Feb 8, 2013
The Cutting Edge: Evolution of the New Rio IMow Tips
Sink Tips have long helped depth-minded anglers present their flies closer to fish. The closer - the better, right? However, finding the right sink tip for the situation at hand can be a tough one. Older sink-tip fly lines did not lend a lot of versatility, as the floating portion and the sinking portion were fused together at the factory. If a tip line proved too heavy or light, then too bad – that is the fly line you have to work with. Although many of these lines are still manufactured, where the tip is built into the line, there are others that offer a junction with the fly-line (loop to loop connection) which offers sink-tip interchangeability. The Rio Versitip II is a perfect example of this type of line used for single hand fishing. While being extremely versatile, these are not always the preference with single hand anglers because the junction of lines can be cumbersome as it often struggles to pass through the guides of the fly rod.
Now spey fishing is a different story. Rods are longer and there is not as much action placed on the line during the presentation (ie: stripping line - eliminating the junction-through-the-guides dilemma). With the evolution of spey lines, like the Skagit, which are built to cast an independent tip, the popularity of individual, interchangeable sink tips exploded. With each tip offering a different length and sink-rate, spey anglers the world over, now keep many different tip options with them while on the water.
So, what types of tips? Originally these started as one density throughout the length of the tip. So the entire tip sinks at the same rate. For example, let’s say you are fishing with a 10 foot tip of T-11 (T for Tungsten, 11 grains/foot) which is usually great, however in this circumstance, it is proving too heavy. You seem to be catching a rock with your sink tip while swinging your fly through the run, because the entire tip (10 feet) is down at rock level. You want to swing the fly in behind the rock to that awaiting steelhead. If you were to choose a different tip, the idea would be to go shorter, so just the tail end of the line would sink and drop in behind the rock.
So you choose a 6 foot tip (Although not a typical, out of the package size – you may have custom built this one from a Sink-Tip Coil Pack). However, you now are having trouble with your cast. It becomes real clear, real fast, that weight, coupled with the overall length of your spey line influences the cast. Now with only a 6 foot tip, you are forced to tailor your casting stroke to fit the shorter/lighter length of line.
A couple years ago, Rio addressed exactly this issue with their Cutting Edge, Rio MOW Tips. In their hopes to keep the overall tip length constant, they offered tips that blended both sinking and floating portions of line throughout the length of the tip. This was a brilliant move on their part. There are 4 different weights: Rio MOW Light (T-8), Rio MOW Medium (T-11), Rio MOW Heavy (T-14), and Mow Tip Extra-Heavy (T-17). Each weight also comes in different sink-rates depending on different Float to sink ratios. For example, a Rio MOW Medium 2.5 Float/7.5 Sink means that the overall grain weight of the tip is consistent to 10 feet of T-11, however 2.5 feet of the tip floats and 7.5 feet of the tip sinks at a rate consistent with T-11. This blending is what initially made these tips revolutionary in design, however, the MOW Tip line also offers standard, non-blended tips in either Full Sinking or Full Floating for each weight class, as well as entire MOW Tip Kits that cover all the bases.
Ok, so that was one giant leap for Tip Kind. Good on you Rio, however, they didn’t stop there. Another problem or issue rather, prompting a lot of contemplation, is the loss of sensitivity while fishing sink tips. Essentially the tight connection from fly to finger is lost because of the hinging nature of sink tip to floating line connections. Here, in Rio’s diagram, you can see the slack present between floating line and fly, as the tip drops down and forms a sort of upside down “L” shape. That “L” is actually slack that helps mask subtle disturbances to your fly. This is a problem, especially when considering that tip fishing is a constant during cold weather months AND fish movements to the fly can be extremely subtle during these times.
Enter the Rio IMow Tips. Same idea as the original MOW series of tips, but now, all floating portions of the tip have been replaced with intermediate-sink line. Now, look at the diagram above again, paying close attention to the I-Mow image. By bridging the gap between full-float and aggressive-sink, the intermediate line brings a smoother transition and enhances the straight-line connection to your fly. Once again, good on you Rio. At present, they are available in I Mow Medium, and I Mow Heavy weight classes with a 10 foot straight-intermediate tip option. **Something to keep in mind: the intermediate tips are often far easier to cast than floating tips on Skagit lines. In doing so, you cast well, and still maintain enough floatability for most dry line circumstances.
Although this may seem like a “hair splitting” way of thinking about sink tips, it’s by no means overkill! So many steelhead anglers are using these tips now. Why? Well, because anything you can do – anything that you can control - to increase the chances of landing a steelhead on a swung fly is definitely in order. They don’t come easy. You have to wonder how many subtle takes you failed to notice while simply continuing on down the run, oblivious of how close you were to actually sticking a fish. And for those single hand anglers using fly lines with tip interchangeability, this would also be a very good option, granted their grain weight is a good casting fit.
Although this innovation is new to the world of sink-tips, this new technology may not be an altogether, new way of thinking. This intermediate line concept has already been applied to Skagit fly lines over the past couple of years, starting with the SA Skagit Extreme Intermediate. Here the entire head portion (tapered portion) is composed of intermediate sink line. Next to pop out in this genre of lines were the Airflo Skagit Intermediate Compact and then the Rio I-Flight. **Please note both the Rio and Airflo lines use an integration of floating to intermediate, while the SA line is all intermediate right up to the running line.
The idea here was two-fold: 1) Fish deeper for a longer period of time. 2) Eliminate slack and enhance straight-line connection to fly (sensitivity). Again, this is crucial during cold weather months that are notorious for subtle takes and fish needing slow-moving flies near face level.
Now with the IMow tips, you can also tailor this connectivity on a smaller scale. Does it stand to reason that one of these tips might be a good idea affixed to an intermediate-sinking line? I think so.
Have a good time,
Duffy & The Gorge Fly Shop