Casting sinking lines in the surf [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Casting sinking lines in the surf


highway61
01-02-2008, 10:02 AM
Hey Guys,

This coming season will be my 4th year of flyfishing. This last year was my most successful. Although I still need to work on it, my casting is much improved. I even figured out how to double haul! I will not win any points for style, but it is effective. However, I have a few questions regarding casting and retrieving sinking line in the surf. For the most part I have used intermediate line in the surf. The few times I have tried to use sinking line in the surf I end up with a mess. My questions are:

1. In what situations/conditions do you use a sinking line in the surf?

2. How do you manage sinking line in the surf?

3. Are their specific techniques/tactics when casting and retrieving the line?

Thanks,

Steve M.

teflon_jones
01-02-2008, 12:03 PM
I don't use a full sinking line for any type of fishing. I find that there aren't a lot of circumstances that require them, and when you need one, you can often get close to the same results by using an intermediate line with a long leader and heavy fly. I find that there's just too much line too deep underwater to pick it up unless you retrieve the entire line, which means you have to start false casting from scratch every time you cast your fly. There really are some circumstances where only a sinking line will really work, but the pain of having to work with it takes the fun out of fly fishing for me so I'd just prefer to stick with my intermediate line/long leader/heavy fly setup.

When you're in the surf, this is even further compounded by the fact that you have waves pulling your line down too. Even with an intermediate line, you often have to retrieve the entire line in to start another cast. If I were you, I'd just stick with an intermediate line and use a little heavier fly and longer leader. There aren't really a lot of beaches around here that drop off fast enough to really need the full sinking line.

jimS
01-02-2008, 02:00 PM
Steve,

1. A sinktip line with an intermediate running line is invaluable for surf fishing because it keeps you in contact with the fly during a retrieve in normal breaking wave conditions. Intermediate lines are ok in calmer conditions, but with breaking waves, contact with the fly is usually lost unless you use a fast retrive, vis-a-vis underarm two-handed retrieve.
2. A stripping basket is normally used for line management in most saltwater applications, particularly when surf and/or current are involved.
3. Sinktip lines do not like abrupt change of course, e.g. standard back and forward stroke. Instead, an oval, more open loop, performs better with the additional weight incorporated into sinktips.

Sean Juan
01-02-2008, 02:03 PM
I use sinking lines pretty much exclusively - even a moderate current can make it difficult to get deep enough to reach the fish. These lines are also easier to cast when the wind is heavy. I use the intermediate only on flats or when mung makes the sinker no fun.

The best sinking lines to use are the shooting head style lines - Orvis Depth charge Rio Outbound there are many different styles. The consist of a sinking head generally around 30-40' long fused to an intermediate running line.

Casting them is pretty easy but you have to set the cast up properly. Basically the process is you retrieve the line to the junction (depending on conditions and your casting skill you may need to retrieve a bit more or a bit less) then you make a roll cast to bring the head to the surface. This is important because pulling the line up through the water will croak your cast.

Now with the head straight out on the water and at the surface make a single backcast with a haul, a forward cast with a haul and you can zing that fly a considerable distance.

Like everything it takes some getting used to, but is well worth the effort.

Managing and retrieving are dependent on the situation more than the line.

flydoc
01-02-2008, 03:36 PM
Agree with folks above regarding the sinking line. Use roll cast to get line to surface, then smoothly transition into backcast angled slightly to side ("Lefty" style) before forward cast aimed up and over the waves.
Here's a recent article I found on another website folks might find helpful:
http://saltwaterflyfishing.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=51&Itemid=77

Another great tool is one of the two-handers designed for surf fishing (ie Atlantis/Oceana by CND, or similar rods by other companies). Don't know how I ever got along without mine;)
Flydoc

sean
01-02-2008, 04:01 PM
Hmm things could be different on the cape but in rhody fish hang up relatively high here and floaters do to trick for me. Just mend over the waves and use the currents to keep your fly in the feeding zone, fast stripping is usually not needed to entice the fish. You also do not need a stripping basket with a floating line which is nice. I have fished floaters exclusively during the spring clave the past few years and have caught more than my share of fish...

