A lot of lines
By Jack Selby
After a very strange year on the Varzuga system with high fast water and fish hugging the bottom and edges of the river I decided to rethink my tackle and build myself some better contingency.
As is often the way in this industry I had accumulated a vast array of tackle and equipment and a few years ago I decided to consolidate. I made a list of the tackle I used, that which I liked and that which I never used. Everything that was outside of “used” was either given away or sold. This did leave some gaps but the money I made filled those gaps and I had a tackle room that felt ready for almost all species and destinations.
The one thing I really had nailed was Salmon fishing, from 9’6” 7wt for Iceland to 14’ 9wt for Scotland, Russia, Norway etc. Focusing on the 14’ 9wt I had done a bit of research and tested a few options and plumped for a middle ground covers all. A Rio scandi Body to which I could affix a number of different tips and a floating running line. Easy? That was the only easy part. Did I need a skagit too? Should I have got a spey line and a second spool? Did I need Mow tips? iMow tips? Versileaders? Really? How does one know?
To put it into simple context: A spey line has an integrated running line, a longer taper and is more delicate. A scandi is a shooting head requiring a separate running line but meaning it can be swapped for other densities and lengths and a skagit is a very heavy rear tapered shooting head with little forward taper to move heavy flies and tips. A spey line, often 5 times the rod length, is nicer to cast and handle, requires less stripping but needs a large D loop to power the rod and plenty of space to cast. A scandi, generally 2.5-3 times the rod length, is versatile whilst still providing some presentation in closer quarters. A skagit, 2 times the rod length plus tips, can turn over big heavy flies and heavy tips but lands something akin to a bear falling in the water.
On top of these choices you can get spey lines with interchangeable tips, shooting heads that take a multitude of tips, multiple density shooting heads, tapered tips, level tips, heavy level tips, multi density heads… So where does this all fit in to each fishing scenario. To avoid writing a book on this dark art; essentially for normal summer fishing a full spey, multi tip spey or delicate shooting head will be ideal. Coupled with a variety of poly leaders this will give you a very narrow slice of the potential options out there but cover most summer water conditions. In the spring and autumn a shooting head system allows more flexibility but requires space for all the heads and tips. In very deep fast water or very cold water a skagit is the key and can be combined into a shooting head system.
The problem comes with a lack of flexibility in case of adverse weather. Be it global warming, the earth shifting in it’s orbit or intensive farming; reliability of weather has fallen off a cliff internationally. Therefore some form of contingency is needed, some form of one size fits all. This summer I took a shooting head body and multiple density heads to the Kitza river which was big deep and cold. That gave me one shooting head and 10 tips from full float to 12ft of T14 and just about everything in between. I still think an intermediate skagit and heavier tips would have allowed me to slow the fly down better at greater depths and cover more fish. But where does it end? Does it end? Is it even possible to work out a strategy for what to use when and where and are we all in danger of over complicating.
My advice after adding a further 5 lines, 12 tips and a whole host of tip wallets, shrink tubing and poly leaders is simple. If tackle is a massive part of the process and enjoyment for you, keep collecting and practise with every line and tip to learn it’s behaviour. If not buy a Bill Drury Spey line with tips, buy a selection of polyleaders a few extra heavy 15ft tips and just go fishing. This line with tips has enough for almost any conditions and turns over even the heaviest flies with ease. A few super heavy (T14-T20) tips will cover the extremes and then all bases are covered from small size 14 skated doubles on a full float in hot summer right down to dredging a deep cold pool in early spring. Above all a full floating spey line without the option to switch tips only has it’s place if conditions are going to be perfect… Good luck with that.