Skagit Cheaters by Rio Fly Lines. $45 for a package of four. Available at many fly shops and online stores.
o, a Skagit Cheater is not a poacher on a northern Washington river. It's a short section of line that replaces the 15-foot mid-section of a Rio WindCutter spey line.
The notion is that when you're casting with the trees at your back, you don't have room to make a big D-loop. Further, by adjusting the length of line you can use the same casting stroke regardless of the length of your rod. Rio's guidelines are that the length of the main line should be 3.5 times the length of the rod. Thus, a 13-foot two-hander would use a 45.5 foot belly. The standard WindCutter, including the 15-foot midsection--is 55 feet. Replace the midsection with a 5-foot Cheater and you have a 45-foot belly. "Ah-ha," the astute reader says, "you've changed the weight of the line. It won't cast the same!"
Well, Rio thought of that. The Cheaters are designed to be one line-weight heavier than what it replaces. For example, a five-foot Cheater for a 7-8-9 WindCutter weighs the same as five feet of a 8-9-10 WindCutter.
A practical application of Skagit Cheaters is when you're using a sink-tip line. If you've used a sink-tip line with your two-handed rod, you know that it can be a battle to keep the head from sinking too far before making your forward cast. If it sinks too much, you expend all the rod's energy just getting the head out of the water and your cast goes nowhere.
One way to avoid this problem is to make a large D loop, thus keeping more of the sink-tip out of the water or near the surface. That works fine if you've got lots of room behind you. But what if your don't?
That's where the Skagit Cheater comes to your aid. Because you're casting a shorter belly, you need a smaller D loop and you're less likely to leave your fly and line dangling from the trees behind you.
The disadvantage is that you have to strip in more line to get to the optimum casting point, but the Cheaters will help you shoot more line and the net effect is a cast of about the same length that you would have achieved otherwise--or would have achieved had the trees not grabbed your fly.
There are four Cheaters in each package: a five-foot and a ten-foot floater, and a five-foot and a ten-foot compensator (sinking section). As explained above, a five-footer matches a 13-foot rod, and a ten-footer is just right for a 15-foot rod.
I've used the 5-foot floating Cheater on my Thomas & Thomas 1307 (13-foot rod for a seven-weight line) with a Rio 7-8-9 WindCutter Spey Line and a Type III sink-tip. It works just dandy and has produced several steelhead. I still get hung in the trees sometimes; that only proves that while the Cheater helps, it's no substitute for paying attention to what's behind your back.
Bottom Line: Clever system that helps when you're using a sink-tip line and the brush is at your back. Reviewer Rating: 4
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