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Thread: Overlining?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    South Texas

    Default Overlining?

    I was recently complimented by an inustry expert for stating the best explanation on the topic of overlining he had heard in 45 years of fly-fishing, so I figured I better post it here too. The guy who started the thread on another site was talking about using an 8wt line on a 6wt rod, since a rod that he built which the blank mfg called an 8wt cast more to his liking with a 10wt line on it.

    "Keep in mind that a heavier line does not inherently fly better into the wind, a tighter loop does. To understand why, think of a golf ball versus a tennis ball. The golf ball weighs roughly 1.6 oz and the tennis ball weighs roughly 2 oz. If you teed them both up and whacked them with a Big Bertha, which would you expect to go farther? The golf ball will, due to its reduced wind resistance even though it weighs less. Casting loops work the same way.

    With equal size loops, the 8wt line will be more effective at beating the wind than the 6wt, but overlining a rod generally results in bigger loops, not smaller ones. The greater weight puts more flex in the rod, which generally increases the distance between the top and bottom of the loop.

    An 8 wt line will turn over a big/heavy fly better, but that's another matter all together."

    I'd rather hunt fish than bait deer any day.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    South Texas

    Default Re: Overlining?

    I'll see if I can get that expert to join our group as well.

    I'd rather hunt fish than bait deer any day.

  3. Default Re: Overlining?

    When I read Big Cliff's post, it looks to me like he thinks over lining is a bad idea. And he supports it with a good explanation on wind resistance.
    Did I miss something on this?

  4. Default Re: Overlining?

    Ah yes… the over-lining debate. It has caused many a quarrel and many a snarl. I have read and heard all sides of the story and all opinions… And the opinions certainly do vary. Now I respect anyone’s opinion and I’ll certainly not try to shove my beliefs down someone’s throat.

    Now I agree with Salmo… It does seem like Big Cliff is against over-lining and he has stated some good reasons for this.

    My personal feelings on over-lining have changed over the years. At first… I strongly believed that one should match the line to the rod at all cost. I did, however, think it was OK to over-line if you felt that your casting performance increased… but only as a last resort. I even over-lined my 3wt rod with a 4wt line. I also believed it was forbidden to ever underline. Why?… because this was the theory that was printed the most.

    Then one day an older gentleman came to our fly fishing club in Tyler, TX to give a presentation on fly casting. As he began to talk about underlining a fly rod, I cracked a smile, and thought he had lost what little sanity he had left. However, I figured that I should show my respect and listen to what this old fart had to say. As he explained his theory I became totally enlightened. He even took us outside and gave a detailed casting demonstration and lesson. Yes… I could see his point. There are occasions when underlining is a great idea. I was transformed.

    So my opinion now is this. For shorts casting with light rods, I think you should still match the line with the rod. You can however over-line and get away with it. It may even improve your cast if your skills are presently in the basic to intermediate range. So far small stream rods, if you feel you must, go ahead and kick it up a notch. You’re not going to making long casts anyway. For long casts it does make sense to underline because of the effective weight of the line actually traveling through the air... And yes... it may even be foolish to over-line a heavier weight rod.

    So there is my two cents. Take it for what its worth to you.

    Now… who was this old fart to cause me to think outside of the fly casting box?… Doug Macnair. In my opinion... he is a casting expert.

  5. Default Re: Overlining?

    If that's what Big Cliff meant, that's not the way it came through to me. What he said about a tight loop is quite correct ... a tight loop will penetrate the wind ... but the issue is far more complex than whether or not you throw a tight loop.

    Wind casting requires a different approach - overlining is not a part of that approach. The truth is underlining works far better as I've fully explained in my articles, if anyone cares to read them. Whether they do makes little difference to me.

    Besides line selection, the rod and the casting stroke become very important. One thing I wil assure you: and 8-weight line will never beat a 6-weight line against the wind -- loops or no loops! One caveat: I assume we are discussing a 6-weight rod...


  6. Default Re: Overlining?

    I was a complete advocate of overlining when I first started flyfishing years ago. For me it helped me to get the job done. As my casting techniques improved, I no longer needed the advantages of overlining.

    I by no means an expert, but I have found that I can now just go with the line that the rod is rated for and cast much better than when I was overlining.

  7. Default Re: Overlining?

    I intend to go look for your articles on lines and casting and read them for myself.
    Regarding "overlining" though, I would like to avoid doing that.
    I have several older bamboo rods that I need to match a line to in order to fish them. They don't have a recommended line weight for them.
    Does one of your articles touch on the subject of correctly matching line weight to a rod that does not have a recommendation as a starting point? If so, which article would that be and where would I find it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    South Texas

    Default Re: Overlining?

    I seem to have correctly concluded that this topic could create a fuss here as well.

    Salmo, you concluded correctly thst I think overlining is generally a bad idea. I can also see how you might think that my comment came out of left field, as it did. I suppose I'll admit to swelling a bit with pride when my explanation was met with such praise, and I just figured I would spread the love.

    Doug, it seems you concentrated more on the 2nd paragraph of that quote, which I now realize is not nearly as developed a thought as was the first paragraph. A more complete explanation of the same thought would have gone like this: With equal size loops, an 8wt line cast on an 8wt rod will be more effective at beating the wind than a 6wt line on a 6wt rod. However, putting the 8wt line on the 6wt rod will most likely put more bend in the rod, increasing the distance between the top and bottom of the loop which means this less aerodynamic loop will not travel as well into the wind.

