Airflo sink leaders and sink tips [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Airflo sink leaders and sink tips

03-04-2002, 04:50 PM
I spent several hours Sunday casting 0X popsicle-style flies with my new 10' 7wt with a floating line using the Airflo sink leaders, in a fast and super fast sink configuration. I just couldn't get the fly to sink past the film until at the very end of the swing. The rod cast just fine but the lack of weighted flies and/or lead kept me out of any action. Although the leaders sank okay they just weren't enough to sink these oversized marabou flies.

Kinda think that I need to purchase/rig some sink tips to attach to this floating line, but what should I be looking for? I've noticed many posts on creating your own sink tips using sinking lines etc., but frankly I'm too new to this form of fishing to feel confident that I'll get it right anytime soon without some guidance. Should I be looking to purchase a full level sinking line in my weight class and cutting to different links and experimenting? Possibly a forum user could direct me to this info written for the layman.


03-04-2002, 05:19 PM

There are a number of options you can go with ranging from little work and $$ to a bit more.

The easiest and they work well too would be the Rio 15' tips. They come in a couple of sink rates and retail for around $20 each. They already have a loop at the butt end. I fish quite a bit with these in both the Type VI and Type III sink rates. The Type VI is my bread and butter tip but the type III is nice for soft water and early summer work.

Another popular option is to get a 30' Type VI SA sinking line ($22-25) and cut it up to make two tips. Been a while since I did this but I believe the common method is to make one tip from the 17' off the butt (to reel) end and another with the 13' front end.

For these tips you will need to attach loops on the butt end. There are a couple schools of thought on this but I have always had good luck using the braided mono loops most flyshops carry. My method is to cut the 4-5" length loop back to about 2 1/2 to 3". This means this length of line will go up inside the hollow braid. A couple of drops of super glue at the frayed end and let dry. Once the glue is dry, trim the frays and then cover hte thread ends with tieing thread and whip finish. This keeps the braid from fraying with use. Finally, take a toothpick and work aqau-seal into the braid until the whole length is covered. Let dry and you have a very servisable sinktip.

Hope this helps.


03-04-2002, 05:37 PM
I would only add a couple of things to what Sinktip said above. The first thing being that if you're going to use the Rio tips or make your own tips from a shooting head, you will need to cut back some of your floating line's front taper to make a smooth transition when you cast. In other words, if you connect a sinktip to the skinny, natural front end of your floating line, there will be less grains per foot in the floater than in the sinktip, and your power and momentum to turn over the fly will be lost at the connection between line and tip.

Now, where to cut? Good question. It varies from line to line. Since the floating line is less dense than the sinktip, I usually cut a longer chunk of the floater off than the length of the sinktip. I would try cutting 17 feet from the front of the floater for a 15 foot tip. Also, save the piece of floater you cut off, put a loop on it, and you can then have a "floating tip" for fishing in the summer. Anyway, try that and if it's still not enough, you can cut a bit more. This is really kind of a trial and error thing.

Another option is to get either an SA or Rio "versitip" line, which has several tips that will all cast well with the provided floater. This is cost effective, and somebody else has done all the experimenting to figure out what works. For steelhead, though, I've found I would only use the full floater and the heaviest sinktip. The type III's and Intermediate tips might spend a lot of time in your vest. Still, a good option.

In my case, for single handed rods, I hate to have that looped link on my floater when I'm fighting fish in close, so I have a spool with a whole floater on it for dries, and some other spools with factory sinktips. For spring fishing, when I used to fish a lot of single handers, I used the SA 15' sinktip factory (one piece) line in a type V almost 90% of the time. Occasionally the type IV in slower or shallower water. This makes it simple, but it requires either buying a couple more spools or re-lining your reel for the season.

Okay, well, hope this helps some. Just a few more options, and again, I agree with the post above--that's good info up there. Let me know what you decide to do and how it works.



03-04-2002, 05:40 PM
Well, on the cheap is cool; I just purchased two of these 7wts. with reels and lines (I have two teens). Kinda broke now. I've been trying to leverage moneys from my better half to subscribe to Dana's newsletter and to join the WSC so any savings is appreciated.

As far as your approach - this was the preferred option I was looking for and this info helps. Though a little confusing, once I have the materials at hand and initiate the start, hopefully greater clarity will occur.

Thanks, sinktip.


03-04-2002, 05:47 PM

Go ahead and post what lines you are using and someone here can probably tell you where to cut them at. The only single handed line I'm familiar with is the SA Steelhead Taper. For these, I have always had good luck cutting them back at the 18' mark. As Skookum said, make sure you save the tip as this will loop back on and voila` you are back to a full floater.

