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.
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