Fly Fishing Weighted Lines

Recently I spent my spring break in Missouri…in fact I went to one of my most favorite and haunting places; Bennet Spring. The days preceding our arrival had been wet one; several inches fell upon the south central area and left the streams filled to the top. The venerable Bennet Spring is usually gin clear but upon arrival I could see how high the water was and how stained it had become due to the surrounding run off.

I am a streamer fisher or as I like to say…a ‘stripper’ and I knew that these water conditions were going to make it tough for anyone wetting a line. I put all my gear together, grabbed my 6 weight rod/reel and stepped into the spring. The next hour was a science experiment as I started with my full sinking type 3 line and a brown wooly bugger; the first 15 minutes yielded my little but some weeds and a couple side swipes.  I decided to change to black…knowing the water was stained I thought it might help the fish identify my tasty morsel better; the next 15 minutes were a repeat of the first.  I went to green, silver and a few other shades before I decided to swap my type 3 line in for a spool of line that I had bought a couple years prior called Streamer Express from Cabela’s. This line is a Kelly Galloup line with a heavy type 4 front section of 60 feet followed by a floating yellow section behind it. I could see that not only did this line turn the heavy, weighted buggers over better but it also sank quicker. My third casts was the proof I needed as I set the hook on the first fish of the day…a rainbow buck of about 15 inches. More good was soon to come as the next half hour yielded 7 more catches. The difference…my line was finally in a strike zone and was deep enough in the water column for the fish to strike.

For many weighted lines are mystical and carry this sense of complication with a degree of difficulty that would need a Russian judge to figure out.  In truth weighted lines are easy to use, once you understand a few principles… oh and yes, you must practice.  I like a full sinking line or at least I want my line to have a front section of some length; like the line described above.  A short and simple synopsis of line weight says that the larger the number of line the heavier and more dense…thus the quicker the line sinks.  For example; a type 2 line will sink quicker than a type 1 line and so on.  I have several line weights for just such an example as described above.

On some days I like to fish my 3 weight rod with a type 2 full sinking line….especially if I know that the water is clear and the fish are feeding in the top 18 inches.  This puts my streamer comfortably in play, allowing for a clear view from fish feeding just below the surface.  It also lets me beat the opposing bank up by dropping my bugger as close as possible thus pulling out those fish idling in the eddy.

A few keys that will help your casting of weighted lines: remember this is a heavy line and therefore you must be patient and wait upon your back cast.  You can’t treat this like a floating line or you will quickly find that your timing is off and you will throw lots of nasty loops in your leader.  Second, you must learn touch.  By this I mean the feel of allowing line to slip through your line hand as you present the fly across stream or to the opposing bank.  Third…and most important is you need to make a single haul on your back casts…not to say that a double haul isn’t handy, but a single haul will allow enough speed to keep your loop open without tiring or tearing your shoulder.

So…remembering that most fish feed below the surface and you want to catch fish, don’t you think it is time to step up and give a weighted line a try?  Start slow and buy an extra spool for your 5 or 6 weight rod and my suggestion would be to load the spool with a moderately priced type 3 line.  You  will find that when you need to get your streamer down to where the hungry fish are…you will be ready and prepared when you snap on that extra weighted spool and start catching fish.


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