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All about Floating Fly Lines, with Josh Jenkins

Description: What is the difference between freshwater and saltwater fly lines? How about warmwater and cold-water lines? How long do fly lines last? How do you care for a fly line? How do you clean a fly line? Why do we have over-weighted fly lines? These are questions I often get for the podcast, so I asked Josh Jenkins [49:28], head of R&D for Scientific Anglers, to answer these questions and more about floating fly lines.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom R.: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And this week, my guest is Josh Jenkins from Scientific Anglers. Josh is the chief R&D guy at Scientific Anglers, which means he's the guy who creates all these cool new fly lines and leaders and tippet materials and all that stuff. I wanna talk about floating lines. I get a lot of questions about floating lines. What's the difference between a warm-water and a cold-water line? Can I use my freshwater line in saltwater? Can I put my fly line in a hot car? How do I clean my line? What kind of line should I choose? And since most of us use floating fly lines most of the know, there's a dizzying array of different floating lines out there.
So, this is a podcast about floating lines, how to pick one, how to care for it, what it will and won't do, and pretty much anything, I think, that you really need to know about floating fly lines. And Josh is the guy who has the answers. So, should be an interesting podcast. And before we get into the Fly Box, I just wanted to give you a heads up on a new product that just hit the shelves, a new Orvis product. It's a new wading staff. This wading staff is the best one I have ever seen. It's lightweight. It's carbon fiber, so it's lightweight, yet very strong. You hang on your waist in a little belt pouch. You don't even know it's there, it's so light.
One hand, it deploys instantly. You just pull it out of the case and flick it, and it deploys to a full-size staff. It is adjustable for height. It's very, very secure. The locking joints are really, really secure, and you don't have to do anything. You don't have to screw anything together or adjust anything, it just flicks together automatically. It's a Orvis exclusive staff, and it's made in Austria. So, it's a really cool staff. I've been resisting the temptation to use a staff over the past few years, but as I get up there in years, I get a little more unstable on my feet. And I know I'm gonna be using this staff all the time because it's so light and unobtrusive, yet it works really well that I'm gonna start carrying a staff and using a staff all the time because this one really, really works well.
All right. That's the heads up for you. And now the Fly Box. The Fly Box is where you ask me questions or you pass on a tip to other listeners. And I might read them on the air. I read them all. I don't use them all, but I do read them all. So, if you have a question for me or for the product development team for that matter, because I can always get in touch with them, send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Either just type it into your email or you can attach a voice file. And if I think your you question is interesting enough, I'll read it on the air.
So, without further ado, the first question is from Cody. "My question is for you. When you go brook trout fishing, what's your go-to rod length and weight leader length and size of leader?" All right, Cody, first of all, you know, the rod length and line weight and leader length and size of leader that you use is really dependent on, not for the species you're gonna fish for, but it's determined by the size fly that you are going to use, the air resistance of the fly, and how far are you gonna cast. I've fished brook trout in tiny mountain streams, and I think that's what you're after. But I've also fished them in great big rivers and Labrador, where you're fishing a size-six mouse fly, or a great big weighted streamer. And I certainly wouldn't use the same rod for that.
Both are brook trout, but they're very different. But if you do mean mountain brook trout fishing, you know, in small streams, I like a 7 1/2-foot, 3 weight with between 6 and 7 1/2-foot leader, and generally a 5X or a 4X tippet, but that's because I'm using size, you know, 10 to 14 flies. So, it really depends on how far are you gonna cast, and how wide the river is, and the size flies you're gonna fish. Not so much the size of the fish you're gonna catch, but of the size flies you're gonna cast. So, hope that's helpful.
Reuben: Hi, Tom, this is Reuben in Colorado. Today, I have a helpful tip and a question for you. I recently heard an old interview from Craig Matthews talking about the importance of observation when approaching the water. Craig advised to hold off fishing for at least five minutes when you arrive at the water to learn where the fish are holding and what's happening with the bug life. While I agree with Craig's advice, my problem is that I stink at observation and I'm often impatient and instead start pounding the water as soon as I arrive with my tried-and-true fly patterns. My helpful tip that has helped improve my observation and increase my hookup rate is to not string up my fly line when leaving the car. I instead walk to the river with only my fly rod and reels set up without the fly line ran through the guides.
This forces me to dedicate river time to observation while pulling my fly line, stretching a leader, and choosing the best fly. It's in this moment at riverside I'm observing the water's characteristics, looking for prime lies and hatch activity, and how I'd like to approach the river, like a hunter stalking its prey. Plus spooky fish usually don't care about me setting up my fly rod compared to when I'm walking along the river, and will often go back to feeding. I highly recommend people giving this approach a try and to see if it helps others calm their nerves and increase their hookup rates. By the way, your new book "Guide to Finding Trout" has been very helpful.
My question is related to understanding your advice for setting up fly boxes. When fishing for multiple species on different day, I recently started pursuing pike in addition to trout and bass, but found it difficult swapping boxes in and out of my pack to cover the broad range of hook sizes I'll need from day to day. I'm trying to keep weight to a minimum due to a back injury. And would like to know, what do you do when you change species? Do you recommend dedicating fly packs by species of fish or swapping out fly boxes of the same pack when you pursue different fish from one day to the next? Thank you.
Tom R.: So, Reuben, thanks. That's a really helpful tip about not stringing up of your fly line at the car but waiting till you get to the river. You know, for one thing, you might not know what fly you're gonna fish until you see what condition the river is in. But also, that's a great idea because it will give you time to kind of reflect and observe the water, kind of watch out of the corner of your eye while you're stringing up your rod or just string it up and then force yourself to sit there a little bit. So, that's a great tip. The question about what I do when I change species, it really depends on, you know, what species I'm going for. For instance, I'm going bass fishing, smallmouth bass.
So, I have a box that has smallmouth poppers in it, both hard bodied poppers and deer hair bugs. And I don't use those for many other species. So, I carry those. And then, you know, I also bring my trout streamer box with me. And, you know, if I have room, I'll bring my box of nymphs as well, and maybe even dry flies because, you know, smallmouth, you expect you're gonna probably fish a popper or a streamer, but you never know when they might be rising to mayflies. I've seen them do that. You never know when you might need something more subtle like a nymph. So, if I were pressed for space, I would probably try to, you know, throw a couple of trout streamers in my box with my poppers, and maybe throw a couple of larger nymphs in there and a couple of big dry flies.
