Like many things, when it comes to assembling our tackle for the rigours of a day’s fishing there are some rights and wrongs. Often too, we’re in a hurry, especially when trout are rising nearby. In our haste it’s easy to overlook one or two of the fundamentals that lead to frustration and ultimately, disaster.
The basic guidelines outlined here will help beginners avoid unnecessary pitfalls and longer term should prevent potential damage or wear to fishing equipment.
Smooth and polished, the brass ferrule fittings on old cane rods and the like could simply be pushed firmly together for a secure fit. Furthermore, being metal they were nigh on impossible to damage by hand, so even a forceful fit was rarely an issue. However, the female joint on carbon fibre or glass rods can be breached by hairline cracks if joints are rammed into position, so make a point of never pushing these rod sections together.
Instead, when assembling modern day blanks, it’s better to misalign the rod joints by some 30-40 degrees and gently snug them into place by twisting until the guides/eyes align. As for dismantling rod sections, all that’s required is to twist the sections in the opposite direction while firmly easing then apart.
FITTING THE REEL
It sounds and looks simple enough to fit a fly reel onto your rod. Generally speaking, you simply locate the foot of your reel into the openings and using the knurled ring, lock said reel in place. Why is it then that occasionally a reel drops off during mid cast, which is obviously worse if you’re afloat?
Often, we rush and don’t completely lock the reel in place. Consequently, with the repeated action of casting, our so-called locking rings can work loose. It’s vital to secure the reel properly so no play is evident and if there’s an additional locking ring (as above), make sure this is firmly located too.
STRINGING UP THE ROD
Nothing appears more straightforward than actually stringing up a rod. Yet beginners are often confused by a number of things. Firstly, they assume a fly-line exits the reel spool from its uppermost edge to remain in line with the rod rings (picture 1). However, as we ultimately use the reel for line storage, such an arrangement causes the line to wrap around your hand or rod handle when casting or retrieving. Far better control is achieved when the line exits your reel from the spool’s lower surface (picture 2).
Another common mistake sees beginners threading fly-line through the keeper ring near to the cork handle (picture 3). As seasoned rods know, this is there to accommodate our fly when moving from spot to spot (picture 4).
Finally, as we often thread our rod up using the leader, often a rod ring can easily be missed with this invisible link, especially if we’re flustered due to hurrying because fish are rising. One surefire way of ensuring the rod is strung up properly is to double the end of your fly-line over as you’re now able to spot if any rings have inadvertently been bypassed, see main image (on page left).
ADJUST THE REEL DRAG
A question that always crops up is “how light or heavy should my reel drag be set”? Before discussing this, it’s as well to touch on reducing any drag on your reel between trips. This prolongs the life of mechanical parts in any reel’s braking system.
Obviously, prior to fishing we now need to adjust the drag so it’s not in free run to prevent the spool repeatedly spinning, which in turn causes fly-line to ball up and tangle (left).
Conversely, if you overtighten the drag, the chances are that your tippet will break when a trout charges off. Ideally, your drag should be tensioned so that – if you pull on line close to the reel – the spools turns freely enough without overrun occurring.
CONNECTING YOUR LEADER TO FLY-LINE
Many prefer the loop-to-loop method of attaching leaders to fly-lines as this offers a degree of versatility by allowing changes from floating to sinking tapers. While this form of connection appears trouble-free, there is a correct and incorrect way of forming this link.
The correct method is to pass the loop of your chosen leader over the fly-line loop before pulling the narrow end of your leader through the fly-line loop (right, top), which ensures the two loops are seated by interlocking them.
By mistakenly passing the leader loop through rather than over the fly-line loop, a noose is formed (right, bottom) that can cause hinging and subsequent poor energy transition between fly-line and leader, resulting in poor turnover.
HOW TO JOIN LEADER TO LEADER
When it comes to creating a leader, or adding tippet sections, several knots exist for joining lengths of monofilament to one another. One that remains reliable and is easy to master has to be the three-turn water knot (see below).
Offer up two lengths of line that overlap by several inches. Note, if you prefer a longer dropper leg then take this into account by increasing this measurement.
Using both these lengths of mono, form a loop. Pass the downstream ends (those in the direction of the fly/tippet end) through this loop three times before drawing tight. Remember to pull on all four ends to draw the knot up evenly.
Having tightened, cut off both tag ends for a mono-to-mono connection. However, if a dropper leg is required, leave the tag end pointing towards the fly (downstream leg) long to act as your dropper.
Frustratingly, dropper legs have a habit of wrapping themselves around the main leader to create a tangled mess. A simple overhand knot (see below) makes dropper legs stand at a definite right angle, which in turn goes some way to preventing unwanted tangles.
Create your dropper leg using the three-turn water knot (see above).
Throw an overhand loop around the main line and take the tag end through this opening.
Dampen the knot and pull tight by tweaking the tag end forwards, towards the fly-line end to lock it in place. The dropper now stands at a right angle.
ATTACHING THE FLY
For knotting on a fly perhaps the best known of all knots is the tucked blood knot (below). It’s vital not to take shortcuts here and make sure you include the extra tuck for a much more secure knot in all types of monofilament. Remember to take care when using fine tippets as this knot snugs down on the main line a fraction of an inch away from the hook eye and, when drawn tight, can cause an unsightly kink here that might even weaken your tippet.
Pass loose end through the hook eye before twisting this round the main line four times.
Double back tag end and take it through the opening between hook eye and the first twist of the knot.
Now take the tag end through the large loop created when line was doubled backed.
Moisten then draw tight by pulling on both the tag end and main line. Finally, snip away surplus end.
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