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Leaders, Line, Backing at Cabela's

Leaders, Line, Backing

Author: Mike Schoby

The working parts of fly-fishing, whether it is the tippet selection, fly line, backing, shooting head, running line or sink tip are easily understood. So even if you don’t know your Hexagenia from your Pteranarcids, read on and become enlightened.

"Tie a 7X tippet section to your tapered 5X butt then tie on a number 22 tricorythiadae. And you will be into one of these beautiful Oncorhynchus Mykiss."

"My tippet to my tapered butt?" I repeated in a puzzled voice as I cut a wide berth around the obviously deranged angler on the bank.

"Man", I thought to myself, "I sure am lucky I started fly-fishing before someone told me it was so complicated"

It is hard to believe that I started fly-fishing without having the slightest idea what a tippet or a leader was (I had some faint idea that it went between the big fat line and the fly). I had never heard of backing, and since the trout fishing of my youth consisted of a creek small enough to jump across, the possibility of a 6-inch cutthroat peeling all my fly line down to the bare spool was slim to none (with a definite leaning towards none).

It has always puzzled me why people love to turn the sport of fly-fishing into such a mysterious and arcane pastime and complicate it with Latin phrases and technical jargon. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Fly Line

So many fly lines are available today that it is no wonder people tend to get confused. Fly lines are specifically tailored to fit any fishing situation - climate, fish species, water condition, casting distance, fly size, color, coating, quality and running depth. Sound complicated? It can be. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be.

In essence, it is the weight of the fly line that pulls the fly toward your intended target. Standard weight-forward floating trout lines are still the norm, (much improved over the ones just a few years ago) built for specific situations and are used 90% of the time. An angler can tailor a line to meet any need.

The Cabela’s Prestige® Plus™ series of fly line is probably one of the best all around trout lines available for the money. I have fished with this line for a season in the 5-weight floating variety and have been very pleased. The coating, which keeps the line slick for better shooting, was tough and did not wear off. The line looks as good today as it did when I spooled it onto the reel. The weight forward design is a versatile taper that allows casting everything from large Kaufmanns stones for lunker browns on the Madison to tiny spent-wing spinners to spooky rainbows on Silver Creek. This line is also available in a double taper variety which would be just the ticket for delicate presentations to spring creek trout where minimal water disturbance is paramount to success.

For lake fishermen who fish nymph patterns relatively deep, the Prestige Plus sink tip is probably the best choice. I have spent many days lounging in a float tube over submerged weedbeds where huge trout were greedily chasing down swimming damsel nymph patterns. A standard floating line would not get the fly down to the correct depth and strikes were minimal and spotty. By switching to a moderate sink tip like the F/S II, the fly got down to the right depth above the weedbed and the strikes skyrocketed. If more depth is required, the F/S IV is a great choice with its sink rate of 3 1/2 to 5 1/4 inch per second rate.

Since floating and sink tip lines are both often required, the most versatile product I have had a chance to use is the Cabela’s Prestige Plus Multi-tip fly line. This line covers all the bases in one small, easy to handle package. While the initial investment is more than a standard line, it actually pays for itself considering that you are essentially getting four fly lines in one and not having to outlay the additional expense of spare spools. Aside from cost the other major advantage is convenience. Take for example a recent trip to a clear spring creek.

This creek is slow moving and holds trout up to ten pounds. Throughout the day, the conditions can change dramatically, and the trout are very particular about observing these changes. For the angler who cannot adapt, success is often spotty or non-existent. In the morning the fish were keying-in on both green scuds and black leech patterns crawled across the bottom, with a slow, one-inch, twitch-retrieve. However, by mid-day, a good hatch of Callibaetis were starting to come off and the surface feeding came alive. Instead of switching spools and re-lining my rod, I simply stripped in my line to the polymer loop tip and unhooked the sinking tip and attached the floating tip. I then tied on a size 16 parachute Adams and was into a fish on the first cast, all in about the time it takes to type this sentence. The polymer coated loop connectors are stiff enough to keep the line from "hinging" at this seem and the floating tip is balanced to deliver perfectly smooth presentations on even the spookiest of fish.