But, you know, it really varies. You know, for Northern Pike, I just carry a box of big streamers and poppers. I don't worry much about... I don't need dry flies. I don't need nymphs for northern pike. I don't need my carp flies. But here's a suggestion for you. You probably have a bunch of different boxes with dries, nymphs, streamers, poppers, maybe saltwater flies, whatever. And by the way, don't forget to carry saltwater flies for, if you do have, some for pike, things like pike or even bass. But I suggest that you get yourself a fairly large compartment box where you can put any kind of fly in it where you have the adjustable compartments, and keep that box empty until you go fishing. And then if you're going for an alternative species, let's say I'm going for largemouth bass, you can throw in some big poppers, some big streamers, probably no dry flies for largemouths, but maybe a couple of bigger nymphs. And maybe a couple saltwater flies, you know, big streamer type flies.
Then you can put them in that box, take it along. You only have to carry one box. And then when you get back, you can put those back in their respective species' boxes. So, you know, it really varies. Well, I'll give you another example. When I go carp fishing, generally, if I'm wade-fishing for a carp, I have a box of carp flies, which are mainly small nymph type. They look like bonefish flies. But if I'm in a boat and I got a little extra room, I'll bring dry flies, I'll bring nymphs, I'll bring some streamers, because when you're fishing for, say, carp or bass, you never know what species you might encounter. If you're bass fishing, you might encounter pikes. So, might wanna throw a couple pike flies in there. So, it is difficult to say, you know, give you an exact procedure. But I think maybe that spare box idea might be a good one, especially if you are pressed for space. Let's do another email.
This one's from Yuen [SP] from Northeastern Wisconsin. I enjoy fishing small streams around my area, and I had a question. First, I currently use a short 4-weight for these streams, but have wanted to upgrade slightly to an Orvis Clearwater. I enjoy throwing nymphs and dry flies. However, I like to throw the occasional small Woolly Bugger sized streamer once in a while. I was wondering if I should get a 3, 4, or 5-weight. I don't know if you have been asked this question before, but I was just wondering what your thoughts of this would be, as I'm not sure a 3-weight could cast a bead head Woolly Bugger well" Well, you're right, Yuen, a 3-weight won't cast a Woolly Bugger very well. You can make it work but it's gonna be kind of clunky, and you're gonna struggle.
So, since you already have a 4-weight, I would suggest that you get yourself a 5-weight. A 5-weight's gonna throw, you know, everything from a halfway decent-sized streamer down to, you know, a size 20 dry fly or nymph. And it's gonna be really versatile. So, you know, an 8 1/2 or a 9-foot for a 5-weight I think would be a good addition to that short 4-weight that you have for small streams. Here's an email from Jake from North Carolina. "I really enjoy the podcast, and especially the Orvis fly tying videos. I've recently started tying my own flies and have quickly built up a war chest of materials. I can't say that was unexpected though. I have a few questions related to fly tying materials that I haven't heard discussed, as far as I'm aware. I've noticed that various packages have California Proposition 65 warnings on them.
Aside from lead wire, I've seen this warning sticker on everything from fly tying tools to bleached elk hair, squirrel zonker strips, and Fulling Mill Eco Warrior Dubbing. So, here are my questions. Again, aside from lead wire, are there fly tying materials that could have a negative health impact on humans just from handling them? Two, does Orvis have a list of these materials? Three, do you have a few examples of materials that need to be handled in a certain manner from a safety perspective? And four, am I just overthinking this? I'm trying not to split hairs here, pun intended, but as a new tier, I'd like to make sure I'm aware of precautions that should be taken when at the fly tying bench." So, Jake some people might get upset with me for saying this, but I think you can completely ignore the Proposition 65 warnings.
They put that on nearly everything. I don't know exactly what it refers to. But, you know, fly tying wholesalers and manufacturers need to put that warning in order to be able to sell things in California where they have very tight regulations on certain things. But I would just absolutely completely ignore that and not worry about it, aside from lead wire. And lead wire I think can be a little bit dangerous because that lead wire can sometimes oxidize and you can inhale that lead oxide, you can get it on your hands. I know when I used to tie a lot of weighted nymphs, I would get kind of sick from handling all the lead wire, probably from then touching my mouth or whatever. I never got really sick, but, you know, I just felt a little a little tired and logie.
I don't use lead wire anymore, and Orvis doesn't sell lead wire. Other than sticking yourself with a hook, I don't know anything that's gonna have a health effect on you in fly tying materials other than solvents from epoxies and head cements. You know, it's probably not a good idea to breathe any of those solvents. And they should be used in, you know, an area with good circulation and not, you know, not hunch over them when you're putting a head cement on your flies. A water-based head cement isn't a problem, but a lot of the other ones have solvents. Other than the solvents and, you know, sticking yourself with a sharp hook, I don't think you have to worry about much. I mean, yeah, a lot of this, these fly-tying materials come from natural critters, but I expect that any pathogens that had been on the hairs or furs have long since departed, mainly because most of them are washed and tanned and dyed before we use them, and also just because the stuff wouldn't stay on a an animal once it's not alive anymore.
So, I don't see any precautions other than lead wire and solvents as far as fly-tying materials are concerned. Here's an email from Mike from Florida. "I've accumulated a rather large inventory of capes, saddles, bucktails, etc, stuff that stays in long plastic bags. Some of the bags are old and have become torn or otherwise do not seal properly to protect the materials. Is there a source for these plastic bags used primarily to store these materials? I've searched the internet and cannot find a source for them. I'm certain there are others out there who have the same situation as they've accumulated a lifetime supply of materials which they do not want to spoil." Well, Mark, I don't know of any source unless you know somebody that packages fly-tying materials.
I think those plastic bags are probably specially made. I don't know of anyone who sells those. But here's what I do. There's a couple things. One is, whenever I get a Ziploc bag from something that's shipped to me, you know, sometimes it's food from a mail order food supplier you know, that our tomato sauce comes in Ziploc bags so if they break, they don't get all over the place. Just stuff you get in the mail often comes packed in Ziploc bags. I just save all those. I have a great big bag, and anytime I have a Ziploc bag that comes into the house, I save it. As long as it's not ripped or torn, I save it, I put it in that bag. You know, it's helping to keep plastics outta the waste stream because you're reusing those and you're probably gonna have them around for a long time. You know, it's annoying when we get this plastic in the mail. But you can save them and, you know, just save what you get around the house and use those.
The other alternative is free Ziploc freezer bags. They're a little bit heavier than the normal Ziploc bags that you buy in a grocery store. And you can use those as well.
Tom: Hey Tom, this is Tom. I have a couple of new questions for you. The first one is on fly tying. The second one is on fly tying. First one, you have a new pattern idea, how do you decide on the hook type, and perhaps more importantly, the thread type, as in GSP, the brand, the weight of the thread, etc., color? Second question is fly tying enerally, what thread types would you recommend people get when they're first starting out, or when they have hundreds and hundred threads and they don't know what to do with them? Also, what types of hooks would a good fly tier have in their stable? Thank you very much.
