Posts Tagged ‘Lake Fishing’

Fluorocarbon

June 19, 2014

FluorocarbonHead

A problem with Fluorocarbon?

I have for some time, years at least, had nagging little questions about the efficacy of fluorocarbon tippet material for trout fishing. Sure I have seen the “invisible in water” marketing stuff and like many competitive anglers have taken as read the idea that the stuff is superior in the invisibility stakes, but does it really offer a panacea for the angler?

I don’t use it at all on moving water, for dry fly work I personally believe that it is thicker than copolymer for the same breaking strain and on top of that a good deal less flexible. I am of the opinion then that flexibility and fine diameter make for better fly presentation and on that front the copolymer comes out on top of any reasonable analysis. Don’t for one moment believe that fluoro’ breaks through the surface film more easily than mono, I wish it did but it doesn’t, no matter the slight advantage that its specific gravity apparently holds.

For nymphing tactics on rivers and streams the thicker diameter of fluorocarbon would apparently negate its improved sinking properties providing additional drag (and that only after it has been pulled through the surface film by a tungsten bead), thereby reducing sink rates and I again prefer to use copolymer or mono, the current favourite (in a class of its own as far as I am concerned) is Stroft for virtually all my stream fishing applications.

In my own mind I then have absolutely no issue with leaving the fluoro at home when headed to the river. Even with micro flies and crystal clear waters the supposedly high visibility of the tippet doesn’t seem to detract from the allure of the flies I use and I can’t see any subjective evidence that the fish take much notice but I have still been persuaded to stick to fluorocarbon in stillwater environments and I am not sure that I should.

Using Fluro when lake fishing has become a universal standard, but does it make sense?

Using Fluoro when lake fishing has become a universal standard, but does it make sense?

A recent survey of game changing innovation in Trout Fishing Magazine in the UK (an unashamedly stillwater biased publication) had at least one expert claiming that fluorocarbon was a breakthrough of unprecedented proportion. When stillwater fishing I have for years opted for fluorocarbon because that is the accepted norm but does it make sense? I have swallowed the damnable cost of the stuff in the belief that I would fool more fish with this as the terminal tackle than I might have with Mono, but truth be told I am no longer so sure.

I used to do a great deal of bank based fly fishing in large stillwaters using mono quite confidently without apparent mishap. Who knows if I would have caught more fish on fluro’? I don’t and I am not sure that anyone else would be able to assuredly lay claim to being certain of its advantages either for that matter.

I fish fluorocarbon because everyone else does; in a competitive environment it is hard to turn ones back on the crowd. A sort of “if you can’t beat then join them” mentality which isn’t part of my normal psyche. Usually I steer away from the crowd mentality, make up my own mind and do my own thing but with this fluoro’ v mono argument I have to confess to being entirely unsure.

As with much else, flyfishing is filled with compromise, from the length of the rod to the taper of the leader, nothing is perfect and is it reasonable to assume that things would be different when it comes to the line to which you tie the fly?

Let us for the present assume that the fluorocarbon lines provide some level of advantage in terms of fooling the fish. Certainly saltwater anglers targeting such species as Tuna on bait will tell you that the differences in hook ups are quite spectacular if you stick to a fluoro’ tippet, but then again they are using tremendously heavy duty stuff and the benefits of apparent clarity might well count for more in such circumstances. For trout style leaders I am far from persuaded on that visibility front but even were that the case what are the drawbacks?

Fluorocarbon seems to be notoriously tricky stuff, with a supposed long shelf life I have frequently been stuck with a spool of the material which seems to break like cotton, old or poorly stored I don’t know, there aren’t “sell by dates” on the spools and even brand new it has the considerable disadvantage of losing a great deal of its inherent strength when knotted. Any knot, and I have tried a good many of them, drops the breaking strain considerably. This may well be why so many UK based stillwater anglers use 10 and even 12lb nylon to catch fish averaging a pound or two.

At one time I thought that I had “found” a wonderfully cost effective solution with Berkley “Vanish” much loved by bass anglers but I simply couldn’t tie the stuff together without it breaking. In the interim I have tried Airflo G3, Rio, Stroft fluoro’, Riverge, Fulling Mill, and others and none of them seem to be particularly reliable. The problem lies with the knot strength and a propensity to “pop” under sudden shock. Short lengths, particularly droppers on multi-fly rigs, have a nasty tendency to give up the ghost at a critical moment when one finally gets a take.

With considerable dilligence I wasn't able to join this stuff without breakage, no matter the knot used.

With considerable dilligence I wasn’t able to join this stuff without breakage, no matter the knot used.

Add to that the move towards “none stretch fly lines” and the situation becomes all the more fraught. These lines, such as the Airflo “Sixth Sense” series are so sensitive that you can feel a fish break wind underwater anywhere near the line and they have to offer considerable advantages to take detection and hook setting but they offer no protection whatsoever with regard to cushioning the sudden take of a fish.