I know I am in the minority though with this way of fishing but for me it is effective and worth a try.

On the rare occasions I do use a sinking line I make sure to pay attention to my lift. A slow steady lift of the line to get as much of that head out of the water is key. Then like Sean says a roll cast and as soon as the line straightens out over the water immediately go into your back cast. If you let it sit too long it can sink again and becomes a problem to cast again...

-sean

Guernseybass
01-02-2008, 04:02 PM
Casting them is pretty easy but you have to set the cast up properly. Basically the process is you retrieve the line to the junction (depending on conditions and your casting skill you may need to retrieve a bit more or a bit less) then you make a roll cast to bring the head to the surface. This is important because pulling the line up through the water will croak your cast.

Now with the head straight out on the water and at the surface make a single backcast with a haul, a forward cast with a haul and you can zing that fly a considerable distance.



yup, i found the same thing with my Rio DC 26 striper 350grain sinker, it only needed one backcast after the initial rollcast, any more had no effect on distance.

I used a sinking line for the 1st time last year and after I'd spent a morning casting it I was set. It does require a timing change which did throw me a bit when i switched back to the intermediate though, but that was probably my initial inexperience - once you know that you adjust.

I really like the Rio because of the welded loops, which save assing about with nail knots or braided loops, although the Rio line does need a good stretch each and everytime i fish it.


Mark.

Adrian
01-02-2008, 04:49 PM
Ditto what Sean said. I find a floater very effective in the Cape surf. Being able to see what's happening to the line is a big plus, especially I like to fish very slow and try to get the fly "swimming" in the current. Once the line is its submerged you have to rely on "feel" and there's no guarantee that the 'line' between you and the fly is straight. Turbulence and currents can play evil tricks and a lot of takes can go undetected. :lildevl:

If fishing a sinker I would go with a fast sinking head and floating running line - again, I like to see what's going on as much as possible. Something I didn't get to try last season was a fast sinking line with a highly bouyant fly on a short leader. Its been a killer combo for me on still waters and I think Juro had some good results in the rips.

highway61
01-02-2008, 06:38 PM
I can see there is much agreement among those who responded, I can also see that each have their own methods that works for them. I am going to have to do some experimenting. I am using a Rio 26' sink tip DC line. However, I have only used it a few times in the surf. There were several occasions along the outer cape beaches when I felt I could not get the line down to the fish. So I switched from intermediate to the sink line. However, in the surf, especially with a strong cross current, I would, as Jim pointed out, lose touch with the fly and then had difficulty getting the line up to the top to start my back cast. I think my problem was, as both Sean's suggested, that I didn't properly pay attention to the lift and started the back cast too soon. Using a roll cast makes a lot of sense too. Thanks for the link Doc and thanks to all for the advice. Now all I need is an early spring so I can put this advice to work!

Steve M.

Guernseybass
01-02-2008, 07:01 PM
Ditto what Sean said. I find a floater very effective in the Cape surf. Being able to see what's happening to the line is a big plus, especially I like to fish very slow and try to get the fly "swimming" in the current. .

would that be with a floating or neutral buoyancy fly Adrian a la Ken Abrames ?

does that work in the deep/steep cape cod beaches ? - I figured that the RI surf was shallower, hence that was why a different technique was used on cape cod with the fast sinkers . . .


Mark.

FredA
01-02-2008, 08:33 PM
I like the integrated heads like the cortland QD's in strong currents especially when both bluefish and stripers are around (monomoy point). With the fly down a bit the ratio of stripers to blues is higher, fewer flies lost. The floater is nice if the toothy guy's arn't around in force. Also like the QD in high sun in shallow water sight fishing when wind and predominant fish movement make a head on (+/- 30 degrees) presentation tough. The 555 QD sticks to the bottom in these situations and line shadows don't spook the fish. Get a lot more hookups of fish traveling perpendicular to the line.

