Paul Arden | Monday, 18 January 2021

Ashly and I went down the lake to a remote fishing spot last week because there were rumours of another lockdown. It turns out that there are renewed lockdowns here in Malaysia but fortunately the district where my boat floats around is still lockdown free. Phew! The fishing was very slow by the way, there are babies around (Snakehead) but the very high water level is seeing them hiding in the jungle undergrowth and almost impossible to find. This should change soon now that it’s almost stopped raining.

The end of the Wet Season is a happy time here. The trees bloom, Snakehead teach their babies the ways of the Jungle and the rivers are clear. This last event in particular is very exciting news for the Sungai Tiang project. As soon as the river clears I’ll make a final trip up north to prepare the Orang Asli for fly fishing guiding operations on the river which are starting very soon.

Interstate travel is not currently permitted but that won’t last forever. The Dry Season is primetime for fishing this river and I’ll be very excited to actually see some paying customers fishing the river. I will be around to assist the guides and make sure everything runs smoothly. I take no remuneration for this, so if you bring me gifts of cheese and wine this will undoubtedly mean that you will catch more and bigger fish!

I’m looking forward to this project being a huge success. It’s great for Malaysian fishing, it’s great for the river and it’s great for the local Orang Asli community. We will also be filming a TV episode here sometime in March! Look out world!

At this time of year, after the Wet, the river becomes gin clear. There are plenty of Jungle Perch in the river too, having remained after their spawning run. And of course sight-fishing for Copper and Red Mahseer is at its best. Usually it doesn’t rain here for about three months – not a drop! – so no dramas about dirty water! I shall get Sungai Tiang fishing info up and running on the Internet very shortly.

I very much doubt that we will have any International visitors for the first half of the year, so I hope to see plenty of Malaysian fly fishers visit this unique and charming river over the next months and if you are a non-fly fisher or have a non-flyfishing friend then you/they can certainly learn here. Basically in this case I will be teaching the Orang Asli to teach you. Perfect!

Last week in my FP, I mentioned that I’ve long been of the opinion that the idea which I often read – that heavier lines load the rod quicker which in turn gives faster shots – is erroneous. In fact I’ve long believed that this is exactly the wrong information! But before I talk about this, let me clear things up with my understanding and usage of the AFTM/AFFTA line weights system.

The AFTM system was originally devised as the fly line standard. Lines were weighed to the first 10 yards (minus any level tip) and according to this weight were given a number. Unfortunately the system is non-linear and there are some pretty big jumps between the higher line classes. But by and large it has worked pretty well. The idea was that you could buy a rod with a line number on it (back then it was usually a range of numbers) and purchase a line with the corresponding number and it would work. Of course it *always* “works” if you are a good caster, but there is always a certain line weight, that according to your abilities and preferences, is optimal.

It has been my job in the past, many times in fact, to assess rods for a line number. This isn’t rod design as I know it of course; rod design would be to design a rod for a line, not match a line to a rod, but many companies who buy from the Far East do it this way. About 25 years ago I tested about 50 rods for Shakespeare, with a range of lines. But I’ve also done it for three other companies - one large, two small.

Now for me, to find out what is optimal, I go through a range of casts with different lines. A fly rod generally is used for short, leader-only, overhead casts and roll casts with only a metre or two of flyline outside the tip, at one end of the spectrum, through to a long 60 or more foot carry shooting to 100’ plus, at the other end. And a nice rod/line combination for practical fishing, should be quite at home making both short and long casts, feel something weight-wise up close and yet still feel responsive with a longer carry.

There is certainly a difference between being able to double haul or not. I would suggest that if you can’t double haul then increasing the line weight by 1 AFFTA will most certainly help in most circumstances. But if you can’t double haul then you really should learn. It’s not difficult and it will change your life. You can learn from this page - https://www.sexyloops.com/flycast/the-double-haul/

You might wonder why this is the case? Why a line weight heavier if you can’t double haul? Me too and I have some theories about it and it’s a good one for a Board discussion.  I know it to be the case through trial and error with myself and teaching others.

Now something happened and it started to happen at least 30 years ago. Airflo started making lines heavier than standard. I suspect this was to compensate for using polyurethane, but that’s a guess. They were interesting lines because they were marketed as non-stretch and memory-free. However they were only non-stretch, which made it impossible to stretch out the memory which they all had!!!

Slightly more recently Cortland started making their lines half a line weight heavier, without telling anyone. SA tried to find out why some fly anglers preferred Cortland lines to their own. Since, to their minds, everything about their lines was better, the only difference they could find was this small increase in weight. And that’s when 1/2WT heavier lines started to appear on the market.

Now it’s gone nuts. Trying to find a line that actually weighs what it should do is not simply a matter of reading the number on the box, but you have to check out the manufacturer’s website for details. For example RIO’s saltwater lines are usually exactly 1 line weight heavier. So that’s easy. If you want a 10WT line you buy the box that says 9WT!! WTF?!

