I know it is just a matter of time before I end up with an OPST head for my 5wt single hand rod. I can definitely see how it could help me reach some of those fishy places that I currently can’t get to with traditional overhead casts.
One thing that OPST claims that has also peaked my interest, is that these lines work well throwing indicator rigs when using a floating tip. I will come back and update the review after I get a chance to test this out. Being able to throw streamers, and then move to indicator nymphing without changing rods (or spools for that matter) would make this line worth it on its own.
Please check out OPST’s website at opskagit.com to see their great line of products. They are very responsive to your questions, so feel free to ask them for advice when matching a shooting head to a specific rod.