Homemade sink tip line ideas [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Homemade sink tip line ideas

06-13-2002, 03:24 PM
Hi All,
I'm headed up to Great Bay, NJ, next Thursday for a week or so of fishing, and then on to the Keys for few more weeks of the same. I find that I'm lacking sink-tip lines and would like to make a pair up; one for my 8-weight and one for my 9-weight (also, one for my 6-weight if someone knows the "formula"). I've read about the use of lead-core lines for sink tips, and I have an SA running line sitting in the bottom of a drawer, so I was wondering if you guys could give me some ideas as to how I'd go about making these sinkers up. I figured I can spool the running line onto a spare reel and change the head out depending upon the weight of rod being used, since my "primary" reels are spooled with floating line and I haven't picked up spare spools for them. Any suggestions would be most appreciated; thanks!


John Desjardins
06-14-2002, 08:19 AM
I know that this has been discussed in the past. Try a search on "LC13" the lead core line from Cortland, you may need a space or hyphen. You can also try a search on "Weighted leaders". The Steelheaders are the experts on make your own lines here so maybe they'll pipe in.

06-14-2002, 09:59 AM

John is right, to steelheaders making sink-tips is standard practice. The basic drill is pretty simple. First you want to locate the beginning of your front taper, sometimes the specs on the flyline box will tell you how far up it is, otherwise just look for where the narrow taper ends and the thicker belly starts. Cut the line here (don't worry - everyone finds the cutting of a perfectly good line difficult to do - the first time). Here is where you attach the tip. To do this some of us make a permanent splice, but not many, most use some sort of a loop to loop set-up.

I prefer to use kevlar loops available in fly shops, others use nylon loops. All of these have pre-made loops at one end and the other end slides onto the cut fly-line - they work on the chinese finger-puzzle concept - once worked on they do not come off! Most loops come with little shrink tubes to slide over the loose fibres at the end of the loop - we generally chuck these - they don't stay on - instead we whip finish the spot using a flytying bobin, then cover the thread with Flexament.

In case this doesn't make sense, attach the thread, then let the bobbin hang from the the line which is held parallel to the floor, now spin or swing the bobbin around the line between your hands (sometimes it is necessary to take one wrap of tying thread around one leg of your bobbin to create enough tension). You will find it's not too hard to control the progression up and back across the joint, you don't need alot of layers - just make it smooth. Use a boobin threader to whip finish - then soak with flexament. We usually do a similar wrap at the juncture of where the flyline butts up against the end of the loop - this eliminates the hinging at this point.

Do the same thing on the end of your sink-tip and you are ready. We usually create a whole set of these and carry them in a wallet, this allows a full range of tips, from the original floating tip which you can still use, through intermediate, to types II, III, IV to VI and lead-core if you want.

One thing to consider is the weight of your sink-tips. Steelheaders must be able to mend their lines to get depth so the belly of the line must have enough grains to turn the head. This is accomplished by using a tip that is 1 or 2 line weights lighter than the mainline, if your mainline is a #9, your tip line should be a #7 or #8. In my experience this also eliminates the hinging, which is a common complaint with commercial sink-tips.

Good luck, this is a good thing - you'll like it. If you have any more questions just let me know - I have to get off to work - I'm already late!

06-14-2002, 11:13 AM

There is another option, that is Poly-leaders. These are the newest thing out our way and they are cool. These are in effect mini sink-tips (or sinking leaders) made by a number of companies, the ones I'm familiar are by Loop and Airflo. These do not require any cutting of lines, simply attach them loop to loop to the end of your floating line. The regular taper turns them over with ease (except some tapers struggle a bit with the type VI one). I simply tie a double surgeons knot in the butt section of my leader about 2" from where it attaches to the fly line - others use premade loops (see above post). To this loop I attach the pre-looped poly leaders and you are fishing!

The past 2 steelhead seasons have seen me use this set-up instead of the sink-tip one mentioned above. Only very occasionally have I resorted to the sink-tips and only then for very heavy water.

06-14-2002, 11:29 AM
Thanks very much for the info! I'm going to try using LC-13 with either a standard running line or braided 30 lb. (not monofilament). If I have any questions, you can be sure I'll drop you a line.

06-23-2002, 09:01 PM
either buy a "running line" or make one with an old line. That braided mono running line is only good for making loops. I like the Rio intermediate running line.
LC-13 30' for the 9 weight and maybe 28' for the eight should work. Start a little long and cut back untill it casts right.