So the question is, why in general have lines become heavier than AFFTA standard? This is a bloody good question. There are two possible answers. The first is that many rod manufacturers are making their rods too stiff. Years back I asked Jerry at Sage what lines he was using to test his rods and one was a GPX. So that’s already 1/2 weight heavier right there. And he’s a great caster too with a tight, compact stroke. Sage have  marketed the idea that fast/stiff rods are for “excellent casters” and lots of casters have bought them hoping to be excellent, only to find out that they can’t make them work. Bill Hanneman couldn’t make them work either and so invented the CCS system! Of course Sage being a market leader means that many companies copy them. So yes we have a lot of (relatively) stiff rods out there!

The second possibility, is that most casters - as in the majority - just don’t have the adjustments in their stroke to handle stiff rods. It’s definitely an acquired skill. And if you can’t double haul (please learn) and you have a stiff rod (relatively) then going up one, two, three, four line weights is going to put the fly out there, somehow.

40 years ago we used to use much softer rods than at present. My first rod was a fibreglass – yes, surprising, I really am this long in the tooth! And my first carbon rod, a couple of years later, was not too dissimilar in stiffness to the fibreglass! So uplining a stiff rod to make it bend more, is not too different to how we used to fish when I was a handsome boy.

But woe betide anyone who buys the rod before the line! If you are wanting to fish a five weight outfit and you buy a 5WT rod and end up putting an 8WT line on it to make it feel good, then you are not fishing a 5WT outfit but instead an 8WT and your small flies and light tippets will be useless! The correct way to purchase a rod is to first decide upon what line you would like to fish. It may very well be that for your 5WT line a “3WT rod” might suit you better. It goes fly (size/weight) -> line (weight/profile – true weight, not what it says on the box) -> rod (sexy/unsexy).

On the Internet countless times I’ve read “what line should I put on this rod?”  I can’t ever remember reading anyone asking what rod should I use to cast this line? But that’s the correct way to do it. That’s actually how we design rods – at least that’s “proper rod design” as I know it. Start with the line to design the rod.

Talking of which, when we design Sexyloops rods we use AFFTA conforming fly lines. They would be very different rods if we were using a “brick on a string” line. In other words with the HT4, it was designed using a genuine 4WT line (that actually weighed 120 grains at 10 yards) and I would think that you would find this to be very nice. I personally do not like fishing a 5 line on this rod. Of course it will handle it but it doesn’t feel optimised to me... and I lose line speed!

So let’s go back to those 1/2 or mid-AFFTA weight lines that are very common nowadays and the original argument that I often read, that they are good for “quick loading and fast shots”. This is incorrect information. In order to show this I devised a cunning experiment to emphasise Uplining/Downlining. Instead of 1/2 up I went a full line up and instead of half down I went two line sizes down. Instead of making single shots, which are difficult to measure, I made ten false casts. (I point that last bit out because a gentleman on YouTube said I didn’t need so many false casts when fishing!! :))) If you watch the embedded video above you can clearly see that going lighter (and not heavier) actually speeds the shot. A false cast cycle underlined this way, at my maximum speed, took 1.27s with the 4 line and overlined with the 7 line took 1.74s.

However... Lasse tried the same experiment yesterday and got a different result!! So I’ve redone my experiment with accurately measured carry lengths of 8, 12 and 16m. I also switched from the short WF4 line I was using to a DT4 in case this was making a difference. Results 7WT: 0.89s (8m), 1.16s (12m), 1.6s (16m). 4WT: 0.69s (8m), 1.14s (12m), 1.47s (16m). Which are closer results but the lighter line is still faster.]

How important is that? Probably where you are not important at all! Where I am fractions of a second can actually make a difference. When dealing with 1/2WT lines I use 1/2WT under. Does that make much of a difference? No, I don’t think so! Does it make any difference? A small amount but it’s going to be marginal. And while I have experimented with much stiffer rod combinations, I think I am pretty much optimised where I am. I could go faster still but this feels right to me. After all, speed without accuracy is of little use.

Of course there is much more to line and rod choice than speed! We have fly size, we have anticipated fishing distances, we have other fishing considerations (sensitivity, delicacy and so on), we have that very important Roll Cast to include, the sort of rod action and stiffness we want for fish fighting and so on.

All I can say is that the argument that 1/2 WT heavier lines are speeding up your shot is not correct. The truth is that it is potentially slowing it, but not by very much! The thing that actually matters, is that once you have decided what line it is that you want to fish, then it’s about what rod action *feels* right for you when casting it. And actually only you know that!


The fishing is a bit slow at the moment, at least for the fishing I like to do. But I think very quickly it’s all about to happen. As soon as the lake level starts to drop then the babies will start to magically appear and it’s going to be some great fishing. Also I need to get up into Sungai Tiang as mentioned earlier. It’s really great to have a few projects on the go.

This week I plan to fit out the back of the Battleship for guests (make it sexier). I’m fishing every day of course - haven’t missed a day so far Bernd! And I’ll be checking the east side of the lake shortly. I often get the first babies fishing action of the year in that part of the lake.

We are flat out with HT10 orders at the moment. And are waiting for a huge blank shipment to arrive from Spain. First it was stuck with the Covid variation that appeared in the UK, closing the ports. And now it’s stuck with Brexit paperwork. Oh how we make life difficult for ourselves!

Apart from that life is good. Have a great week all!

Cheers, Paul

PS as always if you have any enquiries you can reach me on paul@sexyloops.com If you don't get an answer please check your spam box and/or resend. I answer all my email! :)