On a recent trip to the UK, predominantly practising for the Commonwealth Flyfishing Championships the entire team had issues with breaking off fluorocarbon leaders and it appeared all the more apparent when fishing none stretch lines and specifically none stretch floating lines. I imagine that sunken lines, despite their “density compensation structures” are always in some sort of curve underwater and as a result offer some cushioning on the take, but the floaters give absolute and immediate direct contact, great for feeling the take but hopeless in terms of softening the blow of an unexpected fish.

One could of course build in some additional stretch, perhaps “Power Gum” which is both outlawed in competition and impractical to boot or a twisted loop structure shown to me by Tasmanian guiding Ace, Peter Hayes, which is equally against the regulations controlling loop size so those options are out for all but the dedicated recreational angler. Keeping the rod at an angle to the retrieve is a good idea to be sure, but a problematic one all the same and frequently forgotten in the heat of battle. But it does strike me that much of this is trying to find a solution to fit a problem that quite possibly need not be there in the first place. It seems entirely possible that fluorocarbon tippet simply isn’t up to the job and for all the marketing hype it begs the question, are we coughing up far too much money for something that effectively doesn’t work?

My current thoughts are along the following lines, although I have to admit not cast in stone:

1) I have caught numerous fish in both still and moving water using mono or copolymer leader and tippet so obviously not all, or perhaps even not most, fish give a monkey’s about the slight issue of visibility.

2) I generally fish with leaders or tippets with a breaking strain well below the weight of the fish I expect to target so why should I fish fluoro’ which should in theory be able to lift a bag full of fish just to avoid breaking off?

3) If I have to use material that is considerably thicker, stronger or both to avoid breakoffs than I would when using mono wouldn’t it seem reasonable to assume that the thinner mono might outweigh, at least in part, the supposed advantages of low visibility of fluoro’?

4) Even if I deceived 20% more fish with fluoro’ (a totally arbitrary percentage dreamed up for the sake of argument) but lost 30% of those fish due to the leader / tippet failing wouldn’t I be better off sticking to the mono or copolymer?

5) From a purely financial perspective wouldn’t I be paying a lot more than I need to for my terminal tackle, particularly if it appears to be a lot less reliable in the first place?

6) In moving water I go to some trouble to insure protection of the tippet, with soft rods and boiled leaders to provide cushioning but in lakes, with the stiffer action tackle and non-stretch lines I am already removing much of that protection and then still add in a leader made up of material which is notoriously sensitive to sudden shock. I am beginning to think that this doesn’t make any sense.

I am going back to basics, time will tell if it proves to be a good move.

I am going back to basics, time will tell if it proves to be a good move.

Down here in the Western Cape of South Africa winter is upon us and winter is stillwater season, the rivers are either in flood or closed to angling; mostly both, and that leaves boat fishing on lakes and reservoirs as the primary providers of my angling fix for the next few months. I shan’t be involved in any competitions and as such am freed up to experiment without consideration of the rules or indeed what anyone else is up to. With that and the above in mind I plan to stick to fishing mono or copolymer this season and shall see if it makes any significant difference when I catch rates are held up to my boat partner’s. It isn’t impossible that they hook more fish than I do, or for that matter even land more than I do, which isn’t exactly the same thing. But until I see some serious evidence that I am disadvantaging myself by leaving the fluoro’ at home I think I shall stick to avoiding it. I have a very nasty suspicion that we have had the wool pulled over our eyes and that for a nominal, if scientifically proven, advantage of water-like refractive properties we might be paying too high a price, both in terms of hard earned cash and lost fish and frustration as well.

For another detailed look at fishing nylon I can recommend the following link from Fly Fishing America http://www.flyfishamerica.com/content/fluorocarbon-vs-nylon the piece goes into considerable detail and suggests the opposite to my thoughts. Apparently the author Bill Battles, swears when he breaks off fish and swears less when using fluorocarbon. I wish that had been the case over the past month in the UK but most of us over there fishing were swearing fit to bust and almost all of the expletives were a direct result of failing fluorocarbon leaders under moderate pressure at best. It also strikes me that many of the proponents of the benefits of fluorocarbon, as with the above reference, refer a great deal to saltwater applications where one supposes that the refractive index of saltwater is different to fresh and that the basic terminal gear is a good deal stronger in first place. If I don’t catch any fish over the winter and get an ass kicking from my fluorocarbon wielding boat partner then I may have to swallow some humble pie come spring. But then there is the possibility that I might just find that I have been less frustrated by breakoffs and find a bit more cash left in my pocket too. We shall see.

 

SignatureCompendium3You will find more writings by the author of this blog on http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za covering a variety of fly fishing topics from building your own lanyard to tying better flies.

Comments are always welcome on this blog and I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on the battle between fluorocarbon and mono, my mind is yet to be made up but I do wonder if we aren’t all just following the marketing hype without due consideration of what goes on out fishing instead of just in the laboratory.

 

 

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A Question.

June 21, 2012

Can you catch eight or so fish and honestly claim that it wasn’t a good day’s fishing?

That probably sounds a dreadfully egotistical question and more so if the answer is yes, but actually on a recent trip to a local lake the answer was undoubtedly in the affirmative, I did catch eight fish and no it wasn’t a good day..