And here is a thank you. Thank you for answering my previous question. Thank you Orvis for everything, including [inaudible 00:19:59]. This message not endorse, condone, or even acknowledge the harvesting of wild foods that are tasty but don't come wrapped in wax paper or plastic, which could be cooked or, but open, resulting in much tastiness. We do think that you should keep listening to this podcast to provide positive feedback on iTunes and your favorite podcast service. That's to you and your family.
So, Tom, when I'm coming up with a new fly pattern or experimenting with a new fly pattern, I decide what kind of proportions I wanna have on the fly and whether I want it to have, you know, a straight body or a curved body. I pick a hook that I have in my collection that seems appropriate for that style of fly. Sometimes I just pick a hook because it looks nice in the fly, but, you know, often, you have a certain proportion on the fly. It might be long and skinny, it might be short and stout. And for long and skinny ones, you might wanna use a 4X long hook or a 3X long. And for short and stout, you might wanna use something like, you know, a tactical wide gape hook.
So, I kind of decide what I want the fly to do. And if it's dry fly, I use light wire, and if it's a nymph, I try to use the heaviest hook that I can so I can get a little extra weight. And then the thread type. In general, I just try to match the overall tone of the fly. And the thread type is by size. I use an awful lot of 12/0 thread, which seems very thin to most people, but unless you're tying in a big bunch of hair or some heavy foam onto a hook, you can get more turns with 12/0 thread without building up a lot of bulk. So, I'll use that for almost anything unless I got a lot of hair or something stiff like foam that I need to put a lot of pressure on.
I use the thinnest thread I can, and I just basically..if the fly has a thread body, obviously, you know, like a lot of the a lot of the jig-type nymphs, obviously, you're gonna use that color thread. And then some flies such as the Ausable Wulff, you know, traditionally have a bright orange fluorescent head. And if a pattern calls for that, I'll use it. But otherwise, I just try to match the overall theme of the fly. And you can get away in an awful lot of fly patterns with just a spool of black thread and white thread. In fact, if you want a particular color in the fly, some people will hit their white thread with a waterproof marker before they finish the head so they get that color on it. So, you know, you can use white and black. And if you have that in a few sizes, you can do an awful lot of different fly patterns with those.
As far as what type of hooks should you have when you're first starting out, you gotta decide what you wanna tie, because you may be just tying salt butterflies, in which case you want, probably mostly standard saltwater hooks, pretty sharpened saltwater hooks. If you're tying mostly streamers and you want a little bit longer hooks, 3X or 4X long. And if you're tying nymphs, you want, you know, a 2X or a1X long or even a 3X long for stoneflies. But decide first what you wanna tie, what you're tying for, and then get your hooks to suit the style of flies that you're gonna tie. When you look up the fly patterns, you can find out which style of hook the tier or the originator recommends.
Here's an email from Dave in Minnesota. "I live in Central Minnesota, and as a result, I live close to both the Northern Forest for grouse hunting and the Driftless area for trout fishing. I should remind your listeners that Minnesota is a cold, bleak state, inhabited by mean angry people. They're better advised to keep traveling to Montana for their fishing and hunting needs. Recently, I was cleaning out my garage and found grouse feathers I had set aside for dog training. I was wondering if there are any fly patterns that use grouse feathers. And if so, what feathers from the bird are you using, and how are you using them? Second, when fishing a nymph rig with both a beadles and bead-head nymph, and is there a preferred order for these flies to be in? Let's assume I'm using a zebra midge and a beadless pheasant tail under a strike indicator without any added weights fishing the small streams of the Driftless area.
In my 18 years of experience, I generally use the zebra as the point fly in this scenario and catch most of my fish on this fly. Though, when using the same pheasant tail for hopper dropper rig, it always seems to outperform the zebra midge when it's used in the hopper dropper setup. Therefore, I assume the beadless pheasant tail is more productive, higher in the water column. And I've used the zebra as a point fly when nymphing. Thoughts on this logic? I'm now wondering if the pheasant tail fished as a point fly, will it drift more naturally and therefore begin to perform well as the zebra does for me? Thanks for taking my questions. You've got an awesome podcast." Well, thank you, Dave.
Yeah, as far as ruffed grouse feathers, you wanna save the feathers mainly from the back. That's the back and partly around the neck. That's where the modeled feathers are that you're gonna want to use for things like wet flies and nymphs. And then the covered feathers over the wings can sometimes be used on bigger patterns. Ruffed grouse feathers are bigger than Hungarian partridge. They have longer fibers, so if you wanna use them to wind a soft tackle, you're gonna mainly be tying bigger soft tackles for those. But if you just tie in legs in the side of a nymph, of course you can tie them in any length you want if you're not winding them. So, they work great anywhere, any place that calls for Hungarian partridge.
And then there's an old pattern called the bread crust nymph, which is still a super effective fly, and it's particularly popular in Colorado, although it's an old eastern pattern. The proper body for that fly is a ruffed grouse, I believe it's a tail feather that gets split and stripped and trimmed. I don't remember exactly how it's used, you're gonna have to look it up online, but I'm sure there's some sources for how to use that ruffed grouse tail feather. So, anyway, yeah, ruffed grouse feathers are very useful and pretty much anywhere you would use any other speckled soft tackle. Regarding the order of your nymphs, you know, typically, the heavier fly, the one that's gonna sink the quickest is put the point fly or the lower fly, not the dropper. That one kind of dredges the bottom and it, and it drags the other fly down with it.
Sometimes people reverse that. Sometimes, if you wanna fish both flies close to the bottom, you can put that heavier fly. I mean, the zebra midge isn't very big, but it's still got a tungsten bead on it, so you can put that on the upper area if you want to. I would experiment both ways. I don't think there's any right or wrong way of doing it. But generally, the way you do it is the way most people do it. And then, you know, try putting it on the upper part of it and see if that makes the pheasant tail more effective, see if it drags the pheasant tail down deeper and makes it more effective.
Here's an email from Andrew. "I've got a Clearwater 7 1/2-foot, 3-weight that I love for small-stream fishing. I've stepped on the clear water line a dozen too many times with pleated boots, and while it probably has one more season in it, I'm looking for a new line. I saw the Orvis-owned, I believe, SA Amplitude Creek trout line, which claims to help with shorter cast, but it's rated as one line size heavy. I'm worried that this might be too heavy for my streams where brookie spook if there's too much line in the air or on the water. What line would you suggest for such spooky trout as a lot of the small creek lines for many manufacturers are over lined while being marketed as accurate to the rod weight?"
