Its embarrassing now when I look back, yes, I was once overweight and quite a bit at times I might add! Now I'm not talking about my recent lifestyle change, i’m talking about another worldwide epidemic that has contaminated a huge portion of the fly fishing world. There seems to be an acceptance on being overweight on your fly lines. Now i’m not here to fat shame anyone, I did it myself for many years when I was just beginning my fly fishing journey, thinking that by using a heavier line I would make my casting better.
When I look back now I can see why I did it, we were fishing small spate rivers with tackle that was designed for the big stuff, lines that were made for casting on the big rivers of Scotland. But fly lines are fly lines surely? Not quite.
Because we were fishing such small rivers we were only getting maybe half the weight of the line outside the rod, so we had to use a heavier rating to work the rod effectively, once you came on to a wider bit of water the extra weight would take its toll on the casts, thankfully this void has been filled with the modern lines we now have. But enough of a trip down memory lane. Heres why you need to think about trimming down a bit for next season.
When a fly rod is manufactured it is designed to be loaded with a specific weight. There is a weight for that rod that loads it 100% optimally, yes we can use a lighter line, yes we can even use a heavier line, but this does not cause the rod to perform in an efficient manner.
For this discussion we are going to need an example. Lets say we have a #8 rod, it was manufactured to optimally cast a #8 line (18 grams).
We will start with the modernly accepted thing of over-lining the rod, adding a bit more grammage to really get that rod working! Someone tells you to go up a line weight or two, lets put a #10 (22grams) on it because thats just the done thing. The rod really bends on this line, you can really feel it ‘working’ (struggling). The sad fact is that when you are overweight on your lines the rod can’t cope, it is impossible to stop that tip diving over on the cast, giving big, wide, open and clumsy loops. Then there’s also the fact you have to spend all day moving, lifting and stopping that extra weight, don’t kid yourself, a few grams extra can really mount up over a day of casting.
Now sometimes you end up with a line that is too light for the rod, not enough weight to work the rod properly, a common problem when buying lines blind and a problem often associated with faster action rods. For the example, we have now set up our rod with a #6 (14gram) line. This is in truth a better situation to be in than being too heavy, with a light line you can always impart more line speed to get the cast to work, you need to bend that rod remember, so it will take more effort to achieve the desired effect! Now going with a lighter line WILL cause you to cast tighter loops, they look cool on camera and make for great youtube videos, but in actual fact a really narrow loop gives poor presentation, often resulting in the line slamming down hard on the water.
At the end of the day you need to look at what we define as a ‘cast’. For me it is economy of effort and getting the fly presented in a suitable way. So how do we achieve this? We must use a line that loads the rod optimally, it bends the rod with the least amount of input from the angler but yet it is light enough so that it does not cause the rod tip to be pulled over and open up the loop. We are now using the #8 (18 gram) line on a rod rated for exactly that, provided we have the leader set up properly as we discussed in the previous blog we now have an effective fishing tool. With a balanced setup we can make the rod do as we please, there is no strain on the angler, the casting becomes enjoyable and fatigue does not set in because we are now using the tackle the way it was designed to be used. With a line that bends the rod just enough we get beautiful, smooth, perfectly formed loops that roll out elegantly across the water.
So we know we need to balance the rod with the correct weight of line, where do we start? Ask the manufacturer of your rod, they ought to know what works on it best, don’t get fobbed off with a generic answer like ‘oh somewhere between a #7 and a #9’, details, we need details! Ask for it in grams and grains. Failing that reach out to me on the contact page, I have been lucky enough to try rods and lines of all shapes and sizes since I first started, you begin to develop a feel for these things when you do it every day.
The best solution for you would be to go out with your rod, a few lines and your mobile phone, setup your gear and put your phone to the side and hit the record button, watch what happens to that rod tip, if the line is too heavy it will dive over under the strain, if its too light you will see the extra effort you are having to put into the cast and when its just right you should see a straight rod tip, a well formed loop and a big smile on your face!