Everything in in fly fishing, as well as every where else, is evolving all the time. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Some will claim that everything was better in the good old days. When I began fly fishing, I was in PVC waders and a white, PVC anorak for a jacket. Neoprene waders were the new, advanced and expensive waders featured in magazines by the pros.
So were wading jackets. I remember when I got my first pair of breathable waders. A 2nd pair of Hodgman - in 1997 (maybe ’98). Then I got a brand new pair of Hodgsman’s in 2000. The Simms breathables were there (and awesome), but way too expensive for me. It was around the same time I got my first breathable wading jacket.
I was really going to write about lines, so I better get on to that subject. When I began fly fishing in the salt, WF-lines were the norm - shooting heads were certainly used, but they were rumoured very difficult to cast and only for the seasoned experts, bordering on professionals. Then shooting heads almost completely took over the game - and for good reasons. I still recommend new fly fishers to wait getting a shooting heads until they have the double haul under good control and can shoot line, but that’s (another) different story. I still mainly (but maybe just barely) fish shooting heads in the salt.
Until a few years ago it was still app. 80% shooting heads. I used monofilament shooting lines in favourable winds; coated ones in awkward ones (head winds, basically). Dedicated “shooting heads with integrated shooting lines” (which is of course a WF-line) began emerging on the market some years ago. They first gained popularity in Sweden and have now become very popular for saltwater fly fishing in Scandinavia again.
I believe the reason is simple. Dedicated lines have been developed, many based on shooting head designs to meet the demands of cold water fly fishing. I was always (and still is) very fond of the versatility of the shooting heads. Changing density and fishing depth in a matter of minutes is a great advantage. But the “integrated shooting heads) are free of the connection between shooting head and shooting lines, they present very well, they still cast far, they work well in the wind, they definitely out perform shooting heads if you don’t use a line tray (unless it’s an intermediate line). When the shooting line is worn out, you can simply cut the head and use it as a shooting head. Or splice a new running line on to the head and keep using it as a WF line. On some of the lines, the heads are identical to shooting heads in the same series/from the same manufacturer.
The line in the PoD is a Scientific Anglers Volantis, which come as both shooting heads and “integrated shooting heads” (still just a WF-version of the same taper). The head is little longer on the WF-version, but the front taper is the same. In other words the WF-line is back! The line was developed by Flyfish Europe specifically for Scandinavian conditions. Better? Yes!
These coming, going and returning trends are by no means restricted to clothing, lines and other high-tech stuff. A few recent trends in salmon flies are also proven to be 150 years old. They may still be a novel idea by the originator, they also simply serve as an example to the fact that if you know fly fishing history, much have been thought of before. And that of course doesn’t matter what so ever… I just happen to love fly fishing history, so I notice these things :-).
Have a great weekend!