Using the right sinking line to find the feeding zone

Di-7, Hi-D, Di-3, or slime? It’s a jungle out there when it comes to choosing the right sinking line for boat fishing. England team member Iain Barr explains his strategy for success and how to find the feeding depth of the trout.

You are heading down Rutland’s Normanton bank to the dam. You don’t want to gamble on chasing the fewer, but larger, fish at the end of the reservoir’s two arms. The main basin seems a safer bet.

When you get there, a few trout are rising indicating that they are high in the water. But when the sun comes out, there is not a sign. So what line do you fish - a floater, sinker or an intermediate? Or do you alternate between all three or more?

For me, there is no discussion. On goes the fast-sinking Di-7. If the fish are showing, you can fish it short. If they are not showing, you can count it down.

Many anglers get confused as to what sinking line to use and spend all their time changing densities and getting nowhere. Last year I was drawn in the boat at the Rutland National with Bob Handford, manager of Chew. He’s a great fellow and I am sure he won’t mind me relating what happened. The fish were up and down like a tart’s drawers and had Bob swapping from a Di-7 to a Di-3 to stay in contact. I stuck with the Di-7 and had my 10 fish in an hour.

WINDOW OF VISION

THE SECRET of success when fishing a fastsinking line like the Di-7 is to keep the fly in the fish’s “window” of vision for as long as possible. And there are many ways of doing this which you learn through experience.Here’s how it works.

I will cast out two Blobs on a 20-ft leader, with the single six-inch dropper 6ft from the end of the fly line. I like to keep the two flies as far apart as possible so that the fish are not scared.

If I believe the fish are not far from the surface, I will count to 10 before starting the retrieve. Let’s say I get a couple of pulls almost straight away, then nothing. Then I experience a follow as I go to lift off. This will tell me that my flies are going too deep below the fish for the majority of the retrieve. I need to start my retrieve earlier, or change up to a slowersinking line like a Di-3.

If I experience no response, I will count the flies down to 20 before starting my retrieve. With a Di-7, this means the flies are down about 10 ft. Always watch out for takes on the drop. This will also show you that the fish are higher in the water than you think.

At this point, it’s worth mentioning the retrieve, which at times should be as fast as possible. If your arms don’t ache at the end of a session, you are not fishing them fast enough.

Remember that the line is continually sinking as you retrieve, right until you bring up the flies. To keep the flies in front of the fish for as long as possible, you need to pull like crazy or fish a shorter line. And by sticking out the rod on each strip you can increase the length of line retrieved at a time from three feet to six feet. But you do need to be fit for this pulling game. That’s why so many of the top Rutland teams suffer from tennis elbow.

Another clue to the depth of the fish is which fly the fish are taking. If they are hitting the top dropper only, it proves they are deeper than you are fishing. Yes, I said deeper.

Remember the top dropper will sink faster than the tail fly. If you don’t believe me, try fishing two Boobies. The top Booby will disappear long before the tail pattern disappears under the surface.

The answer now is either to shorten the leader to get your team of flies down quicker; put a heavier fly on the point (competition anglers can’t use weight, but if you’re pleasure fishing you can experiment with weighted flies); or count another five seconds before starting to retrieve.

Only when I am convinced that the trout are staying up will I switch to an Airflo slime line. I love their sensitivity. You can feel every little touch. Mind you, even these lines will sink as you retrieve. The answer now is to put a Booby on the point to keep your nymphs high in the water.

I appreciate that this style of fishing will not appeal to everyone. But it is the way to catch fish quickly and win matches. You get into a groove with this style when you’ve found the right depth. Casting, hooking and landing the trout is all done in one movement. But as I said last month, you need the tackle to do it - an eight weight rod and 10lb line.

My pal Robert Edmunds - or “Catman” as we call him - really set a blistering pace in last season’s Anglian Water Loch Style match by taking 12 fish in an hour on Blobs and a Di-7.

That was almost as fast as my 10 fish in 35 minutes in an England eliminator - a trout in the boat every three minutes!

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MY DATE WITH THE BLOB

I WAS first introduced to the Blob fly two years ago in early May when fellow England team member Tony Curtis handed me a stuffing. We were practising for the England eliminator off Sykes Lane when Tony suddenly switched into overdrive and took five fish on the Blob to my one. They were good fish, too, between three and four pounds, which were feeding on buzzers in the Sykes Lane shallows. My orange lure failed to produce a pull. Since then, the Blob is rarely off my cast when boat fishing.

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It seems strange that such an outlandish fly will take naturally-feeding, resident fish. But it does. One reason may be that it looks a like a clump of daphnia. The other is that it leaves a trail of air bubbles due to the water pushing through the Fritz when pulled hard. For some reason, the dark orange Blob catches better at Grafham, while the peach Blob works better at Rutland. This may be due to the different colour of daphnia in the two waters.