So, Andrew those creek lines are one line size heavy. And of course, we'll, we're gonna talk about this when we talk to Josh about these overweighted lines. But in this case, there's a good reason for that because when you're fishing in small creeks, generally, you don't have enough fly line with a normal line, normal rated line, you often don't have enough fly line outside the tip of the rod to really make it flex properly. And fly lines need a certain amount of line to get them to work, to get them to build up energy and bend. And so, with small-stream fishing, a lot of people just overline their rod. So, you put a 4-weight on your 3-weight outfit. So, buying a 3-weight, that's one line size heavy, you're really buying a 4-weight.
But those overweighted lines, I think, still have a pretty delicate tip. But the weight is a little bit further back in the line so that you can make those short casts and still have some delicacy. But I wouldn't really worry too much about the delicacy because there isn't an awful lot of difference between a 3 and a 4-weight line as far as landing on the water. And if you do feel that you're spooking the fish, the best idea is to use a longer leader instead of using the standard, you know, 6 to 7 1/2-foot leader that we use in small streams, maybe go to a 9-foot leader or just a longer tippet anyways to keep that fly line further away from the fish. But again, I wouldn't worry too much about it. There isn't an awful lot of difference between a 3 and a 4-weight landing on the water.
Here's an email from Steve in Michigan. "Hi, Tom. I was tying some flies the other day to replenish the few I lost during the past year. I'm not sure I should be happy. I lost only a few or sad that I didn't get out enough to lose more. Regardless, as I was tying the flies, I started to wonder, how many flies does an angler such as yourself who fishes more than the average person consume in a given year? And what are the major contributors to fly losses for you? For example, are your flies consumed because the fish you catch damage the flies over time? Or do you lose them more to fish breaking off during the retrieve? Are underwater obstacles your greatest nemesis or overhanging trees? Finally, how many fish do you think you can normally catch on one fly before you deem it necessary to replace the fly?"
"So, far, I haven't managed to catch enough fish on a single fly before losing it to determine the lower limit for when a fly needs to be replaced. It's all good though, losing flies is just the price of admission if we want the challenge of fly fishing." So, Steve, I have no idea how many flies I lose in a season. But I will tell you that I probably tie equal amount of dries and nymphs and streamers in a given winter when I'm, you know, trying to load up my boxes. And my dry fly boxes keep getting fuller and fuller and my nymph boxes keep getting skinnier and skinnier toward the end of the season. So, I know I lose a lot more nymphs than anything else. I lose them on the bottom, I lose them on rocks and snags on the bottom, and I lose lots of them, could be a dozen a day easily in really snaggy areas.
Dry flies, not so much because you're not fishing deep, you're not hanging up on the bottom. And often when you get caught in a tree, you know, unless you can't wade across the river, you can usually get your dry fly back. So, I don't lose as many dry flies. I don't lose that many to breaking off in fish. That's pretty rare. I'm pretty careful about my knots. And I don't often use super light tippets. I don't break that many often fish. It's all in trees and on the bottom, certainly. As far as how many fish you can catch, it depends on fly patterns. Some fly patterns are quite delicate. And after a few fish, they might... Something like a CDC fly that's pretty delicate, they're gonna either fall apart or they're gonna get waterlogged and you just can't keep them floating.
And so you put it in your box and hopefully once it dries out, it gets rejuvenated. But they're pretty delicate and they're gonna fall apart. On the other hand, things like a big foam dry fly with all synthetic materials. I've fished a Chubby Chernobyl type fly from dawn to dusk and caught, you know, I don't know, 15, 20 fish on it. And it was good to fish the next day and probably the next four or five trips out. So, depends on how well the fly's tied too. I tie my own, so if they fall apart easily, I got no one to blame but myself. But I'm pretty careful, particularly on a complicated fly, about making sure that everything is secure and that it's gonna last long.
Good whip finish and head cement on the head. What happens with my own flies most of the time is that the heads get beat up and then the thread on the head starts to unwind. And when that happens, I'm gonna toss that flyer, you know, maybe reuse the hook. But, you know, once the head starts unwinding and threads hanging from it, it's pretty much over. Hackle coming off Woolly Buggers happens to me. So, hackled flies are not as durable as ones tied without hackle, I guess. But, you know, it really varies, but you shouldn't be... You know, some flies should last you all season long. They'll hold up depending on how many fish you catch and how big the fish are. Big brown trout have sharper teeth than little brook trout, and they'll tear up a fly easier. But I have no idea how many flies I lose in a season, but it is a lot.
Here's an email from Andy from Ohio. "I've been fishing all my life, but only started fly fishing 20 years ago in my 30s, and almost exclusively for carp and bass, mostly carp. This is not a question about what type of fishing is best. All angling is worthwhile. My question is, I rarely fish for trout, and when I do come away, I'm extremely underwhelmed. What am I missing? The fly-fishing world is centered on trout. I feel like everyone knows something I don't, and that I'm losing out on something amazing. But all the wonderful things that people talk about with trout fishing, fly tying, finding fish, hooking up, and landing fish, I find with carp and I find it much more satisfying fighting and landing a 10-pound fish than the trout around my area. I need you to cast the scales from my eyes, as it were, and help me see the light."
Well, Andy, I don't wanna help you see the light. You sound like you're having a great time fishing for a fish that challenges you and gives you pleasure. And, you know, trout fishing isn't for everyone. I have no idea why fly fishing is so centered around trout. I think it's more tradition than anything else because that's where fly fishing started. Personally, I find trout beautiful, I find them interesting, you know, the challenges of trying to figure out what they're eating and what they're gonna take, I find satisfying. It sounds like maybe you've only fished for stock trout, and if you just fish for freshly stocked trout in a pond or something, then, yeah, I can understand why trout fishing doesn't turn you on.
But I would advise you, if you really wanna give trout fishing a chance, try it on some wild trout in either a small stream or a big river. But go somewhere where their wild trout, I think you're gonna find that they're beautiful and they fight hard and they're fascinating. So, give that a try. If it's only stock trout that you've fished for, give some wild trout a chance. If you still don't like it, that's fine. You're getting what you want out of fly fishing. Don't feel left out just because you don't like trout fishing Here's an email from Monty from the chalk streams of South England. "I've long planned a trip touring Patagonia in New Zealand with my fly kit and I've read more books, articles, blogs and threads on these mythical far away brown trout than I care to admit. Looking into the kit for my trip, I'm confident I've whittled down to the most important things I need, but one exciting purchase remains."
