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Two hand fly lines for the salt

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Currently, the best way to get into TH saltwater fishing is to check out the topic: "Two hand rods for the salt" and pick up a Mike Oliver, spey, carp, or (god forbid) a switch rod.  Hopefully the next step is to then check out this new topic "Two hand fly lines for the salt" for info on line selection, customization, tips, taper theories, etc.  (this topic will inevitably have to include casting styles too I think) 


I personally went though 20+ different lines over the last 10 years trying to get my G. Loomis 12/13 11'3" to launch 130ft casts like I imagined it would. In this age of information, I couldn't believe that I was forced to figure it out via trial and error – and I'm still figuring it out. 


Long story short, I know we will all be better TH fisherman if we share what we know on the lines we use. 


Thank you!

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For me, the most frustrating issue to overcome when choosing a line for my TH rod was the tendency for the head to unroll too quickly and snap the fly down into the water too early.  rpike talks about what I think is the same issue in the below post -- which has some very good info on fly lines by the way.  




What I learned:

  • The head length I was using was too short i.e. between 23' and 26' feet (for my casting style)  I currently find that longer skagit heads of 26- 30ft + 10-12ft tips (total head lengths of 36-42ft) to be much better than anything shorter.  But this only partly solved the problem.  
  • Scandi lines are awesome to cast, but are tough for big flies.  After about 5 years into owning the G Loomis 12/13 11'3" and playing with skagit lines I grew so frustrated that I called G Loomis and found myself speaking with Steve Rajeff himself.  He said the rod was designed around a Longer Airflo beach line that is no longer made -- but that had a 42ish ft head with a long belly...I think we concluded that the Rio Outbound was closest (with it's 37.5ft head) albeit with more weight towards the tip.  Few years later and rio stopped making the 37.5ft outbound head and the airflo line was still discontinued.  A friend then suggested a 44" scandi tip so I got the SA ultimate scandi taper and it became my go to line for a number of years.  It casted much more like a 'regular' fly line...the the long tapered tip promoting a controllable loop unravelling at the familiar - slower - rate.  Of course I then got into night fishing with giant gamechangers and I had to revisit skagit lines. 
  • I was casting with too much running line out the tip 100% of the time.  I'm not sure of the physics here, but it is harder to shoot that skagit head in a tight loop when you have 20 feet of running line out the tip.  I finally, accidentally, laid out a perfect cast with almost no running line out the tip and that changed alot for me.  I currently have between 3 and 10 ft out the tip with skagit and between 8 and 15ft with scandi
  • I wasn't raising the rod tip at the end of the cast.  This ensures straight flight path of rod tip of course, and I  couldn't believe how effective it was in tightening up the loop.  


Just had to get all that out before I get into the tougher questions.  I think you all know this stuff, but it represents the info I wish I had access to at the time.  


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One last thing before I go back to work: I learned about this book from you guys somewhere in this forum.  But it should be right at the beginning of this topic.  It's the only book I know of that explains -- all too briefly -- how and why certain tapers and weight profiles perform the way they do.  




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i make that simple.

i test my 12'  rod for maximum load,if i find my rod can handle 900 grain,i am looking to buy shooting head 25' , 725 grain and 10'  T-14 is 170 grain that is total 900 grain.

now i order line ,has to be 30# or 40# test and any line work for me,mono 40 #,sinking ,intermediate or floating line,i do not pay any atention to taper or not.my work do the shooting head,that is sepert piece,i can atach that to any line and it work fine.


i have all shooting head out off eylets,i make rol lift any fly off water,1 time shoot back one time shoot forvard,i cast simple  90' to 120',not hard work.

Edited by snag777
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On 10/9/2020 at 11:44 AM, Ajefferslyon said:

A friend then suggested a 44" scandi tip so I got the SA ultimate scandi taper and it became my go to line for a number of years.  It casted much more like a 'regular' fly line...the the long tapered tip promoting a controllable loop unravelling at the familiar - slower - rate.  Of course I then got into night fishing with giant gamechangers and I had to revisit skagit lines. 

I think you meant to say 44ft scandi head, not tip?  The Ultimate Scandi tapers are heads, not tips.  Just terminology and can be confusing to many of us.


