I’ll admit it, I got turned on to this line in roundabout fashion. My friend Ben Carmichael, a contributor here at the Compleat Angler and writer over at New England on the Fly, busted out the Rio 3D Single Spey version of this line a few seasons ago while we were on a salmon trip (he also wrote a review of that line here). I wasn’t sure that a single-handed spey line made much sense but then he started casting it overhanded and it threw beautiful loops despite my having pigeonholed it as a “spey” line. A line that actually works well for both spey and single-handed casting? I’m listening. And one that casts like a floating line and yet has a little performance-enhancing sink to it? Sign me up. So I started fishing it too and loved it.
So when it came time to re-tool my actual spey line arsenal I reached for the two-handed equivalent, the 3D Scandi Head put out by Simon Gawesworth and his team at Rio. For most of the atlantic salmon fishing I do every summer a scandi line makes the most sense. Scandi lines shoot beautifully, you can throw nice, delicate loops, and I’m rarely fishing in tough, high-water conditions where you’d need to bust out a skagit line with heavy sinking equipment or enormous flies.
So I grabbed this line and headed up last summer to give it a shot. Here’s my take.
Why This Line
Scandi heads are a popular choice among many salmon and steelhead fisherman. They’re less heavy and aggressive than skagits, but more practical than mid or long belly lines, at least on most salmon rivers in North America. The taper on this line is very close to Rio’s standard floating Scandi Head, which makes sense. The 3D version has a slightly gentler front taper but besides that there isn’t much difference in how the lines spec out. If you like fishing Rio’s regular Scandi Head you’ll enjoy fishing this one as well - that’s kind of the point.
The difference on this line - and the reason for the 3D designation - is that it has an integrated, graduated sinking tip. The one I tested was the F/H/I version (F/1IPS/2 IPS), the model that’s designed to keep your fly in the top few feet of the water column. The sinking properties aren’t what makes this line unique though, it’s the fact that the integrated construction means you don’t have any loop-to-loop connections to deal with. While a modular setup does give some flexibility, my experience with those lines was never that good - the whole always felt like less than the sum of its parts. The Scandi 3D by contrast feels, well, it feels basically like you’re casting a regular floating line. That’s a killer combination.
If this all sounds too good to be true, it should be noted that Rio didn’t exactly create a new category here, at least not entirely. Integrated lines have been popular among European salmon fisherman for some time. You just rarely, if ever, saw them on this side of the pond. Rio’s insight was to basically borrow this line type from our European counterparts. And given the rise of spey casting in the US and Canada, that’s a shrewd move. In short, you can grab one of these knowing that it’s not some marketing fluff or a passing fad - these integrated lines have stood the test of time and address a very real fishing situation. They work.
I fished the 3D in what were historically low water conditions on the Gaspe and so my first concern was whether any sink at all was going to be a problem. The short answer is that it was great. I never bumped along the bottom even in the shallows and never had any depth issues even in the low conditions. That said, I did manage to hook into a few fish which was better than how many people were doing up there at the time. I suspect that using this line to get slightly deeper than a standard floating line had something to do with it. As depth management goes, the F/H/I line feels like the “goldilocks” combination for those who like a standard downstream wet fly swing.
This line also casts incredibly well. It shoots like the regular floating line, which I also had with me for a side-by-side comparison. I fished the 520 grain head which clocks in at 38’ feet and had it on Rio’s standard running line. It loads very well, has smooth power transfer and you can throw very nice loops. That delicacy was especially important in low water where I wanted to avoid splash landings as much as possible.
Lastly, one feature I also liked about this line was that the rear floating portion was long enough to allow for effective mending. As any seasoned salmon angler will tell you, mending is often critical for getting that “just right” swing through a pool. On casts where I needed to speed things up or slow them down, mending was easy. Again, Rio seems to have landed on the “just right” amount of floating line in the head.
Rio prices these lines at $59.99 which seems reasonable for a quality spey line. It’s hard to know whether to compare them to regular scandi lines or to integrated ones. For the latter category I couldn’t find any integrated heads that were cheaper than this, at least not ones that I would be eager to fish. Lines these days are never cheap, but assuming you take good care of it and get at least a few seasons out of it, the price seems fair.
The takeaway here is that I highly recommend this line for anyone who regularly fishes scandi lines for salmon or steelhead. Full stop.
I’ve only fished the F/H/I version of this line so I can’t speak to the other weights, though I’m planning on picking up the 1IPS / 2IPS / 3IPS version just in case I run into some really high-water conditions (I’ll be curious to see whether it performs as well even without the floating section). About the only drawback I can think of here would come if you are an obsessive tip-changer and really do want the ability to swap tips at a moment’s notice. That’s never really been a scenario I’ve faced in the last 5-6 years so moving to the integrated version is a welcome alternative.
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