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Textured lines -- More or less friction?


Tim A
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I've been thinking lately about the new(ish) textured lines on the market--Sci Anglers has the Sharkskin, which is very rough, the Mastery Series Textured (which is a bit smoother than the SS), and Orvis has the Hydros 3D series (which I believe is comparable to the "Mastery textured" from SA).

 

These companies like to tout that the major benefit of these lines is increased casting distance due to lower line friction through the guides. Since the lines are not smooth, there is decreased surface area of fly line contacting the guides during the cast (we're only talking about the surface area relevant to touching the guides, since the overall surface area is increased by the many humps and valleys in the coating). The sudden increase in our casting distance simply by using these lines is supposedly enough to justify the loud buzzing of these lines through the guides. The only other marketed benefit to these lines, which run $30 more than their smooth counterparts, is a better grip of the line under fingers on the grip as well as in line-hand stripping fingers. In fact, users recommend using those stretchy lycra finger sleeves with these new lines to avoid "line burn" increase from these new lines. Okay...

 

However, that buzzing sound is the sound of friction! That's what makes a buzzing sound. Now, is it more friction than a quiet, smooth fly line? Here's a set of thought experiments that you can make into hands-on experiments if you wish. (1)Say you have two rotating cylinders (rotating like simple axles, not martial arts bo staffs in action) in front of you--one smooth and one with slight ribbing along the length. These are spinning very quickly and you cannot stop them with your hand. Okay--which one would your hand last longer on if you had to grip them? The ribbed one would quickly feel like it is "burning" your hand, because the texture generates more friction and therefore more heat.

 

(2) Say you are to descend from the roof of a very tall building via one of two perfectly vertical poles (like at a firehouse)--one is perfectly smooth and chromed like a firepole or stripper pole. The other has an exaggerated version of the pattern seen on the sharkskin fly line. post-1902-0-06419900-1345410529_thumb.jpegWhich would you rather descend? Well, I'd argue you might be able to grip the exaggerated sharkskin pole enough to control your descent, despite a little heat on the hands and legs due to higher friction. The firepole would be a very quick descent for which you better have good form--because there's no stopping once you start.

 

And that's exactly the point I'm trying to make. A smooth surface (line) against a smooth surface (guides) generates LESS friction than a textured surface in motion against a smooth surface (guides). Think about the Lycra finger sleeves--why is your finger getting burned easier with a textured line? HIGHER FRICTION!!!

 

In my view, based on these conclusions, if anyone using a textured line thinks they are generating faster line speeds, they are being duped by that nice buzzzzzzzzzing sound as the line leaves their hand and passes along and out the rod. It certainly SOUNDS fast. Put the extra $30 in your gas tank, or tip your guide.

 

Just food for thought...

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I originally thought this was more gimick than technological advancement. Then I started reading reviews and watching Youtube reviews, and thought there might be something to it. I then thought the price was too high.

 

I received a new 3wt rod as a gift and went to my local Gander Mountain who had the 3wt SS line marked down from $60 to $15, so thought "What the heck?" I even bought some traditional 3wt thinking I might not like it. Well, I've fished Wisonsin, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah so far with that 3wt rod and the Shark Skin hasn't come off yet. The buzzing sound is not annoying after a short bit, and I have actually have another cue to use to tell how I'm casting (especially on roll casts).

 

As far as the fire pole analogy, I'd agree with you, but guides are hard and skin is soft, as far as your fingers are concerned, it's a cut, not a burn (and yes, that part stinks). All in all, I love the Shark Skin.

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Tim,

I was also told by the Scientific Angler rep that the new indented lines trap more air on the surface of the water and therefore they float higher. Haven't a clue if this is true. I have not used a Sharkskin on the water so keep that in mind when I ask if the lines don't pick up more gunk off the water since it has a rougher surface to attach to (it works that way with contact lenses) I do know from my test casting that they make more noise going thru the guides than I care for. Maybe once the line gets wet, it's not so bad, but Patrick can better comment on that. As far as "casting further", I think I'm like most flyfishermen and that is, I can cast further than I can fish now, so not sure what I might be gaining. All in all, I think much of it is marketing and another reason to raise the cost of an extruded line another $20 or $30. I once met an engineer who worked in that extrusion area and he was telling me how those in his industry get a laugh out of what people are willing to spend on fly lines and how cheap they are to produce. Fools that we are.