06-23-2002, 09:41 PM

I couldn't resist an after thought. cortland LC-13 is so named because it has 13 grains per foot. It has a light diameter lead core much like the lead wire you use to tie flies with. I think it's stiff, hinges like crazy, the jacket is brittle, but at least it casts terrible. The standard AFTMA on an 8wt rod is 210 grains. Some quick math says roughly 16.2 feet of head plus a couple to help the rod load. The 9 wt is 240 grains so 18.5 feet plus a couple. I think this stuff might be a little heavier than you are thining it will be. Starting long is fine but don't be afraid to cut 10 feet off if you need to. The lead core lines are a great "cheap" alternative. But I am totaly sold on the tungston powder lines for castability and control. Just guessing I'd think a tungston shooting head is about $20 and the LC-13 is about $25 a roll. You could probably get 2 maybe 3 out of a roll of LC-13. Just some ideas to think about.


06-23-2002, 11:10 PM

As I read your thoughts on LC-13, it brings back many memories as I experimented through the sink-tip issue. First, I will agree with FlyFishAR, LC-13 casts horribly, in fact today I would have to find myself desperate to consider its use - I don't even carry any of the heads with me anymore.

The question I would ask you is how deep are you actually wanting to fish? There is no doubt that LC-13 will get you down - especially with a mono running line, yet I'm not sure the trade off with the terrible handling characteristics is worth it. For most situations a hi-density tip or shooting head (type IV, V or VI) will suffice and cast a hell of alot better than LC-13.

06-23-2002, 11:18 PM
I really have to disagree with you guys about the lc13. I used to hate using tips until I started using this stuff. I find that for myself and others that I fish with that it is way easier to cast than normal heavy tips. When I find myself needing tips, I want to be sure that I am getting down, and this stuff gets down!

06-24-2002, 07:31 AM
When cutting back the LC-13, a foot at a time is about right. Keep it longer than 24' or so feet. If it is a lot shorter, it WILL be hard to cast. In fresh water or wading situations, it may sink too fast, but from a boat it is a great option. Yesterday, I broke my line on a snag. I switched to a 350gr. line. No more fish that day. The good news is that I have a huge spool of the stuff. Cost the same as a fly line. I think 30' cost $12. Can't hurt to try.

06-24-2002, 09:47 AM

Hey fish what you think you need to fish. I don't use LC-13 anymore mostly because it casts like crap. However, as I asked Chris about his depth needs, that is a factor. If he's looking for 20-30' out in a rip fishing for stripers I think there is a case. For me, however, rare indeed is it in steelheading that you need to have your fly scraping bottom. Most of the time having it even a few feet off the bottom is optimum. Certainly on summer waters like the Thompson just a few inches under the surface can work wonders. Much of my spring fishing on the Squamish, Skagit-Sauk and Skykomish involve type IV tips and recently Poly-leaders - none of which are anywhere near scraping the bottom! The fish still manage to find the flies.

Now if the fisherman feels he needs to lose flies to the bottom to catch fish - then so be it. You won't fish well unless you are, as you won't believe in your method - so LC-13 away! Now if you are fishing true winter-runs in December/January (which is somewhat masochistic) then LC-13 makes some sense - even to me.

One final thought Bruce, what line do you fish your LC-13 tips on? Surely it can't be the XLT, as it like my Speydriver, has such an extended and fine forward taper that it will not handle all those concentrated grains without cutting back the taper almost the full 40'.

06-24-2002, 11:22 AM
I think Kush hit the nail dead-on; for steelhead LC13 is a overkill but in a big ocean rip it's a useful tool, whether on the east coast or out in the pacific for coho. I've have good results in both cases with it in this situation. Sometimes those 18 pound hooknoses are running 40-60 feet in a hard running tide and there's only one way to get down there before you start the strip retrieve up to the boat.

As AR points out, it's a sorry excuse for a flyline though and casting is not one of it's redeeming qualities IMHO. I like the S/A ST heads 30' and tapered on both ends. A good first cut is at 13 ft from the front, leaving a 17ftr on the back end as a heavier option.

Not sure what you're chasing in NJ but for stripers I don't like any loop connections at all - I strip the fly right to the leader with a cow in pursuit too often to bear the loops clunking thru the guides 20 or 30 feet up.

All you generally need for stripers is (a) clear intermediate and (b) full sinking head line, unless you want to fish in these super-deep currents in which case the specialty lines like the LC13 come into play. A floater is another specialty line you will get little practical use out of IMHO.

For steelhead, the floater is all you really need for summer runs and winter run fishing is all about tips.

Just curious, why sinktips for NJ?

06-24-2002, 02:03 PM
Kush, like I said I have never enjoyed fishing tips any ways but do find the lc13 far more forgiving in casting than comparable tungsten tips. Other than the Thompson(of wich I only fish dry lines) I dont get to fish the rivers you do so I cant really compare from where I do. I also find that I really dont loose anymore flies than I do with reg. tips.
Yes the line that I fish with is the XLT and it is only cut back 26ft and I can lift and cast 70-75 ft of the floating section with 15ft of the lc-13 and easilly shoot another 20 to 30ft of shooting line. That is where the big difference between the xlt and the speydriver differs. Although both lines are based on Grants thoughts, the XLT is quite different as I have stated before.