Let me know if you get stuck as I know my instructions were not the most clear.


03-04-2002, 06:20 PM

Wow, the learning curve on that one. As my experience is with dry fly fishing for trout this sink tip stuff is getting quite complicated.:confused:

I've equiped the new rods with Mastery Steelhead taper lines in the hope that there is a dry fly fishery for Spring/Summer Steelhead. It is also my hope that my teens will find a floating line easier to manage during their early learning stage. I would truly hate cutting these lines. Rather than attempt this conversion (after rejecting other options), I would wait for next year's budgetary surplus (?) to purchase spare spools and new multi-tip lines. Or so I think...

I am currently struggling with the learning curve on spey casting my Sage 9140-4 equipped w/windcutter. I am at the point of very low esteem and find the multi-tip/spey combination fraught with problems. I don't wish to open up a new can of worms anytime soon, which is not to say that similarities don't exist between my spey casting issues and the sink tip attached to floating line; they may in fact be beasts of the same fold.

Please don't mistake my recept of your suggestion for I truly appreciate the input - I'm just hoping for an easier approach than the one you have outlined.

Does this make sense?

Thanks, again

03-04-2002, 06:40 PM
Okay, here's what I would do for your single-handed situation, and I put it that way 'cause this shouldn't be taken as advice, just what I would do if I was in your place. If you don't want to cut the new floaters you bought (understandable), and don't have the $ to buy new spools, but want to have a shot at catching fish in the Skagit/Sauk in March and April, here's a plan: Buy an SA sinktip type V (the whole line), take one of the floaters off one of your reels, and put the factory sinktip on it. Then you will have one set-up that is absolutely good for catching these spring fish in your home waters for the cost of one line.

Slightly less expensive would be to buy a Rio 15 foot tip in type VI, (bite the bullet) and cut one of your floaters at 18 feet, and you have a set up that will fish deep or floating for about $20 and some elbow grease. A good fly shop can show you how to make the loops, or may even do it for you.

The absolute lowest cost venture would be to just fish your floater with a long leader and a heavily weighted fly. Make big mends to sink the fly, then let it swing. Bill McMillan down in Oregon is famous for fishing this way in the winter. It works, but takes a lot of skill, and I generally prefer to cast a sinktip, both for the casting and the ability to fish more kinds of holding water efficiently.

And yeah, I agree, the learning curve is steep and confusing. The one thing to keep in mind, is that if you want to have a shot at catching March/April steelhead, you HAVE to be near the bottom. A good sinktip is, in my opinion, the most pleasant and efficient way to do it. Hope this info helps, and feel free to keep asking questions. We're all happy to help. As for your two-hander, that's "a whole other can of worms" as they say. But again, it seems like there are plenty of people willing to assist. I benefitted greatly from pointers given to me by our own Doublespey years ago, when I too was struggling mightily to get the hang of it. And in my first year with the two-hander, "struggle mightily" was an understatement. I remember being so tired from trying to cast that I went days without ever presenting a fishable fly. Anyway, good luck, and keep posting any more questions or for more detailed answers.


03-04-2002, 07:03 PM

The response times to my questions are impressive (likewise the info). You are almost responding quicker than my ability to digest and further qualify with followup questions.

Spooling the other reel with a sinking line is not an option (it's set up for my daughter - a lefty).

In a nut shell:

Accept the fact that I need to cut my lines at the recommended length. Do the loop connectors for my new floating tip while purchasing a RIO sink tip. Seems to be the easiest approach and the most economical! Problem resolved!?

THEN, get back to the spey casting with a new vigor.:eyecrazy:

So simple; almost too simple. Did I leave something out?


03-04-2002, 07:07 PM

Another piece of advice, as Trey Combs writes in his bible - "Steelhead Flyfishing" it is advisable to use a tip that is one or two line weights lighter than the main flyline, ie., if your flyline is a #9 you should use a #7 or #8 for the sinktip. The theory here is that the greater mass of the #9 will be able to control the tip, which will eliminate hinging and will allow the crucial mend to straighten the tip to set the depth of the swing. If you have or can get ahold of Trey's book it has some very good stuff on the subject (as well as a ton of other things!).

03-04-2002, 07:38 PM


You point out an issue (brought up recently by another respected forum member) that I have been neglegent. I must agree to some validity, here. I HAVE ignored the print media in favor of the immediacy of the web "experts". What with the evolutionary pace of Steelheading technique, etc., I found it easy to question the legitimacy of published works because of their extended lead times. Point well taken.

