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dougm 04-04-2005 06:07 PM

the Shooter Revisited–Part 3
Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair:
Revisiting The Shooters

Part Three

Doug Macnair

The best usually comes last, and I see no reason to change this axiom. However, for those of you who didn't tune in to parts 1 & 2, be advised that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This series can best be understood by beginning at the beginning and ending at the end.

Without question, modern technology has, indeed, seen fit to improve the shooters and, more importantly, the running lines. Remember that this series is about (1) ease of handling, (2) control, (3) comfort, and (4) distance. Before giving my general comments about the shooters and running lines, allow me to pay my compliments to Airflo and Scientific Anglers for their innovations in the shooter/running line department.
Airflo's Multi-Head System. No question about it the new Multi-Head System, consisting of an array of interchangeable heads and running lines, offers any fly fisher a big edge in their ability to comfortably and conveniently reach out a bit further than ever before, simply and easily.

One of the truly new innovations - the interlocking "welded" loops integral to both heads and running lines - makes the process of linking or changing out heads a snap. Besides, the loops are color-coded making it very difficult to hang the wrong combination -- even if your eyes are old like mine.

When it comes to casting any combination of this system, look forward to a new experience. When conditions warrant, take as much of the head as you like inside the tip-top. It simply will not affect the smoothness of the cast. Both the head and running line will zip merrily through the guides as if the two separate pieces were one contiguous line -- and I mean zip! No overhang complex here.

If you asked me how these lines feel in your line hand, my answer would be, "smooth and supple." They feel good! Just the way the line feels gives confidence to the next cast. Once other important point: both the heads and running lines don't seem to get dirty. Don't ask me why, ask Airflo. However, cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to fly lines. Staying clean makes the fresh water cleanup after running through the salt a simple task.

Suffice it to say that Airflo's Multi-Head System earns high marks across the board. It represents a great way to garner a multiple line fly fishing capability for far less money than a similar but separate set of lines would cost. Try it! You will be glad you did.
Scientific Anglers Quad-Tip System. Rig for the salt or freshwater and the first cast will tell you that a wise choice was made when you decided to spring for the Quad-Tip. Simply stated, it gets "A" across the board. It's easy to control, comfortable to the hand, handles like a dream, and is a delight to cast. In sum, it's tight lines and sweet dreams.

I'll never forget the day my Quad-Tip 10-weight and I ventured to the salt flats. Accompanied by my trusty companion, Horse, I heard the distant rumble of thunder echo from the cloudless sky. Surely, the Ancient Fish Gods had shuttered fearing the return this intruder. (Most of you will recall that "Horse" is in reality a G. Loomis GLX Mega 10/11-weight rod.)

I rigged the outfit with a 7 1/2-ft. leader and a deceiver, stripped off the line until a single wrap remained to cover the backing. With the salt Quad, that's about 100 feet of line with leader.

As an aside, I know that everyone who is anyone these days casts 100 feet or more with every cast -- that is, everyone but me. I don't! Call it the broken shoulder, old age or a penchant for telling the truth, I rarely cast 100 feet. Of course, some of you know that it is my practice to measure achieved distance using a tape measure instead of my calculated eyeball. Unfortunately, my tape measure has managed to embarrass more than a few folks along the way so I stopped using it. Now I use a rangefinder my wife gave me for Christmas. It's accurate to within a yard at 400 yards and not quite as obvious when I decide to question the expert who says, "Now watch me throw the entire line." To my knowledge, none of them claim to have thrown 400 yards - yet!

With that said, I finished rigging and started throwing with a couple of relatively short casts. Given the slight breeze that amounted to little or nothing, I let one go for record. I must tell you -- it's always a rewarding experience to hear an audible "thunk" as the line bottoms out against the spool. I heard it and felt it! The rod jerked in my hand. The rest of the morning consisted of repeated experiences, some well into the backing, others not so hot. However, at the end of the session a strange and wonderful thing happened. Horse proposed to the Quad 10 (he calls her Harriet), she accepted and after our return home, the two married and are living happily in their home on my rod rack.

Some might say that the Quad-Tip is not a true shooter. They would claim the head is far too short. I have a simple response: if a 25-ft. head qualifies as a head, and a 30-ft. head qualifies as a head and a 45-ft. head qualifies as a head, than a 15-ft. head can be a head too. Besides, as I said at the beginning, this is my article!

Of course, there is always the running line that runs behind the head. Some would argue that the Quad-Tip running line is not a runner at all. Right or wrong, it sure as hell doesn't matter to me. Having said that, let me point out that there are those who believe that "diameter" is the key to running lines: to gain distance, they believe the running line must be extremely thin. This is not necessarily true. Instead, it seems to depend on "slickness." For example, take another look at my first try with the Headstart 5-weight head. Using a very thin runner, I achieved nothing over the original line when intact. Sometimes what appears to be logical is, in fact, not.

So how about SciAnglers 15-foot heads? I like them, especially on the flats or bay water. If the object of this drill is to comfortably catch fish at greater distances, than the array of heads included with the Quad-Tip series will more than do the job. Those not expert in resurfacing a sinking head will delight in what their humble roll cast(s) will do with a 15-ft. head. In fact, if I had a recommendation for Scientific Anglers, it would be to highlight the connection between head and running line in a brilliant color just for this purpose -- to help the more inexperienced recognize where to begin the roll cast.

The Quad-Tip System is, in my view, one of the best developments Scientific Anglers has ever done, and that's saying a lot. Try one, you'll love it!

Summary. In some ways "everything old is new again." In other ways, technology has changed the shooting head concept by innovations in line coatings, diameters and other factors influencing "slickness." Recall in Part 1 of this series, I pointed out that I had worked diligently to minimize the problem of "overhang" by replacing the traditional whipped loop on the homemade head(s) with a braided loop. In a way, it did minimize the overhang problem, but in another way it didn't help a bit.

Replacing the somewhat bulky whipped loop with braided loops did enable the head to slip inside the tip-top without a problem. However when making the cast with the head inside the guides, it was annoying to listen to the rattle of the loop connection passing through on its way out. I couldn't help but wonder whether or not the loop connectors could damage the guides if this became a long term practice. In the end, I went back to overhang … However, what's just been said is not all bad. Given an unplanned weather sequence that warrants taking the head inside the tip-top, a few casts will not hurt much of anything.

I conclude that overhang is still with us and, for that matter, will be -- unless you go for the latest combos from Airflo, SciAnglers, or some other manufacturer I couldn't review. On the other hand, don't let overhang stop you. I live with it and so can you. Grab a double-taper or an old tired weight-forward line and do it to it. But give some thought to just how long your head needs to be. Sometimes, longer accomplishes little or nothing. After selecting the length of your head, match it to one of the "new" braided running lines. They aren't expensive, so if the first one doesn't work to your satisfaction, try another, and by a different maker. You will quickly find a match that suits you. You might even try emulating my new 5-weight shooting head. It is a lot of fun to watch a "fiver" reach out a bit further than ever before. . .

To me, there is no alternative to the flexibility offered by the shooter concept unless you are financially able to afford a couple of "spool bearers" to carry your extra Abel spools. Of course, with that kind of money you shouldn't be reading this article in the first place.

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