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DIY Shooting Heads 3
by Lars Chr. Bentson

Now that I've given some guidelines to the choosing of shootingheads, I will quickly go over which applications the different runninglines have. Generally, the lighter the outfit the thinner the runningline. If you choose monofilament, you should make sure the breaking strain is high enough for the rod you're going to use/the fish you're going to/hoping to catch. If you choose to use ordinary, coated runninglines you can use the following guide:

9 -10 wt. Rods: 0.31- 0.34
7 - 8 wt. Rods: 0.029
5 - 6 wt. Rods: 0.024 - 0.027

All brands may not be available in all thicknesses. For instance as far as I'm aware, Rio is the only brand making a 0.024 coated runningline (monofilament core).

Breaking strains

Heavier rods may cast really well with a thinner runningline and I sometimes use a 0.024 on my 7-wt myself, but then enters another issue, one of durability. It is obvious that a heavy outfit takes a hard toll on a thin runningline.

When fishing monofilament runninglines your primary concern should be breaking strain. Make sure the breaking strain is lower than the backing you're using and yet higher than the heaviest tippet you expect to be using. In my experience, you should never go below 15 lbs. Besides, the distance gained from going down in breaking strain is so little. Monofilament has one great advantage over all other types of runningline. As well as being very durable, it's cheap :-) Especially if you choose/prefer to fish with the traditional spinning-lines. Yellow Stren and Trilene XT Solar are both good and if you can't get those, look out for a line that is somewhat stiff to the touch this will help prevent tangles.

Monofilament runningline is difficult to handle and is easily lost when falsecasting if your hands are cold and wet. Also I find that a strippingbasket of some sort is a must when fishing monofilament runninglines (any type really). To cut things short, I'll say that the best out there is the one from Orvis. It's expensive, I know. But in my experience, many have tried making their own (and succeeded), but the durability of these is questionable. Once and for all, buy an Orvis it RULES!!!

(Disclaimer: Vikings as well as having peculiar bag-fetish problems, and beards, have a tendency to get overly excited about the little things - Paul :)

Fishing the Head

Fishing the shootinghead is obviously much like fishing any other line. Cast, manipulate, retrieve and re-cast. On the last point I might add that I usually retrieve the head until half of it is left outside the tip ring. I then slowly raise the rod, wiggling the tip effectively performing a dibble. This has two rather nice advantages. I get to fish the water immediately in front of me and it conveniently brings back to rod into a roll-cast position, which I use to aerialise the line in order to re-cast. This is a neat, clean and swift way to lift the line off the water.

I find that the most versatile type of runningline for the kind of fishing I do, is a coated one. The monofilament types are really good when fishing in a tail wind, but they are quite useless in windless conditions and into the wind they are downright hopeless. There is, in most brands, quite a lot of stretch and therefore it can be difficult to set the hook at a distance (which is bad), but once the hook is set, the monofilament types are easier to lift off the water (which is good)!

In crosswinds I also find that monofilament types have too little resistance to make the line cut through the wind (I suspect some of the Board members might disagree here :-). They are so light that in a crosswind they simply get pulled out of the basket too easy and form a large, downwind curve resulting in less distance and poor contact to the fly.

Fishing the braided types of runninglines is a real bliss, if you can ignore the sound they make going through the rings :-). There is absolutely no stretch in these lines which gives a superior contact to the fly, making it easy to feel even the most gentle of takes. They are quite hard on the guides however, as I said earlier.

For my 6-wt, I usually choose a 0.024 coated runningline. This line is the correct compromise between enough resistance in the lower leg of the cast to be OK in no-wind conditions and yet being thin enough to really produce some long casts. It will also produce enough resistance to cast fairly good in a crosswind. In strong winds from the front or the side, I'd usually choose a WF-line anyway if space allows it.

Getting Connected

Then there is the issue of connecting the shootinghead to the runningline. This can be done in several different ways, but some are better than others. Provided both the shootinghead and the runningline have braided Dacron cores, the best solution is to make a blind splice loop on both parts and simply join these together. This has the great advantage of allowing the angler to change the head within minutes. A blind splice is really quite easy to make, but it does take some practice to get it down right. Follow this description:


Once you've found a length/weight of your head that suits both you and your rod, take a piece of stout monofilament (say 20lbs BS) and make a noose. Using the noose, strip off the coating a centimetre at a time. You're going to need about 5 cm of exposed core (fig 1).


Once this is done, fray the end with a thin needle, only a centimetre or so and cut away one half of the frayed part. Again using the thin needle, insert it in the core about 1.5 centimetres over where the coating ends and work it down the centre to exit where coating begins. Make sure it goes straight down the centre of the core!!!


Now take a long piece of say 10lbs BS mono and thread the needle with both ends of this (fig 2) and pull it through the core, not completely you'll want the mono forming a noose pointing towards the end of the exposed core, the two tag ends towards the tip of the head.

Insert the frayed end into the noose (fig 3) and pull tight and gently pull the core back through itself.

Adjust the size of the loop and pull tight (fig 4) and finally cut off surplus. If you want, you can whip the splice with tying thread. In that case, don't cut off the surplus. Attach the thread and whip over a centimetre or so and then fold back the surplus and tie this down as well this does give you double insurance. I rarely whip over the splice myself and I've yet to see one open on me.

pulling some more

Now, in either case, coat the splice with clear, soft PVC glue (I use something called Bison, but Loop makes something called Knot Preserver that also works fine and Loon has their Knot Sense) to make a smooth transition and snip-snap and Bob's your Auntie!!! (fig 5)


You will however need to coat two or three times. If you wish, you may Superglue the splice before adding the PVC-glue, but I doubt whether this has any effect.

If you use monofilament, you should either just tie the RL directly to the SH using a nail- or needle knot. I you wish to have the opportunity to change heads, I have a little trick I invented myself that I think is quite nifty :-)

Following the procedure described above, make a loop in a 10 cm long piece of runningline that you cut from a WF-line. Leave about 1 cm of coated line after the loop is completed and attach this to the mono using a regular nailknot! It works just fine, trust me.....

With coated runninglines and a monofilament core, you can't make a blindsplice and so one must turn to the braided loop, which is basically a sleeve you pull over the line and secure either with a small pice of flexible tube or a small whipping of thread. These sleeves are also easy to make yourself, following the description of the blindsplice and the same goes for making splices on the braided types of runnninglines.

Next week: Leaders, Flip-flops and Viking Plunder Casts.

Lars Chr. Bentson

Oh and a BIG THANK YOU!! to Carl for putting the images together for this article; he's actually getting quite good at this!

Related reading: shooting heads 1 and 2

"Viking" Lars is an archeologist and EFFF instructor. An amazing flytyer and part of last year's Denmark or Bust team, he believes that flycasting should be an adventure.


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