In other situations I'll fish this line anywhere that it's not going to hang up on the bottom (boulder fields, grass, etc). I'll also fish a floater equally as much and the intermidiate though not as much the past couple of years. Usually line selection is just a matter of what I had rigged up my last time out.

Casting is as others said. Retrieve to the head, roll cast to get the head on the surface, backcast and let it rip. I avoid having the joint right at the rod tip to avoid bending stress on the joint.

juro
01-02-2008, 10:46 PM
I find sinking is best in surf and fast deep rips. Floating has it's place for sure and is under-utilized but also limited for obvious reasons - depth.

Intermediate is a good compromise, but it is still a compromise.

Flats: best with floating or intermediate, but a clear intermediate throws less shadow and surface disturbance and also lets you hit deep pools or edges while you work the flats. I fish intermediate on the flats personally for the versatility and stealth. A full sink is deadly on the flats but you need to focus on head shots vs. crossing shots etc.

Surf: I prefer sinking first, intermediate second.

*** if you are pulling the whole head out (without a longshore current) you are missing fish in the suds anyway ***

I target pure sand beaches on Cape Cod so I can really milk the retrieve letting the wash turbulence work the fly. I hook many of my largest fish on v-e-r-y slow retrieves right on the sand whether 80 feet out or 8 inches from the wash.

Rips: hands down, sinking is the only way to go with the exception of slow tide phases, which is not a rip.

.02

FishHawk
01-03-2008, 05:49 AM
I also use a sinking AirFlo 400 grain line on the Flats with very good results. In the surf I have used the same line with success. However, that being said this season I'll am going to try the floating line in the surf just like the Rhody guys do.:smokin:
It pays to use many tools as possible when fishing.
If you get a chance read Rich Murphy's Fly Fishing for Striped Bass . It will open your eyes up to different ways of fishing fo the striper a great read.
FishHawk

highway61
01-03-2008, 08:13 AM
Hi Fred,

"With the fly down a bit the ratio of stripers to blues is higher, fewer flies lost."

This is exactly the situation I ran into last August at the new North Chatham cut. There was huge blitz of blues, but I guessed there were stripers below. The blues were so agressive I could not get my intermediate line down in the water. I lost a bunch of flies that day. Of course, I forgot to bring the spool with the sink tip line. Eventually I adapted by adding some split shot to the end of my leader. A bit unorthodox and awkward but it did work a couple of times so that I hooked up with 2 good sized bass. It would have gone much better had I remembered to bring the right equipment along......

Steve M.

juro
01-03-2008, 08:16 AM
Those into the floating line fad tend to use split shot, ultra fancy feather flies and multiple flies on a single line. Sounds like a mess o bluefish to me :lildevl:

(for a few seconds anyway)

OK I am stirring the pot, truth is that approach is deadly in the right situations especially in the hands of guys like Sean and Adrian with whom I have fished a lot.

No single approach fits all situations, but each has it's moment(s). The key is not to get sucked in by the fad and do what fits IMHO.

I would have gone sinker for sure in the situation you described. Fishing from a boat tends to bring the sinker out more often as well at least in striper country.

Adrian
01-03-2008, 10:08 AM
I agree with everything said so far. I think the key point comes down to making an effective presentation for a given set of conditions. At first glance the apparent chaos of a pounding surf can be a bit bewildering. But there is an order to it. There are spots where currents converge creating bait concentrations and potential "fish magnets". On beaches like Nausset, these effects produce dramatic structures of alternating bars, cuts and deep holes. On other beaches the structure is more subtle but it is still there. Ray Bondorew's book "Stripers and Streamers" has an excellent chapter on surf beach dynamics and clues for how to read the water.

I tend to be very selective about the spots I fish in the surf, unless I can actually see fish working. One that point, fish will often be right under your rod tip in the surf, even under a high sun. To me this is where the double hander comes into its own, allowing you to work the shallows whilst standing well back from the edge. But that's a whole other discussion :smokin:

Mark, I use a full floater most of the time and carry a few LC13 tips from 1ft to 5ft if I need depth. Clear intermediate is the way to go for stealth, especially on the flats.

