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Sinking lines and sink tips


Stuart_Van_Dorn
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Tim Holschlag says that he doesn't use sink lines or sink tips. Instead he ties on a long leader and a heavy fly. But to me that's like saying that you only need jigs that weigh an eighth of an ounce, no sixteenths, no quarters or heavier.

 

And then there's fly fishers who'll say things like, "Sinking lines are a pain to cast."

 

And of course there's the industry itself with terms such as grains, Type I, II, III or four or Lake lines or intermediate sink lines. And to confuse you even more, there's sink tips, density compensated lines and shooting heads.

 

So maybe Tim is right, it's easier to tie on one of his weighted flies with a long leader and cast away.

 

But lets see if maybe I can help demystify and explain why I fish with sinking lines and at times sink tips.

 

Rule one in fly fishing is: Balanced outfit, where you match line to rod. Same is true with sinking lines.

So here's a handy chart. So if you see a sale on a 450 grain line and you own a six weight...you'll know not to buy it.

 

Grain Sink Rod Wt.

150 4.00 ips 4/5/6

250 5.00 ips 6/7/8 (if you have a fast six weight...)

350 6.00 ips 8/9/10

450 7.00 ips 10/11/12

 

If you're fishing for smallies with a 12 weight, please take me!

And IPS means inches per second. The larger the grain number the faster the line sinks.

 

So match your rod wt with the proper grain line.

 

So what about Type I - Type IV lines. Once again, the type of line refers to its sink rate. By the way, all sinking lines are weight forward, that is the weight is always in the front taper of the line. (Trivia test material...)

 

For an excellent book on fishing with sinking lines let me recommend a book about fishing for trout in lakes: Morris and Chan on Fly Fishing Trout Lakes, Amato Publications.

 

So what if you see this thing, TYPE 3, on a line, well basically it means that the line sinks at a rate of 3 ips, or three inches per second. (So here's a math quiz, if the line sinks at 3ips, how long will it take for it to sink 10 feet? That's right, about 40 seconds!) Faster if you have a weighted fly on the end.

 

And once again, when you go looking for a sinking line, match it to your rod weight. And I recommend the new density compensated lines because they are easier to cast than older full sink lines and you get a better feel for the bottom and also when fish hit your fly. A density compensated line means that you won't have a big belly in your line and that you'll have a better straight line connection. (For more info, go to the 3M or RIO websites.)

 

Now about casting any sink line. You won't get to make a lot of false casts. With a full sink line you strip it up to the surface, make a roll cast to straighten it out and bring the line to the top, pick it up, make a back cast and then forward cast. Then count down to the depth you want and retrieve your fly with whatever technique you think will work. It's not a pain if you've matched the line to the rod and don't make but one back cast.

 

A sink line works when you have to get a fly down deep and quick. For instance, you're standing on a bank and you know that there's a deep pool and this is early spring so the smallies are down there at the bottom. You make an angled (or quartering) cast up stream, a quick mend of the line and follow the line with the tip of your rod. No stripping here. just follow the line. This is where I think that sink lines are better than heavy flies and long leaders. You can fish an unweighted fly, one with lots of marabou, rubber legs and so on, right near the bottom and not have the weight affect the action. And you know it's on the bottom and not floating above the fish. You also have greater control of depth by knowing where your fly is at. I will be the first guy to say, yeah, sinking lines can be a pain, but in the early spring, if you tie on a black woolly bugger and sink it into a pool or along a current seam, you'll be more likely to catch fish.

 

 

But what if you don't want to buy, say a TYPE III, full sink line, and a new reel spool to put it on, then what? Well I've become partial to the following set-up: Intermediate sink line, (easy to cast but it sinks slowly), or floating line with a sink tip and three foot leader. The intermediate sink lines or lake lines are clear sinking lines developed for trout but work well here on still or flowing waters. I have them in five, seven and eight weight. For my nine weight I use the RIO Versa tip and carry a leader wallet with me. You can check the RIO website for more information on these versatile tips.

 

Sink tips also come in a variety of weights and lengths. Some guys will cut them shorter to make casting easier. And all of the line companies make them. They work very well with floating lines and they're a little easier to cast than sinking lines. Sometimes your cast might have that hinging feeling, like the rod is being bent in the middle before you begin your forward cast. Whereas a full sink line makes it feel like the rod is about to leave your hand.

 

I look at adding sink tips instead of adding weight to the line. I think it's a bit more elegant and I don't worry about the split shot, matchstick lead or putty coming off.

