Fly fishing, and the equipment that is involved in fly fishing
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A distinct and ancient angling method, most renowned as a method for catching trout and salmon, but employed today for a wide variety of species including pike, bass, panfish, and carp, as
well as marine species, such as redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish and striped bass. There are many reports of fly fisherman taking quite unintended species such as chub, bream and rudd while fishing for 'main target' species such as trout. There is a growing population of anglers whose aim is to catch as many different species as possible while fishing with an artificial fly
In fly fishing, fish are caught by using artificial flies that are cast with a fly rod and a fly line.
The fly line (today, almost always coated with plastic) is heavy enough to send the fly to the target. Artificial fly fishing flies vary dramatically in size and weight, depending upon the application. It is important that the fly be matched with the appropriate line, rod, and reel. In general, larger, heavier flies require heavier lines, larger capacity reels, and heavier weight rods.
Artificial fly fishing flies are created by tying hair, fur, feathers, and other materials onto a hook with thread. The first fly fishing flies were tied with natural materials, but synthetic materials are now extremely popular and prevalent in most flies. The flies are tied and material arranged in sizes and colors to match local terrestrial and aquatic insects, baitfish, and other fish food attractive to the target fish species. Fly lines are heavier than regular fishing line, some are made to float and some made heavier to sink.
Unlike other fly fishing methods where the cast is delivered by the weight of the bait or lure, fly fishing relies on the rhythm imparted to the rod and line, with the fly trailing, to project the offering to a likely spot holding fish.
It is similar to sending a wave along a garden hose in order to get a kink out. The angler normally holds the rod in the dominant hand and manipulates the line down by the reel with the other, working the line out a bit at a time as the momentum carrying it forward and backward allows.
The mechanics of the rod's movement are commonly described as "10 to 2", meaning that the rod's movement on the forward cast is arrested at the 10 o'clock position (12 o'clock is rod straight up, 9 o'clock flat forward, 3 o'clock flat backwards) and the backcast at 2 o'clock. New casting techniques promotes minimal wrist movement, a very open stance and movement of the arm parallel to the ground, and discouraging the 10 to 2 movement. As the casts get longer the more open the arc of the rod makes in the cast. The ideal cast has proper stop points with the fly line laying parallel to the river surface before the rod begins to move in the opposite direction. When desired on the forward cast, as the line pulls forward with momentum imparted by the fly rod, the angler lets go of the line and lets it fly forward, carrying additional slack line out of hands grip. Fly line speed and geometry in the forward and back cast yield a tighter or looser unfurling (referred to as the "loop") of the fly line. The better the rhythm and line control the further and more accurate the cast. A poor cast is quickly indicated by the line becoming entangled.
Fly fishing flies can be fished floating on the surface (dry flies), partially submerged (emergers), or below the surface (nymphs, streamers, and wet flies.) Fly fishing as in dry fly is typically thought to represent an insect landing on, or emerging from, the water's surface as might a grasshopper, dragonfly, mayfly, stonefly or caddisfly.
Other surface flies include poppers and hair bugs that might resemble mice, frogs, etc. Sub-Surface flies are fished to resemble a wide variety of prey including aquatic larvae, nymphs and pupae, baitfish, crayfish, leeches, worms, crabs, etc. Wet flies known as streamers are generally thought to imitate minnows and leeches. In the broadest terms, flies are categorized as either imitative, meaning they resemble some natural food source, or attractive, meaning they contain a medley of triggering characteristics designed to entice fish without representing a common food source.
Many credit the use of an artificial fly fishing lure as first being recorded by the Roman Claudius Aelianus near the end of the 2nd century. He described the practice of Macedonian anglers on the Astraeus River:
..."they have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them by their fisherman's craft. . . . They fasten red . . . wool round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock's wattles, and which in color are like wax.
Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the colour, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive".
