Matching the Line to the Pole

by Fly Fisherman

A good line, properly cared for, should last a fly fisherman two or three years, depending on how much it is used The life of a fly line used in the salt is much less, especially if used in boats where grease, oil and gasoline get on the line, as do sand and dirt from the bottom of the skiff. Between these hazards and such accidents as and being stepped on, fly lines in general have a very rough and exceedingly short life in the salt.

So the salt water fly fisherman is well advised to keep his skiff clean and to clear away all debris and obstructions before he starts to cast. Besides keeping his line clean for better casting, it will save him money.

Now let’s take the above line specifications, one by one, and see the why for.
A 7 1/4-foot rod is obviously for use in small streams, for delicate dry fly work, for wet flies or for nymph fishing. In these situations the fly should drop on small pools gently and accurately. To do that, a small diameter line is needed. So the lightest commonly manufactured taper is recommended-the light H at the front for delicate presentation of leader and fly, the E section heavy enough to provide casting weight on that light rod, and the H again at the back of that, for easy shooting behind the comparatively light belly.

It is in this field of handling light lines that the glass rod has not yet approached the bamboo. Most 7 1/4-foot glass rods are so powerful that they call for an HCH line, and some for a GBF or GAF, and an angler who drops a big-bellied line of either of those classifications on a small, still surface will scare the spots off any nearby trout. Aside from that, he will find it extremely difficult to make an accurate, lightly delivered cast.

An 8-foot rod will be used for trout fishing with dry fly, wet fly or nymph or small streamer. Such a rod will weigh 4 to 4 1/4 ounces, and calls for an HDH, again the economical double taper. The D section is big enough to make casts plenty far enough to take fish and a heavier line such as an HCH is too big for the delicate work needed in quiet pools. Anything lighter than an HDH, on the other hand, would be difficult to throw and would entail hard work on the part of the caster.

An 8 1/4-foot rod will be used for bass bugging, or for throwing big streamers or weighted nymplu: fin which case the GBF line is ideal, the G section supplying a light enough end near the leader for good presentation, and the B providing the boring power for carrying out the big lure. If the 81/4footer is being used for dry fly fishing for Atlantic salmon, or for dry fly fishing for smallmouth bass or landlocked salmon, or for big trout, then the lighter-tipped double tapered GBG is recommended in order to deliver the fly more lightly on the surface of pools. However, if the angler is limited to one line, then the GBF will do the all around job.

A 9-foot rod will be used for fishing in wind, on salt water where long casts are needed, and in big rivers and lakes. A GAF line will bring out the action best, providing plenty of power for long casts and for pulling the shooting line out after it.
A 91/4-foot rod will also be used in salt water or on big lakes and rivers and will take either a GAF or a G2AE, according to the action of the rod. In most cases, a 91/4-foot bamboo rod works well with the GAF, while a glass rod of the same length requires the heavier shooting section of the G2AE.

Some manufacturers build the same type of taper with two different belly lengths. For instance, in a GAF line there will be a gradual taper of about 8 feet from the front of the line to the “belly” or A section. This belly may vary from 25 to 4o feet in the one type of line; or it may be only 12 to 18 feet in length. For ordinary fishing there are several reasons why the shorter belly is superior to the long one. Remember that it is the heavy belly section that is being thrown, and also remember that most tapers are developed by tournament casters who stand up on a platform with no obstructions behind or around them, and an assistant to feed the shooting line through the guides for them. There is no hurry-plenty of time and plenty of room.
So the tournament caster uses a long belly line to get the extra weight for an extra long throw.

But the situation is entirely different on a tree-lined river or stream. The room for the backcast is limited and the angler must depend entirely on himself to get line out. With the shorter belly he can make a short backcast and then shoot the whole of the short belly, which in turn will pull the lighter back taper out for a good cast. With a longer belly it would be necessary to make several false its to get enough line out to make the cast, and where is all that line going to go on the backcast? Up in a tree, of course, with the result that there is no forward cast. The line is not heavy enough at the front to make that short backcast and then shoot out all its additional heavy length.
Equally important is the fact that with the short belly it is possible to get off a quick cast to an oncoming fish, by making one backcast and then shooting the line.
Occasionally it will be necessary to make two false casts to get out enough belly in order to make an extra long cast, but usually, if he is in a boat the caster has the shooting line coiled in the bottom, and with rod ready and, say, 15 feet of line, plus leader from rod tip to hand, he can cast that much into the air, shoot a bit more of the line lying on the bottom, come back again, and then let the works go.
That operation takes only a few seconds and the fly is in front of that oncoming fish. And there are many fish, especially salt water species, where a split second makes the difference in getting hits.
The same technique applies when wading. The line can be held in coils in the left hand, or even allowed to trail in the water behind the fisherman as he wades along.
There is a place in fishing, of course, for the long belly. It can be used when fishing from a boat where there is plenty of room around the caster, or from the shores of lakes and rivers where there are few obstructions and plenty of room for the backcast. Or when it is all a case of casting blind, with loads of time, rather than spotting moving fish. In such circumstances the longer belly certainly allows the angler to get off some long throws. A good caster, for instance, can consistently reach 85 to go feet, and a very good one as much as 1 oo feet. But with a GAF with a 12- or 18-foot belly it is also easy to get off casts plenty far enough to take fish. And, as a matter of fact, casts over 8o feet in length are seldom good fishing because at that distance it is difficult to see the fly or to tell the reactions of the fish to it. And when a fish does hit at that distance, the strike impulse is so slow traveling the length of all that line, that the angler often misses. By the time he feels the fish, strikes, and the strike impulse gets way out there where the fish is, the fish has often spit the fly out, or is in the act of so doing, and therefore is not well hooked.
So, while many anglers like to talk about what a long line they can throw, more importance should be attached to such things as careful approach, casting from the right position, and having complete control of line and fly, rather than to making a long and beautiful throw and as a consequence missing the strike, scaring the fish and winding up with only the memory of a fancy cast.
The essence of efficient, easy fly casting is a floating line. A dry, high-floating line makes casting easier, while a heavy, sinking one is difficult to lift or to manipulate and often means missed strikes and badly disturbed pools. So lines should be greased before each use-even those lines which the manufacturer states do not need to be greased. And the grease should be applied just before fishing, or it will sink into the line and lose its effect.

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