 

But when is a good time to sink a fly? Spring is probably the best time to use either sink lines or sink tips. The fish are holding in deep holes and you need to get down to them. I've been using both methods, full sink lines, and sink tips for the last couple of years and have seen my productivity pick up. I've been able to get down to the bigger fish with big wooly buggers, sculpin patterns or big nymphs.

 

Oh and shooting heads? If you want to fish the lake front and need to make long long casts. These are basically sink tip lines attached to monofilament line and when you cast...they go a mile. Not really necessary in small streams and rivers. But good on large bodies of water. Same thing, pick the right one for your rod weight.

 

Spring fly fishing is usually tough on the fly rodder. It's hard to get the fly deep and keep it there. And most often you'll find yourself wrapping lots of lead on your flies or putting split shot, or whatever on your line. Sinking lines and sink tips make fishing deep a little easier. You can invest in a full sink line or pick up a sink tip or two from your local fly shop. Be sure and use shorter leaders, from 18 - 36 inches. then tie on a big woolly bugger, or nymph or strymph or whatever fly from craft minnows to hairy fodders and see what happens.

Sinking flies also works when the weather drives the fish deep in lakes and streams.

 

I guess that if you're partial to long leaders and heavy flies...well that's okay. The new sinking lines and the multitude of sink tips out there...well there's no reason not to put them to work. I won't challenge Tim but I've been catching good fish using sinking lines and/or sink tips and I see no reason to change. My flies get down deep, they stay down and the fish can find them and casting is easier than trying to get a long leader and heavy fly into small seam.

 

 

 

 

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A question that lingers in my mind is why fly fish with sinking lines/tips/weighted flies when you can more effectively fish deeper waters with "hardware" (at least in my mind you can)? Weighted flies are essentially jigs, right?

 

My opinion is not intended to slight the fly anglers in any way. Maybe I am missing something a fly guy can do with sinking lines and flies that the hardware guys can't duplicate. My brother is a steelhead guy and he used to fish nymphs, egg imitators, wobble-glos, etc. with a noodle rod, which he said was far easier when it came to fishing current and depth. I am new to fly fishing and have thus far enjoyed the challenge as well as the "art". Recently, I was in Florida and fly fished 90% of the time. Some of the lakes we fished were of the shallow variety and I felt I could fish these effectively with topwaters or unweighted to slightly weighted streamers. It was a different game when we fished other lakes with deeper weedlines, especially during midday when you needed to get deeper into the weed pockets. Throw in daily 15-20 MPH winds, which really impacted our boat control. I was challenged to say the least. Some of the flies I tried were heavier weighted Clousers or Zonkers and doing so really took away some of the appeal of fly fishing, at least for me.

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As far as why - I tend to fish for what jumps on the hook sometimes. I've stood next to buddies using spinning or casting gear and had them go hours without a hit and they were tossing the kitchen sink from the end of their line. I was standing on the other side of the bush (about 10 feet away) and caught and released 50 or 60 hand sized bluegills on furbugs. I also attempt to tie my own flies - my latest (and probably one of the strangest) has a six color (including bubble gum pink) marabou tail, spun deer hair head, and silver flashy body. It catches bass, bluegill, and crappie - there's something about tying on something you tied that morning out of you imagination and catching fish on it.

 

As to the sinking lines - this is my first year to ever try a full sinking or sink tip line. Has anyone see the new Scientific Anglers L2L system of leaders? Connector is rated at 10# with 2x-6x or 7x. Connector ties to your fly line with a overhand knot. Push the leader in, turn a quarter turn and it's locked. Works as a strike indicator. Got a box you can keep four pretied on flies in and takes about 15 seconds to change leaders. Reason I mention it is because they have a wet tip version. 4 - foot long section of sinking line to insert between the fly line and the leader. Documents say it sinks 1-4 feet. Cool system actually. I'm not a purist - I'm into easy and the L2L system is probably one of the easiest things I've ever seen when it comes to connecting fly lines to leaders. Some of the packages have a little plastic wrench thingy for cold days to tighten and loosen the leader. It won't take you to the bottom of Loch Ness but if you need just a few feet of depth it's a really easy rig to work with.

 

David C.