06-24-2002, 03:11 PM

As I've now cast both lines I am finally able to make my own comparisons. Wasn't too hard.

06-24-2002, 06:29 PM
Just out of curosity what is the sink rate of LC-13 vs. a tungston powder impregnated line? I'm not so sure that the tungston line won't sink considerable faster by itself. Not taking into account dragging down a running line, just the head itself.


06-24-2002, 06:34 PM
Kush, just wondering what your comparison is? If I recall correctlly the first time you tried a speydriver on the sage 10151 you thought it was crap and liked your custom accellerator line better.

06-24-2002, 07:09 PM

On the contrary I think the XLT is an excellent line! All I said is the comparison between the 2 lines wasn't difficult - anything else you want to read into it is up to you - you know the history as well as any.

As for the Speydriver on the 10151, it was crap, but as history has shown it wasn't the line but the rod. The grains of that 10wt Speydriver were simply too much for the original 10151. Cast one with that long belly and shortly you would have a custom 5-piece rod. The new version of the 10151 doesn't suffer from that problem and casts the Speydriver well.

07-04-2002, 01:17 AM
The orginal version of the Derek Brown Speydriver that I have has a loop installed a ways into the forward taper to allow for the use of sink tips. I have various versions of the line with various cut points along the forward taper and they all turn over sink tips quite nicely. One line has a cut point @ 15ft into the taper and it turns over any of the tips that I've needed to use for winter fishing; I don't doubt that cut back an additional 10ft or so would make LC-13 a piece of cake as well. The line that kush speaks of has omitted this loop and instead has a loop added farther into the taper at a point nearer to the belly section. This was not to assist in the turn over of heavier tips but to maintain the integrity of the complete forward taper which was preferable for dry line fishing.

If the true measure of a spey line is its ability to cast the heaviest of heads, surely the Windcutter is the finest spey line available! However, if we are looking to a line to achieve a number of objectives, and to do so with precision, efficiency, and dare I say "grace", then certainly another set of criteria must be established.

...or maybe I've just had a few too many beer this evening...!:eyecrazy: :chuckle:

07-18-2002, 08:52 AM
Dana, While I do agree that the original version of the speydriver works great with tips the many homemade versions that we see that were made with the wulf triangle taper for the front section instead of the front taper that Derek used, is lacking in its abilities to turn over heavy tips, as you are well aware these are not the same line as what Derek put out.
The even bigger difference between the Speydriver and the XLT is that it is made in all sizes. Of course a driver would be able to turn over lc if it was cut @26ft but it is also rated as a 10-11wgt line. I have a proto version of the xlt in a #7wgt and it easilly casts 10ft of lc-13 to over 100 ft(not that I fish it at that distance).
I also dont really think (my opinion) that the windcutter can be called the finest sinktip line as you called it, the only reason it works well for tips is because it is so short and when you are picking or lifting your line for a cast the sinktip is automatically coming out of the water. which is great for a beginer casting tips but there are many other problems with this line that have been argued before(stripping, mending,etc...), and as you said it is surelly lacking in grace.

07-18-2002, 11:19 AM
Hi Bruce!

Hmmm...don't think I said that the Windcutter was lacking in grace, just merely suggesting a few criterion we might use in evaluating a line. Grace might be one of these, however, it is a little tough to quantify, so I'm not entirely sure it is suitable (note my comments about the beer! :chuckle: ) And as for "problems" with lines, all lines have 'em. The question becomes whether one wants to characterize stripping and shooting as a problem, and that of course is purely individual preference. Mending is not an issue with these lines, as the PNW and Scandinavian masters have demonstrated (see my interview with Henrik Mortensen and Ed Ward's letter on the Spey Pages for more on this).

We've been "fixing" our SpeyDrivers for several years now since receiving the originals from Derek. One change we needed to make was the front end--we needed to replace it because the original wore out. Since the "Magic Taper" Derek used was not available, a suitable alternative was found in the Triangle Taper. With a few modifications and then some major line surgery, the Triangle Taper front end works very well, and indeed turns over any tip you'd care to loop on it.

As for line weight, the original 'drivers' were made for heavier rods; however, experimental versions of the line were made for lighter line rods--I have one of these myself, and it too will turn over a range of tips, although I have never used lead core with it.

A thought about the XLT: 26ft is a lot of line to roll up and put in your pocket--what's that, about 1/4 of the belly length? I certainly don't have that kind of room in my on-the-water steelhead apparel, but then I have to carry jackets and cameras and lots of extra this-and-that because I'm always testing something. Why not keep the XLT as your long belly line for floating line work and run polyleaders off the front end of it for most sink tip work, but for those days when you know you are going to use serious dredge heads, why not switch to a line that doesn't require you to cut off and roll up so much of it? I haven't tried this yet, but the XLT should turn over polyleaders at range, right? Has anyone tried this?