It is pretty much accepted that most of us go through various phases in our fly fishing lives. The sequence varies slightly from author to author but the general list looks something like this.

To catch a fish
To catch lots of fish
To catch big fish
To catch a specific fish
To catch fish in the way that you would like to.
To catch a specific fish in the way that you would like to.
The list probably goes on with variations of more species or specific fish such as trying to catch “Ol Bert” who lives next to the third pylon on the road bridge and has become a local legend. The permutations are endless really but pretty much all of us are in a “phase”.

Now I am going to add another, to catch a fish such that you think at least that you understand why you caught it. There is something soulful about doing this, even if it is a figment of one’s imagination. One of the reasons I don’t like to pump fish stomachs too often, the contents can ruin what was up to that point the perfectly happy illusion that I had cracked the code.

So for example you flip a perfect drift over a rising trout and he ignores your offering, you change patterns and still the fish simply rises to a natural next to your imitation. You persevere and notice some flying ants on the rocks. You switch to an ant pattern, the fish takes on the first pass and when you finally land it you pump its stomach only to find ants, ants and more ants, does piscatorial life get better than that?

There is a certain wholesomeness to that scenario, a closing of a circle, a combination of dexterity, skill, observation and deduction that takes fly fishing far above the level of throwing out a woolly bugger and dragging it back. Sort of Zen Buddhism versus WWF wrestling.

Just recently I visited a productive lake which I have fished three times now in close succession. Normally I would be drifting it with my mate and regular boat partner Mike, I have to take him as he owns half of the boat and will cough up for some of the petrol, but this time around he was tied up with work projects and unable, at the last minute, to make it.

Missed you Mike.

So I set off alone a two and a half hour drive arriving at the water in the pre-dawn, air temperature 3°C and set about pumping up the boat and sorting out the gear. Launching was only moderately more challenging than with two people and I was afloat and heading for the first drift within forty minutes or so.

My view and Mike’s view of boat fishing a lake is that one should first drift to find the fish, the wind was variable with some calm spells and it took a long while to locate even one fish. That taken on a hare’s ear nymph dragged behind the boat whilst changing position so it didn’t really count.

By lunch I had only that one fish despite flailing madly, changing lines from Di5 up to slow intermediate and back.  It is times like this that you get to truly value the benefits of a good boat partner and I am already realising that I shall have to apologise about the jibe in respect of owning half the boat. With two of you fishing, different sink rate lines, different flies and covering twice as much water is should be easier to find a concentration of fish, indeed I would suggest logarithmically easier. On my own I hadn’t found more than that odd one.

Then I hooked another fish trolling the line behind me as I moved, it really isn’t cricket to catch fish like this and again to my way of thinking it didn’t really count , but at least I figured that the fish perhaps wanted something moving faster, or shallower or both.

I then hooked yet another trout whilst on the move, why would a trout attack an orange blob fly moving at 15 Kms an hour? It didn’t make sense and finally with a very rapid retrieve I hooked and landed my first “legitimate fish”, a hen that poured roe all over me and the boat when I landed her.

This now raises yet another question, you see many of the fish we have taken in the past week or two have been bright silver, rounder in aspect and more salmon like, showing none of the expected colouration and gravidity that might normally be seen in the early winter months. I strongly suspect that those silver fish are indeed triploids, part of a stocking years back who are now unaffected by spawning urges.

I landed a few more fish on either orange blob flies or red and green boobies which are in fact a pretty fair imitation of a dragonfly nymph when retrieved at speed., but in all honesty I never quite got with the program. I didn’t have any working hypothesis as to why I caught when I did or failed when I didn’t.

When I got home that female trout was with me, she had been badly hooked and was bleeding so was put down and brought her home for supper.  Her stomach contents? Four small boxy dragon fly nymphs no more than a 10 mm in length, each as though a sibling of the others, not exactly a suggestion of a feeding frenzy.

So here are my thoughts, I suspect that the dam is currently harbouring two distinct populations of fish, the sexually active ones who are hardly feeding and responding more from aggression than hunger and the triploids, which I failed to find this trip, feeding happily somewhere out there in the watery expanse.

So I ended up with eight odd fish to the boat and I was none the wiser by the end of the day than when I had started. That is annoying, we generally start out without too much of a clue but gradually find fish, hone in on the correct depth and then suitable flies such that we have worked out the formula for the day. This time I didn’t manage that and the numbers of fish didn’t ameliorate my disappointment.

It isn’t egotistical to suggest that this wasn’t the best of days, sure a few fish in the boat makes it seem worthwhile but in the end I learned very little. It has to be said that I would far rather catch feeding fish than purely aggressive ones and if this was a victory is was to my mind a little bit of a hollow one.

Never mind, next time I am out I shall have Mike as a wingman and we can perhaps hunt down those triploids who are behaving a little more normally, go back to imitative patterns and kid ourselves that we have worked it out. Just so long as neither of us decides to check the stomach contents and spoil the day.