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New fishing lines and old anglers

by: Bill Prater , Colorado 5/26/2019
Consider this a tutorial on new fishing lines for old Colorado dogs, and anyone else who needs to learn new tricks. It is aimed at fooling still water bass and trout, but should be equally useful for panfish, and equally useless for trolling or fishing around heavy cover. (Warning: Anyone with a heavy investment in heavier equipment may disagree with what follows.)
For senior anglers, it gets harder with every passing season to manage what was once the easiest parts of our sport. Like getting in and out of the boat or waders, or more pertinently, using the best tools for finding, hooking and landing a fish. We also tend to spend too much time getting to the point of a conversation. Which in this case is, “How do we take advantage of the 21st Century’s remarkable fishing line revolution, while relying on 20th Century eyesight and arthritic hands?” Whoever invented the eyelet on a size 20 midge, for example, should be forced to fish with a cane pole and a tobacco canful of worms. Anyway, the eventual subject of today’s discussion is not fly tying but ultralight spin fishing, “finesse” as folks call it these days. Specifically, let’s focus on how to ensure a reliable connection between rod and reel and chosen bait.
In Colorado (unless trolling or chasing catfish), we face relatively clear water free of
  • Brush and other snags
  • Stable water levels
  • 10-pound bass. 
We generally do best when limiting line size to the smallest practical. For me that’s 4- to 6-pound braid main line attached to a comparably sized fluorocarbon leader. This is far from the easiest way to go about dangling a bait in front of fish. For one thing, these ultra modern lines are barely visible to the naked eye. Yank on them, and they can inflict wounds more vicious than any paper cut. Tie them together, and the knots can slip like they’re doused in WD-40. Oh, and braid really does stand out in clear water, and seems to be noticed by wary Colorado game fish.
“Why bother, then?” Trust me, and folks at places like Berkley and Seaguar, these lines are easier to knot together than they were just a few years ago. You also get greater sensitivity, which allows you to detect more bites, and increased strength and casting distance. But unless your knots are meticulous, a half-pound bluegill giving a half-hearted tug can sometimes separate line and lure. Worse, a half-assed line-leader connection can work fine with stocker trout, only to fail when a big one swims along. Firmly attaching braid to fluoro, particularly for those with failing eyesight or shaky hands, adds its own special aggravation.
So again, why bother? Simple:  If fishing was too easy, it wouldn’t be as much fun, or as time-consuming, and everyone else would be too good at it. So, how should you prepare for the next fishing trip?
First of all, before we get any further, you could just skip this discussion and stick to monofilament. It’s a lot cheaper, a heck of a lot easier to work with, and floats, which is a blessing with some applications. You can also get by without a leader. Just buy your line in bulk, so you can change line more often. It stretches, which weakens strength, and sunlight over time will have the same effect on mono that it does on Dracula.
Back to braid. You should know that in my fishing circles, this type discussion usually begins with a half hour or so of argument over the need for a darned fluorocarbon leader in the first place. You can simply tie a hook directly to braid, and eventually some dumb fish or another will bite. Trust me on this one, though, in clearer water he or she is likely not the fish you really want to catch, and may not bite as often. And braid can fray badly after bouncing around on rocks and such.
When I was a child angler, back in the early 50s, monofilament was the costly miracle line of the day, too costly for the Prater boys. My brother and I used a cane pole tied to sturdy cotton cord, baited with every small creature within reach. Dad after a day of fishing would patiently air dry the braided linen line on his trusty bait caster. He also used sticky black tar to waterproof the thick cotton lines he used on homemade trotlines and gill nets. Later, even the best mono of the post-War era was thick and stiff. You could confidently attach your hooks with a Granny Knot. There was no need to “Improve” the “Clinch Knot” until years later. I’m sure fish noticed, but we didn’t notice that they noticed, if you catch my drift. With equipment like this, most of my family’s fishing was for panfish and cats. Bass fishing didn’t take off until technology allowed us to be sneakier on the water. Spinning gear wouldn’t find a place among trout fishermen until it could be used to toss tiny, tiny baits. 
With the new mono, angling has evolved rapidly. But because it floats, we quickly learned to weight down baits with chunks of lead, and heave big old baits that matched the size and spirit of our clunky old bait casters, telling ourselves that big baits catch big fish. That practice persists, and is of course a primary road to success in big bass country like the Midwest and South. Even around here, some gullible fish still bite those things, affirming Darwin’s Theory of Survival of the Fittest. But in Colorado, with finesse tactics and matching line, you can generally flat out catch more fish of all sizes, on tackle that evens the playing field between you and a fish that’s typical of our difficult growing conditions.
One final thought: Just a few years ago, an adequate leader for spinning tackle was thought to be 18-24 inches long, not 6 or 7 feet, or 20. I think that’s because most fishing shows and fishing writers are focused on the murky, snag-filled waters of the Midwest and South. Again, we can argue about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m right, at least about fishing in our generally clear lakes and ponds. Around here, go with 10 to 20 feet, so the main line-leader connection isn't under stress when the fish gets close to the boat or shore. Or at least 6 feet. Unless you don’t worry about cost, buy fluoro for your leaders in a 150-yard spool. It’s not as good as the fluoro sold for specifically for leaders, but cheaper. And don’t try spooling up your spinning reel with the whole roll. Fluoro is great stuff, but a pain to cast. I personally use 6-pound leaders in weed-choked water, or angling for bass, and add a 4-pound tippet for trout. 
Nowhere above have I recommended best knots to use. This is a job for You Tube, and you can yell at your computer screen, not me. Just Google Double Uni Knot, Crazy Alberto, FG, and maybe Shaw Grigsby knots (Shaw recommends an unnamed knot that is a cross between an Improved Clinch and a Uni Knot. I find it easier to tie it with my failing eyes. But they will all slip until you practice them over and ever in a well-lit room. Don't wait until you're on the water.
Blog content © Bill Prater
Member comments
anglerwannabe, CO   5/27/2019 6:23:56 AM
the problem with tying a very long leader like you suggest is called micro guides. I tie the FG and even the FG fails after it's bumped thru the guides long enough. This happened to me recently. Also agree with you about less bites on braid. Recently lost my leader that was attached to braid so tied the lure straight to braid. The bite dropped immediately.
 