"I've only ever used four piece fly rods of varying weights. And traveling with these is less than convenient, as you've discussed on the podcast. I've checked out a bunch of six-piece rods in their reviews with a handful looking impressive. As with everything else in life, for every 20 positive reviews, there's one guy whose rod snapped at the worst possible moment on some far-flung trip in front of the biggest trout on the planet. So, my question is, do you notice a difference with six-piece rods in terms of reliability and how well they present or push a fly? Would you put your faith into it on a trip like this? I'm pretty set on the 9-foot, 5-weight Orvis Clearwater. So, any information you can share on this and travel rods generally would be much appreciated."
So, Monty, I don't think I've ever said that four-piece rods are a pain to travel with. I personally don't carry them on because I just put them in a duffle bag because I'm carrying other stuff, camera gear, and sometimes a drone in my carry-on bag and I don't wanna have another thing to worry about in the overhead. But lots of people carry four-piece rods on. They fit in the overhead really well. They're very convenient. They pack down pretty small. And I don't think you should worry about traveling with a four piece rod. It's not that hard. You can put it in something that protects it like, you know, a PVC tube or even a cardboard tube and shove it in the overhead and it's gonna be fine.
You know, six-piece rods are great. I've fished them before. I've fished those Clearwater six-piece rods. They're always always gonna be a little bit of a compromise in action because of, you know, there's a couple extra ferals in there. And ferals are often the weak point in a rod. So, you know, if rod's gonna break, it often breaks at the feral. Actually, most rods are broken by stepping on them or whacking them on a tree or other forms of carelessness. The one thing I would not do if I were you is to not travel with just one rod. Because if you just have one rod and not a backup and you can't borrow or buy a new rod on your trip, you're gonna be in big trouble. I wouldn't hesitate to take a six-piece rod on a trip like that. I don't think you're gonna have any problems with it. But again, I would take a second rod, a second six-piece or a four-piece, whatever. But I would not limit yourself to one rod because you could end up in a lot of trouble, unless you're fishing with a guide who provides tackle.
This is an email from, name not given. Didn't get a name on this one. "Hi, Tom. I recently received a bunch of old fly-tying materials from a friend. I noticed a lot of bug activity in the feathers. I made sure to keep it away from all my other fly-tying materials and I have them sitting in plastic bags in my shed. I was wondering what the best solution to clean the feathers and get rid of the bugs is. There are some very nice hackled capes, but I don't wanna take the risk of ruining my other natural materials. I've heard of moth balls, but don't wanna stink up the place. I look forward to hearing from you." Well, that's a tough one because those materials can be infested with eggs and the eggs can hatch, and it's pretty difficult to hurt those eggs.
You know, people will tell you to freeze them. No, it doesn't work. Insects are quite well adapted to of surviving the winter in the egg form. So, freezing them doesn't work. And I've heard microwaving, but I don't even think that is a for sure method. The only way, I think, to really kill them is to use moth balls and, you know, naptha para-dichlorobenzene. You're right, those stink and they'll stink forever. You'll never get that smell out of them. But I think that is about the only thing that is absolutely gonna kill those eggs. One of the things you might try to do is to take them out and wash them good in hot water and soap and try to remove all the eggs and any larvae that might be in there and then dry them off thoroughly.
But again, I would put them back in the Ziploc bags and I would not ever assume that these materials are gonna be bug free. I would just keep them quarantined as you have. But you wanna prevent any further damage to them. So you do wanna try to either wash them or put them in mothballs, whatever. But I would never assume that they're not gonna contaminate the rest of your stuff because those eggs of beetles and moths are very resistant to lots and lots of stuff. So, try washing them. But again never assume. Here's one thing you do, is you can wash them in hot water and soap, dry them off thoroughly. And then once they're thoroughly dry, put them back in the Ziploc bags for a year. And if you don't see any insects hatching or you don't see any chaff, dust forming in there that comes from the larvae chewing on things, then they're probably safe. But again, honestly, I would keep them quarantined forever because you can never be sure getting all those eggs out of them.
Brian: Hi , Tom, this is Brian from Richmond, Virginia. The best thing I can say about your podcast is it makes me happy during my commutes when I see a yellow light or a red light up ahead because it means I'll hear one more answer to the Fly Box questions or I'll be able to complete your interview with one of your guests. So, thanks a bunch to you and Orvis for the show. I just love it. I have one tip and two questions. For the tip, there was a caller a while back who asked about keeping hooks and beads off the ground and away from young children. Just as dangerous while fly tying is the possibility that kids will get access to your scissors, glues, bodkins, and whatever else is on top of your desk.
So, I use a standalone baby gate to wall off my desk from my kids. It's called a Fortella Cloud Castle. It's less than $200 on Amazon. Now, it is certainly not impervious to children, but it has stopped my kids from climbing up into my chair while I'm not around. I've attached a picture to this email if it would be helpful for you to describe what you see to the listeners. So, that's my tip. And my two questions are, first, what would you say is the most versatile fly to use for both carp and bass, and panfish from a boat? I want to try fly fishing for carp in my local reservoir, but although I loved catching carp as a kid on bait, I've come to see them now as trash fish. And I'm working to get over that prejudice, but I would like to go out with the idea that I'll target the carp on flats if I see one, but I'd also like to target other game fish that cruise the same areas.
So, it strikes me that a small, lightweight, Woolly Bugger would be the ticket here, but just wondering if you have any other ideas for patterns. Second, I'd love to go bone fishing in the Caribbean one day, but I'm very prone to seasickness which makes for a terrible day fishing. And I really haven't been able to discern whether one can bonefish in flat water all day, or if it's gonna be necessary to go through some chop before you even get to the flats, or even if you're sometimes fishing the rolling waves. I love fishing for red fishing, the calm marshes, and I'm wondering if I can find something similar to that in the bonefish context. And I'd love your recommendations on where, if anywhere, bonefish water is the calmest. Thanks, Tom.
Tom R.: So, Brian, that's a great tip on the baby gate and you sent a picture. Unfortunately, I can't share it with people, but I think they get the idea. Probably the most versatile fly for carp that you can also catch bass and panfish with is a small Woolly Bugger. I prefer black, but you might try tan or olive, you know, something like a size 12, a fairly small Woolly Bugger carp will eat that fly. And a surprisingly large bass will eat a small Woolly Bugger. So, if you're gonna carry one fly and you want it to be versatile, that's a fly I would use. And yes, it's possible to fish for bonefish in calm water. You know, if you go out in a boat, unless you're just going out onto a flat and you're not running very far, you never know when the wind might pick up.