In his book Fishing from the Earliest Times, however, William Radcliff (1921) gives the credit to Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis), born some two hundred years before Aelian, who wrote:
...Who has not seen the scarus rise, decoyed and killed by fraudful flies...
The last word has been translated as either moss "mosco" or flies "musca" but catching fish with fraudulent moss seems unlikely.
Modern fly fishing is normally said to have originated on the fast, rocky rivers of Scotland and Northern England. Other than a few fragmented references, however, little was written on fly fishing until The Treatyse on Fysshynge with an Angle was published (1496) within The Book of St. Albans attributed to Dame Juliana Berners.
The book contains, along with instructions on rod, line and hook making, dressings for different flies to use at different times of the year.
The first detailed writing about the sport comes in two chapters of Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler, which were actually written by his friend Charles Cotton, and described the fly fishing in the Derbyshire Wye.
British fly fishing was further developed in the 19th Century, with the emergence of fly fishing clubs, along with the appearance of several books on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing techniques. In southern England, dry fly fishing acquired an elitist reputation as the only acceptable method of fishing the slower, clearer rivers of the south such as the River Test and the other 'chalk streams' concentrated in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk Formation for the geological specifics). The weeds found in these rivers tend to grow very close to the surface, and it was felt necessary to develop new techniques that would keep the fly and the line on the surface of the stream. These became the foundation of all later dry-fly developments.
However, there was nothing to prevent the successful employment of wet flies on these chalk streams, as George E.M. Skues proved with his nymph and wet fly techniques. To the horror of dry fly fishing purists, Skues later wrote two influential books, Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, and The Way of a Trout with a Fly, which were very influential on the development of wet fly angling. In northern England and Scotland, many anglers also favored wet-fly fishing, where the technique was more popular and widely practiced than in southern England. One of Scotland’s leading proponents of the wet fly in the early-to-mid 19th century was W.C. Stewart, who published "The Practical Angler" in 1857.
In Scandinavia and the United States, attitudes towards methods of fly fishing were not nearly as rigidly defined, and both dry- and wet-fly fishing were soon developed and modified for use in the waters of those countries.
Lines made of silk, instead of horse-hair, were heavy enough to be cast in the modern style. Cotton and his predecessors fished their flies with long rods, and light lines allowing the wind to do most of the work of getting the fly out to the fish.
But the use of new woods in fly rods, first greenheart, then bamboo, made it possible to cast flies into the wind on silk lines. These early fly lines proved troublesome, as they had to be coated with various dressings to make them float, and taken off the reel and dried every half-hour or so.
American rod builders such as Hiram Leonard developed superior techniques for making bamboo rods: thin strips were cut from the cane, planed into shape, and then glued together to form light, strong, hexagonal rods with a solid core that were superior to anything developed before.
Fly reels were soon developed as well. At first they were rather simple in terms of mechanical construction, more or less a storage place for the fly line and backing. In order to tire the fish, anglers simply applied hand pressure to the rim of the revolving spool, known as 'palming' the rim. (See Fishing reel). In fact, many superb modern reels still use this simple design.
In the United States, fly fishermen are thought to be the first anglers to have used artificial lures for bass fishing . After pressing into service the fly patterns and tackle designed for trout and salmon to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, they began to adapt these patterns into specific bass flies.
Fly fishermen seeking bass developed the spinner/fly lure and bass popper fly, which are still used today.
In the late 19th century, American anglers, such as Ray Bergman, in the Catskill Mountains of New York began using fly tackle to fish the region’s many brook trout-rich streams such as the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek. Many of these early American fly fishermen also developed native fly patterns and wrote extensively about their sport, increasing the popularity of fly fishing in the region and the United States as a whole. The Junction Pool in Roscoe, where the Willowemoc flows into the Beaver Kill, is the center of an almost ritual pilgrimage every April 1, when the season begins. Albert Bigelow Paine was another New Englander who wrote about fly fishing, producing The Tent Dwellers about a three week trip he and a friend took to central Nova Scotia in 1908.