Bill Prater (fishthumpre), CO   5/27/2019 8:22:32 AM
Hadn’t heard anyone talking about their experience with micro guides. Does make sense haven’t noticed fraying with my gear. What I like with an extra long leader is, I can go through the painful, for me, process of getting a perfect knot and use it for a long time before it gets too short. I also like to thing that it’s protected on the reel against knot failure when the fish makes some last-minute lunges at the boat or shore. Anyone use super glue on their connection to streamline the knot a little? I keep intending to but usually don’t...
 
PJBrowne, CO   6/1/2019 11:41:30 AM
My issue with long leaders while using a water flout to throw the load further out from shore is simply keeping the leader/lure/fly from not tangling with the flout. I would say one out of five throws, even with a gentle wipe with a fly rod makes it questionable for one to know if the leader isn't shortened until retrieved. As such frankly feel smaller hook size as well lighter lines is most productive all around... Enjoy your posts Bill, thanks. .
 
Fish Stalker 77, CO   6/4/2019 2:31:14 PM
FG knot is the best for attaching fluoro leader to braid. It's tricky at first but not too hard after a bit of practice. Just make sure you tighten it really well so the braid cinches down into the mono. I learned that the hard way when a big black fish darted out of a jetty in Hawaii and made off with my lure and leader... Why do you like using such small pound test on your braid? I seem to get more wind knots with that small of braid, and 15 or 20 pound test braid casts well, handles better, has very small diameter, and is stronger.
 
Bill Prater (fishthumpre), CO   6/5/2019 2:07:29 PM
I've tried the FG knot but find it really hard to tie correctly. Really works well though, huh? I'll have to try again. My preference for light line is mostly sensitivity with a medium or ultra light I can really detect trout or smallmouth bite drastically better. I'll go a 1/32 oz jighead if possible, and with something like a Ned Rig, get better feel and better distance.
 
Bill Prater
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