Early this summer I was having a typical BS session with RIO pro staffer and skagit guru Mike McCune (congrats btw). At one point during our chat Mike looked around to make sure nobody would overhear him and asked “Hey man, where should I go shad fishing right now?” I got a good chuckle and figured he must be up to something if he was going to be chasing shad….
Mike hinted that he was testing a line that was “super cool man!” It turned out to be RIO’s new Skagit iFlight line. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to get my paws on one and have fished it quite a bit. I’ve also thrown the other offerings in intermediate skagits on the market and while I can say they are all very nice lines, for me the RIO Skagit iFlight is the best one out there.
I’ve been using the 475 grain iFlight which is 22′ feet long. The first 8′ float while the remainder of the line is intermediate (1.5 ips) sink rate. I throw it on a 6129 Sage VXP (best rod on the planet!) It’s attached to 30lb Trilene Big Game for running line. I like my skagits short so the length is perfect. The mass, even at 475 grains, will turn over any size winter fly I could ever want to throw.
Dialing in sink tips and when to use them has been a bit of an adventure in a good way. The sinking belly gets down really effectively so when using 10′ of T material it’s not hard to dredge the bottom even in some substantial current. This allows you to fish much lighter tips than normal; where I might fish 10′ of T-11 I can now use a 10′ type 3 or 6 tip and achieve the same depth but with much more ease of casting.
The RIO iFlight cuts under surface chop and swings much much slower than a conventional floating head/tip combo. You get a short window to mend the line before it slips under the surface, but from my experience so far if you botch mending just let it swing, it slows itself down and isn’t a big deal at all. One thing I have noticed is a lot more grabs on the hang down which is hard to discern whether its a coincidence or not.
About my only concern was how this would cast when swinging so deeply and slowly. Other full sinking heads can be a pain to get up and out of the water. The iFlight tends to be a lot better with the longer floating section making it pick up with a snap t or circle spey just fine. As with a floating head and heavy tip you may have to give it a quick roll cast. I find that doing various variations of the Perry Poke works really well with this line (check out Skagit Master 1 for more on this cast). The iFlight has the same oomph as a skagit short and has no problems with a heavy tip and/or large fly.
The RIO Skagit iFlight has quickly become my go to winter line. I can fish deeper without the heavier tips required with a floating head. RIO’s new iMOW tips are excellent additions to these lines for ease of use. The only limitation I have found is swinging into small slots where it’s beneficial to have a floating line and a bit of a hinge with the tip to reach down into nooks and crannies. In addition to winter fishing its proven to be a great shad line (just ask Mike McCune) and would probably work well for stripers and other alternative applications. Yet another great line from RIO to add to your spey arsenal, it never ends!