Salmon Fly Line Design
By Jock Monteith 18th April 2018
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.
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 cast or fish than it is about getting your fly onto that 'precise' salmon holding area of the pool and at the right pace!
Prototyping Salmon Line Design On The River Tay
For me personally 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 system product which would cover a vast array of fishing conditions and to come up with something far superior than the highly popular but technically 'nasty' 2ft rear tapered Rio Windcutter 'washing line' which I most certainly did. The above Monteith Speycaster Multi System was born and thousands 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 Hoax Of The Century
The market shortly thereafter was saturated with what I perceive to be the biggest 'crime' against Scottish salmon fly fishers 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 huge 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 less talented instructors who couldn't previously get new casters going with the Spey cast because they didn't understand the easy logic of the Spey cast themselves!
The Destruction Of Elegant Speycasting
There are many 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 total control of their fly which was 'traded off' for an extra few yards of distance. Talk about clever marketing to design a product that would serve the male ego even if it mean't greatly reducing the effectiveness of the fishing day objective so my hat is off on that front but that front only!
Most Salmon Anglers Have No Idea About 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) & control your salmon fly over a 'taking' fish then try to set a hook with the normal 10% to 15% core stretch of a 'dead head' fly line core design to then 'elastic band' insufficient hook point pressure to stay hold of the salmon! 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 Necessary 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 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.
The Elegance Of The Spey Cast
The aerial performance and perfect casting elegance of a Spey line is important and learning the easy to understand 'logic' behind the Spey cast starting with a smooth controlled high lift and the value of opening up the hand ranges and bringing in silky upper body movement to spread out the energy creation. This I know is completely 'alien talk' for the shooting head brigade who pay zero attention to lifting their short little heads and who's static hands move less through the cast than your Auntie Fannie's jumper knitting needle technique! Thank goodness we're planning to open up a Dunkeld House casting school on the River Tay next season which will be held on the first Sunday of every month and will be promoted heavily (not that it'll need it!). This will be an opportunity for anyone (especially the young team) to learn 'free of charge' from some of the best technical Speycasters in Scotland as to exactly what makes the Spey cast fly!
The Rebirth Of Speycasting
Make no mistake about it that shooting heads have had their 'reign of terror' and thousands of salmon anglers are starting to understand important components of casting a fly line for salmon like enjoyment, fly control, running line management and last but not least good old 'elegant' tradition. Very soon I will be re-running my original Monteith Spey line in both 10/11 & 9/10 with the exact same mainline specification as the 2005 winning formula but this time the line will fish (incorporating 1 of 4 different sink tips) at a fixed 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 be run in limited numbers and will RRP at £89 including the 4 x 12ft braided core tips (floater, intermediate, sink 3 & sink 7). Anyone interested in a line would be best to book early as production machine time for re-runs is very restrictive due to the huge worldwide demand of Airflo fly line technolgy.
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