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i think the science behing the textured line is sound. half as much contact with the guide should cause less friction, but as rob said, if you are placeing flys at 60' now, what would you gain? and conversely, if you are a novice and stuggling with flies at 20' no fancy line is going to add another 40'. tim i think your analogy of squeezing the line tightly or sliding down a pole while hanging on are not good anologies because the guides on a fly rod are not gripping the line. in a perfect world the line would be as unrestricted as possible. this is not the first generation of bumpy, pitted or textured lines. there have been claims of increased aerodynamics like in a golf balls, increased boyancy( as a matter of fact, one line available 15 years ago was a larger dyameter which i think aided boyancy but a larger dyameter made it less wind resistant), and then the less friction thing. all of these things may very well be a great aid to the tournement caster but in dirty water and clinging water molecules with the crud i am not certain how much difference it would make. certainly how well the user casts would affect how much benefit you would get from these these hi-tech add-ons. in some circles silk is becoming the ideal. silk lines are rather expensive and require greater maintenace tho. the outstanding feature of the silk line is increased wind resistance due to increased density and smaller diameter. i wouldn't use a silk line in our turbid illinois waters. i think the self lubricating feature of our modern lines is a wonder but the new lines can be hard to hang onto when new out of the pakage. one technique used by tournement casters is to turn their rods with the guides on the side to decrease line slap on the rod. this does make some difference but not always very practical while hanging on to your rod as you stumble over slippery rocks and those sudden jarring holes you miss. HA anyway that's just my 2cents. timothy

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Whenever I hear a line being touted as "cast further", I always have to think about Cortland's Lazer line and what a terrible line that was and has since been discontinued. I agree with Tim, buy a standard WF line, take the extra $30 and get a lesson from a qualified fly casting instructor and you're probably better off. I hope I'm not coming off as too cynical or an old fart that won't accept new technology because I like "new and improved" as much as anyone.

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In another category, on spinning tackle Fireline was a noisy line to me when I first used it. I got used to the noise and enjoyed greater distance since the diameter per pound test is less than 1/2 that of mono. I saw no signs of line or guide wear that would come from friction. Patrick seems to have had the same experience. The question is whether the extra $$ are worth it. They were with Fireline on spinning gear.

 

BTW I like the comparision with dimples on a golf ball. No matter what the ball looks like, keep your head down. You have to hit the ball first.

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I have multiple fly rods, and on my two most used,6wt and 8wt, I have the Sharkskin GPX. I will not go back to anything else, except for my spring creek rod, where I'm doing more roll casts than anything. I agree, at $100, that's a little crazy, but I found my 6wt online for $60. I paid full price for the 8wt, and I will honestly say it's worth it. Can I cast it further than my traditional lines, yes, not by much, but I can. Where I find them so nice to use, is for mending, or just line management. They don't coil, or retain a memory, and the line handling is worth every penny of it. I have had my 6wt line on now for 2 years, I probably fish between 75 - 100 days per year, and I do not have any wear on my guides, and the only time I've ever had a very slight burn on my stripping finger, was after fishing streamers for musky and pike all weekend in WI. I use both textured, and non textured, and I was skeptical to try the textured, especially because of the cost. My guide while trout fishing in Montana had it on his rod, thats how I came to try it out. Bought one as soon as I got home. They both work, but as far as a weight forward fly line goes, I give my pick to the textured all day. I can only speak for the Sharkskin lines. Ryan

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Thanks for keeping the conversation alive fellas. I'm willing to admit my thesis is probably wrong here. I thought more about the fact that my thought experiments were using human hands/skin against a hard pipe, which turns out is not as analogous to the fly line situation as I'd previously thought. Patrick's comment made me think about this...although at first I was thinking about the burning/cutting effect on the finger. It didn't make sense to me how this textured fly line could be harsher on the finger than smooth fly lines, yet have less friction going through the guides. But then I realized that the pliability of our relatively soft skin and flesh is actually increasing the amount of surface area of the fly line we come into contact with. As I said before, a textured line has more absolute or total surface area becuase of all the bumps and valleys. When we squeeze the fly line with our fingers, we push our skin down a bit into these valleys, and when the line starts to move, we aren't just contacting the flat "peaks" of the line---the result is more friction.