    Thank you for your comments, I see that even good explanations can be improved.

    I'd rather hunt fish than bait deer any day.

  9. Default Re: Overlining?

    Big Cliff,

    No question about it, an 8-weight rod with an 8-wgt. line beats a 6-wgt. rod with a 6-wgt. line any day in wind fighting. Put the 8-wgt line on the 6-wgt. rod and it does more than put more weight on the rod broadening the loop, it overloads the rod! A good way to think of it this: for every five feet of line you aerialize beyond the rod tip, you effectively add another line weight. So...... if you carry 45 feet of line into the backcast, you effectively are casting an 11-weight line, not the 8-weight you started with. What happens when you do this? With a 6-weight rod - now overloaded by 5 line weights - expect the cast to collapse or in the worse case, the rod to explode. (And as the shards of graphite settle around you and the Ancient Fish Gods laugh ... as you resolve never to overline again.) There is some variability in this 5-feet rule: it's the length of the belly beyond the first 30-feet, but 5 is good enough for me.

    What seems so logical, isn't! Overlining is a problem I have more trouble with than anything else in teaching the fly cast, particularily if the fly fisher has experience. I truly believe it's a holdover from baitcasting of spinning. When Mr. Wind begins to blow, what did we do? Add more weight to the end of the line and sure enough we could cast further.

    How many times have you driven down a highway against a headwind only to find that your gas milage has gone to hell and your power seems diminished ... the reason, of course, is the added resistance of the wind against the front of your car. Your 6-weight rod has the same problem ... not enough horses under the hood to negate Mr. Wind's effect.

    I don't know whether it will help further discussion, but I am adding an extract from my book, "Fly Fishing for the Rest of Us," and the discussion of fly lines... I think the key to the subject of line weight rests in understanding the AFTMA standards ...

    (QUOTE) "A Summary of Key Points. At this point in our ongoing discussion, it’s appropriate to summarize and reinforce several points worthy of your consideration as you go about selecting a fly line.

    • Keep in mind that the only thing constant in the gentle art of fly fishing is the AFTMA standard for fly line weights. Consequently, only fly lines can be discussed objectively; everything else, including the rods, is subjective. This implies choosing the line weight should be your priority when setting up a new fly fishing rig. It’s fairly simple to select the right line weight for the task if you identify: (1) the primary species you plan to pursue; (2) the type waters you plan to fish; (3) the climatology of the region; and (4) the size of the flies, streamers or bugs you intend to throw.

    • Choose a larger line weight to throw a larger fly. It’s the mass of the fly line that pulls along the mass of the fly. Select the right gun (line) to do the job. The same is true for the rod. Don’t let the esthetics of a slender lovely little 3-weight rod throw you into a tizzy when a 7-weight is what you need. Of course, if you are into buying lots of fly rods, be my guest.

    • Don’t overline! Overlining is a “phenomenon” that occurs when a fly fisher selects a heavier line - say a 7-weight floater - to use on a 6-weight rod. Dummies do that because some jackass said, “it will cast better.” It won’t! While it’s possible for a rod to be rated incorrectly, it is indeed rare. The notion of overlining is “crapola” propagated by either those (a) who cannot cast, (b) those who do not know much about fly fishing, or the cons who want you to think you are a "fly caster" within the first 5 minutes. I detest cons! The fact that he or she may sell fly fishing equipment means zilch in terms of creditability! There is a single exception to this statement -- it’s “short-range” casting to targets less than 30 feet away. In this instance, it’s true that a 7-weight floater will load a 6-weight rod to cast 30 feet or less. However, if you learn to tip cast, overlining for this specific situation becomes unnecessary.

    • If you happen to be a Doubting Thomas, consider this -- 30 feet of fly line weighing 140 grains outside the rod tip is a 5-weight line by definition in the AFTMA standards. Add another 5 feet to the length, and what do you have? The 35-feet of 5-weight line now weighs the equivalent of a 6-weight. The simple fact is adding 5 feet of line, in effect, adds one line weight. Said another way, aerializing 35 feet of 5-weight line on the backcast is the equivalent of lifting 30-feet of 6-weight line into the air! No question about it -- you need to understand the idiosyncrasies of line weights and how they can work for or against you. In the heavier weights - 8, 9 and 10 - I often recommend using a rod weighted one weight above the line weight to be fished. For now, perhaps this example will suffice: When I demonstrate “Long Casting,” I use a 10-weight line on a “light” 12-weight rod called WindTamer. (The term WindTamer is mine having first published it in May, 1995.) And yes, you read it correctly -- the rod is two line weights heavier than the line; and no, I am not embellishing facts. As an old Druid, I speak only the truth! More on this subject later.

    • Most rods will cast more than one line weight. Some might do it better than others, but normally you can count on at least two line weights for almost any rod down, but nor necessarily up. You might even find your 7-weight will cast a 3 or 4-weight line well enough to catch fish. This usually works best using a technique I call tip casting. True, you may not be able to perfectly emulate what can be done with a 3-weight system, but you will catch fish, have fun and save money, if that’s important."

  10. Default Re: Overlining?


    My regrets -- I left only half of what you asked. You can find my work easily at either or

    Simply cursor down to my name and hit "Fly Fishing for the Rest of Us."

    I did not in any of the books content go into how fly lines were previously classified before AFTMA; however I will be happy to do so if we have trouble figuring out your bamboo rods' markings.


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