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Any fly line, be it floating, sinking, or sink tip is pretty much of a specialty tool. A particular line will enable you to fish effectively at a specific depth range. Lines that sink enable me to fish without heavy, weighted flies. When I use my Teeny five foot sink tip line, I can fish from a range just under the surface to pounding the stream bottom at 5 or 6 feet with a lighted weighted fly. It is far more enjoyable to cast this sink tip line than it is to cast a floating line with a heavy fly and long leader. It is also a great line to fish in windy conditions

 

The biggest downside to using a sinking or sink tip line is that if the fish start hitting on the surface, you either have to re-string your rod or use another rod. That's not a problem if you are on a boat and you have a spare rigged rod in the right weight, but it is a pain when you are wading. That is when the sinking leaders really shine. They do not cast as well a sink tip line, but they are more fun to cast than a heavy fly on a long leader.

 

I have used sinking lines when fishing from a boat a few times, and my experience has been that once the water gets much deeper than 10 feet, I start loosing my patience with the fly rod. You can catch smallies on flies in fifteen or twenty feet of water, but a jig is a better tool for fishing those depths, especially if you want to be banging the lake bottom.

 

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A question that lingers in my mind is why fly fish with sinking lines/tips/weighted flies when you can more effectively fish deeper waters with "hardware" (at least in my mind you can)? Weighted flies are essentially jigs, right?

 

Steve,

 

That is an age old question. In the end it is the sportsman's choice since overall a net is more effective than a spear, a spear is more effective than a rod and reel, trolling is more effective than casting, etc., etc. We choose a challenging method since we are way beyond the need to put meat in the pot.

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Steve,

 

That is an age old question. In the end it is the sportsman's choice since overall a net is more effective than a spear, a spear is more effective than a rod and reel, trolling is more effective than casting, etc., etc. We choose a challenging method since we are way beyond the need to put meat in the pot.

 

I guess the bottom line is that we all get what we want out of the experience.

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Sinking lines are fine in stillwater where the depths they can reach are limited only by the patience of the angler in waiting to reach those depths.But I agree with Tim H. that a weighted fly on a 9' leader is more effective on moving water where "deep" is usually 5-8'.A well weighted fly will sink as fast as a spinfished jig approx. 1' per sec. or approx.3-4x as fast as an unweighted fly on a sinking line rated for 6-8wt flyrods and even faster than one rated for lighter rods.This enables it to reach the desired depth well before the end of the drift whereas the unweighted fly/sinking line won't.In extreme currents it might be necessary to combine a weighted fly/long leader with a sinking line to get/ keep the fly deep.

While weighted versions of flies such as nymphs designed to be fished dead drift may not be as realistic as unweighted versions and so may not be as readily accepted by discriminating fish such as wild trout, streamers designed to be actively fished have more action when weighted with barbells(clousers etc.)or with a splitshot pinched on the leader at the hookeye.(To keep the shot on the leader use a loop knot pinching the shot to both strands of the loop.)

While casting either a sinking line or a weighted fly requires a different technique and is more difficult than casting an unweighted fly/floating line it becomes easier with practice especially with a haul which is something everyone fishing warmwater/saltwater species should learn.It's these kinds of challenges flyfishing offers that make it so much more fascinating and rewarding than any other kind.

P.S.If any of you guys have read any of my posts beginning in mid March with 44 degree water temps you see how effective a weighted fly on a long leader can be.

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All things are not equal when it comes to sinking lines. I just got back from a striper trip to the Roanoke river in North Carolina. The river was running high and fast and the stripers were on the bottom in 14-18 feet of water. My two partners (we had three fly rods going in a 18 foot boat with no trouble) were using an eight wt rod with a 350 grain shooting head to reach the bottom. Because most of the fish were schoolie size (1-3 lb) and no cover to snag on, I fished like Ronk and used a 4 -wt (Loomis GLX)with a 175 grain shooting head. This line is only half the weight but much thinner and denser and sank at the same rate as the 8 wt 350 line. I was on the bottom of that river catching over fifty stripers on that rig. Weight isn't everything, diameter resistance makes a big difference too. Especially in current. Also a tungston weighted line will sink much faster than a lead weighted line of the same grain weight. So grain weighting can be deceiving.

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Just curious, would adding a flurocarbon leader, which sinks, help or hinder if you went with the weighted fly and the non sinking line?

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I guess the bottom line is that we all get what we want out of the experience.

 

Yep. I spent about two years fishing fly rod exclusively. Sometimes it got really tough especially when it got windy, but I stuck with it. I'm not great at it, but I'm certainly a hell of a lot better. Recently, I started dragging out my spinning gear and I'm fishing a coupla times a week at lunch in a pond near work. The spinning and bait casting stuff is fine...if you're catching fish. otherwise it's incredibly lame. Lets face it, most of the time you're casting-not catching fish.