Guernseybass
01-03-2008, 10:17 AM
Thanks, Adrian. Its a style i'd like to try too - working it very slow seems similar to the way the RI surf guys work surface plugs at night.

I must try it with a snake fly or slab.

Sean Juan
01-03-2008, 11:34 AM
Hey Adrian,

I have never tried a floater in the surf except to use a popper (generally fished aggressively). I was always under the impression that the real advantage of the intermediate over the floater was not the depth (which is fairly minor) but the fact that with the line even an inch or two under the water it is less affected by wind and chop.

How do you deal with these things? - or is that not really an issue.

It would be nice to find an effective way to fish a pounding surf slower, line management has been my personal limiting factor.

Adrian
01-03-2008, 12:12 PM
Hey Adrian,

I have never tried a floater in the surf except to use a popper (generally fished aggressively). I was always under the impression that the real advantage of the intermediate over the floater was not the depth (which is fairly minor) but the fact that with the line even an inch or two under the water it is less affected by wind and chop.

How do you deal with these things? - or is that not really an issue.

It would be nice to find an effective way to fish a pounding surf slower, line management has been my personal limiting factor.

The surf is three dimensional - there are currents and turbulence beneath the surface. The only difference is I can't see what they're doing to my line if its all submerged.

Wind isn't really a factor since the line floats "in" rather than on the surface. The surface "chop" doesn't seem to affect things much but surface and sub-surface currents do. Keeping in constant touch with the fly by mending takes a bit of practice and a longer rod is a big advantage. Its a different "line management" challenge. Also, I rarely reach for distance (with the flyrod) in the surf unless I see signs of fish working. The zone between the suds and 3ft deep is where I concentrate my efforts. The beach-break (if there is one) and well defined rip currents. At these points you can make a roll cast say 20ft and let the current carry the fly out through the waves to the strike zone. Casting across and "downstream", you can make a wetfly swing through the rip, just like you would on a river. A single cast can be worked for several minutes without any "retrieve" in the traditional sense. Just let the current do the work and keep in touch with the fly. A very relaxing way to fish. Effective too. Note, this isn't the same as fishing a deep water "rip" caused by structure or current convergence.

Mike Oliver
01-06-2008, 12:36 PM
It depends on just how surfy the conditions are and what type of structure you are fishing. Assuming you are fishing a sandy surf beach that is steep then for me I go with Sean Juan. If you have say two foot waves it usually is important to get your fly into the hit zone very quickly before your line is dumped back at you quick time.. Often this zone maybe 4 feet or more deep. because of the waves your time available in the zone can be very limited so the solution that works for me is the Rio Outbound S8 which has an Intermediate sinking speed running line. My leader is typically 1 foot long as I want to get my fly very quickly into the zone. I have used Intermediate sinking lines and even speeded them up with 10 foot poly leaders which mean they cast like a sink but they are still too slow. I have been giving a real beating on a couple of accasions by Fishers using very fast lines next to me whilst I struggled with a std I line. They out fished me by 6 to one.
If the surf is less vigorous then an I line with a 3 foot leader may work or a S3 Rio Outbound type of line.
It depends on just where in the water column the fish are taking. That is up to us to establish and select the most effecient line both casting and sink rate to stay as long as poss and to get as fast as poss into that vital take zone.
On some beaches I fish in fierce NE blows the only solution from a casting point of view is the heavy and thin profiled S8 line.
If you have a rocky bottom to contened with then fast sink lines are going to get snagged. For me by far the most ineffective line in a busy surf has been a floater.
Line management where posssible with a line tray or if faced with a close in dumping wave and a big wind it may be better to use your retriving hand to cope with your line. Often in these conditions the fish are only 5 to 10 yards behind that nasty wave.
Fast sinking line are no more difficult to manage than slower versions. All including the std I line will require that you retrive to a point that you can comfertably roll cast your line back onto the surface before going into your next cast. No need at all to retrive most of the sinking portion unless of course fish are taking close in.
That's my take hope it helps.

Mike