Are line weights cor­rect?

Some say the AFTM fly line scale is be­com­ing worth­less, but is that down to man­u­fac­tur­ers or con­sumers? Our ex­perts guide you through this mine­field

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

Clear­ing the con­fu­sion around line rat­ings. They’re not al­ways cor­rect it seems

WE ex­pect cer­tain grey ar­eas when it comes to fish­ing. Match­ing the hatch? No wor­ries: all part of the chal­lenge. Match­ing your rod to the cor­rect f ly line, on the other hand – no-one wants a guess­ing game at that stage. We want to be kit­ted out and head­ing for the wa­ter. And on the face of it, that’s ex­actly how it should be. Match the weight num­ber on your rod to the weight num­ber on that brand new f ly line you’re hold­ing in the tackle store, and surely you’re all set? In a per­fect world, yes. Not in this one. De­vised by the then Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Tackle Man­u­fac­tur­ers (AFTM) in 1962, the AFTM rat­ing sys­tem as­cribes a num­ber to a f ly line, depend­ing on its weight; 1 de­not­ing the light­est and 12 the heav­i­est (nor­mally used for salt­wa­ter fish­ing). For most fresh­wa­ter f ly an­glers, sizes 4 to 8 cover most sce­nar­ios, from streams to reser voirs. Only when rod and line num­bers match, goes the rule of thumb, do the line’s weight and rod’s power fuse prop­erly, in an eff icient cast. Too light, and line strug­gles to es­cape the guides; too heav y, and it could stress and dam­age the rod. The devil, how­ever, is in the de­tails.


Find­ing RIO Grand line be­ing ad­ver­tised as “a full line size heav­ier than the in­dustr y stan­dard”, one poster at Fly Fish­ing Fo­rums (w w w.f ly fish­ won­dered if line rat­ings are nowa­days writ­ten in shift­ing sands, a con­cern only re­in­forced when you con­sider the likes of Hardy’s Com­pact Rocket lines (“slightly over weighted”) or Sci­en­tific An­glers’ Fre­quency Boost line (“half line-size heav y”). By the time you’ve added in count­less sink-tips and snappy mar­ket­ing blurb, ‘what ty pe of line do I need?’ be­gins to look as open-ended a ques­tion as, ‘how long’s a piece of string…?’ Some scep­tics main­tain that the con­fu­sion plays into man­u­fac­tur­ers’ hands, with an­glers se­duced into buy­ing sev­eral lines, ei­ther to make dou­bly sure they have one that suits their rod, or sim­ply to keep up with the Jone­ses. Match an­gler Rob Ed­munds, how­ever, feels that the in­dustr y is be­ing crit­i­cised sim­ply for re­spond­ing to cus­tomers’ de­mand for more choice and also to skill de­fi­cien­cies among less-ex­pe­ri­enced an­glers. “The AFTM scale is based on the weight of the f ly line’s f irst 30 feet, the leng th that needs to be aeri­alised to load the rod cor­rectly,” he ex­plains, “but tackle com­pa­nies know that the aver­age an­gler is not a great caster and can’t hold 30 feet of f ly line air­borne or dou­ble-haul, so con­se­quently never gen­er­ates suf­fi­cient line speed to load the rod cor­rectly. “The sim­ple an­swer is mak­ing the line heav­ier by half or one full line size, while still call­ing it 7 w t, for ex­am­ple. This means the an­gler now only needs, say, 20 feet of line out­side the tip ring to load the rod cor­rectly. “The rea­son you get so many dif­fer­ent ta­pers, mean­while, is be­cause they are de­signed to do ver y dif­fer­ent things. Over the last 10 years, for ex­am­ple, there has been a grow th in preda­tor f ly-fish­ing, in­volv­ing bulk y f lies that call for a short, blunt ta­per. You need dif­fer­ent lines for dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions.” We asked Rob and sev­eral other lead­ing an­glers to com­ment on the state of the f ly line mar­ket and how the novice might ne­go­ti­ate it. While all agreed that the area is a mine­field (“Each AFTM line rat­ing cov­ers a small range of weights,” 2009 World Cham­pion Iain Barr re­minded us, “so one man­u­fac­turer’s 7wt may not be the same as an­other’s 7 w t.”) there is a way through it for the non-tackle geeks among us. Tr y-be­fore-you-by is ob­vi­ously king but for the ty pi­cal be­gin­ner/im­prover, match­ing rod and line weights is a fal­lacy, says Rob Ed­munds: the ideal is an over-matched line. “I’d ad­vise a novice just to buy a stan­dard weight-for­ward or ‘WF’ line and ig­nore any thing spe­cial­ist - ‘Bug Ta­per’, ‘Ex­treme ta­per’ etc - un­til he’s ex­pe­ri­enced enough to know what he needs in that re­spect,” he says. “Then go up one line size from what it says on your rod. ‘Over-lin­ing’ the rod like that will make a huge dif­fer­ence to your cast­ing.” Our colum­nist Peter Cock­will only par­tially agrees. “If highly-qualif ied tech­ni­cal peo­ple, of­ten cham­pion cast­ers, have de­signed a tool to han­dle a 7wt line then how come ‘Joe An­gler’ knows more and says that it should work best with an 8wt line?” he asks. “That said, there’s lit­tle need to go beyond a ba­sic weight-for­ward line of the cor­rect rat­ing, as cast­ing stan­dards gen­er­ally aren’t great. Only those who work at their cast­ing can ap­pre­ci­ate the many dif­fer­ent lines.” Iain Barr, mean­while, would take Ed­munds’ ar­gu­ment a notch fur­ther. “If a com­plete be­gin­ner, al­ways go up two line rat­ings; one if an in­ter­me­di­ate an­gler,” he says. “The rod loads quicker with quicker line speed and you cast fur­ther, re­quir­ing fewer false casts. More time on the wa­ter for your f lies and less wear on your arm. “Re­tail­ers are too quick to match the line and rod AFTM weights. They should in­stead as­sess their cus­tomers’ cast­ing abil­ity and iden­tif y what’s right for them based on that.”

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