The fly was originally invented by Rutland bailiff Dave Doherty, although Martin Introna’s Captain Scarlet was a worthy forerunner.

I’ve developed some new variations on the Blob for the coming season. I’ll let you know how they work . . . . after I’ve won a few matches on them you understand!

OTHER LURES TO TRY

THE skinny Viva is also a great fly to fish early season when trout are buzzer feeding. It can look like a big buzzer to a trout, but its slim marabou wing makes it stand out in a crowd. I find it’s a great fly to place between two Blobs on your cast.

The Cat’s Whisker was never off my cast until I discovered the Blob. Now it’s relegated to the bench. However, the pattern still has its moments, particularly at the back-end of the season when the trout are on fry.

I was in the boat with Alex Hunt at Grafham last year when he took a rainbow of 6lb 12oz on a double Cat on the point, while earlier in the year I took a trout of 4lb 13oz on one.

Iain Barr's top ten sinking lines

1. Di-8:

An out and out bottom scraper to be used only when the fish are 10 ft or deeper. A must for those hot summer days when the fish are mopping up the daphnia down deep. Can be too fast for normal fishing.

Sink Rate: 7-8 inches per sec

2. Di-7:

My favourite all-round line for use right through the season whether the fish are deep or rising.

Sink Rate: 6-7 inches per sec

3. Di-6:

Reserve this line for when the fish are in the top eight feet of water. Now discontinued, and replaced by the Di-5.

Sink Rate: 5-6 inches per sec

4. Di-5:

A new line from Airflo this year, this will nicely fill the gap between the popular Di- 3 and the faster-sinking lines. I haven’t tried one yet but I am sure it will be useful.

Sink Rate: 4-5 inches per sec

5. Di-3:

Don’t be without this one. My second choice of line from mid May onwards when the trout are in the top five feet.

Sink Rate: 3 inches per sec

6. FAST SLIME:

A must for trout feeding in the top three feet of water. Useful in a big wind on a fast drift.

Sink Rate: 1.5 inches per sec

7. SLOW SLIME:

Use this one when you’re drifting in little wind and the fish are moving just subsurface.

Sink Rate: 0.8 inches per sec

8. WET CEL INTERMEDIATE:

This line falls in between the two slimes when it comes to sink rate. Also known as the Kelly Green, it’s a great line and popular with competition anglers.

Sink Rate: 1.25-1.75 inches per sec

9. SINKTIPS:

I use the 12ft and 9ft sinktips from Airflo, the Cortland Ghost Tip and my favourite Midge Tip from Rio with its short fourfoot fast-sinking tip.

10. Hi-D:

The original fast sinker, it will still work well on its day. Sometimes the trout just can’t resist the flies coming through on the curve produced by the belly in the line when it sinks. Great for fishing close to the bank and bringing your flies up the shelf.

Sink Rate: 4-6 inches per sec

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Picking the right fly rod for river trout fishing

As a full-time casting instructor, I am lucky enough to fish with many different rods on a variety of venues over the season. I am amazed at how these rods differ in cosmetics and price, but, most importantly, how they “feel”. Selecting the correct rod for your fishing, and to suit your casting style, is of paramount importance. The right tool will feel like part of your arm, delivering well-formed loops and good presentation. The wrong rod spoils the whole experience.

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SOFT OR THROUGH-ACTION

Rods are now described in many different terms. For example, a soft or through-action describes a blank, which flexes throughout its entirety, quite typical of the now out-of-fashion cane rod. Such rods are great for casting short distances with ease and protecting light leaders, but they don’t deliver the kind of power now possible with even a budget-priced carbon-fibre model.

MIDDLE-TO-TIP

A great majority of carbon rods can be described as “middle-to-tip” (doing exactly that, flexing mainly from the middle to the tip) and they provide comfortable casting, especially for those new to the sport. This action allows an angler to feel the rod loading nicely as the line straightens out on the back cast, and is a little more forgiving than a “fast” or “tip” action.

FAST OR TIP-ACTION

The fast action provides mega-high line speeds in the right hands, and the often-sought “tight loop”, but they are much less forgiving and, of course, the rod will only deliver such qualities when coupled with good technique. I have met many anglers who have upgraded from “softer” rods to an expensive American rod, such as a Sage or Loomis, which often possess this fast-action characteristic, only to be disappointed that it does not cast for them as they had hoped. Very often I find that these individuals parted with their hard-earned cash without so much as threading up their chosen rod. I ask this question: “Would you buy a new car without test-driving it first?” The only way to really find the right rod is to try a few, making varied casts including rolls, overheads and sides, and with differing lengths of lines.

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A short rod will allow you to get into enclosed spaces

A ROD FOR RIVERS

So, you are planning to tackle the rivers; you have many endless hours of pleasure ahead. A great number of our river venues provide the only possibilities for truly wild fishing without heading to the highlands of Scotland or the Irish loughs.

