Salmon Fly Line Design
By Jock Monteith 26th November 2019
If a salmon Spey line is to do its job properly and 'stand the test of time' then far much more thought, care and attention will have gone into prototyping at the 'R&D' stage than you could possibly ever imagine. For me it was virtually a daily obsession over an 18 month period to make this Spey line design perfect.
A Great Salmon Line Design Starts With Professional Passion
A great salmon fly line design starts with huge passion for the sport in general and if there's an 'emotionally empowered' professional ghillie or guide at the route of developments who's on top of their game then that's the very best starting point. Nothing beats time in the 'river classroom' for studying the way fly fishers operate with the fly fishing tackle systems that they've come up to fish with. This 'intel' makes it easier to develop and action a list of key improvements to the fishing & casting performance of a fly line. Personally it still amazes me how it's all about compromise for an angler's inability to learn how to cast or fish properly than it is about presenting your fly onto that 'precise' salmon holding area of the pool with the correct depth and pace.
Prototyping Salmon Line Design On The River Tay
For me it started back in 2004 with Airflo's brilliant assistance with 18 months of playing about with various prototype designs while serving as a professional ghillie on the River Tay. My objective at that time was to create a multi tip product which would cover a vast array of fishing conditions and to come up with something better than the highly popular but technically 'non existent' 2ft rear tapered Rio Windcutter 'washing line' which I did and it wasn't long before Rio duplicated my line's 12ft rear taper too! The above Monteith Speycaster Multi System was born and loads of these beautiful Multi tip Spey lines sold without a tackle dealer being involved based of unbeatable fishing performance and good old 'word of mouth'!
The Fly Fishing Tackle Changes
The market shortly thereafter was saturated through the dealer channel with what I perceive to be the biggest 'injustice' against Scottish salmon Spey casting with the birth of the 'shooting head' era. All of a sudden a product was created that a baby chimp could fly across the river even though there were fly control losses along with the total loss of elegance we had all previously been completely consumed with. Beautiful through actioned rods were replaced by stiff butted rods that could flick these short heavy little heads like a brick on a string! Everyone thought this was the best thing ever and especially instructors who couldn't previously get new casters going with a Spey line because they didn't fully understand the easy logic of the Spey cast themselves or lacked effective communication skills.
The Elegance Of Speycasting
There are many important factors that got thrown 'right out of the window' when the shooting head era arrived but the biggest single loss to the thousands of salmon fly anglers that bought into it all was the loss of control of their fly from the moment of touch down as it is impossible to mend a line 'to the fly' with super thin running line and a 'bulky' water dragging head. Talk about clever marketing to design a product that would serve the male ego even if it meant reducing the effectiveness of the fly's true objective. The highly enjoyable casting elegance of a Spey line is important to keep you occupied between salmon hooking opportunities as is learning the easy to understand 'logic' behind the Spey cast starting with a smooth controlled high line lift and the value of opening up the hand ranges and bringing in a silky swing movement to spread out the energy creation so you can transfer all of it to the power stroke.
Salmon Fly Line Anglers Core Stretch
A salmon fly line core is where a good design should start and unknown to the vast majority of salmon anglers who buy fly fishing products any line that's core stretch is much more than 5% should be put in the bucket. What's the point of learning how to deliver a long Spey line (or any line) and control your salmon fly over a 'taking' fish to then try to set a reasonable sized hook with the normal 10% to 15% core stretch to then apply insufficient hook point pressure (via the 'elastic band' effect) to get a grip of the salmon! A few seasons ago I was contacted by one of the Tay's fantastic salmon fly fishers who was in a state of complete frustration as to why he was continually failing to convert 30 & 40 yard takes with a stretchy core fly line into landed fish until I enlightened him! With most lines you'd get a surprise if you stretched them out and had a colleague at the other end as you both pulled!
The Durability Of A Salmon Spey Line
I've seen many superbly designed single purpose floating Spey lines that one wrong step with a studded wader boot will sheer the soft PVC coating off right down to the lines core rendering the fly line damaged and highly likely 'mentally' unusable. A salmon Spey line simply needs to be made of tough long lasting polyurethane that can handle the knocks and bashes or you're going to be replacing fly lines far too often that become casualties. PVC will degrade with sunlight too whereas polyurethane loves to sunbathe! Even with polyurethane a soft cloth wipe down with a plastic conditioner will amaze you as to how much river grime a line will pick up and will keep you shooting line optimally through the rod rings.
Note Interest For A Monteith Multi Tip
Make no mistake about it that shooting heads have been a huge commercial sales success however many salmon anglers are starting to understand important components of casting a fly line for salmon like actual enjoyment, effective fly swim control, avoiding a drowned line while playing a fish, running line management, minimising required running line and last but not least good old 'elegant' tradition. In 2020 I'm seriously considering re-running a limited number of these original Monteith Multi Tip Spey lines in both 10/11 & 9/10 with the exact same mainline specification as the 2004 winning formula but this time the line will fish (incorporating 1 of 4 different sink tips) at a 65ft head length. The beautiful 12ft rear taper permits 'more or less' of the head weight to be used depending on cast application & loading requirements unlike the critical 'fixed length' science of a zero rear taper shooting head. This product will RRP at £90 including the 4 x 12ft braided core tips (floater, intermediate, sink 3 & sink 7). If demand is high enough these lines will be produced so please note interest on either of my Facebook pages whether 10/11 or 9/10 and I'll take note from there.