June 28, 2017
Chucking bigger flies is a snap with the right line.
Big flies like these will get the fish's attention, but they'll also be tough to cast using traditional line tapers.
If you plan to fling half a chicken anytime soon, today's fastest, powerful fly rods, and an aggressive (short belly)
specialty taper fly line can help you do that, without sending you in for Tommy John surgery.
Targeting largemouth bass, bull redfish, snook and many bluewater species can call for big, air-resistant flies. Big flies are typically hard to cast, because the rod does not load readily, especially on those typical short to medium distance “flats shots.” Without such a line, you can compensate by overlining your rod one size, shortening your leader and beefing up the tippet. But these short belly lines do what they are supposed to do. Though there are a few intermediate and full-sinking lines that have this type of taper to handle big flies, let's look at strictly floating lines in this discussion.
On the flip side, a line with a short head (which concentrates the weight up front close to the leader and fly) won't allow you to carry as much line in the air for those long-range shots. Air Flo offers its Ridge Bass Musky fly line for anglers chucking big, air-resistant bugs. In line weights 6 through 10, it was designed by noted bass, musky and pike fly fisher Pat Ehlers, who also designs fly rods for Echo. Its compact head is designed for quick rod loading.
Cortland Line Company recently released its Precision SL Big Fly, with an over-weighted head to handle big streamers, bass bugs and poppers. It comes in floating, weight forward 6 through 12 weights, and the entire head—including front and back taper—is 23.5 feet long with a 10-foot transition. Cortland calls this transition a “level step,” forward of the running line. I fished this line in weights 9 and 10 during a trip to southern Louisiana for big redfish and it performed nicely with beefy, weighted 2/0 Zonker strip streamers and foam poppers. Many casts were within 40 feet of the skiff under cloudy skies when the viz was poor. I could pick the fly up and recast without a second false cast. It is a good line for “flopping” a fly to a fish that appears suddenly a few rod lengths from the boat. The company also produces other lines that qualify as “big fly” lines, Cortland's 333 Classic Bass/Big Fly line for example. It is only available in line weights 7 and 8, the most popular among largemouth bass anglers.
Orvis' Hydros Bass/Warmwater line has a compact head and short front taper to punch big bugs into the wind and into tight shoreline spots from close range. Comes in weights 5 through 9, with a 35.5-foot head, 8-foot rear taper and 4-foot front taper. The company also offers its Hydros Striper Line on a braided, multi-filament core, in weights 8 through 10. Overall head length is 38.5 and depending on line weight, rear taper from 5.5 to 6.5 feet. Front taper runs from 5.5 to 6.5 feet.
Scientific Anglers' Marketing Director John Van Vleet recommends both their Mastery Series Titan and Magnum Taper lines for big flies.
The Titan taper has a 33.5-foot body and a “two-stage” belly section, with the front belly slightly heavier than the rear. This ensures smooth yet powerful turnover, even on short to medium range casts. It is a good choice for weighted streamers, bass bugs and poppers, and according to the taper charts, is more “aggressive” than traditional bass bug tapers. The Mastery Series Textured Magnum Taper line is built a half-size heavier than listed line/rod size designation to help fly fishers turn over big flies, poppers and even splitshot fly rigs. According to Van Vleet, this line's transition from head to running line is not as abrupt as that of the company's Titan Taper. It comes in line weights 4 through 10, and the entire head of this line increases in overall length as you increase in line size. FS
First published Florida Sportsman magazine July 2015