To tackle these fish, everything has to be just right, and the 4/5 weight line that goes with the rod you suggest will ensure delicate presentation – although once again, only with good technique. Aim well above the water and allow the fly to land on a cushion of air as it fully extends.

In terms of length, 8ft 6ins is a good choice if most of your fishing is upstream with dry flies, or, if you are fishing Spider patterns downstream, the short length will allow you to get into enclosed spaces.

However, if you want a more versatile rod that will allow you to fish Czech nymph style easily, yet still has the finesse required to protect delicate leaders, I would opt for a 9ft rod taking a 5-weight line. Such a rod can also be used for small stillwater work, and can even be taken along for a bit of dry fly fun while reservoir fishing from a boat. For very small brooks, with heavy tree cover, I would go even shorter. On my Westcountry rivers I often opt for 8ft, or even 7ft 6ins.

So, have a think about the venues you will be fishing, decide on a rod length and then find a tackle shop that provides a “try before you buy” facility. Take out a bunch of rods and put them through their paces. Greys I can vouch for as an excellent brand, but the decision is yours. Rods are very personal and should fit like a glove, no matter what the clever marketing says!

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Many rivers provide the only opportunity for truly wild fishing.

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Tempt stubborn fish on stillwaters with a French leader

DURING a prolonged heatwave fuelled with high-pressure conditions, or in deepest winter when trout are lethargic, fishing throughout many of our fisheries could be challenging to say the least.

Today, at Elinor fishery there’s no place for the deadly Blob patterns or indeed the popular Apps’ Bloodworms Fred used to win the Airflo Classic many times along with Messrs Peter Appleby and Chris Micallef. Fred is fishing delicate, tiny, slimline nymphs – “proper” fishing as he calls it, just because he wants to and it’ll give him immense satisfaction. Yes, even match anglers can enjoy finesse in their approach! But he’s going to have his work cut out because the fishing has been hard. 

Takes are likely to be delicate, slow affairs and he’ll have to focus hard in order to spot them. That’s where the French leader/ sighter set-up comes in.

Fred knows that the less fly line on the clear water the better and so a long leader is needed – all of 24 feet, although the same principle can be used on a shorter, more manageable length.

He’ll spot takes by way of a six to nine inch length of orange, yellow and black pole fishing tubing segments (from coarse fishing tackle shops) strung onto six to nine inches of 20lb backing material which is looped at each end and positioned about half way along the leader. The whole indicator is Ginked to float high on the surface and, when drawn back, it leaves hardly any wake at all – perfect presentation in these tough clear water conditions with ultra-fussy fish.

After casting out, he lifts the rod and slowly draws the sighter back across the gentle ripple by way of a very steady figure-of-eight retrieve, waiting for the slightest movement or sudden halt of the sighter.

Easily spotted, even at distance, this technique helps the angler detect takes earlier and offers less resistance through the water, unlike a conventional yarn or foam indicator, the latter also potentially snagging in the tip ring and causing problems!

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Snake-like: Home-made French leader 'sighters' are easy to spot on water.

Initially, Fred opts for quick access to deep water – that’s where he reckons fish could be on such a hot, bright day or in the middle of winter.

This area is where the ‘snake’ will be at its best, in close control situations without any fly line on the water’s surface – basically using the same principle as when fishing the technique on rivers.

Despite fishery owner Ed Foster saying most recent fish have come from the far end of the lake, towards the arms, Fred’s hopeful of a trout closer to the lodge. He plans to search more areas if no fish are taken within 20 minutes.

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Flies are slimline Buzzers, down to size 16 and Diawl Bachs – the flies you’d expect to fish on most reservoirs.

While fishing the technique other advantages become apparent. A normal indicator set-up has a definite ‘dog leg’ join in the leader. But the French style sighter is simply a continuation of the leader itself, offering a smoother retrieve on a level plane and therefore direct contact with the flies – all helping earlier take detection.

As Fred points out, on many occasions, you won’t even feel the take, you’ll see the snake-like indicator slide away which is when you lift the rod.

Fred’s sighter darts forward indicating a take, but it’s not the expected trout but a little perch fry. Fred’s pleased to see this because it proves how sensitive this style of sighter really is.

After a troutless half hour he moves towards the boat jetty, but again his efforts are unrewarded. He wonders if, with so few fish caught today by the regulars, the fishery will only switch on as light fades – if at all. He keeps working his nymphs, wading deep to gain extra yards and taking a few steps along the bank after each cast in order to search the water.

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Fish leap free of the surface towards the middle of the lake and land with a splash. “These aren’t feeding fish,” says Fred. “They’re either distressed or newly stocked trout that are ‘playing up’.”