Despite the forecast, you can never totally predict that kind of stuff. So, going out in a boat, even though you're fishing in calm areas, you may have to run to the boat, you have to go across channels or open water. Chances are in a day of bone fishing, you're probably gonna get some waves and some swell. So, the boat may rock a bit. Generally, it's not where bone fishing waters are calmest, it's when. And that's gonna be, you know, in most places, it's gonna be mid-summer when you have those slick calm conditions and you don't have as much wind. Anytime during a winter, wherever there are bonefish, you have a chance of getting a cold front and getting a lot of wind. So, summertime other than in squalls and thunderstorms is probably gonna be the best time to go bone fishing.
But any place you go bone fishing, you're gonna have the chance of having some wind at some point in the day. The one thing I might recommend is go to a place where you're just waiting for bonefish. There are places where you can wade and fish for bonefish from shore, then you don't have to worry about a rolling boat. Or maybe there's a place where the guide can take you to a quick run across a channel in a boat, and then you can get out and wade, that's gonna help. But, you know, wind and saltwater fishing is pretty common and you never know when you're gonna get a rolling boat.
All That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Josh Jenkins and learn all about floating fly lines. Now, my guest today is Josh Jenkins. Josh is the head of product development for Scientific Anglers, who is a part of the Orvis family and makes Orvis lines. Josh, welcome to the podcast.
Josh: Thanks again for having me on, Tom. Appreciate it.
Tom R.: Oh, it's always fun having you on. And Josh and I were just talking about some really cool, exciting stuff before I turned the microphone on, but we can't tell you about it, can we, Josh? Not yet.
Josh: Top secret.
Tom R.: I mean, Josh is always pushing the envelope and looking at new things in lines, leaders, and tippets. So, they'll be coming along when they're ready, when they're tested and they're ready. So, we're gonna talk about floating lines today. Need an expert to talk about floating lines because for most of us, floating line is what we use 90% of the time, and there's a lot of options in floating lines. I mean, I gotta be honest with you, I know the Orvis lines pretty well, and I still get confused sometimes deciding which fly line to get when I need to replace one. So, we're gonna talk about floating lines, how to pick one that's right for what you're gonna do. Fair enough, Josh?
Josh: That sounds great.
Tom R.: All So, the first question I wanna ask you, and I get this all the time, is what do you get in a premium, let's say a plus $100 or more fly line as opposed to, you know, $60 to $80 fly line? We won't even talk about the less expensive ones because you generally get what you pay for, but what are you gonna get in that premium top-tier floating line that you won't get in a lesser line?
Josh: That's a good question. At scientific anglers, we sort of break down our fly lines into sort of two performance categories. You have the taper which is the performance on how the line delivers a fly. You could probably boil it down more simply to just the turnover at the end of the cast, and then technology that's incorporated into the line itself. And those are sort of mutually exclusive. For the most part, Orvis does the same thing. And the technology is gonna be the biggest differentiator from a price point perspective. So, as you go up in price point, you're going to get more technology. And oftentimes at least the SA and in the case of Orvis and a few lines, the taper will be the same through different families. So, our most popular taper right now is the MPX, for example.
And we have it available in three different price points with different technologies at each level. So, as you go up, you know, if you were to spend more than $100 on a fly line, what you'll hopefully notice is that it'll be slicker, it'll last longer. In some cases, it will flow higher. If you get a textured line you'll get even more slickness, more friction reduction because of the texture, So, the price point is less about the actual delivery of the fly, and it's more about the technology, how far the line's gonna shoot, how high it's gonna float, how easy it's gonna be to mend after you've delivered the fly.
Tom R.: Okay. Mending is an important thing that people don't think about. They think about floating and shooting, but, you know, mending, you need to reduce that tension on the water. And the less surface tension you have, the easier it's gonna be to mend. So, good point. So, talk about longevity because the premium lines do last longer. I know that, I've seen that myself. How much longer? And, you know, you can't tell people in years because depends on how much you use the line and how abrasive the environment is and so on. But what percentage additional life are you gonna get roughly from a premium line?
Josh: That's a really good question. The best metric I have is our internal durability test. We have a video about it, actually, I think it's on the Scientific Anglers YouTube page if you're interested. It's gonna be kind of hard to describe it verbally in a podcast, but I'll do my best. We essentially have a rotating cam that you attach a coly [inaudible 00:54:21] line to. And then this piece of a fly line goes up through a tiptop guide. And then on the opposite end, we hang a weight that we've calibrated. We pick this weight based on basically a standard casting load that the fly line sees in actual use. And this fly line reciprocates, the cam rotates and it makes the fly line go in and out of this rod tip guide under load.
So, you're getting this line sliding over a tiptop guide, as well as a bit of an angle change. If you can imagine it one point on the cam, the line is gonna be closer to the tip-top guide, and on the other side, it's gonna be a little bit further away. So, the angle at which the line is flexing is changing as well. And we believe it's a pretty good test for real-life durability. It's very hard to take that data and correlate it to how long is a line gonna last and the number of years or seasons for an angler because there's so many other variables. But if we're talking simply about that test, I have pretty accurate numbers, align with AST Plus, our highest slickness technology that's in our Amplitude Series in Orvis Pro Series will last about 80 to 100 100,000 cycles in that machine.
So, it's going in and outta that top guide 80,000 times or 100,000 before it fails. And then as you step down, generally you're gonna lose about 20,000 cycles if you sort of step down in MSRP. So, the level below that will probably be closer to like 60 or 70, and then the next level below that would be closer to about 40,000 cycles. So, there is a pretty significant gain there. It comes with a caveat of maintaining your line. You know, there are obviously a number of things you could do to a fly line to decrease its longevity, where all the stuff that we pack into it to make it more durable doesn't really matter. But that's sort of our measure.
Tom R.: Okay. A couple more questions related to durability. How do you tell... I mean, people ask me how long a fly line is gonna last, and that just depends so much on the environment and how many times a week you fish and whether you strip it onto sand or grass and all that stuff. But how do you tell when a fly line has failed, when it's time to get a new one?
Josh: There's a few different failure modes. Generally with our lines, what you're gonna see first is the coating will crack. And since this is mostly about 40 fly lines, it might be worth mentioning the failure mode specifically. So, a majority of our floating lines, I would say probably 90% are built on a braided core that provides a more supple fly line. It has less memory and cold temperatures. It performs better in the typical freshwater fishing range, you know, from freezing up to 70 or 80 degrees. That braided core actually has a hollow center to it, which does a significant amount of lifting in the overall flotation of the line. The issue is if you ever compromise the coating, or in some cases, you cut the loop off and put a nail knot on and don't seal the end, you start getting water intrusion inside of that core, and it starts to affect the flotation of the line.
So, generally, I'll say the first failure mode you'll see on a line is usually cracking on the coating. Thankfully, cracks on the coating will generally attract dirt. So, they get kind of highlighted. You'll see sort of brown or dark-colored circular cracks around the circumference of the fly line. That's sort of your first sign. That would be when I would probably replace a line and then from there, you know, the coating will probably start falling off, and then if it gets really, really bad, it'll break.
