Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fly Fish with Mel: How to Equip for a Trip to Maldives - Fly Lines

If you thought that selecting the rod and reel was confusing enough, brace yourself for another headache.

Fly lines now come in a myriad of colours from translucent to downright gaudy. They float, sink, sink slowly, sink very quickly, sink partially and now even have multiple personalities. Fortunately, for us saltwater types, we need only pick from a small selection of an otherwise almost infinite choice.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

The Maldives bask in the sweltering heat of the tropics. Though water temperatures generally remain in the 20s(degree Celsius), the ambient temperature and some parts of the shallow flats may reach the high 30s at noon. This kind of temperature will cause traditional trout or coldwater lines to become useless. These lines typically use a single-strand monofilament core that will soften in high temperatures rendering the line unable to cast properly or turn a heavy fly.

So what you will need is a warm water or tropical line. These lines, unlike their coldwater cousins are built around a braided mono core that is capable of withstanding the incapacitating heat. Conversely, if you were to use this line in colder climates, it would stiffen to the point that the line may even crack.

Sink or Swim

So now that we've decided to get a tropical fly line, do we get one that floats or sinks? On my trips, I would take along and then choose one of three; floating, intermediate and a sink-tip.

I would normally choose a floating line if I'm fishing the surf or over very rocky drop-offs. This is to prevent the fly line from fouling in the rocks when I'm struggling with the waves, as the line remains on the surface. It also facilitates an easier pickup for a quick forward cast when a target of opportunity suddenly appears. A floating fly line with a heavy fly, for example, a deep clouser minnow, tied on will tend to lift the fly up when stripped. A 'strip-and-pause' retrieve will impart a more vertical jigging action to the fly. By changing the retrieve to a doublehanded straight retrieve, the fly will leap off the bottom and then swim straight, usually, nearer the surface. With this setup, I'm usually targeting the coral species like wrasses, groupers, emperors and GTs. My choice is either a Monic Tropical Floating Line (clear) or a Scientific Angler Bonefish Floating Line (Horizon)

If I am to be fishing mostly sand flats with scattered coral patches, I'd go for the intermediate line. The intermediate line sinks but at a slow rate of 1.5 - 2.5 inches per second. When targeting bottom feeders like bonefish and permit, you would want the fly to reach the bottom fast and for the fly to work near the bottom when stripped. A Crab fly or Crazy Charlie used with an intermediate line will quickly descend to the bottom, ready to attract the attention of a passing bonefish. If a streamer like a Deceiver is used, the line will keep the fly in mid-water even when stripped rapidly. should you be interested in using such a line, I'd recommend the Scientific Anglers bonefish taper.

As for the sink-tip, it's a combination of a floating line and an intermediate line. The main part of the line floats while the tip, translucent, sinks at a rate of about 1.8 - 2.0 ips. As I only have 6wt sink-tip, a Scientific Anglers Wet Tip Clear, I use it when I'm using my Winston XTR5 6wt. I normally use it near very deep drop-offs by the surf where I want my line to be floating but still want the fly to reach a deeper depth.

My choice of line thus depends on where I would be fishing that day. This, of course, means that prior knowledge of the terrain would be very helpful. In the absence of such information, I would go with the sink-tip as it is the most versatile.

Staying Connected

I use a braided loop on all my fly lines. This makes it easier for me to change my leader. If you don't want to be meddling with spools of leader and tippet, I would recommend using a braided loop and loop-to-loop connections. I keep pre-tied tapered leaders in small ziploc bags and change the whole leader whenever my tippet gets too short from changing flies.