Whether the sport is baseball, tennis, golf or saltwater fly-fishing, the pros choose gear that enables them to play their game most efficiently and effectively, and to enjoy it to the fullest. In general, fly-fishing pros have honed their fly-line selections to those proven to be most effective. As you reflect on the choices of several fly-fishing pros, take note of that apparent simplicity as you consider its versatility.
Flip Pallot, longtime Florida flats guide and host of the acclaimed Walker’s Cay Chronicles, boiled down his choices to two primary line types. “Since so many saltwater situations involve sight fishing, the angler needs to focus on lines that work best at those short distances of 20 to 50 feet. I stood on the back of a boat for 15 years, watching people struggle with their casts. A big part of the problem was that they were not using a line designed for short casts. Most [fly lines] had a long belly and thin running line. What was needed was a line with a shorter belly [to help load the rod more quickly], and a thicker running line to support the loop.” Pallot collaborated with Jim Teeny to develop such a line, aptly named the Flip Pallot Saltwater Sight Line. “The other line I use is the intermediate-density monocore line.” He did acknowledge using some sinking lines as conditions demanded, but stressed that novices need to learn to master casting the floating and intermediate lines first.
Rick Ruoff is a highly respected flats fisher and guide. “I fish mostly for sighted fish. The line I use 95 percent of the time is a standard weight-forward floater like the Orvis Wonderline. No wind-cutters, no fog-cutters, no heads, no how. The other 5 percent of the time, I’ll use a 200- to 400-grain sinking-head line and a clear, Stillwater-type line. The clear line not only works well in lakes for nymphing [after all, Rick is now a Montana resident!], it’s also great when you don’t have a sighted target but know about where the fish will be, such as when snook fishing. It’s also perfect for tarpon when they’re difficult and when I’m using a heavier line weight.”
In contrast, Ed Jaworowski fishes primarily the mid- and northeast Atlantic coasts, where saltwater fly-fishing has boomed for stripers, bluefish, bonito and false albacore. “The vast majority of my fishing is with a clear intermediate. It will fish shallow enough to work in 4 to 5 feet of water, but gets deep enough to get under the ripples for wading and surf fishing. I also use a line with a fast-sinking head, such as the Airflo Depth Finder, to get down. The third line, which I hardly ever use, is a floater for fishing poppers for blues and the like. And occasionally, I’ll use a full sinking line because it keeps the fly down all the way back to the boat.”
Dan Blanton is known for advocating shooting heads for their versatility, but he isn’t blindly wedded to them. “Shooting heads won’t ever do all the work for salt water. To fish for anything that swims, all over the world, I’d choose the following: For flats fishing, such as in the Keys, I’d have three full-length lines. These would be a weight-forward floating line, a clear-tip line and a full-length clear line. And I’d always have a shooting-head system. I always overline [the head system] by two sizes, and all the heads are basically 30-foot lengths; that’s the best length for practical fly-fishing.”
Blanton’s selection of heads includes a floater, clear intermediate and Type II, III and V sinkers. And he never leaves home without some heads made up from Cortland’s LC-13. He has further refined his head system to what he calls “mix-and-match” tips. With that system, he may construct a head by mixing a section of Type II line with a Type V tip. Blanton also typically carries two types of running line. “On one spool I’ll have a monofilament-type running line, not the braided kind. On another, I’ll use a coated shooting line, such as SA’s Mastery Saltwater running line. With that system, I can fish for anything anywhere in the world.”
Nick Curcione has recently moved back to the East Coast after a long teaching career in California. He has fished extensively on both coasts and elsewhere around the world. “On both the East Coast and the West Coast, and so much of the time in other places – except for flats fishing – I use heads probably 95 percent of the time. Offshore, I’ll use heads that are only 15 to 20 feet long, because with any head, you can’t make a cast until it is outside the tip. So you mostly want heads of 30 feet and under. When you’re teasing fish up behind the boat, you have to be able to cast quickly. I have the head and sufficient running line stripped onto the deck, and with a short head, it’s one backcast and bing! – the line is right in the water. And those big poppers and streamers used in offshore fishing cast great with a short head.”