And I'll tell you what, fishing with a lure someone else made- is totally second rate fishing...IMHO.

I can see why the true devotees go thru the trouble of messing with sinking lines.

Not knocking the spinning guys and certainly Eric makes baitcasting into an art form (most of you just see pictures, you have no clue at how good he is it), but for me making that line sail might be just as fun as catching fish.

 

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All things are not equal when it comes to sinking lines. I just got back from a striper trip to the Roanoke river in North Carolina. The river was running high and fast and the stripers were on the bottom in 14-18 feet of water. My two partners (we had three fly rods going in a 18 foot boat with no trouble) were using an eight wt rod with a 350 grain shooting head to reach the bottom. Because most of the fish were schoolie size (1-3 lb) and no cover to snag on, I fished like Ronk and used a 4 -wt (Loomis GLX)with a 175 grain shooting head. This line is only half the weight but much thinner and denser and sank at the same rate as the 8 wt 350 line. I was on the bottom of that river catching over fifty stripers on that rig. Weight isn't everything, diameter resistance makes a big difference too. Especially in current. Also a tungston weighted line will sink much faster than a lead weighted line of the same grain weight. So grain weighting can be deceiving.

Craig,

In relation to the direction of the current what kind of casts were you guys making?

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We fished three different ways. If there was little boat traffic we'd drift downstream and cast perpendicular to the boat and the line would drift at about the same speed dwnstream. More often than not there was too much traffic to cast out sideways so we would drift and throw our lines directly back upstream. Toss in about five feet of slack and count it down ten to twenty seconds and you would feel the line start dragging on the bottom. Then make a fast, snappy retrieve and you'd get hammered. If we located a big pod of fish we would anchor just upstream from them, throw a quartering downstream cast, add a mend or two and just hold on. The line would sink to the bottom and the fly would hang in their faces until they couldn't stand it any more. Other than the anchoring method, this is fishing an area not a specific spot. Watching the depthfinder you would see massive schools of stripers often extending for several hundred of yards of a drift.

 

On the flourocarbon question I believe it aids in sinking a fly. It may not sink fast but at least it breaks the surface tension of the water making it easier for the fly to sink. This leads to a straighter line connection between the rod tip and the fly thus better strike detection and hook ups. It also works well with diver flies because of the same reason. The line is already subsurface and wants to go down, not drag across the surface. These are the same reasons you do not use it for dry flies, it wants to drag them under. Some people want the first few inches of the leader to sink to be less visible (no shadow on the water) but when the entire leader sinks so does the fly.

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It's good to see a lot of discussion about sinking lines and sink tips. I realize I should have mentioned that the smaller diameter sinking lines will in many cases, particularly in current, sink quicker than rated. And they're easier to cast. (Thanks for bringing that up Craig, it's a very important point.)

 

Also as Craig points out, using fluorocarbon, which sinks, can be an added bonus when using floating line. Although my experience with fluorocarbon hasn't shown me that it really sinks all that much. In part because I use it for tippet and knotted leaders and throw top water with it. I do know that it makes a difference if you toss a #12 Adams. But if you're fishing a fly that size, well, then I bet you're also a member of Trout Unlimited or catching bait. (And yes, I have used a fly rod to catch bait, and am not ashamed of it, well, not yet anyway.)

 

And why don't I use spinning and bait casting gear? Personal preference is the best answer I can give. I like standing out in the stream or surf or boat, with a long rod, and casting a fly that I've tied or someone has tied for me and then seeing if I can get a fish to believe that it's something they want to eat. Now if I had to fish to feed my family - I'd use a net.

 

The idea is how to get fly to the bottom, to keep there, how to animate it so that the fish will take it and so we can feel the take. Also, to make casting an enjoyable pleasure and not a dangerous pursuit. Although if you're into adrenaline rushes, a Clouser minnow zinging past your ear on a 350 grain line will get the pump jumping. And if you're into proving you're a tough guy- that lovely Clouser thump on the back of the head.

 

For reference on weighted lines and sink tips, there's a lot of information on the web that you can read, as well as the manufacturer's websites: Cortland, Rio, Jim Teeny, 3M, and you can check some of the sites for steel headers and surf fisherman as well as looking at site called, stripermoon, Ken Abram's site for striper fishing. I recommend any of his books as he talks about fishing weighted lines with light flies. Ken Abrams also ties some of the most beautiful bait fish patterns I've ever seen. His flatwing streamers are long, light and beautiful as well. Ken is of the school of not putting weight on flies because he feels it affects the action of his streamers.