I will consider your point on line weight (new can of worms, or not) and await further insight from fellow members before making any decision.

If I wasn't so opposed to split shot on my leaders, it sure seems that this would be far easier...

Most humbly,

old man
03-04-2002, 08:57 PM
Watersprite. I have the book that they talk about. If I can remember it I will bring it up the next time I come up there. I will loan you the book to read as it just sits on my shelf waiting for someone to read it. I bought it but I don't care for it. Too much on history and not enough on fishing. At least that's the way I see it. It has some good points. Jim S.

03-05-2002, 12:15 AM

In reading over one of your posts it just dawned on me that if you have the WC tips for your 9140 you may already be set up with the 15' tips to get you by in a pinch. I am guessing you are fishing the 9-10-11 WC which I believe comes with 9 weight 15' tips. These are the same tips Skookum and I referenced. While I agree with Kush's advice to follow Combs an go one size under, one size over will still work. Not pretty but functional. The only problem here is you would not be able to fish along side your kids but at least you could play with the tip setup and see if it will work for you.

Years ago my first winter steelhead setup was a $16 floating line from the Outdoor Emporium cut back 16' and a single type VI Rio tip. I was into the whole thing for less then $35 and I'm sure I caught more fish with that setup than all the lines since. Point beeing, you don't need a Cadilac just a dependable old ford.

One final thought, I know what you are going through not wanting to cut up those nice new SA lines. Don't worry it gets easier with time.

Good luck!

03-05-2002, 12:54 AM

I have the WC 8/9/10 on my spey reel. Yeah, I thought of that and would have given it at least a look see but for the mono loop connectors the shop installed on my lines (they don't look too good and I didn't want to risk the loss of my WC tips). The shop was supposed to install the braided connector loops and are sending me some connectors and glue to do it up myself (they are located in the midwest). Possibly they will be here before this weekend and I will (yikes) cut my new line up as suggested and install the loops to give the tips I do own a try. Thanks...

BTW, you guys at WSC did a very commendable job with the commission from what I have read and understand. My sincerest thanks on that one, too.

Wild Steelhead, forever,

03-05-2002, 02:18 AM
I'm not sure where you live, but I'm sure your nearest fly shop would be happy to help you "cut and paste" your lines, even if you didn't buy them there. I can't speak for them, but I've found they're usually pretty good about stuff like that. As Sinktip mentioned, the braided loops are good, but it's probably better to whip-finish with thread and coat with aqua-seal (as per Sinktip's post) than to use the glue and sleeve stuff they're sending. If you're in Seattle, take your lines/reels with you to Kauffman's, Avid Angler, Patrick's or Salmon Bay Tackle, and ask nicely. Maybe buy a small thing or two, and I bet they'll show you how to do it. It's one of those things that's hard to explain in writing, but simple once you see someone do it.

As for the Trey Combs book, I think it's a great investment--should be required reading for anyone getting into this crazy pursuit. It will tell/show how to build lines, how and where to fish them, history of the rivers and anglers, and lots of good patterns. I read my copy at least once a year, and frequently refer to it for specific info about places, etc. I think it's available in softback now--maybe you could get it when you got into the shop. In spite of how fast things change, as you mentioned, this "old school" printed book is probably the best single source of info out there.

Hope this helps,


03-05-2002, 04:32 AM

Boy you hit a sore point on the local shop thing. Just how to approach this one diplomatically??

I live where I fish, as in really Upper Skagit. Although I have never personally met the local shop keeper I have talked to him on the phone and found him impossibly arrogant. Now one would think that after dumping $1200 plus in his shop a friendly understanding would develop, but not so. In fact my wife, who purchased my Sage spey gear, refuses to even stop by for my tying materials, instead shopping the Bellingham area shops for me. Hence the latest rod and reel purchases from out of state (couldn't get what I wanted in B'ham at the time).

I'll try the braided mono connectors and should I not like what I end up with then I'll send it up to one of the B'ham shops.

Hey Skookum, you and Sinktip have been real troopers helping me to quickly zero-in on a remedy to my floating popsicles.:chuckle:

Thanks, guys

03-05-2002, 10:59 AM

Thanks for the kind words on the WSC. A large number of people have poured their heart and soul into making the WSC a reality and it is starting to pay off. Just came from a meeting where we talked over some things for the future. I am excited about what the next year or two will bring. I saw where you are hoping to join. We would love to have you. In the meantime, feel free to check in from time to time on the web forum.

