Cause And Effect

Cause And Effect

I'll occasionally see a reference to "overlining" or "underlining" a rod. What is the practical effect of casting a line one line-weight heavier than the

  • By: Paul Guernsey
  • and Buzz Bryson
I'll occasionally see a reference to "overlining" or "underlining" a rod. What is the practical effect of casting a line one line-weight heavier than the rod is designated for? And what is the effect of casting a line one size smaller than the rod?

The answer depends not only on the designated weights of the fly line and rod, but also on the length of line you are casting.

Rods are designed to optimize performance with the matching weight of line. Because fly-line weight is based on the first 30 feet (less any level tip), one would think the rod would be designed to balance with that 30 feet of matching line. For trout rods, this is generally true. However, since most heavier-weight rods, beginning at 7- or 8-weight and going up, are mostly used in distance-casting situations (saltwater flats, large rivers or lakes, etc.), rod designers set them up to not only cast longer lines, but to carry more line in the air while false casting-sometimes 40 feet or more. (And most line makers offer "distance" weight-forward lines with bellies of 40 or more feet.)

Generally, each five feet or so of belly-length beyond the initial 30 feet adds the equivalent of one line weight to the load the rod is carrying. So an 8-weight rod will load about the same when carrying either 40 feet of 8-weight line or 30 feet of a 10-weight line. Conversely, if it's aerializing 30 feet of 8-weight line, it might feel somewhat underloaded to some casters.

To more directly answer your question, the effect of casting a heavier- or lighter-weight line than the rod is rated for is that same as casting a longer or shorter length of the rated weight of line. The rod will feel less loaded with a lighter (or shorter) line, and more loaded with a heavier (or longer) line.

Depending upon the rod and the caster, there may or may not be a noticeable difference in line speed and loop size. A lighter line won't flex the rod as deeply, and the rod will cast more in the tip, giving tighter loops and higher line speed. The opposite would be true with a heavier line. Interestingly, one line maker told me that most anglers seem to prefer a bit heavier line on rods than most rod designers do. -B.B.

I live in British Columbia, and I am looking to buy some new fly lines for my 9 foot, 8-weight rod. I do a lot of steelheading and coastal fishing for the various salmon species, as well as the occasional trout. A friend suggested that I get a multi-tip fly line instead of buying a whole bunch of regular lines. What do you think of them?

I've tried the multi-tip lines from a couple of manufacturers. I've also made my own interchangeable head lines for a number of years. Generally, they work well, allowing you to cover a wide range of depths, and getting extra distance by changing running lines. However, in order to use them, you have to like, or at least learn to live with, loop-to-loop connections.

Most heads will be in the mid 20-foot to low 30-foot range in length. When retrieving the fly, most of us generally work it up to within 10 or 15 feet of the rod tip, close enough to have that loop-to-loop connection go well inside the guides. We then have to false cast the loop back out to aerialize enough line for the next cast. The rattle that the loop makes as it moves through the guides is about the only drawback I can see, other than price.

If the rattle is OK, but the price isn't, consider making up a set of your own shooting heads. There's been a lot of discussion on heads on Dan Blanton's online bulletin board ( and I'd suggest you look there. Do notice that varying the running line (monofilament, floating line, sinking line) can offer options as well as changing the heads. The multi-tips are definitely a viable choice. Before making a final decision, I'd try and test-cast one if at all possible. -B.B.

I've been fly-tying for about a year, and I really enjoy it. But rather than invariably using a "recipe," sometimes I'll just get inspired, grab a bunch of material, wind it onto a hook and "invent" something. I sometimes catch fish on my inventions, too. In fact often the wildest-colored ones work well for me. However, I've got a couple of friends who tell me that it's not really fly-tying unless I'm following an accepted pattern, and any fish I take on one of my "one-of-a-kinds" is not really a legitimate catch. What do you think?

I think you need to find a few fishing friends with imagination and a sense of fun. After all, fun is what fishing is supposed to be all about-and you seem to be having plenty of it catching fish on your feathered inspirations. Keep at it, and don't let the stiffs get you down.

The only other advice I'd give you is to avoid going so crazy at the tying table that you neglect to improve your abilities by practicing some of the standard techniques as well as learning new ones. I think you'll find that mastering fly-tying skills will bring you almost as much satisfaction as concocting an eccentric but effective fly. -P.G.