I learned how to fly fish in the backcountry and enjoy catching redfish and snook, but I’d like to broaden my horizons. What’s the best way to put more fish on my list of captured species? – Jeremy Fogel
While game fish like trout, tarpon and snook often rise to the surface to attack forage, there are many species of sport fish that are reluctant to feed in the open. As a shallow water fly angler you probably learned how to cast with a weight forward floating line. As you know, this type of line offers a balance of distance and ease of casting with great versatility, but as you further your experiences you may want to integrate a fly line with a heavier density and faster sink rate.
Although flies can feature weighted eyes, the best way to get your offering below the surface is with a sinking fly line. Sinking lines are available in many densities and tapers to achieve a specific sink rate. While there are sinking fly lines with uniform densities, others only feature a 10-to 30-foot tip section of sinking line, which then tapers to a typical intermediate or floating line.
When selecting the appropriate sinking fly line you’ll notice on the box that the sink rate is listed in inches per second. Some of the faster sinking lines have a sink rate of 7- to 10-inches per second compared to intermediate lines that only sink an inch per second. While a manufacturer’s advertised sink rate is a good reference point, you must realize that the depth and speed to which your line actually sinks will also be determined by the boat’s drift, velocity of current and chosen fly.
If you want to experiment with a sinking line you could rig a spare spool for your existing outfit, but if you’re serious about working the depths it’s recommended you have a specialized outfit. For a great all-around rod and reel combo, a 9 or 10 weight matched with a 350-grain sink tip line will get your baits in the zone. For subsurface presentations using heavier lines you’ll find it easier to cast with rods shorter than 9 feet and you’ll also have better leverage battling big fish. If you need to get even deeper for large fish like mackerel, amberjack and crevalle, you’ll need a larger 12 weight with upwards of 500-grain line.
It is important to understand that sink tip fly lines require a different technique than traditional weight forward floating lines. While they aren’t difficult to cast and project with fewer false casts, sink tip lines cannot be picked up with a single backcast and you must strip the line so it begins to come to the surface before you can pick up and present another cast. After a cast you must give your fly line plenty of time to sink before beginning your retrieve. Many anglers employ a countdown method in relation to the advertised sink rate so they have a reference point of how deep the fly reaches. Fly-fishing is all about having fun and sink tip fly lines enable anglers to broaden their horizons and target fish that would otherwise be impossible to catch on fly. Good luck!