Ditto everything said about the Comb's book. Trey has both his fans and detractors but he wrote one hell of a bible for the sport. Mine has been read cover to cover many times and even though I know most of it by heart, I still get a kick out of reading it. It is around $22 in softcover. Money well spent.

Keep asking questions and the kind people in this forum and the spey forum will answer. We were all where you are once. Myself, my forray into the doublehand world was made much easier by folks like Doublespey, Kush and others. I love this sport because if you choose, you never have to stop learning.

Good luck and maybe we will bump into each other this spring up your way.


03-05-2002, 02:08 PM

Although I don't currently belong to WSC, I am in fact a member of its forum (in a sense, playing without paying - a situation which will be corrected shortly). I use the same handle as here.

May I say that the discussions/posts on the WSC forum are of the highest calibre - technically and spiritually. If it weren't for the seriousness of the subject, the stewardship of Steelhead and our rivers, the majority of posts would appear overly stuffy and technical. As it is, one leaves the forum with a certain confidence that he/she hasn't been spoonfed some politically correct bowl of BS. The WSC forum is a welcome addition to the less formal "chat" forums, of which FlyTalk is the best.

I having been wanting to join WSC since this past Fall, long before I knew of the repercussions, etc., of the upcoming February 2002 meeting of the commission. If ever I was a fence sitter, your group's presentation would surely rock my sense of place. Yes I'll be adding my name to your groups roster real soon.

Steven Russell

03-05-2002, 02:13 PM
Yes the Coombs books are good.

His first one started me off in 1980 and the second one you had me reading again last night.

I wonder when his next book on steelheading is coming, or is he into bluewater fly fishing now, as I have heard /

03-05-2002, 02:41 PM

I have heard that Combs rarely even steelheads anymore. Not sure if that is true or not but it has been some years since I even ran into someone with a Trey sighting report.

I owe the man a drink though as he partially saved my Skeena trip this year. We were headed for the Kispiox for 7 days of heaven when we stopped outside Smithers to learn it had blown out that morning and would be out for some time. Spent that afternoon scouting out put-ins and take-outs on the Bulkley for the next morning. Arrived before first light at the put-in to findthe river the color of chocolate milk. Thinking back to the dozen plus times I head read Trey's chapters on the Skeena tribs, I remembered him telling how the Telkwa often blew the Bulkley out and that above its concluence was often found clear water. Thirty minutes later we were looking at the prettiest water you have ever seen. We got two days in on the Bulkley before continued rain finally blew it and every other river within 400 km out for good.

I figure a dram of port wood finish is worth those two days in the holyland. ;)


03-05-2002, 06:53 PM

Cool, the price of the book was worth it for just that small piece of information which salvaged your trip.

Wonder why he gave up Steelheading. Like everything else once you think you master somehting, the fun tends to go away some what. Or perhaps there was not enough income to make a reasonable living.

I guess the question is who is the next Trey Coombs on Steelheading ?

03-05-2002, 07:31 PM
I second kush's sentiments about using a tip a line weight or two below the weight of your mainline. It'll definitley cast better.

Another consideration for getting more depth is fly bulk. Some popsicles-type flys (perhaps the ones that you were fishing?) are quite bulky and thus have a lot of drag in the water. This drag will tend to keep the fly up in the water column more than a sparser pattern (a comet for instance) would.

03-05-2002, 09:20 PM
Alright, I've done gone hardcore.

I cut my new line at the recommended 18' and installed the braided loop connectors. Tomorrow or the next day I will try to drown the marabous with my WC 9 wt., VI sink tip. As RIO only advertises sink tips down to 6wt., I'll plan on picking this one up soon for my 7wt. rod.

And if it doesn't work out, oh well; seems I burn money at a fairly constant pace anyway - my spouse owns a horse! His feed bill, by the way, is my justification for my FF budget.:devil:

Again, thanks all...

old man
03-06-2002, 12:03 PM
Not to mention 4 cows 3 dogs one so to have more, geese, chickens,bears, and no fish. HA HA:razz: JUst an old man having fun.

03-06-2002, 12:15 PM
"...and no fish".

Ah, not so. I have a goldfish in the cow's water trough to keep down the mosquitoes. ha, ha, haha, ha:razz:


old man
03-07-2002, 12:15 PM
I hope you have some heat in there. Because I think it got kinda cold up there yesterday. Mid 20's. You don't want to kill off that goldfish. :razz:

Ta Ta Jim :D