Shooting head - when and where?

Shooting head - when and where?

Viking Lars | Saturday, 24 September 2022

Shooting heads are often a choice. For me, mostly when it makes my fishing a little easier and very often also for the flexibility of changing line density in two minutes. That actually makes a difference in my fishing, both in still- and running water. Sometimes shooting heads are also a necessity to fish a certain location effectively. Shooting heads excel where you have limited back cast room and obviously for repetitive distance casts.

Did you read Paul’s FP from Tuesday? In it Paul discusses the three distance zones he defines as Zone 1 - up to 25’, Zone 2 - 25-50’, Zone 3 - 50-75’. Then of course there’s Zone 4 - over 75’, but this is Sexyloops and there is no no. 4, so Zone 4 is just “a zone beyond”. This is the Sexyloops Way. These three zones and the one beyond are a good tool when deciding which line to buy and even for focused practice. When precision is paramount, a long belly WF line is the choice to make.

When do you choose shooting heads then? Well, for Zone 1, long belly WF or shooting head makes no difference. For Zone 2 I’d say that the difference is very small, still with a slight advantage to the long belly WF. My shooting heads are usually 30’-40’ long, with at least a 9’ leader, so very close to the 50’ with a very minimum of shooting line. Zone 3 and the Beyond Zone, when precision is the key, it’s 40-Love in favour of the long belly WF. And since the shooting head isn’t *necessary* in any of these - the WF long belly is of course the natural choice. Providing there’s ample space.

But sometimes, and somehow often where I fish, there’s not enough backcast room for a long belly WF-line. Sometimes there’s enough for a medium length one, and of course a short length one. Still shooting heads are my choice 80% of the time. I must stress that precision is rarely key in my salt water fishing, so even when there’s *is* room for a longer belly, I still fish the shooting head, simply because, as Paul also stated, it’s requires less false casting. Deep wading is also important every now and then, where a shorter belly is also a benefit.

In low water in Norway with enough room for a long rod and a long belly spey line, I truly enjoy fishing one. A minimum of stripping line, the elegance, the delicate presentations, superb mending capability and a nod backwards to tradition. But I’d never travel to Norway without a good selection of shooting heads for the rods I bring. This June I was in Norway fishing River Gaula. The water was not really high for the season (in fact close to perfect). But the beat I was fishing has high banks and/or trees a few feet behind the fisher and an overhead cast is impossible - long belly spey lines too. Here the shooting head excels. It’s repetitive casting and the shooting head allows me to cover the lies well as well as changing line density.
I mentioned the superb mending capabilities of the spey line, indicating that shooting heads don’t mend as well, which they don’t. You’re not left without possibilities - aerial mends are useful and you can still lift shooting line off the water and adjust swing speed.

In the video below I’m on river-right, high banks a few feet behind me, with a 14’ (maybe 15’, can’t remember). A shooting head is the only possibility to effectively cover the lies on this side of the river. Being able to cast left-hand-up helps as well. Please excuse the video quality - it was filmed on my iPhone, balanced between rocks on the bank. And if you were ever in doubt that Norway indeed is a magical place, notice that rock in the foreground, which is obviously lighter than water.

Notice that I’m stripping in a fair length of shooting line and I think the shooting head is 12m (36’), sink 2/3 and the leader 9’. I can’t turn and cast 90 degrees, which I’d like to, to fish the fly fast, but the down stream aerial mend makes up for it and gets me close enough.

That was supposed to be a few words and became some more and if you made it here - thanks for reading.

Have a great weekend!


P.S. After long deliberation and consulting other friends in the fly fishing world, I’ve decided not to take offence with Paul’s notion that one loses braincells fishing repetitve-casting-fishing. Or maybe just conclude that I have enough to still be incredibly smart, even having made millions of repetitive casts :-).