Participation in fly fishing peaked in the early 1920s in the eastern states of Maine and Vermont and in the Midwest in the spring creeks of Wisconsin.
Ernest Hemingway helped to popularize fly fishing, along with deep-sea fishing, through his works of fiction, including The Sun Also Rises. But it was the development of inexpensive fiberglass rods, synthetic fly lines, and monofilament leaders in the early 1950s that revived the popularity of fly fishing, especially in the United States.
In recent years, interest in fly fishing has surged as baby boomers have discovered the sport. Movies such as Robert Redford's film A River Runs Through It, starring Brad Pitt, cable fishing shows, and the emergence of a competitive fly casting circuit have also added to the sport's visibility.
A hatchery at Maramec Spring in Missouri raises trout sought after by fly fishermen.
A hatchery at Maramec Spring in Missouri raises trout sought after by fly fishermen.
The fly angler uses a rod longer and lighter than those used for cast and spin fishing. Fly rods can be as short as 2m (6 ft) long in freshwater fishing and up to 4.5 m (15 ft) long for two-handed fishing for salmon or steelhead. The average rod for fresh and salt water is around 9 feet in length and weighs between 3 and 5 ounces, though a recent trend has been to lighter, shorter rods for fishing smaller streams.
There are several types of casts in fly fishing, which are used according to a given fishing situation.
The most common cast is the forward cast, where the angler whisks the fly into the air, back over the shoulder until the line is nearly straight, then forward, using primarily the forearm. The objective of this motion is to "load" (bend) the rod tip with stored energy, then transmit that energy to the fly line, resulting in the fly line (and the attached fly) being cast for an appreciable distance. Casting without landing the fly on the water is known as 'false casting', and may be used to pay out line, dry a soaked fly, or reposition a cast. Other casts are the roll cast, the single and double haul cast, the tuck cast, and the side, or curve cast.
Once on the water, the fly may either float or sink, depending on the type of fly and the style of fishing. This presentation of the fly onto the water and subsequent movement on or under the water is one of fly-fishing's most difficult aspects, because the angler is attempting to cast in such a way that the line lands smoothly on the water's surface and the fly appears as natural as possible. At a certain point, depending upon the action of the fly and water currents, the angler then makes another presentation.
If a fish strikes, the angler pulls in line while raising the rod tip. This sets the hook in the fish's mouth. The fish is then played, either by hand, where the angler continues to hold the fly line in one hand to control the tension applied to the fish, or by retrieving all slack in the line, utilizing the anglers hand to act as a drag on the reel, or use a reels drag system to slow the fish's runs.
When actively fishing, the fisher may want to keep the fly line up against the rod handle using the index finger of the casting arm. The free arm is used to pull line from the reel or retrieve line from the water. If a fish strikes, the fisher can pinch the line with index finger against the rod handle and lift the rod tip, setting the hook.
Fly fishing can be done in fresh water or salt water.
Fresh water fishing is often divided into cold water (trout, salmon, steelhead) and warm water (bass, perch) fishing.
The techniques for fresh water fly fishing are different for still water (lakes), streams and rivers.
Fly fishing for trout
Fly fishing for trout is a very popular sport which can be done with dry flies or sinking wet flies, nymphs and streamers.
Fishing in cold water
Cold water fishers often use chest high waders and wade into the water. In some areas, wading can be done in wading shoes and rubber booties.
Stocking foot chest high waders have neoprene "feet" and are designed to be worn inside wading boots. Felt bottomed wading boots can be worn over the stocking feet and provide excellent grip on rocky river bottoms. Neoprene waders provide warmth in cold climates, provide padding if you fall, and are very durable going through heavy brush. Breathable Gortex waders provide much needed ventilation when hiking along the water, but do not provide floatation if the fisher inadvertently steps into a deep section of water. In deep water streams, an inflatable PFD, personal floatation device, or Type III Kayak fishing vest, may add a degree of safety. The fisher should use a wader belt, high on the waders, at all times to decrease the amount of water that can enter the waders. Surprisingly, while wading, the fisher is more likely to trip and fall in shallow water than deep water due to the lack of buoyant water about the fisher. It is common to tuck any long pants inside of the fisher's socks when putting on chest high waders. This keeps the pants from riding up.