Tom R.: Okay. Hopefully, nobody gets to that point.
Josh: Yeah. I hope you don't get to that point. That'll be a bad experience.
Tom R.: Now, that brings up a good point cause, you know, those permanent loops on the end of fly lines, I mean, they do eventually wear through and you have to cut them off and put a nail knot on. And, you know, I never think to seal the end of my lines, but I should. What's the best thing to seal the end of a line with when you put a nail knot on?
Josh: I know a lot of people that think that the pressure of a nail knot itself is enough to seal it. I think if you're able to torque it enough, you might be able to, but my opinion is, it's always better to put a little dab of super glue, especially real thin stuff that will kind of wick up the core, and then seal your knot on top of that. That's what I do, and I've had really good success with.
Tom R.: So, just playing old super glue will work for that.
Josh: Mm-hmm. Especially a thin one, I wouldn't use a gel type or, you know, something that was fairly thick.
Tom R.: Okay. Another question I had, and this happens to me occasionally where sometimes the tippet will somehow wrap around the fly line and cut into it, and you get a crack in your line prematurely, And, you know, people ask me about when they have cracks in the line, is there any way to fix that?
Josh: There is. If you found an adhesive that was compatible with vinyl, they make some adhesives for like outdoor furniture that you can use. If it was too far back in the line, you're generally gonna have a bump that's really hard to get that smooth, you know... If it wasn't truly on the tip of your line within the first three to five feet, and it wasn't going in and out of your rod guides very often, you could feasibly and easily repair it with something like that. But the biggest thing is just wanna seal it. So, you could use, you know, a vinyl super glue, something that would be applicable for like outdoor furniture or maybe super glue in that case as well, as long as it was flexible enough to not open up.
Tom R.: So, a flexible vinyl super glue type. Do you have any brands in particular that people can look for that?
Josh: I do. I can't remember it off the top of my head. It was a Loctite product. I think it was literally called Loctite Vinyl.
Tom R.: Loctite Vinyl. Okay.
Josh: Yeah. It's made for vinyl. Like I said, it's made for outdoor furniture, which is typically made of vinyl as well, and it's flexible.
Tom R.: Great. That's good. That's a good tip. The other thing that's kind of controversial and I never seem to get a good answer is cleaning lines, premium lines, should you or shouldn't you...well, you should clean them, but what is the best way to clean them, and should you use any kind of potion on your fly line?
Josh: Sure. So, the cleaning is sort of a non-issue for me. I think you should clean any line as you see fit. Generally, you're gonna see it start shooting not quite as well as it used to. It's not gonna float as high. You may even see dirt on the surface. You know, those are a few signs you can look for as to when your line needs to be cleaned. And I think I would clean any line. I would not hesitate, no matter how much you pay for it, I think cleaning will always help. The taboo thing is probably the post-treatment after it's clean. To get back to the cleaning, I guess I didn't really answer your question there, we sell a pad that works great.
We also sell soap that works great. If you want to use soap at home, just make sure it doesn't have any bleach in it, because you wanna use very little. And then I think I like our pad the best. It's actually a micro-abrasive. It's a very fine grit sandpaper that you run the line through and it takes the outermost layer of the line off, which is generally the dirty part. So, those will work, just keep away from any really strong detergents or anything with bleach in it, and you should be fine.
Tom R.: And then if you don't have the abrasive, run it through a paper towel or something?
Josh: Yeah, paper towel, anything like that would probably be fine. Usually, what I say is the first couple swipes, you'll see the dirt come off, and then as soon as you stop seeing dirt, or if you start seeing some of the fly line color, that's when you know to stop.
Tom R.: Okay. So, you say that it is a micro-abrasive and removes the top layer. I assume that you build fly lines knowing that there's going to be some removal of that material. You allow for that when you make a line?
Josh: Yeah. It's interesting, I've done a couple of studies on that because I've gotten that question a few times on, "Well, how long can I feasibly clean a line without affecting the mass of it?" And generally what happens is that you're... It's interesting, using these pads, you'll literally see the dirt come off and there won't be that much fly line color. So, in my experience, you're not actually affecting the weight as much as you are just stripping the dirt and grime off the surface. If you get too aggressive, I'm sure you probably could, but generally, you're gonna reach the end of life of the line before you clean it so much that you affect the weight.
Tom R.: Okay. And there's enough coating there to allow some leeway.
Josh: Yes.
Tom R.: Cool. Let's see. Next is, well, one of the things, a question I always get is freshwater versus saltwater lines. Is there a difference? Now, let's not talk about temperature. Let's just talk about freshwater versus saltwater.
Josh: Sure. So, if you're talking strictly freshwater versus saltwater, the answer is there may be a difference, or there may not be. The real difference in fly lines is the temperature. And depending on what the fly line was designed to do, we may call it a saltwater line or freshwater line. You, I know you do a lot of fishing in the northeast for stripers, and some of the lines that we term as saltwater that are designed for cold saltwater environments, like a striper fishery are actually usually the same coating as a freshwater trout line. So, the saltwater versus freshwater is more marketing. And the true difference in fly line construction is more about the temperature range that you're gonna fish it in.
Tom R.: So, let's talk about warm versus cold water and when someone needs to go to a warm water line. I mean, the warm water lines are built on a monofilament core, right?
Josh: Braided mono.
Tom R.: Braided mono.
Josh: It's a stiffer core.
Tom R.: Braided mono. It's a stiffer core. If you use them in colder water, they're gonna kink and coil a little bit too much. But the cold water lines get a little sticky in saltwater. So, you want a harder coating and a stiffer core. But what is that temperature where you need to start thinking about going to a warm water line?
Josh: You're exactly right, the difference between a cold water line and a warm water line is generally gonna be the core and the coating both of which are gonna be stiffer for a line that is designed for higher temperatures. And for me, the crossover point is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tom R.: Is that water or air temperature, Josh?
Josh: So, that's a little bit of the gray area. Typically that's air temperatures. But if you're out on the Missouri River out West and it's 90 degrees outside, but the water temperature is still, you know, in the 60s, I would still tend to use a freshwater line there. So, you have to sort of weigh and gauge both. If the air temps are high, but you're fishing for trout and the water temperatures are still relatively low, you're probably fine still using a freshwater line, but if it's 80 or 90 and you're fishing bass and, you know, water temperatures are over 70 degrees, then I would probably switch over to a tropical line in that scenario.
We're based in Michigan, we have a ton of smallmouth bass fisheries here. And starting in end of June and July, I'll actually switch over to a tropical saltwater line for most of my bass angling here.
