It’s that time again when the larger tidal estuaries beckon as springtime temperatures bring them to life, and the silvery trout within. Often, covering maximum water is the key to success in such places and your typical 30' cast won't get you too far at all.
Long belly fly lines offer fantastic control and distance, however require great technique to carry and turnover. For many, shooting head systems offer a more practical solution for banging out the easy yards in every day fishing situations.
BUT WHAT IS A SHOOTING HEAD FLY LINE?
A shooting head is simply a short, dense section of fly line attached to a very thin running (shooting) line offering minimal resistance, and drag on the head in flight. Simply get the head outside the rod tip, send the cast and the heavier head pulls the thinner running line through the guides, similar to a weight forward head but more extreme.
THERE ARE MANY BENEFITS TO A SHOOTING HEAD LINE
- Quick loading, requiring minimal false casting.
- Effective in confined spaces or when back cast room is limited.
- They punch well through the wind.
- Shorter, heavier heads provide more mass, handling heavier or larger flies with ease.
- Great for covering water in estuaries or larger still waters.
- Basically a shooting head allows you to cast further, with less effort.
- You can loop on heads of different densities quickly, without changing over spools / reels.
AS WELL AS SOME CHALLENGES
- By design they lack the finesse and presentation of a longer belly line.
- They require a minimum length of line outside of the rod tip to work, so are less effective at shorter range.
- Mending line is all but impossible, the thin running line lacking the mass to move the heavier head.
- The often extreme transition between head and running line can be difficult to control.
- You must strip the running line right in to make another cast (line management).
THE SOLUTION? AN AIRFLO FORTY PLUS FLY LINE
Luckily Airflo have a modern solution in their Forty Plus range of integrated shooting head lines which makes life a lot easier for all, and creates more advantages than disadvantages.
The Airflo Forty Plus is an integrated shooting head, a balanced head system optimised for distance attached to a running line, conveniently delivered as a one piece package. This combines the benefits of a weight forward line with the casting performance of a shooting head. With its easy loading 35' head and low diameter running line the Forty Plus is designed to give you a balanced, tangle free solution for distance, the extra head length promoting a longer unrolling loop and more flight time than shorter heads.
A ridged running line provides a low friction, durable option for smoother cleaner shooting, with SuperDri technology on floating lines, and an intermediate ridge running line on all sinking models.
Another benefit of an integrated shooting head is that Airflo have eliminated the hinging effect common when attaching a thicker, denser head directly to a thin running line. Maintaining head weight, a longer rear taper solves this issue and also smooths out the cast. This also makes the connection much more durable over time.
The Forty Plus also doubles as an excellent Switch casting line in confined spaces for the two hand, and single hand spey enthusiasts.
I carry a range of Forty Plus lines from Intermediate right through to the DI7 depth charger to cover all scenarios. The intermediate running line allows your head to get deep, beyond the drop off or into the channel, without snagging up in the shallows.
The Forty plus is my personal go-to when fishing the estuaries or larger southern lakes, and helps my clients make the distance.
CASTING SHOOTING HEAD FLY LINES
Unlike weight forward lines where there are often numerous carry points, with shooting head style lines you are more limited due to short or non-existent rear tapers and thin running line unable to support the heavier head in the air.
There is little need to excessively false cast with shooting head systems: you won't gain anymore distance and the haul will build all the line speed you need. Simply straighten your head, pick it up, and shoot.
The amount of running line outside of the rod tip is referred to as the overhang, and this needs to be considered and controlled. The thin running line lacks the mass to turn over the heavier head: too much overhang and your cast will fail as energy lacks. Too little and this affects the shoot.
There is often a sweet spot for most anglers at around 2-3 feet, allowing for a double haul without running the head up into the rod tip. This also leaves minimal running line outside of the rod tip, which as mentioned, will improve the overall control of the cast.
Work your head outside of the rod tip by sweeping the rod side to side on the water, or maybe roll cast to get the head / shooting line connection clear.
I employ a smooth roll cast pickup to straighten out the head, pull back into a singular backcast to load the rod, and send it on its way. I always employ a double haul to both reduce the workload of the rod hand, and generate line speed to increase distance.
SIX TIPS FOR CASTING SHOOTING HEADS
- Stop your forward cast high to form a good loop and allow for distance
- Elevate the rod butt on the shoot to promote less friction between running line and rod guides
- Timing is everything on the release. Think stop / shoot. Release the line immediately following the stop
- Clean your line regularly and keep it free from scum to ensure a smoother, longer shoot. Warm soapy water and Whizz Lube... it's as easy as that!
- Learn to coil your line or employ a line tray to manage your running line. Surface tension gripping your running line, or a submerged intermediate line will greatly impair your shoot
- Experiment with your overhang and dial in the right length for your stroke, your rod and head system
So check out the Airflo Forty Plus range of integrated shooting heads this spring for longer, easier distance and the opportunity to cover more fish.