Some "catch and release" fishers may wish to flatten the barb on the fly hook. Such "barbless hooks" are much easier to remove from the fish and the fisher. While walking through brush, the fisher may want to set the fly into the fly keeper, tighten the line and walk with the fly rod pointing backwards. It helps to palm the fly line tight against the handle while hiking, securing the tension on the fly in the fly keeper.
Dry fly trout fishing
Dry fly trout fishing is done with line and flies that float on the water. A tapered leader is placed between the floating line and floating fly. The weight of the fly line is used to pull the light fly into flight. This is quite different from the use of heavy lures and monofilament fishing line where the weight of the lure pulls the line into flight. Unlike sinking fly nymph fishing, the "take" on dry flies floating on the surface is aggressive and very exciting. Nymph fishing may be more productive, but dry fly fishers soon become addicted to the surface strike. Dry flies may be attractors or imitators such as the elk hair caddis fly. A beginner may wish to begin with a fly that is easy to see such as a Royal Wulff Image:RoyalWulff.jpg attractor or a mayfly imitator such as a Parachute Adams Image:ParachuteAdams.jpg . The "parachute" on the Parachute Adams makes the fly easier to see.
Being able to see the fly is especially helpful to the beginner. The fly should land softly as if dropped onto the water with the leader extended from the floating fly line. Any motion of the fly line should not disturb the natural drift of the fly. This is difficult to learn if the fisher cannot see the fly. Once the fisher has landed a fish, the dry fly may no longer float well. Often, the fly can be made to float again by "false" casting, casting the fly back and forth in the air. In some cases, the fly can be dried with a small piece of reusable absorbent camp towel or chamois, or placed in a container full of desicant/floatant and shaken in the desicant. Another solution is to put on another fly, rotating through a set of flies.
Dry fly fishing for trout on small deserted clear water streams can be especially productive if the fisher stays low and moves upstream with stealth. Trout tend to be looking upstream for food, explaining the success of fishing "from" downstream while wading upstream. Trout tend to strike at the "edges" between fast and slow moving water. Obstructions such as large rocks or nearby pools provide a "low cost" environment where the trout can stalk for food without expending much energy. Casting upstream to the "edge" into the slower water, the fisher can see the fly land and drift slowly back to the fisher. The challenge in stream fishing is placing the fly with deadly accuracy, within inches of a protective rock for instance, not long range casting. Done properly, the fly seems to be just floating along in the current with a "perfect drift" as if not connected to the fly line. When the fisher sees the "commotion" of the take, the fisher should raise the rod tip and set the hook!
Nymphing for trout
Trout tend to take in most of their food while feeding underwater. When fishing rivers and lakes, putting a fly down to the trout may be more successful than dry fly fishing on the surface, especially in the absence of any surface insect activity or hatch. The nymph itself can be be weighted as is the popular bead headed hare's ear nymph Image:beadharesear.jpg or bead headed pheasant tail nymph Image:beadedpheasanttail.jpg. Weights can be added to the leader. A sinking tip fly line can also be used to sink the fly. The most common nymphing and general overall flyfishing technique that even beginners can master is a "dead drift" or tight line fishing technique, casting directly across the river, letting the fly line drift downriver while keeping any slack out of the line. The beginning fisher can point the rod at the fly, lifting the rod in the presence of a strike. This is a downstream technique where the fisher moves from upstream to downstream. More advanced techniques make use of a surface strike indicator attached to the leader above the sinking fly.
