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DIY Shooting Heads 4
by Lars Chr. Bentson

I wish to say a few words about leader design for shootingheads. Quite popular has become the so-called Polyleaders. These are really just a small piece of flyline. They have a monofilament core and a transparant coating, with a piece of the core exposed at the tip for attaching the tippet. These do cast quite well, but are somewhat heavy. They feel like casting a very heavy fly and bounce quite a lot when false casting. I very rarely use them, and only ever if I'm forced to fish into a headwind. They are very popular for use on doublehanders. I normally tie my own leaders since these are very flexible and I can quickly change them to suit circumstances.

When a shootinghead has almost completely unrolled, during casting, there isn't a lot of power left in the cast, and this has an impact on leader design.You will need, in my humble opinion, a long and stout butt section, a reletively short and agressive middle section and a longer tippet section.

Specific details could be these:

  • 0,63mm 100cm
  • 0,53mm 70cm
  • 0,43mm 30cm
  • 0,33mm 30cm
  • 0,279mm 40cm
  • 0,229mm 100cm.

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Bruce Richards recommends something similar here. But as with everything else in this article, these leaders that suit me and my casting style quite well, might not work for the next guy. They are merely meant as an encouragement to do some experimenting of your own. My experience is that whatever kind of leader design you prefer, you will need a long butt section to get the leader to turn over properly.

How to cast

How then to cast this beast of a line? Well, they cast pretty much like a WF-line, although there is one major difference. You cannot, as you can with a WF, be liberal with the amount of overhang. Shootingheads are very sensitive on this subject. Experienced casters can carry more overhang than beginners, and there is no saying how much is too much.

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Here is a further explanation of this technique: ) Cast the head out until there is just enough running line outside of the tip ring, so that you don't pull the connection back into the rod again when double hauling. This is probably about 3 or 4 feet. When you begin feeling confident with the shootinghead, you will be able to increase the amount of overhang as well as shoot a little more line into the final backcast. This is a technique I often use and in that final backcast, I'll actually have more overhang than I would be able to false cast. This really does increase the distance cast, even more than the extra amount of overhang in the cast. I get tighter loop with this technique, which I suspect is the reason to the increased length of the cast.

Another very important detail to remember, is that when casting a shooting head with a tailwind, you can really gain some distance by keeping the trajectory high and letting the wind carry the cast as far as possible. (No need to not take advantage of prevailing conditions on the rare occasions they are on our side :)

Leaders and casting

The length of the leader also plays an important part of the cast. Sometimes short leaders are necessary and so be it, but I prefer casting quite long leaders with my shootingheads. The leader recipe I gave above is close to 4 meters long and this is a good, standard length, but 5 meters is better. When fishing intermediate or sinking heads use somewhat shorter. This is to make sure that the fly is at a similar depth to the flyline.

You can cast a shootinghead in a number of different styles and there is no right and wrong way; the one that makes the cast go the furthest for you, is the one to use.

I remember Paul saying that his Flip Flop style of flycasting is not very well suited for shootingheads when going for maximum distance, pushing is better! And being a convert to the Flip Flop style, I'll have to agree, Flip Flopping is great and works well, but when I fish my shootingheads in the salt, I push!!!

When trying to cast as far as possible, I like to get a really long stroke with shootingheads and I do this be reaching quite far back during the drift and, coupled with the backcast shoot, this really makes the whole thing sing.

There are many ways and tricks to casting the shootinghead and many of them have been discussed on the Board and I think it falls out of the boundaries of this piece to go over them all. I felt it important to mention the overhang. Many beginners fail to see this important point.

And with this, I think I've concluded this piece on shootingheads and I hope you, the reader, have gained something from it and enjoyed reading it.

Happy days on the water (are there any unhappy ones? :)

"Viking" Lars Chr. Bentsen

Further reading: this is about longer shooting heads (something that was quite popular in the UK for a while).

"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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