So one thing that occurred to me is that in 2012 when that other thread you pasted happened, the Scientific Anglers Ultimate Scandi Taper (UST) heads were not available yet.  To be clear, these are not integrated lines, but if you can find a running line that agrees with you they are adequate for normal sized flies, provided that you can use at least the 8/9 ones (apprx. 525g) grain ones, or higher.  There are now Ultimate Scandi "Short" heads as well.  Here are the specs from the box(es):



 7/8    463g   37.1 ft

 8/9    525g   38.1 ft

 9/10  586g   40.0ft

10/11 648g   42.0ft


UST "Short"

 7/8    460g   32.5 ft

 8/9    525g   33.8 ft

 9/10  590g   35.0 ft

10/11 650g   36.4 ft


They also made (or make) a 6/7 version but it is primarily the older ones in the heavier weight classes (in bold) that fit the bill for longer rods (12-14+ft).  I also think that the UST "Short" heads, at least the 8/9 and up (in italics) are o.k. for shorter two hand rods (~10.5 to 11.5+ft).  They are or were available in various densities, floating, graduated density (2D, 3D) and full sink.  I have the 7/8 (regular) in S1/S3/S5, 8/9 (short) in full intermediate, and 9/10 (regular) in dual density S1/S2.  These play fairly well with my 7/8, 8/9 and 9/10 two hand rods that I like to use the most in overhead mode.  I prefer to use a braided airflo miracle braid running line unless I'm in a sandy or dirty location, in which case I might use 40lb Berkeley Big Game mono as a runner.


Like you, if I am throwing larger bulkier flies, I go with Skagit heads (mostly Skagit Intermediate) and Intermediate MOW tips (10ft, medium or "heavy").  The two most frequently used combinations for me are 400g Int head + 140g tip and 440g head and 100g or 140g tip.  The advantage to me is that I can at least use the same running lines and just have to swap heads.  I would prefer integrated lines, but currently very few or none are available in weights above 500g and those that are available have heads that are shorter than 33ft (my minimum now for my shorter TH rods).


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If we are going to talk about lines we need to get the terminology straight.  Here's my attempt:


An "integrated" line means that the line is  a full length line (usually 90ft to 120ft) and the running line (rear) and head (front; or mid-to-front for long belly lines) are all one continuous piece; they are made in one piece by the manufacturer.  If a line says it is, e.g., 21 ft or 34 ft long on the box it is a head not an integrated line. See next entry.


A "head" is typically used with a separate running line, and some (but not all) are used with tips (Skagit style heads always require added tips; scandi heads do not always require added tips but polyleaders can also be used with scandis).  Joining the head to the running line can be done with a loop to loop connection, or else the lines can be fused (various methods) or welded.  Skagit heads are really thick and heavy with very little front taper.  Scandi heads are thinner and more elongated, with more of a front taper.


Taper = the schematic depiction or gradation of the head both in terms of diameter (thickness) and usually mass.  Graduated density lines taper in density, not mass; floating lines and full intermediates taper in both thickness and density.  I've simplified this here.  Diameter and density need to be evaluated separately to understand how a line will both cast, and fish.


A weight forward line has most of the weight up front - it's o.k. go "duh" right about here...:p


A short head (e,g, 28ft to 30ft) weight forward line may cast easily but might not cast as far as a line that has a longer more even taper and/or a more moderate weight distribution.  The former may deliver heavy, bulky flies well especially for short shots, while the latter might be a better choice for casting smaller to medium size flies a greater distance, all else being equal.  Shorter head lines tend to "dump" earlier.


A shooting head (or line) in its simplest form is a level piece of heavier line in front of a thinner running line.  Shooting heads can be made from scratch using tungsten (T) material, or from short (typically ~30ft or less for single hand rods, perhaps ~35ft or more for two handers) level or tapered sections of a floating or intermediate fly line that is around 2-3 line weights heavy for the line weight designation of the rod being used.  They are not intended for multiple false casting.  Typically with these lines we aim for one backcast and then fire it off (called chuck and duck if the head portion is really too heavy for the rod being used).  Shooting head "lines" are integrated and shooting heads are not.


The problems with currently made integrated lines in terms of using them with powerful, two hand rods for overhead casting is that few are available in coldwater versions in weights greater than around 510 to 530 grains, and those that are still available are generally short head lines.  The Rio Outbound Short peaks at 510g (12w), and is only available above 10wt in "tropical" formulation, and the Rio GT line peaks at 530g.  These lines are either too short for longer two hand rods, or are meant for warmer water (or both).  Both the Rio GT line and the Rio OBS in 12wt or above are tropical formulations.  Good for waters above 50 degrees C (Rio OBS), or 75 degrees C (GT).  The GT line is at least long enough for shorter two handed rods (10.5' to 11.5ft+) but not great for use in temperate or boreal zones.