Still water trout fishing
The prize, a large rainbow trout taken on an articulated leech pattern, Bristol Bay Region, Alaska.
Fly gear at Basspro.com
Fish for trout in lakes requires a different set of tactics. Canoes with oar locks, pontoon boats and float tubes allow the fisher to cover a lot more water than waders. Trout tend to congregate in the cooler water near stream inlets or underwater springs and may be lured to bite on flies known as streamers. An often successful tactic is to pull a streamer such as a woolly bugger, using clear sinking line, behind the fisher's favorite watercraft. The motion of the oars or fins tends to give the woolly bugger Image:woolybugger.jpg a tempting action. Trout also tend to "cruise," sometimes in schools, transitional areas (ie: dropoffs, edges of weed beds, subsurface river flow at inlets, etc.) for food. Watching for cruising trout and casting well ahead of the cruiser(s) is often successful. Still Water is often the place where your casting and presentation skills are challenged the most.
Bass Pro Main
Releasing wild trout helps to preserve the quality of the wild fisheries. If the fisher plans to release wild trout, the barb on a fly hook should be pinned down using a fine forceps. Small trout caught with such a "barbless" hook can be released simply by grasping the fly in the hand and turning the fly so that the tip of the hook is pointed down to the ground. Often a small trout will just release itself into the water. It is important to minimize the handling of any trout that is to be released to the wild. Larger trout can be grasped gently with a wet hand and quickly inverted so that the fish is upside down. Trout in this position, stop struggling. (In fact, sharks in this position stop struggling, but removing the hook from a shark is a bit more intimidating!) A forceps can then be used to grasp the hook, backing the hook out of the trout. Returning the trout to the upright position, the fisher can place the trout in the water and support the fish until it swims off. Trout that have been exhausted by a long fight may need to be resucitated before they can safely swim off.
Long distance release
The "L.D.R" or long distance release is discussed, tongue in cheek, by John Geirach in his book "Trout Bum." In this technique the trout is released, without being handled, at a great distance from the fisher. This is usually the result of a fisher "asleep at the switch" combined with a overpowering trout and a tippet, one size too small. To use this technique, a surprised fisher allows a "lunker" trout to unceremoniously pull the line and backing out of the reel, eventually breaking off the tippet, returning the fish to the wild mostly unharmed and oft unseen.
Types of artificial fly
Another aspect of fly fishing is choosing the appropriate fly pattern (See Fly lure). While the fly was originally invented to mimic flying insects, it has continually evolved to match the considerable diet of trout and many other species. These can be aquatic larva and pupae, eggs, worms, freshwater shrimp, grasshoppers, crickets, crawfish, mice, frogs, tadpoles, sculpin, leeches, etc. Other types of flies are 'attractors' intended to trigger a natural aggressive response from various species, most notably spawning salmon and bass. An attractor is not tied to represent any particular insect or creature. The bass popper is a type of topwater attractor fly. Yet another fly type is the streamer, a long-tailed hair or feathered lure tied to simulate a leech or a minnow (or other baitfish), and fished below the surface of the water.
Fly fishing for trout, panfish, or bass can be done in rivers, small streams, creeks, lakes, or even ponds - though the basics are the same, methods and fly patterns vary according to the species sought and the environment. Many more fly fishermen are also pursuing other species such as bass, resulting in new types of fly patterns. For example, the weedless, diving fly has been developed to allow fishing for largemouth bass in areas of heavy cover or aquatic growth.
The fly itself can weigh very little and is attached to the fly line by a 3-12 foot (1-4 meter) leader which normally tapers in diameter to a very fine line at its termination, also called the tippet. Most artificial flies range between size #2 (large) and #22 (very small). The principal difference between spinning or bait casting tackle and fly fishing is that spinning or bait casting utilizes the weight of the lure to cast the lure, while a fly is cast by the weight of the line. In fact, a fly line can be "cast" without any fly or lure on it at all, a feat impossible with a typical spinning or casting rod and reel.
