Nothing did more for my winter steelheading than the hybrid head systems common to PNW hardcores. I remember Mike Kinney and others saying... you need one of these (FWF line) and one of these (STS 30' type IV) and a pair of scissors. Open the box and chop!
I still remember the trauma of that first cut of a perfectly good 45 dollar line in the middle of the head. Next thing you know I was enjoying the flexibility of a wallet full of sinktips to fish every pool the way I liked.
I haven't had great luck with store bought loops. Some tend to hang in the guides when there is a fish on, others aren't very durable and take up a lot of area for the little strength they offer. I know loops can be as personal as fly selection - but here's what I use:
1) strip the coating off the line end - I use a high end electronic wirestripper or acetone, either or. About 3/4 inch.
2) Snake a section of braided mono, like the stuff they use for store bought loops, over the exposed line core and continue about 1/4" over the line coating too. For heavy lines, I taper the coating like a pencil with a razor.
3) Fold the sheathed loop over to form a loop. No need to make a big loop, 3/8-1/2" is usually fine.
4) Use a nail knot to bind the base of the loop together using 10-12# mono. I often put a color-coding layer of thread over the mono so I can tell which tips are which on the business end of the tips system.
5) trim very close with a flushcutting tool, like a nail clipper
6) coat with aquaseal thinned with cotol. The thread color over the mono shows thru nicely, and the entire loop is less than 1/2 inch total length.
The braided sheath makes it easy to take the loops apart even after high tensile strain.
Tip: to tighten a nail knot evenly from both ends, pull on the opposite tag end. When you pull one tag, the opposite side of the knot bites in. Alternate to get a nice double bite and trim the tags.
Tip #2: to loop the square knot every time, put the reel end thru the tip's loop opening and thread the leader and tip skinny end first until the two loops lock. I usually drop the tip into the river current once I get the reel-end loop thru the tip loop to straigten the tip out (holding the tippet in one hand). Then thread the tippet thru the loop and hold it in your teeth. Then pull thru the moistened, straightened tip thru the reel-end loop and you're ready to tie, tippet in hand.
I've shreadded sinktips on basalt rockpiles without popping the loops apart. They seem to be plenty strong.
This is old hat to most on this list, but I thought I'd post it anyway. I'd be curious to hear other approaches.
A lot of guys here are going to the Rio Windcutter Multi Tip system. Easier than making your own and Rio does a good job with the lines. A few weeks ago I left my home made line on the bottom at Grandy Creek. Ran down to Skagit Anglers and picked up a Rio WindCutter 9/10/11. Works very well on a Sage 9140.
The Rio system is a good system and I have never had a Rio loop give me problems. The one complaint I have is that the Type VI tip which comes with the Windcutter tips package does not get down like I think it should. I still use it for times when I don't want to be dredging but have homemade tips for those times I do. I know one of the posters here has simply purchased the Rio tip in a larger line size (11 weight ?)and is happy with the performance.
I also use the Rio Windcutter with tips, primarily on my 7136-4 (which I just exploded in October!). You're right, it sure makes things easy and the tip wallet is primo!
On the bigger rods, I use a full floater Windcutter -or- a floating long taper DT during the summer; and a compact head system shown to me by Mike Kinney for throwing dense tips in deep cold water.
Out of that mixed bag, the home-cut DT, the winter head, and any tips I make to fish with the Windcutter lines need the loop treatment.
BTW - there is an orthopaedic surgeon looking for information on flyfishing and joint pain up in the Open Forum. I wonder if his research differentiates two-handed casting? I'll go ask...
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