As the light slowly begins to fade Fred can still see the sighter as he draws the line slowly back towards him with rod tip high. The leader halts and he quickly lifts the rod even higher. A fish is on. While the trout splashes on the surface Fred comments on how delicate the take was and that if it weren’t for the indicator stopping he’d never have known a fish had even taken the slim Buzzer.

Now he’s fired up as a few trout begin to move. “They’ll take dries,” says Fred. “But I want to continue with the French leader just to demonstrate how useful it can be even in fading light. That bright sighter gives me ample warning of when a fish is interested.”

A few minutes pass and, after casting towards a moving fish, Fred’s rod is nearly pulled from his hands – this take is the complete opposite to the first!

“I watched the sighter kite off,” adds Fred. “But the trout moved so fast it basically hooked itself when Ifelt the take meet the resistance of my hands.”

As night arrives proper, Fred has another fish and only a long drive back to Yorkshire stops him from trying for one of the larger, grown-on trout for which Elinor is well known.

He’s proved the French leader/ sighter technique has worth, especially when the fishing is very, very tough.

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The final fish was caught well into the night - the sighter was just visible.

Coiled Stren French leaders are available commercially.

How to make a French leader/sighter

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Materials

● Guaina Colorata Fluoro from Stonfo (pole fishing tubing from coarse fishing shops, £3.99). Choose size to fit snug over backing

● A 6 - 9 inch length of 20lb backing material

● 10 inch length of fluorocarbon

● Superglue

● Scissors

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1 Select a piece of 20lb backing approx 14-15 inches long. Thread one end through the eye of the needle and leave 2 inches out.

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2 Feed needle through centre of backing (approx. one centimetre),

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3 Then take needle through entirely. Pull the short end of backing and this will form your loop.

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4 Cut when you feel happy with loop size.

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5 Add a drop of superglue where cut to secure. Then form a loop at the other end of the braid in the same way.

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6 Thread a piece of fluorocarbon/ leader (around 12 inches long) through the loop on the backing. Bring the two ends of fluoro together, then slip both ends through a piece of black tubing and then slide the tubing onto the backing. Feed down to opposite end and fix with Superglue.

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7 Mix and match all other pieces of tubing the same way and secure each tube with Superglue (use a cocktail stick to dab Superglue on braid where tubing will sit).

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Trout fishing at the right depth using sinking fly lines

The correct fly and retrieve mean nothing if you’re not fishing at the right depth. Airflo’s Gareth Jones explains the importance of sinking lines and how he’s helped develop them…

WITH the reservoir trout fishing explosion in the 1970s, thousands experienced for the first time that electric moment when a fish first takes and remains, for a blissful few seconds, an unknown quantity – perhaps a stock rainbow but possibly a brown of great size and power.

Those early stillwater devotees may have fished with the best tackle available, but although they could not know it, their sinking lines were more of a handicap than an asset when measured against today’s hi-tech offerings.

Watching a newcomer trying to get a sinker airborne could be an embarrassment to both parties. Sadly, many novices abandoned any notion of improving their casting skills in favour of brute force and ignorance, aided and abetted by impossibly powerful rods. As for ‘presentation’, that was something for the dry fly brigade rather than the fluff-flingers with their Minkies and Zonkers. Something had to change to move the sport on.

But why use a sinking line in the first place? Trout follow their food up and down the water column, and the depth at which aquatic life forms are found changes according to the time of day, light levels and seasonality. Adaphnia bloom, for example, is least likely to be near the surface when the sun is at its brightest.

Sinking lines enable the angler to present a fly or lure at exactly the right depth and speed to capitalise on this natural larder. Afloating line, well, floats – but sinking lines can go down like a stone, remain just subsurface or be fished at all points in between. Armed with two or three lines of different densities, the angler can stay in contact with feeding trout wherever they happen to be.

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Tungsten breakthrough

WHEN we set out to make our original sinking fly lines more than 20 years ago, we focused on elements that would radically improve their performance – core stretch, sink path and durability were all elements we felt could be improved upon, but the most radical change was our decision to use tungsten, rather than lead powder, as a sinking agent. We were the first company to do this.

Tungsten, being far denser than lead, results in faster sinking fly lines, and is totally inert and environmentally-friendly.

Core stretch

WHEN fishing with a sinking line you seldom see the fish take the fly – you feel it. Unfortunately, the inherent stretch of 20-25 per cent in a regular sinking fly line with a braided multifilament core means that a lot of takes are never even registered. This led us to develop lines with Kevlar cores instead.

Kevlar, besides being bullet-proof, is completely non-stretch. This makes it great for casting, take detection and setting the hook. Its big drawback is a short working life and a tendency to develop a memory.