In early years of fly fishing, flies were characterized by the target species. There were Salmon Flies, Trout Flies and Grayling Flies. As the sport of Fly Fishing became popular in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, there was great debate over the merits of Dry Flies versus Wet Flies and Nymphs. Today, characterizing the types of artificial flies used in the sport is much more complicated because fly fishers target 100s of species around the globe in a wide variety of water types. That demands significantly more diversity in fly types. Additionally, the increasing use of synthetic materials instead of natural materials to construct artificial flies has created types of flies unheard of 100 years ago. The subject is further complicated by the historical characterization of fly types. They have been characterized by several different and many times not exclusive criteria. A Dry Fly was intended to be fished on the surface and resemble adult prey while a Wet Fly was to be fished under the surface and could resemble drowned adults, immature prey or baitfish. The flies were designed and constructed with those techniques in mind. The Nymph as a fly type was designed and fished to resemble immature prey, but the Nymph as well was a Wet Fly as it was fished under the surface. Nymphing was also a technique and Wet Flies could easily be fished using a nymphing approach. The Streamer, popularized in the 1930’s by Ray Bergman in Trout (1938) and later by Joseph Bates in Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing (1950) is also a Wet or sub-surface fly type. Most Salmon and Steelhead Flies, named for the target fish, are of a Streamer type, but there are also Dry Steelhead flies. Flies intended for saltwater species are fished both on the surface as well as sub-surface. There are even flies intended to resemble roe and rotting flesh. Indeed any fly type taxonomy would have a lot of overlap.
Sizes and usage
Fly rod (and line) weights are typically written as Nwt where 'N' is the number (e.g. 8wt, 9wt, 10wt).
All fly rods are matched to an appropriate fly line according to weight. These fly line sizes are marked on the rod, from Size #0, #1, or #2 for the lightest trout and panfish rods, up to powerful and heavy #16 rods for the largest saltwater gamefish.
It is important to use the appropriately weighted fly line with the fly rod. Using too heavy a line or too light on a rod will dramatically affect your casting performance. It may also ultimately warp the rod blank. In general, you can safely go one
fly line weight more or less (i.e. using a 8wt or 10wt line on a rod rated for 9wt). There are also rods with multi-line ratings. For example, a rod may be rated 7-8 weight. This indicates it is designed for either a 7 or 8 weight fly line. There are also some triple rated fly rods (e.g. 8-9-10 weight line). The drawback to multi rated rods is that in order to accommodate a wider range of line weights they often lose something in action or flexibility. For example, a rod rated for 8-9 weight line will be stiffer than a straight 8wt but softer than a straight 9wt rod.
Saltwater fly rods are built to handle powerful fish and to cast the usually larger more bulky flies used in the salt over longer distances and/or into strong winds. Saltwater fly rods are normally fitted with heavy-duty, corrosion-resistant fittings and reel seats equipped with fighting butts.
Bamboo and split cane
Fly rods vary between 2m (6 feet) and 4m (14 feet) in length. The earliest fly rods were made from greenheart, a tropical wood, and later bamboo originating in the Tonkin area of Guangdong Province in China. The mystical appeal of handmade split-cane rods has endured despite the emergence over the last 50 years of cheaper rod-making materials that offer more durability and performance: fiberglass and graphite.
Split-cane bamboo fly rods combine sport, history and art. It may take well over 100 hours of labor to select and split the raw cane, then cure, flame, plane, file, taper, glue, wrap and finish each rod. Quality rods made by famous rod-makers may fetch prices well over US$2,000, and new rods from competent contemporary builders may bring nearly that much. These rods offer grace, form, and, with their solid mass, surprising strength. Bamboo rods vary in action from slow to fast depending on the taper of the rod. In competent hands, they provide the pinnacle in performance for freshwater trout fishing situations.