 

Also, a final note, when it's windy, a sinking line will cut through the wind with no problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here's another possibly dumb question from a spinning guy. Why wouldn't you just put some splitshot or some sticky tape like lead on with your regular fly gear to get down?

 

It seems to me that it would be easier to pack and add some lead than to carry and tie on different types ofline/leaders. Does it change the way the fly works that much or is it a matter of preference/esthetics?

 

For me the older I get the less I feel like packing on my body.

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Here's another possibly dumb question from a spinning guy. Why wouldn't you just put some splitshot or some sticky tape like lead on with your regular fly gear to get down?

 

It seems to me that it would be easier to pack and add some lead than to carry and tie on different types ofline/leaders. Does it change the way the fly works that much or is it a matter of preference/esthetics?

 

For me the older I get the less I feel like packing on my body.

Norm,

That was what I advocated in my post on this topic,a weighted fly or splitshot with an unweighted fly instead of sinking lines in moving water.The forner method will get the fly down faster in typical river depths of 5-8' and there's no need to swich lines etc. if you want to also fish shallow or on the surface.

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We fished three different ways. If there was little boat traffic we'd drift downstream and cast perpendicular to the boat and the line would drift at about the same speed dwnstream. More often than not there was too much traffic to cast out sideways so we would drift and throw our lines directly back upstream. Toss in about five feet of slack and count it down ten to twenty seconds and you would feel the line start dragging on the bottom. Then make a fast, snappy retrieve and you'd get hammered. If we located a big pod of fish we would anchor just upstream from them, throw a quartering downstream cast, add a mend or two and just hold on. The line would sink to the bottom and the fly would hang in their faces until they couldn't stand it any more. Other than the anchoring method, this is fishing an area not a specific spot. Watching the depthfinder you would see massive schools of stripers often extending for several hundred of yards of a drift.

 

On the flourocarbon question I believe it aids in sinking a fly. It may not sink fast but at least it breaks the surface tension of the water making it easier for the fly to sink. This leads to a straighter line connection between the rod tip and the fly thus better strike detection and hook ups. It also works well with diver flies because of the same reason. The line is already subsurface and wants to go down, not drag across the surface. These are the same reasons you do not use it for dry flies, it wants to drag them under. Some people want the first few inches of the leader to sink to be less visible (no shadow on the water) but when the entire leader sinks so does the fly.

I'm confused.You said you were using a line that sinks at the same rate as a 350 grain, and were reaching bottom in 14 -18'.A 350 has a sink rate of 7 ips in stillwater.At that rate it would take at least 25-30+ seconds to reach bottom and perhaps a bit longer in moving water if as seems likely current impedes the sink rate.

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I don't know what the manufacturer claims as the FPS sink rate but our 350 lines and even my 175 got to the bottom in about 20 seconds. You could count it down but it was easier just to wait till it started to drag on the bottom. We were drifting with the current, not anchored (most of the time). Even anchored the sink rate wasn't much different. I think when you use a "real" shooting head with running line it gets down faster than a traditional fly line. After you'd cast, you would throw 5 or 10 feet of slack into the line to assist in freeing the line from current or rod tension. I'm sure it was the bottom because we'd hang up every now and then and when you would motor back to it, you would only get 10 feet of your 30 foot head to come to the surface. I have a Rio T-14 line that got down even faster. I was amazed at how easy it was to get down to that depth. Maybe it was the fact that there wasn't many crosscurrents where your line wanted to go in multiple directions at one time. I used my 175 gr line to catch white bass on the Wolf River in Wisconsin at a depth of 15 foot from an anchored boat. It works.

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Fishing a sink tip line with floating flies is one of the most deadly methods I use through out the season. I be affraid of them. The trouoble is not to many can really cast them. Rio makes some excellent sink tips with aggressive tapers for turning those big flies over and making them easier to cast.

 

Wildwood

 

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Fishing a sink tip line with floating flies is one of the most deadly methods I use through out the season. I be affraid of them. The trouoble is not to many can really cast them. Rio makes some excellent sink tips with aggressive tapers for turning those big flies over and making them easier to cast.

 

Wildwood

 

I had my first experience with sink tips this past weekend. I didn't find that they were too difficult to cast. They were quite effective for getting the fly down where I wanted it to be. I wish I had them when I was recently in Florida. I feel pretty confident I would have increased my odds of catching fish by getting and keeping the streamers down in the zone where I wanted them to be.

 

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