Sinking Tip Systems
March 1992, edited since
Steelheaders are crafty
anglers. In order to be able to respond to a wide variety of river
situations, the clever fly anglers of the pacific northwest figured out
how to construct versatile line systems that cast naturally. These
lines combine the factory weight forward section with parts of sinking
heads to form a hybrid head section. Loops allow the tips to be
exchanged as needed, different densities and lengths, etc.
This loop is an original recipe, I developed it by trial and error after losing fish and tips to store bought connectors. It has been adopted by several of my fishing buddies. I have not had one let go, which is more than I can say for store-bought loops.
Then do the same for the cut tip, to get back to a DT9F at any time. Also buy a type IV 30' tapered (on both ends) shooting head, and cut 12 feet from the front, make loops on both square cut ends and you have three tips. I also buy a type II to complement the set with five tips, type III is nice as well as one of those inexpensive straight-taper Rio tips for dredging in rocks (not that I do this) VBG. This results in quite an arsenal with only one spool.
When using tips on long belly lines, I downsize the AFTMA rating to match the fine front tapers of those lines. This seems to provide a good balance of sink rate and grains at the front taper and I've caught fish consistently with lighter weight (e.g. 8wt tips) on bigger grain long belly lines.
The IV, II and floater fill the bill pretty completely IMHO.
The problem with the DT is that only the 12' tip and the dry tip casts well. There is only so much line that a rod can work without shooting line, and DT lines don't shoot worth beans. This is about 60-70 feet for my open motion and a DT line in my hands.
That's when the head system comes into play. This approach was suggested to me by Mike Kinney while he was at the Swallows Nest in downtown Seattle.
In this case, a section of DT12F is used, cut so that the total head length is around 30-35 feet depending on rod and casting style. This is looped onto a running line of .038 or something like that. You want a balance between shooting ability (low diam) and line control (larger diam). I started with 22 feet of DT12F and a 12' type IV, eventually trying a shorter 12wt Head body at 20' for a 32' total head including the 12' type IV tip. This casts well using a launch Spey cast as opposed to an open style for the DT, once you get it you'll be amazed! The rod is tilted back over the casting shoulder to cock the shorter line length in an arc and a crisp push-pull with a very high abrupt stop sends the wedge for the far bank. You may have already found this groove, I will never forget the day I found it.
The key is different strokes for the two lines. I found that the 10wt 15footer really throws the big head a mile, but it's nothing like the classic Spey motion for a DT. I prefer a light and agile DT when possible though, no loops or stripping.
Heads require that one strips all of the running line into the guides so that the cast can be made, which can take some getting used to. The head will overhead cast like a rocket when necessary. In fact this system works great with single hand lines as well as Spey.
I also have an in-between head made with an 11wt DT body a bit longer than the 12, which casts well too but since it requires the running line to be stripped in it doesn't offer much to the scene. It does allow for the 18 foot section of the type IV to be cast easier than the DT9F though. I don't use this head much anymore.
I recommend that both DT casting styles and head casting styles be learned so that you are more able to meet the diverse conditions of rivers. My favorite is the totally dry DTF, on crisp fall days using a skating caddis... but the tip arrangements usually produce more fish during other times of year (like now).
In big rivers, it makes a lot of sense to use the distance casting capabilities of the head systems. In cold conditions, although the stripping to cast is a pain the fat head let's you throw as much as 10' or more of 550 grain DWE if you should ever have such a need.
In most cases, the 12' type IV fished on either system has been by best sinktips all around for fish and fishability. Obviously the most pleasant to fish is the dry line, but at times you need to adjust the column lower to move the fish to the swing. Speed of presentation and seductive appeal of the fly are more important than depth three out of four seasons, and even in winter the fish get rowdy now and again.
Copyright Juro Mukai, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED