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Weights for Fly Fishing

Get down with a floating line.

You can add weight to fly lines for fast sinking presentations with (from top, clockwise) metal sleeves, lead core line and split shot.

Recently my fly fishing buddies and I have been working shallow backwaters and lagoons of Southwest Florida and the Everglades. We prefer to fish topwater flies like Gurglers and similar patterns on 7- to 9-weight outfits and weight-forward floating lines. But, there are times when it’s more effective to fish the bottom, as in deeper creeks, potholes and channels.

Bringing along a backup rod (or compatible spool) with a full sink or sink-tip line is an obvious solution, but for a quick fix with minimal investment, here are a few pointers on getting your fly down.

My pal Dick Tremblay, an expert striped bass and lake trout fly fisher from Rhode Island, suggested this add-on to get the fly down in those hard to reach places. Dick likes to tie in a dropper section on his leader about above 18 inches in front of his fly. The dropper can be about 12 inches long. By pinching a split shot of 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 ounce to the dropper, you’ll easily get down into the high-percentage bottom. Fluorocarbon leader material is helpful, too, in that it has smaller diameter per pound test and greater relative density. This gives fluorocarbon better sinking characteristics.

Get your line deep along undercut mangrove banks to put the fly where the fish are.

You’ll want to use a sidearm casting technique and flip the weighted leader upcurrent. Sidearm casting helps to keep the shot from impacting a delicate flyrod blank. This presentation is useful when you drift or anchor up over a deeper-running channel. You can use a conventional casting stroke if you’re using a rod with extra backbone. You’ll want to strip off extra line and allow the weighted tip section to shoot and fall quickly and freely to the desired depth.

If you plan ahead and like a neat, easy add-on there are heavy sink tip sections that come in a variety of increments, sized by grains 100, 200, 300 and so on. These can be purchased at fly shops and fit neatly in a fly wallet or resealable bag. Being an old schooler, I like to make my own using sections of lead core trolling line in 20- to 60-pound test. The sink tips can be applied to your line either loop to loop or by using a modified nail knot at either end of the leadcore section. These setups allow you use your favorite small, unweighted flies on the bottom, because the weight of the line hangs lowest in the current while the unweighted fly drifts just off the bottom and hang in the water column in an enticing fashion.

Next investent might be a second rig or spare spool with full sinking, left, or intermediate sinking line.

Another very straightforward and effective system to delicately add weight to your tip is to pinch a few metal sleeves. These sleeves can be placed just up the leader from your fly. The sleeves are typically used to make ready rigs for bottom or trolling terminal gear. You can add as few or as many of these as needed. They come in size increments by metal gauges, which can define their use as weight. Packages can be found at most tackle shops and come in stainless and black metal. They’re a versatile, convenient and inexpensive system for assembling add-on weights for deep work.

Some other more conventional add-ons specifically designed for fly fishers are matchbook lead strips and French split shot. These items can be found at well-stocked fly shops but are intended mostly for stream fishermen and tend to be on the light side.

You can use any of these approaches to get that favorite fly down in those fishy spots. – FS

First Published Florida Sportsman Dec. 2012
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