There are times when a standard floating or sink tip will not adequatly meet the need. If you are looking for a species specific line, you can find lines to fit everything from tarpon to steelhead, in the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series with over 16 lines to choose from.
Prestige Plus Fly Line Backing
BackingBacking serves several purposes. A big fish is going to quickly run through your fly line, and you will need something to hold them. If you have a big fish on, you will argue that this is its primary goal, but it also serves another role; it fills ups the dead space on a spool. While not as critical on a large arbor reel, if fly line was wrapped directly around the shaft of an empty spool, it would retain line coils terribly since the diameter of the spool is so small. Also the amount of line retrieved per handle rotation would be minimal. By building up the spool with backing, the line does not kink as bad and more line can be retrieved quickly.

Backing is a necessity for an optimum performing system, but not just anything will work for backing material. People have tried to use 20-pound monofilament for backing material, only to discover that it stretches when it was wound on the spool under tension, it tries to expand back to its original size, often seizing up the spool on the shaft or worse yet, permanently damaging the entire reel.

For this reason, 20-pound braided dacron backing is the best choice for trout reel backing. The Cabela’s Prestige Backing is available in both 20 and 30-pound varieties and comes in white and easy to see Day-Glo chartreuse.

Tapered Leaders

Leaders connect the fly line to the fly and transfer energy from the fly line to the fly. If you are getting otherwise good casts but the wheels tend to fall off when you make the final cast and the fly just withers to the top of the pile of leader material, there is a good chance that your leader is not doing its job of transferring energy. Like line, leaders come in different sizes and varieties depending upon the desired trait. Different thicknesses, lengths, and taper ratios are necessary to correctly fish a light dry fly while something else may be more suited to turning over a large bass popper.

Traditionally, leaders were "tapered" by joining descending sizes of straight mono together until the desired length and strength were reached. More recently the taper is seamless. Both varieties are commonly used today, and both work well, the only added advantage going to the knotless variety is for weedy conditions where the individual knots pick up debris while the knotless slides through clean.
Tippet holder.
Tapered leaders have traditionally been made out of monofilament, but now Fluorocarbon material is taking center stage. The big advantage to Fluorocarbon is that it is invisible to fish as it reflects the entire light spectrum in the water. Being a dyed in the wool skeptic, I had to try this material for myself. So I took a spool of 6x Cabela’s Fluorocarbon tippet material to the ultimate proving ground, Rocky Ford Creek in Washington State. This slow moving spring creek contains the college deans of rainbow trout, and they critically look over ever item of food that goes in their mouths. If it looks fake, if it drags in the water unnaturally or if the leader glistens, these trout will reject it. I rigged up with my standard Rocky Ford fly; a green bead-body scud 20 inches under a strike indicator.

I could see the flash of several trout actively feeding on nymphs and scuds on the bottom of the pool. I drifted the nymph perfectly into their lane a dozen times; a couple times a fish would turn and look at the passing scud, but no strike followed. There was something they didn’t like.

I pulled in my line, cut off the standard tippet and replaced it with the new Fluorocarbon. I set the strike indicator the same depth. I drifted the pattern through the hole again. This time, without hesitation, a large ’bow’ turned and nailed the scud and the fight was on. Four more casts yielded three more fish out of the hole.

After that experience, I have to believe there is something to the Fluorocarbon material. Nothing except the tippet material had changed. I used the same pattern, the same depth, the same diameter (6x) and stood in the exact same spot and the results were night and day. I could dismiss one fluke fish but four out of five casts when a dozen casts with mono yielded nothing? Will Fluorocarbon make this kind of difference all the time? I don’t think so. Most trout are not as wary and most places the water is moving faster which does not allow them the time to inspect every detail of the presentation. But if you fish, Silver Creek, Depuys, Armstrong, Rocky Ford or any of the other clear spring creeks throughout the west, a couple spools may just save the day.

As you can see, little is difficult about understanding the components of fly-fishing. Hopefully, this article cleared the muddied waters and will enable you to catch more trout.

For a complete selection of Fly-Line and Backing, click here.

For a complete selection of leaders and tippets, click here.