Synthetic fly rods
Today, fly rods are mainly made from carbon fibre with cork being favoured as a grip. They generally offer greater stiffness than bamboo, are much less expensive to manufacture, and require less maintenance. Fiberglass rods became popular in the years following World War II, and was the material of choice in fly rod
construction for many years. However, by the late 1980s carbon/graphite composite rods (including premium graphite/boron and graphite/titanium blends) had emerged as the material of choice for most fly rod manufacturers, offering a stiffness, sensitivity, and feel unmatched by competitive synthetic materials. Graphite composites are especially suited to the construction of multi-piece, takedown 'travel' rods, as the joints or ferrules used in the construction of better-quality graphite travel rods do not significantly affect overall flex or rod action. Today's modern carbon graphite composite fly rods are available in a wide range of sizes and types, from ultralight trout rods to bass fishing rods and two-handed spey rods.
The fly line and leader are the most important part of fly fishing physics. It is what is cast since the fly is virtually weightless. Fly lines come in a variety of forms. They may have varying diameters or tapered sections, or level (even) diameter. A fly line
may float, sink, or have a floating main section with a sinking tip. A fly line consists of a tough braided or monofilament core, wrapped in a thick waterproof plastic sheath, often of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In the case of floating fly lines, the PVC sheath is usually embedded with many 'microballoons' or air bubbles, and may also be impregnated with silicone or other lubricants to give buoyancy and reduce wear. Fly lines also come in a variety of models for use in specific environments: fresh water, salt water, cold or tropical temperatures, etc.
All fly lines are matched to the individual rod according to weight. Because the fly line, not the lure, determines casting, fly rods are sized according to the size of fly line, not the weight of the lure. Fly lines come in a wide range of numbered sizes (from a tiny #0 to a hefty #16) as well as profiles: double-tapered, weight-forward, shooting-head, etc. Most fly lines are only around 90 feet (27 meters) in length, sufficient for sporting purposes, though specialized shooting-head lines with a short, heavy front section and small-diameter backing are often employed for long-distance casting as well as competitive events.
The American Flyfishing Tackle Manufactures Association has defined Line Number Designation Standard Weights in grains for the first 30 feet of the fly line as the following.
Included is a small margin for production error.
|1-Weight 60 54-66
||2-Weight 80 74-86
||3-Weight 100 94-106
||4-Weight 120 114-126
|5-Weight 140 134-146
||6-Weight 160 152-168
||7-Weight 185 177-193
||8-Weight 210 202-218
|9-Weight 240 230-250
||10-Weight 280 270-290
||11-Weight 330 318-342
||12-Weight 380 368-392
Tapering of the tip section is an very important in consideration in a line purchase. Heavier tapers towards the tip of the line, usually designated as a weight forward line loads the rod (what bends the rod) sooner and makes casting easier for beginners. A double tapered rod can be used twice as long since the taper is the same at both ends of the line, thus one can wear out one half and turn it around and use the other half until it is worn out, this cant be done with any other fly fishing line.
In order to fill up the reel spool and ensure an adequate reserve in case of a run by a powerful fish, fly lines are usually attached to a secondary line at the butt section, called backing. Fly line backing is usually composed of braided dacron or gelspun monofilaments. Backing varies in length according to the type of gamefish sought, from as little as 75 yards for smaller freshwater species to as much as 300-400 yards for large saltwater gamefish.
All fly lines are equipped with a leader of monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line, usually (but not always) tapered in diameter, and referred to by the 'X-size' (0X, 2X, 4X, etc.) of its final tip section, or tippet. For example, a freshwater trout leader might have a butt section of 20-pound test monofilament, tapering through 15, 12, 10, and 8-pound test sections, terminating in a 5X (.006" diameter, usually around 4–5 pound test) tippet. A fly line is only as strong as its weakest link, which is the final tippet section.