The above explains why we are hoping to see someone develop a coldwater, integrated, weight forward line in heavier than 530g, that has a longer head than 30ft.  Something like:  550g to 700g head at a minimum of 33ft and a maximum of 40-42ft.  Also we want it available in floating, full sink (various sink rates, both single and dual or triple density), and full intermediate. YMMV.


P.S.  I've made a couple of changes based on Mike O's and SMS's comments, below.  These changes are in bold and italics above.

Edited by Killiefish
edited per Mike Oliver and SMS suggestions
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Good poet.


Couple of differences if I may. Heads  can be tapered as well as level.

I dislike level heads as they cast so poorly. Last thing we want to be doing is casting 500, 600 and 700 grain lines that cast like a sink. A bad cast at high speed with lots of line mass can end badly for the Caster or the rod.

But if depth charge lines are needed then no choice but level T material or lead core.



The other difference I have is head length.  It is very difficult wading just thigh deep with a 13 foot rod to get even a 33 foot long head up onto the surface  with the fly on top to in order to start a cast. Sometimes a few feet of that 33 foot long head has to be brought inside the guides. A 42 foot head and 700 grains for anyone even a very good caster will be an extreme  ask. Floating line ok maybe but an Intermediate or fast sink majority are going to have major probs. These problems multiply if fishing a surf.

I do see that you are saying that this is a personal preference. For guys starting off these head lengths  would be troublesome and I think it is helpful to advise that.

Not sure why head length goes up when mass of line increases.


Hopefully everyone following this thread thanks to your post will be able to talk the same language. Thanks.



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Mike I made some changes above per your suggestions.  My main reason why I originally had lengths of heads changing with grain weight was based on the rods I  personally use and a presumed relationship (general) between rod length and head length of apprx 3 to 1 (+/- 10%).


All my two hand rods are between 11ft and 13ft and prefer heads weighng in at ~ 450g to around 630g.  They range from an 11' 7/8* to a 13ft 9/10.  I don't have any rods longer than 13ft and none seem to handle grains over 650g.  (*in spey terms; also a 13ft 7/8wt that is more like an 8/9 if spey rated)


I assumed a similar relationship for rods that are 14-15ft long, and presumably more powerful (11/12; 12/13+).  But my preferences are just that, as you say personal.  So I changed the above post to be more general.   I do believe that some casters can handle 42ft heads.  I've seen expert casters easily handle long belly lines with heads over 50ft, at least in spey casting clinics.  I can't see why some people wouldn't be able to handle a 40-42ft head with a 14ft or longer rod.  One caveat is that a head longer than ~ 35ft may not be that easy to use if there are obstructions (or people) behind you, you are not wading, or if you are fishing a steep sloped beach or bank.  These are the kinds of conditions that IMO call for a shorter TH rod, and a shorter head line.

Edited by Killiefish
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16 hours ago, Killiefish said:

none are available in weights greater than around 510 to 530 grains

Rio Leviathan intermediates (all three that I have) are about 630 grains. But the heads are short (30'). The material thou is just great. Wet the reel the day before fishing and when getting the line out on the day of fishing, give it a good stretch. This way it work in surprisingly cold conditions - the coldest I have used it has been something between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.

The Leviathan 26ft DC sinking tip lines (head including the intermediate part is 33'6" which is still short) are also great.


Floating and intermediate are relatively easy to do from Scandi heads or full lines if you can find ones with some rear taper. Basically you just turn the head around (if the rear taper is long enough). If the rear taper is not long enough, you take part of the original front taper and attach it to the rear taper (match the diameter or go under on the part now in the front) to make a new front taper and cut the front taper bit by bit from the tip until you get the turnover you want.


S3 and so forth are problem until fast enough sinking lines come that are basically single density. Super fast you get single density pretty much. So you do the same as you would with floating and intermediates.


I do not weld my lines. I don't trust welding. I had one old Airflo Big Game Depthfinder in Florida last year. Its design was such that the head and running line were welded together at the factory. Lost the head on the first fish. Those days Airflo still made great monocore lines and I saved this running line - it is almost up there with Rio (Leviathan and Flatspro intermediate running lines). But that is because my approach to fish fighting is brutal. So, I whip join lines. The joint has never failed me - I've broken 50lb tippets/leaders with lines having whipped joints.


One solution to finding (making) proper TH OH lines would be making them sink tip lines.

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