Instead of Kevlar, which we no longer use, we developed what we feel is now the ultimate fly line core – Power Core braid. This tightly woven multifilament polyester has only six per cent stretch and corresponding sensitivity. The material transmits casting energy/take detection better and is now the basis of most of our fly lines. In the heavier breaking strains, Power Core lines are ideal for use in saltwater, where setting large hooks at range is a priority.

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Density compensation

STILLWATER trout fishermen of 20 years ago suffered what might be thought of as a condition of these modern, sedentary times – belly sag. In this instance, though, we are talking about fly lines, not waistlines! Asubmerged line with a high degree of stretch and taking on a U-shaped profile makes it difficult for the user to remain in contact with the fly and connect with a taking trout.

We have all heard stories of a trout taking a fly, ejecting it and then taking it again seconds later. The truth is that the trout was there all the time and had hooked itself – it’s just that the angler didn’t feel it doing so.

Our solution was Density compensation. We were the first company to develop fly lines that sink tip-first and we did it, not by increasing the density at the tip, but by reducing the density through the larger diameter belly section with micro-gas bubbles. This results in a smooth density transfer and the perfect sinking profile.

During the manufacturing process, gas (air) bubbles are formed at the time the line is extruded through the die head, after the coating material has been treated with a gassing agent. The longer the line is exposed to the air before the chemical reaction is halted, the more bubbles form – think of a well-known chocolate bar that sounds not unlike Airflo.

Of course, there can be occasions when a line that forms a belly is a positive asset – allowing the fly to be fished through a range of depths in a single cast. Where Booby nymphs are banned, similar presentation is gained with conventional flies.

Airflo Sweep lines allow a U-shaped retrieve path by having the sinking speed of the belly faster than that of the tip and running line, but without the drawback of undue stretch.

Dual coating

MORE recently, lines with our dual coating PolyFuse technology offer even greater control over fly presentation. The two coatings are again formed at the extrusion stage, and we can vary their respective densities and thicknesses with great precision.

Having got the basics right, we looked at other inherent problems of the sinking lines offered by our competitors.

Overlapping sink rates

SINK rate is vital in a fly line, but most manufacturers hedge their bets – for example, intermediate lines are quoted at 1.5-1.75 inches per second (Di- 1.5-1.75).

With varying amounts of coating, the higher the line size, the faster the sink rate and the harder this is to determine with any precision – one manufacturer even claims a sink rate of 7-8 inches per second, even though there is only one line size available.

At Airflo, we vary the density of each line, slightly tweaking it so that a WF7 and a WF9 Di-3 will both sink at three inches per second. This is carried through our range in a logical manner, regardless of line size.

No more cracks

WHEN making sinking lines, all manufacturers add a sinking agent (in our case, tungsten) to the plastic coating to make it denser. What isn’t often understood is that the more tungsten you add to the plastic, the less plastic there will be to hold the whole thing together – hence the cracking problems on higher density fly lines.

Our polyurethane coating, however, requires no solvents and is better equipped to hold higher levels of tungsten than traditional plastics. Think of it as a cake mix that can hold more fruit (or, in this case, tungsten) before the mix breaks down and falls apart.

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Casting sinking lines

ASINKING line is sometimes viewed as being more difficult to cast than a floater. Different, yes, but understand the mechanics and you can adapt.

Sinking lines have a thinner profile, and will cut through the air more easily than floating lines. This means they develop more speed on the cast, and require a small change in timing – basically, you slow everything down a tad. Master this and you will soon have your sinking line zinging out.

It’s important to know how much line is outside the tip ring when the time comes to recast – this is easy to see with a floater, but with a sinking line it is almost impossible to lift off the same amount of fly line every time.

Asolution is to make small whippings of tying thread on the fly line at points 10 foot and 20 foot from the leader, and coat them with Superglue. This is not a visual indicator. Instead, you can feel the slight check as the whippings come through the tip ring. Retrieve until the last 15-20 foot of line is out, and then attempt to lift off. Asmall roll cast to lift the line closer to the surface will help before you make the next cast proper.

See for yourself

IF you’re one of the many returning to trout fishing after a long lay-off, don’t let old prejudices hold you back from using sinking lines. The modern types are far removed from their predecessors. So get out there and get on down – you won’t regret it!

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QUICK GUIDE

Which type of sinking line profile is best for bank fishing?

40+ is my first choice for most bank fishing, being very easy to cast long distances. Also the slower sinking running line helps the line follow the natural contour of the lake’s shore.

Does my Di-5 Sixth Sense sink faster than my Di-5 Delta taper line?

The straight answer is no, they both sink at 5 inches per second. However, because of the blue colour of the SS line, it appears to sink faster in the water – this is just a visual.

Why do you offer three different densities of intermediate lines?

We offer 0.5in, 1in and 1.5 inch per second options and whilst they seem close together in sink rate, as a percentage increase in sink speed, they are worlds apart. Generally intermediates are fished at slower pace and on a 30 yard retrieve this can take over 60 seconds – putting your fly at approximately 2ft 6in, 5ft and 7ft 6in at the deepest point of the retrieve.

