Trout Fisherman readers have their say
YOUR ‘Weight Botchers’ article (TF 515) highlights the minefield surrounding the AFTM system for rating fly lines, and offers a lot of useful advice. Overlining the rod by one or even two AFTM line sizes as suggested would certainly help novices load the stiff, fast-actioned rods we use these days. However, at the risk of being described a “tackle geek”, I don’t think the solution’s as simple as that. For a start, as Iain Barr points out, each AFTM line number (rating) covers a small range of weights, so lines from different manufacturers, even with identical rating, may not weigh the same. The differences might not be too noticeable but could still to some extent affect the amount of over-lining required. Also, of course, the stiffer the rod, the more over-lining that’s needed. Another consideration before deciding to over-line is whether the line has been deliberately overweighted and I’m not sure the manufacturers always tell us when they do this. Even so, as the article points out, the information provided is often far too vague. How many line sizes heavier is “slightly overweighted” for goodness sake? And let’s not forget there are still many lines out there that aren’t overweighted at all. An industry code of conduct requiring manufacturers to always specify if and by exactly how much their lines are overweighted, would end this confusion. Is this too much to ask? Anglers could then choose to avoid overweighted lines and implement your suggestions regarding over-lining, or do the exact opposite - but, if you value your rod and particularly if it’s on the soft side, probably not both! A slightly more complicated alternative that would serve the same purpose, would be to insist that as well as the AFTM line rating, the line’s actual AFTM weight was displayed on the packaging, which some manufacturers already do. Checking this weight against the rating’s weight range is all that would be necessary to identify overweighting. There is also the question of head length. The longer and therefore heavier the head, the more difficult it is to aerialise (but the greater the distance potential), and while our fast-actioned rods are designed for this, individual casting ability must also be taken into account. As we know, a weight-forward (WF) line works best when all the head is aerialised. This means a line with a 60-foot head say, is absolutely useless to an angler who can only cope with a 40-foot one - he’d obviously be trying to shoot 20 feet of thick head rather than thin running line. In other words, head length must be tailored to casting ability, so it’s crucial to know what this is. Again the industry could help by stipulating that head length details are always provided. When the AFTM system was established in 1962, it was deliberately based on the weight of the first 30 feet of line because this was the normal WF head length at the time. However, things have moved on and with such a wide range of specialised lines available now, heads are very variable and usually much longer. This means the AFTM system can now only serve as a guide and some argue it is so outdated it should be replaced. An alternative system based solely on head length and weight has been proposed, which I believe is the current approach to salmon lines. It remains to be seen whether this is the way forwards. In the meantime having more precise information at our disposal along the lines I’ve suggested, would help end the current line-purchase lottery and prevent all those frustrating and expensive mistakes. (Dr) Vernon Wood, GAIA member
Editor’ s reply: Thanks Vernon, some very good suggestions and insights here. Perhaps the trade will oblige.
STAR LETTER PRIZE Dr Wood wins a £50 voucher to spend with Fly Only.