 

However, the line against the hard guide/eyelet/insert is a different story because the guide is hard, it isn't squeezing itself against the line, and those little valleys are so tiny. So the guide does only contact the flat or smooth "peaks" of the line's texture. I went back to thinking of analogies. I thought about two hollow pipes, one rotating inside the other at a perfect fit. In scenario (a), both pipes are perfectly smooth, which results in full surface area contact between the outer wall of the inside pipe and inner wall of the outer pipe. This requires more work against friction to rotate. Scenario (a) is high friction. But in scenario ( B ) the inner pipe has a cross-section like a cartoon flower (kind of like a boat prop). If this pipe rotates inside the smooth outer pipe, less surface area is in contact and less work is required to move it. So scenario ( B ) is lower friction, relative to (a), and is analogous to textured fly line.

 

So I'm wrong! But this has been fun!

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I don't own a textured line, but I have fished with a Shark Skin line with a borrowed rod. There is no doubt that the Shark skin line shot line better/easier than than a regular line. My thoughts after the fishing with the line were as follows:

 

1. It is noisy but I could probably get used to it

2. It is abrasive and could easily wear grooves into the skin on your stripping finger or worse. You need to wear something (gloves/bandaid, etc) to protect your finger.

3. It is not worth the price to me.

 

My attitude about fly lines is that they are disposable and they are best purchased at a discount. I've ruined a few fly lines in my time so I would prefer to avoid trashing a line that cost me a hundred dollars.

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I have both the SA SS and Textured lines. The SS is a 9wt Steelhead Taper and about 1 year old. I got the SS line, because when I bought a new reel it came with a free fly line up to $100 value. So I opted for the most expensive line. I really like the high floatation property of the line. It made roll cast, line pickup, and line control easier. It also helped in detecting subtle takes. The downside was that it was rough on my fingers, both the line fingers and the stripping fingers. Stripping guards are highly recommended when using this line.

 

I really liked the SS line for the higher floatation, but I didn't like the so rough skin. So, when it was time for a new line for my 6wt smallie rod, I decided to go with the Textured line. I've been using this line since May of this year. It also floated high, but it was much easier on the fingers. But stripping guards are still highly recommended. Heck, now I liked the stripping guards so much I weared them all the time too even while using regular fly line. With the stripping guards on, I could strip the line like there is no tomorrow and not worrying about line burns.

 

As far as other advertised benefits of the lines such as casting further (I'm not so sure) and more durable (it remains to be seen).

 

Does it worth the extra bucks? Yes, absolutely.

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The SS GPX and magnum series lines are are WF lines, both designed to help flip over larger flies. The GPX is a better all around , I use it with Hopper/Dropper type rigs on Trout streams, and with large streamers and poppers in Bass water. I have never used the Magnum SS line, but it is specifically designed to flip over larger, more wind resistant flies. Ryan

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Do you think the textured lines are more quiet than the Sharkskin? and which textured series of line have you tried as I noticed there's no bass taper in the textured series?

While fishing, I didn't notice any line noise from neither the SS and the Textured. But while lawn casting, I did notice that the SS was a little noisier.

 

I also used the Magnum taper on my smallie 6wt rod.

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I use the sharkskin for running lin

es when using heads, which when smallie fishing isn't too often.

I do cut my finger when stripping the line in the winter. Since my hands are normally numb from cold, I don't even notice until I'm halfway home.

For all other fishing, I use a sa gpx line and go from there.

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My favorite line for castability remains the Wulff Triangle Taper.It's also great for rollcasting & mending. Anyone thinking there's a casting benefit to "low friction" lines should consider the Airflo Ridgeline Distance Taper.The lines reducing friction run lengthwise eliminating the noise & rough texture that's hard on fingers & guides.The line is extremely durable & costs about $ 30 less than Sharkskin.I've also used Airflo's Extreme Distance line.While it casts farther the running line has more tendency to tangle & the line is not durable.

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I've been pretty happy with my SA XXD taper lines...so I havent messed with the Sharkskin much...It does cast a little further than my XXD lines...but not that much..maybe 5'-10' on average. .I used to be partial to the Wulff Triangle Tapers...but I like the XXD better...It has a long head so it roll casts and mends like a champ. If your looking for a good running line...pick up a spool of Rio Slick Shooter Running line...its oval shaped...and it wont cut you up...It also put 25' of it between my backing and my fly line...for those times when I want to practice my distance casting.

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I also put 25' of it between my backing and my fly line...for those times when I want to practice my distance casting.

Gavin - Thanks for sharing that. I had always been wondering how the distance casters able to shoot line beyond the normal fly line length. Because everytime I tried casting beyond that, my backing got all tangled up into a big mess.

 

What knot you normally used to splice the lines together?

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