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How to look after your fly fishing lines

We all love to tidy up fly boxes and perhaps add a new rod to the armoury, but how much attention do you pay to your fly fishing lines?

Lines stored during the close season tend to have memory. Modern lines are less prone to this problem but even so, it’s wise to give the line a good stretch prior to fishing. A simple way of gaining the best from your line and decreasing memory is to connect it to as much backing as possible. Large arbor reels have been a revelation and will further assist the reduction of memory. Use the following tips for greater casting efficiency and bite detection.

A straight line is one thing; a clean line is another. The most important piece of maintenance you can perform regularly throughout the year is to keep that fly line well polished. There are several cleaners on the market for little money, which help remove surface grime.

Treating floating lines: First pull from the spool and lay out in nice, open coils so that the line does not tangle when re-spooling. Ensure that the line falls on to a clean surface so that it does not pick up unwanted carpet fibres etc. Add a drop or two of the chosen cleaning product to a rag or cleaning pad if provided and then pull the line through.

It is advisable to do this a couple of times to ensure a really good coating of the product and to remove as much dirt as possible. This process will greatly assist the line’s efficiency through the rings when casting. In fact, I even carry a pot of line slick with me when fishing, so if I feel the line is slowing down I can add a bit of ‘zing’!

Don’t use such cleaners on sinking lines, especially intermediates, as this can add buoyancy to the line. Instead use a very mild solution of detergent and wash the line carefully, again cleaning as much muck from the surface as possible using a rag. I carry a piece of cotton cloth so that if I am fishing on a particularly muddy bank, the line can be quickly spruced up with the assistance of a little water.

The best way to look after a line is while actually fishing with it. Make sure you don’t ‘hook’ your cast, which adds twists into your line. Ensuring a straight-line rod stroke helps eliminate this problem. When retrieving on a muddy bank, try using a line tray. I often use a landing net as a makeshift tray so preserving my line while being prepared for a hooked fish. If you don’t like line trays, try not to tread on the line!

Finally, boat anglers using an extendable thwart board style seat should look out for the line becoming pinched in the sliding mechanism of the seat, a problem that will cause a huge amount of damage and possibly render an expensive line useless! Cover the join with some electrical tape so that the line does not become trapped. Look after your fly lines and they will look after you.

JARGON

Memory - unwanted coils/kinks within a fly line

Hook cast - This is not a good technique! Rotating the wrist during a cast will cause a problem known as 'hooking' which can lead to a twisted fly line 

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Make your own braided loops

THERE are many ways of making loops at the end of a fly line, to which can be attached the backing at the rear end of the running line and the tapered leader at the business end. The old way of stripping the coating off the fly line with acetone, then doubling the core back on itself, stitching the core together and coating with Aquasure is still a good method.

Problems arise with many modern fly lines because the braided monofilament core onto which the fly line profile is coated might only be 20lb breaking strain, which is not particularly wear or abrasion resistant. Indeed many of the braided loops that are supplied with most of today’s fly lines seem to be about 30lb breaking strain braided monofilament and that doesn’t impress me.

‘Rolling your own’ braided loops is not difficult and allows you to make a small neat loop out of 50lb braided monofilament.

Cortland and Gudebrod make spools of 50lb braided monofilament for shooting heads which make superb braided loops that will not let you down. The difference in bulk between 30lb and 50lb is hardly visible to the eye and makes no difference to casting, but you have the added confidence of knowing that you’ve done everything yourself, with the best materials available. I want that confidence when I’m fishing.

Have you ever watched your fly line go sailing out with a lovely ‘over the top’ loop unfurling and transferring the energy from your perfect cast down to the leader? Then, when you expect the tapered leader to continue putting that energy into presenting the fly perfectly, the leader just collapses into a shambolic heap?

The reason for this heap isn’t always the fault of your casting, but a weak link, a soft point, which robs the impetus and energy of the fly line from the leader. That weak link is often a soft and floppy loop to which a leader has been knotted.

If you really want to use a loop to connect your leader, make the loop as small as you can. Tie a small neat loop at the thick end of your leader using a ‘No Name Knot’ or Perfection Loop, then use a loop-to-loop connection, so that the flow of energy from the fly line continues on, into the leader. That way you give your leader the best possible chance of turning over and presenting your fly(s) as nicely as possible.

At this point I have to hold my hands up and say I use a loop at the back of my fly line to connect the backing, but I dislike a loop at the business end.

Whip finish versus plastic sleeve

You’ll notice that in the method shown in the pictures that the monofilament braid is whipped to the fly line, rather than using the plastic sleeve that accompanies shop-bought loops. Plastic sleeves work well, especially if accompanied by a dab of Superglue, but the neatness of the whipped finish does it for me.

