November 29, 2020
Keep your flies when toothy fish arrive.
You can get away with heavy monofilament or fluorocarbon for smaller toothy fish, such as Spanish macks and little blues (not ‘cudas!) but if the macks are “max” or you're on some kingfish, wire is a must. When a sizeable toothy fish clenches its teeth, your fly is gone. Now I make it habit to carry both singlestrand and braided wire leader, and there are new products that make it easier to rig up for flies.
In clear water, all but the smallest-diameter wire can deter strikes. And even the thinnest of wires, though they are less visible to fish, can fail when a big fish's teeth saw back and forth on the wire during a prolonged battle.
The biggest Spanish run much farther and fight harder and longer than smaller models, and often cut through even 80-pound mono when they twist and turn at the boat, when there is less “stretch” in the system. Cero mackerel also call for light wire—they have formidable teeth and tend to run pretty big on some southern reefs.
Live bait anglers can fish wire without a second thought. A piece of wire rarely deters a hungry gamefish eyeballing a frisky live baitfish. With a fly, the key is to use the finest, shortest wire bite tippet practicable. I never use more than 3 to 5 inches of the stuff—that short trace provides ample protection, and anything longer makes fly turnover tougher, particularly when punching flies into a breeze. And the more wire there is, the more that wary fish can see, particularly in clear water. Or, where fishing pressure is extreme.
Wire choice boils down to single-strand and multi-filament. Singlestrand has somewhat fallen out of favor for fly fishing in recent years, but still has its place. It does not fray, like coated, multi-strand cable wire does. With the exception of some new titanium singlestrand stuff, most singlestrand wire does not allow you tie typical knots. The only connection to use is a haywire twist, which is tricky at first to perform for many anglers. But it is excellent, and because it forms a loop, it allows your fly freedom of movement. And when kept short, chances of stainless singlestrand kinking are nil. The Albright special is the best singlestrand-to-monofilament (or fluorocarbon) connection.
Excellent “tie-able” or “knottable” multistrand and even singlestrand wires are available and require specific knots. When tying on a fly or tying a trace of wire to mono or fluorocarbon leader, you will notice that, depending on the knot used, the knottable wire doesn't snug up quite as tightly as mono. Close inspection will reveal slight gaps between drawn-down wraps. But they do hold well under pressure if the knot is tied correctly. One manufacturer, Aquateko (www.aquateko.com), maker of Knot2Kinky nickel-titanium (NiTi) leader wire, specifies that on the packaging of both their singlestrand and 7-strand products, advising the “knots will appear loose and will not tighten like mono, but will hold.” During some Spanish mackerel fishing and testing at home, I have found the knot strength to be very good.
Aquateko's NiTi wires have no memory, and are elastic in nature, unlike conventional stainless singlestrand wire. Due to lack of memory, it resists kinking. You cannot use the haywire twist to connect a fly or lure. It is a wire's memory (in the case of singlestrand wire) that makes it possible to fashion a haywire twist. You make a tight barrel wrap, and it stays put as you make the next one.
I found that out by trail-and-error. I also discovered that the company's 7-strand wire snugs down tighter than its singlestrand wire, but again, Aquateko makes it clear on their packaging. So it comes down to getting past this characteristic of the material before entrusting it in your fly fishing.
Other knottable wires on the market include stainless steel products, and some are low stretch or nylon-coated. A sampling of manufacturers includes Tyger (www.tygerleader.com), American Wire makers of Surflon Micro Supreme, (www.afwhiseas.com), Cortland, maker of Toothy Critter stainless wire, (www.cortlandline.com) and Rio (www.rioproducts.com). FS
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine January 2017