A breakdown of the lead and important leader info is as follows:
Butt Section, heaviest portion of the leader, attached to the fly line end
Mid Section, part of the leader forward of the butt section Tippet, thinnest or lightest line strength segment of a tapered leader
Bite or Shock Tippet, short, heavy section of a leader between the tippet and the fly. The material used can be large diameter monofilament or wire (braided or a single strand). A bite tippet is used where fish have sharp teeth or may abrade through a tippet during the battle.
X, designates the tippet’s strength. Since nylon can frequently be of slightly different strengths for the same diameter, X is a little nebulous; however, if you want to know the approximate strength of a tippet, subtract the X number from 9 to get the strength of the tippet. For example, a 5X leader subtracted from 9 means about 4 pounds test, and a 2X tippet subtracted from 9 means a tippet strength of approximately 7 pounds.
Diameter, for correct diameter of an X designation, use a micrometer to measure the section of leader and subtract the X from .011. For example, a 5X leader subtracted from .011 should measure approximately .006. A 3X leader subtracted from .011 means that a 3X leader should have an approximate diameter of .008.
In view of the extended UV stability and strength of fluorocarbon line and tippet, it may be wise to maximize the recovery and minimize the loss of flourocarbon line and tippet.
Fly reels, or fly casting reels were once thought of as little more than line-storage devices. In use, a fly fishermen strips line off the reel with one hand, casting the rod with the other, then retrieving slack line by rotating the reel spool. Manually-operated
fly reels have traditionally been rather simple in terms of mechanical construction, with a simple click-pawl drag system. However, in recent years, more advanced fly reels have been developed for larger fish and more demanding conditions. Newer reels often feature disc-type drags to permit the use of lighter leaders and tippets, or to successfully capture fish that pull long lengths of line/leader. Many newer fly reels have large-arbor designs to increase speed of retrieve and improve drag performance during long runs. In order to prevent corrosion, saltwater fly reels often use aerospace aluminum frames and spools, stainless steel components and sealed bearing/drive mechanisms.
Older reels with simple click drags were often designed to be "palmed" when a fish runs with the line. Palming allows the fisher to add ever so slight additional drag with a light touch of the palm to the reel, at the risk of breaking off the fish.
The fly line can be "retrieved" using the left hand or right hand. Most modern fly reels can be switched from/to left hand or right hand retrieve.
Many converted spin casting fishers are comfortable using the left hand retrieve. Right handed "big game" fishers may find the right hand retrieve more efficient, but modern "large arbor" reels can be retrieved with fair efficiency using a left handed retrieve.
Fly reels are often "rated" for a specific weight and type of fly line in combination with a specific strength and length of backing. The fisher should then be able to "load" the reel with the specified backing and fly line and still have ample room between the line and edge of the spool.
Most modern reels are designed to take interchangeable spools. The spools on most modern reels can be quickly switched allowing the fisher to change the type of line in a matter of minutes.
Fly fishing knots
The fly fisher needs to know a few basic knots, starting with the "Clinch Knot" which is used to attach the fly to the tapered leader.
There are many ways to add backing, fly line, and leader to a reel, all which have merit. A common approach is to tie the backing to the reel using the overhand slip or "Arbor Knot." Once the backing is on the reel, the fly line could be connected to the backing using the "Albright Knot." (Note: a small tube can be useful when tying the Albright knot). A loop is then added to the end of the fly line using a braided loop or by attaching a monofilament loop to the fly line using a "Nail" or "Tube" knot. A loop can be added to monofilament line using a "Double Surgeon's Knot" or a "Perfection Loop". Finally, a tapered leader can be attached to the fly line using a loop to loop connection. The use of loop to loop connections between the fly line and the leader provides a quick and convenient way to change or replace a tapered leader. Many tapered leaders come with a pre-tied loop connection.
Traditionalist can create their own tapered leaders using progressively smaller pieces of tippet tied together with the "Blood" or "Barrel" knot. Some fishers may opt to use the triple surgeon's knot to add tippet to a tapered leader.
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