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1 Choose the end of the fly line to which you want to attach a loop. I’ve chosen the backend.

2 Cut the fly line end at a slight angle and begin to feed it through the core of the braided monofilament.

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3 Continue feeding the fly line up through the braid core for about an inch(25mm).

4 Take a few turns of tying thread around the fly line to stop any further unravelling of the braid.

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5 Trim strands of braid close to the tying thread. Do this carefully so the finished whipping will be neat.

6 Finish whipping to conceal loose ends of braid. Coat whipping with Superglue and allow to dry.

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7 Push needle through braid 10mm from end of fly line. Bring needle point out just past end of fly line.

8 Thread end of braid through the eye of the needle... this gets easier with practice!

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9 Now pull the needle through the core of the braid to form the loop as shown.

10 Pulling loose end of braid adjusts loop size. Avoid over-large loops, especially at front of fly line.

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11 Now with a sharp pair of scissors carefully trim away the excess braid close to the fly line loop.

12 Gently pull loop till the cut end disappears within the braid core and lies flush with end of fly line.

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13 Add Superglue to where braid and fly line meet. Stretch loop so glue enters core. Remove excess glue.

14 A fly line loop ready for loop-to-loop connection with reel backing. Now, do same at front of fly line.

Extra tips for braided loops

- Don’t be mean with the braided monofilament. For the first few times you make your own loops, start with say 6 inches (15cm) of braid. It’s easier to handle, till you realise how easy it is.

- The loop at the back end of the fly line can be longer than the front end. But still use a loop-to-loop connection for quick and easy fly line change. Sea anglers make the loop long enough to pass a reel through.

- Use a blunt needle with a big eye to thread the braid through easily.

- Ensure there is at least an inch (25mm) of fly line inside the braid core.

- Trim the fly line end at a slight angle (creating a point) to facilitate the ‘inch-worm’ method of progressing the fly line up through the braid core.

- Use a thread bobbin that is tight on the spool of thread so that you can ‘whirl’ the bobbin around the line to make the whip finish.

- Use Superglue such as Zap-A-Gap, waterproof and saltwater resistant.

- After the loop has been pulled through, adjust its size to the smallest that you are comfortable with before trimming the waste away.

- Be sparing with Superglue. Use just enough to fasten the inner and outer cores together without glue filtering through to the loop itself.

- Don’t tie your leader to the braid loop. Make a loop-to-loop connection between the leader and the loop.

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In

Tackle maintenance

I JUST love my fishing! And, for me, that means my game season spans the full 12 months. Winter sport can be superb, with fighting-fit fish just waiting to be caught.

But there are anglers who regard the period from New Year to March as a time to tie new flies and prepare for the coming season. We’re all individuals and I appreciate that a short break from fishing can help focus the mind.

If you want to take such a break, make good use of it. It’s the time to check and store away your fishing tackle so you have peace of mind that everything is in order for the new season.

Don’t be tempted just to store your kit away securely after your last outing - follow my advice and it will be in tiptop condition for your next outing.

WIPE DOWN

ALTHOUGH I don’t religiously clean my rods, a quick wipe down with a damp cloth doesn’t hurt. Pay particular attention to the butt ring, tip ring, and intermediate rings. Be sure to clean these areas thoroughly to remove any dirt or residue that has built up during the season.

Not only will you get prolonged life from your expensive fly rod, keeping these rings clean can often add a yard to your cast.

And, where the river fisher is concerned, line mending is made all the easier with a clean line and clean rod guides. Over the years, I’ve found that an old toothbrush, combined with a little warm water is the ideal combination.

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Don’t forget to check the reel fitting for grit or other foreign bodies. Give the reel fitting a quick scrub with the toothbrush and just smear a little Vaseline or reel lube on the threaded section. This will help everything fit together that little bit smoother and you’ll lose that annoying ‘squeaking’ noise next time you attach the reel.

Be sure to let the rod dry properly before packing it away. Excess moisture trapped in an airtight rod tube will almost certainly ruin your pride and joy as mould sets in.

WASH AND BRUSH UP

REELS have a habit of accumulating an alarming amount of dirt, grit and algae around the cage and spool that can eventually find its way into mechanical components. Strip off the fly line and backing before soaking in warm water and giving it the once-over with that old toothbrush.

Then let the whole lot dry completely before loading on the backing again. It’s important to remove the backing, so that you can check any turns that might have bedded down too tightly and become trapped or twisted.

Once the reel is thoroughly dry, apply reel lube/oil to the centre spindle and other working parts. Be careful not to be too liberal with this as excess lubricant can attract an amazing amount of grit. And you certainly don’t want oil droplets to be thrown off the spool when you’re in the process of quickly stripping line from the reel to cover a fish.

