Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Take Me to Your Leader (part2)

Sinking leader slipped a Mickey to this Oak Orchard brown in March

There are other methods of getting your flies deep besides using heavy flies, long skinny leaders and weight on the leader. There are times that using an unweighted fly with a sinking leader or a sink tip might be just as effective, or even more so. I used to spend a lot of time swinging streamers this way during the winter when I lived in Northern NY.

My buddy Charlie and I used to fish a lot together on the river that ran next to campus. Like I said in my previous post I used to use a lot of nymphs with great effect in the winter. However in early winter, just post spawn streamers were killer. There are special regs on this river that do not allow the use of weighted flies until January 1 so heavy streamers were out. We used to use a lot of sink tips to get the fly down to where we wanted them to be. My first bunch of sink tips were a shooting head that I had which I cut into lengths appropriate for the depth we were fishing. That was my introduction to sink tips and I learned a great deal from it. I caught a ton of fish too.

I use a loop to loop system to connect my sink tips to the end of my line. I use a variety of commercially available sink tips and ones that I have made myself. I hate the Chinese finger trap loops that are out there. I have had them slip off my lines before and eventually they start breaking down creating a weak link in the line. I simply fold over the line and use mono to put a nail knot to hold the two halves together. On heavier lines I will put two or three nail knots like this on the end to make sure it is secure. After that I will coat the knots with something like UV Knot Sense or another glue for added confidence and to let it slip through the guides easier. I find it also helps prevent gunk from getting caught on the connection when I fish in weedy waters.

Having a variety of weights and lengths of sink tips will allow you to adjust to the water depths that you are fishing. I do like making my own out of different materials like Cortland’s LLC-13 or Rio’s T series of sinking line. I can really toy with the different lengths that way. You can also easily cut up old sinking lines or shooting heads to make sink tips as well. One material that I will caution you away from though is lead core trolling line. I have attempted to make sink tips and shooting heads out of it. Once it kinks up it is pretty much useless. If you have some I suggest taking off the braided exterior and using the lead inside to weight your flies instead.

Sinking leader... nice musky... 'nuf said...
A few years ago several companies started producing sinking leaders. They are available in a few different lengths, sink rates and breaking strengths. I love these things! They are perfect for fishing small and mid-sized rivers to get your streamer down a bit deeper. The other situation I use them for a lot is for fishing pike and musky. In both of these cases I add about a couple of feet of mono to the end of the leader then I attach a swivel. For streamers I just run fluoro to the fly and with pike/musky I go right to wire bite tippet to the fly. This works like a charm and keeps the fly in the strike zone longer. I strongly recommend having a few in your leader wallet.

I have used a few sink tip lines in my day and I am planning on getting a few more for use this year. They definitely help eliminate hinging that you can sometimes get from add on sink tips. The big downside is that you need to have a spare reel or spool to keep the line on. One of the biggest advantages of a sink tip of either kind is that the floating line allows you to mend pretty easily.

who needs mending with that on the line?
Mending is pretty much out of the question when using a full sink line. I dare you to try. It just don’t work! (yea, intentionally bad grammar there) Full sink lines definitely have their place though. They are great on stillwaters when the fish are deep. Another line that is great for lakes is the shooting head system. Shooting heads take a while to get used to but when you do expect to send out a rocket cast. I was blasting out 100 foot casts this past fall with minimal effort using a shooting head system and I was dragging bottom in no time. I have a couple of other situations that I want to use the shooting head system for this coming season but I will let you know how that goes after some field testing gets done. Oh, the horrors of testing out new fishing systems… don’t you feel terrible for me?

Well there are my methods of getting down! For fishing at least… I can get down pretty well with some good tunes too, but like the average white guy that I am, I can only do the hippy groove dance. Even then I look like an idiot, but what else is new?

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