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KEEP IT IN THE DARK

FLY lines should be checked for wear or cracking and, where necessary, replaced immediately. It is false economy to continue using a worn line, as this could ultimately damage the rod rings, which in turn will then need replacing. If the fly line is still satisfactory, soak it in lukewarm water with a drop or two of washing-up liquid.

After 30 minutes or so, run the line a couple of times through a dry cloth to remove any dirt. Then replenish the line with a line dressing/plasticiser.

If you have room, store the line in loose, open coils in a dark corner. If not, load it on to the reel as loosely as the reel capacity will allow. Apparently, storing tackle in black bags reduces UV light penetration and prevents deterioration. For this reason, I store all my fly lines, leaders and tippet material in household bin liners.

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Rods

Do not place a wet rod into its cloth bag or tube and then forget about it, you are just asking for trouble. Always try to give it a wipe down to remove any dirt or moisture before putting it away. Every now and then give it a more thorough clean, cleaning in and around the rod rings and the threads on reel seats. The up-locking rings on the reel seat can often benefit from an application of WD40, but again just a drop applied with a cloth. Clean the cork handle with a soft cloth and occasionally use a sheet of fine grade emery paper to smooth it down. If you have started to get any pitting on the cork where filling has fallen out you need to think about filling them. Use a mixture of cork filings or dust mixed with wood glue. Or you can buy a cork paste filler.

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Check the rings for any grooving or wear which could damage the fly line. The most vulnerable ring is often the tip ring, especially on hayfork tips. Lined rings tend to fare a lot better. Replace any rings, where necessary. Reseal whippings around the rings with a coat of varnish.

Reels

Like rods, don’t store reels wet. When you get home take it out of the bag and let it dry out thoroughly before putting away again. Always remove the leader before winding the line onto the spool. You’re not going to use the leader again and if wound on top of the fly line it could cut into the line and ruin it.

Occasionally take your reel apart, separating the reel cage from the spool. Clean the cage and spool with a soft cloth or cotton wool bud dampened with warm water and washing-up liquid. This will remove any dirt or grime. A soft toothbrush can be used on more stubborn marks or difficult-to-reach areas.

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Remove any excess moisture with a dry cloth and then set aside, preferably overnight, to dry completely. Spray a small amount of WD40 onto a clean cloth or cotton wool bud and apply to all surfaces of the reel. Do not spray directly on the cage or spool, especially if it has a disc-drag system as you could ruin it. Apply a drop of oil lubricant to the spindle and work it around with your fingers. Then fit the spool and cage back together.

Don’t start stripping disc-drags down, especially more expensive sealed units. For a start your warranty will go straight out the window, and you could damage any delicate parts within the drag.

Lines

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To clean your line, remove it from the reel and place in a bowl of warm water with a few drops of washing-up liquid. Then run it through a clean cloth two or three times to dry and remove any residue. When it is totally dry, dress the line with a proprietary line dressing, but don’t overdo it. This will help the line shoot better and in the case of a floating line will help it sit higher in the water.

Sinking lines can be treated with a silicone de-greasant to remove any oily deposits or grease, which have built up on the line’s surface over the season. This de-greasant will ensure it sinks correctly the next time you use it.

Take your line off the reel and wind onto a line winder. This stores the line in larger loops so memory and coiling should not be as much of a problem come the new season. Secure with a couple of pipe cleaners to hold the line together.

Backing

Check backing for fraying or nicks that could weaken it. Or it could just be degrading – it doesn’t last forever! Also check the knot to the spool is secure and then, on the other end, check the connection to the fly line.

Backing to fly line connections:

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1. Tucked half-blood or grinner to braided leader loop

2. Fly line pushed inside braided backing and whipped into place, especially good for high density sinking lines which are very thin.

Welded and braided loops

Check the connection between your fly line and leader. Make sure on a welded loop that the leader has not cut into the skin of the factory-made welded loop. If it’s a floating line the water could get in, turning your floater into a sinker!

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With braided loops, inspect the join, whether it is a plastic collar or whipped on, to make sure it’s neat. Also check that the loop itself is still formed and there are no tiny spikes of nylon sticking out. An over-application of Superglue on this join can become very brittle, again causing the line to crack. If you are using Superglue, use a very small amount or, alternatively, use a flexible wader cement like Aquasure.

Landing net

If your net has any thread components – a screw-in handle or net head for example – then make sure they are well lubricated with a treatment like WD40, which not only cleans but also repels water. If any corrosion has built up on the metal use a soft wire brush to clean out the threads before applying some lubricant. Flip down joins and telescopic handles can also be given the same treatment.

Check the net mesh for wear and if it looks like it is deteriorating, fit a new one.

Fly box

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Look through your fly boxes for signs of rust or damage on the hooks. A tell-tale sign is a rusty spot left in the white ethafoam when you remove the fly. If in doubt, throw it out.

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