Tom R.: Because the deck of the boat is so warm and the water's so warm?
Josh: Yeah. They shoot better. And like you said, they don't get quite as sticky. And so, they perform better in those scenarios. But I mean, we can get up to 90 degrees and the, you know, the water temps can be high 70s. It's fairly warm.
Tom R.: Okay. Now, people worry about temperature extremes and fly lines. Will leaving a fly line in a hot car affect it?
Josh: Generally no. And the full temperature side also doesn't really do much. I think for reference, our coating melts starting at about probably 300 degrees Fahrenheit. So, as long as your car isn't getting anywhere near that, the core has an even higher temperature resistance. So, I don't know if I've ever heard of a car interior getting up to 300 degrees in the heat of the summer, but if it does, I would avoid that. But otherwise, you're fine.
Tom R.: Yeah. You won't be fishing anyways if the car's getting to 300 degrees.
Josh: No.
Tom R.: And cold temperatures won't hurt a fly line either?
Josh: Nope. The only thing you'll notice is you try to hit this optimal stiffness for the fishing range that you're in, the temperature range that you're fishing in. And there's always these caveats, like we need a soft line so that in cold temperatures it doesn't get too coily, but as soon as it gets too hot, that soft coating is now gonna get sticky and it's not shooting as well. Our solution was we basically have two hardness packages. We have a relatively limp line because of the limp coating and the limper core for cold water environments. And then on the hot water side, we have a stiffer core and a stiffer coating.
Tom R.: Okay. And question I got recently in the podcast, if you have ice in your guides, is that gonna affect the durability of your fly line?
Josh: I'll be honest, I haven't done any studies in relation to that, but my knee-jerk reaction is probably not unless you've got enough icing and maybe you caught a sharp edge of ice and it started cutting into the coating. But just being in contact with ice, as long as it wasn't sharp, I don't think would've any negative effects.
Tom R.: Yeah, because when the line moves through, it's gonna melt the ice a little bit and probably keep it fairly rounded on the edges, I wouldn't imagine it would be that sharp. But obviously, a premium line's gonna hold up better regardless in that situation.
Josh: Yeah. And I think the slickness packages that we incorporate into our premium lines probably help with de-icing a bit. They're not gonna help keep ice out of your guides but they might help keep ice off of the line.
Tom R.: Okay. Well, that's good anyways. That's a big pain in the wintertime, and I've heard all kinds of things from ChapStick to WD-40. Not WD-40, but some other PAM, I guess, oven spray, and they don't work that well.
Josh: I've heard Vaseline.
Tom R.: No, they don't work that well and it just makes the line sticky. Oh, you didn't answer this. So, I think by not answering it, you probably answered the question, but you don't wanna put any kind of...
Josh: Topical slickness additive?
Tom R.: Yeah. You don't wanna put any product on your fly line, right?
Josh: Generally, yes. So, if you're at least in a mid-tier fly line or above, you'll probably actually degrade the performance of the line by having a topical slickness. What can happen is by applying something to the surface of the line, it can actually have a tendency to collect dirt faster than an essentially dry line with a little bit of slickness that's sort of permeating to the outside layer. And so, you might notice an immediate gain, but in the longer term, or maybe even sort of the middle term or short term, it'll actually collect dirt faster than in untreated line. The caveat is if you have a truly low-end line that has very basic slickness package or maybe none at all, then you might want to, or if you are truly going for distance, you know, if you're in some sort of casting competition and you're not concerned about it getting dirty over the course of a few weeks and you want that extra foot or whatever of length on your cast, then I would also suggest it there.
Tom R.: What's that stuff, Armor All? What would you put on a fly line if you were in a casting... I don't even know if it's legal to do that, but what would you put on a fly line?
Josh: We sell a couple of products for it, which are good. Most of them are silicone oils. We've selected some specialty ones that we believe in. But, you know, I know there's some people that use food-grade silicone spray. I'm sure that works fine. I've heard 303 Aerospace works well too. So, there's a few things, but you just wanna watch out for the same thing that you watch out for in your soap. You wanna make sure there's no solvents or bleach or anything in there that can affect the longevity of your coating.
Tom R.: Yeah. That brings up something else. What kind of chemicals do you wanna keep away from your fly line?
Josh: DEET is the big one. There are actually some lines that are commercially available. Some of our competitors offered lines that are resistant to DEET. So, you know, if you have one of those, maybe you're a little less concerned about it, but I've had DEET eat away the coating on my sunglasses. It's really nasty stuff. DEET is the probably number one killer. Gasoline can be fairly bad as well. And then beyond that, mostly our lines are pretty impervious. I think if you got some really intense sunscreen, you know, you might have an issue, but nothing is really gonna eat away the coating of a line quite like DEET.
If you're using bug spray, I try to not get it on the palm of my hands. I'll apply it with the back of my hands or wash the palm of my hands after I'm done applying. But we've done a couple tests here where, you know, you spray it on a line and within 10 minutes it's developing cracks.
Tom R.: Oh boy. You gotta be careful of that, especially with sprays because, you know, the wind can catch it and they can get on your line.
Josh: They can get everywhere.
Tom R.: Yeah. Another question I had was, what is the best fly line or best taper for slower rods, bamboo, and fiberglass rods? Is there a preferred line for those kinds of rods?
Josh: Yes, usually there is, and generally it boils down to the weight. Most people that cast slower action rods prefer a true to AFFTA standard weight line, which is sort of on the lighter end of what we sell now in relation to overweighted lines. Typically because, you know, generally we're building overweighted lines to get a deeper flex out of a rod for a number of reasons. But if your rod already flexes deeply on its own, then you don't really need that extra weight. The one offset to that is if you're consistently fishing short distances with those rods, then you might still benefit from an overweighted rod because you're just not casting enough fly line to properly load it.
The industry standard for determining a fly line's weight is basically you take the first 30 feet of the line and weigh it. And so, if you can imagine, you know, when you're designing a fly rod, you're designing around this 30-foot length of fly line weight. If I'm fishing a creek and I'm consistently casting with only 10 or 15 feet of line out of the rod tip, I'm casting with roughly half the mass that the rod was designed for. And we offset that by over-rating the line itself. So, generally, if you're gonna be casting at least 30 feet, I would say a true to half the line would be my selection. But if not, then it's sort of less about the rod and more about if you're just casting these short distances, you might need an overweighted line.
Tom R.: Okay. Now, overweighted, you mean your MPX and the Orvis Pro Power Taper, right?
Josh: Correct. Those are both a half-size heavy.
Tom R.: Half size heavy.
Josh: That would probably be where I would go, a half-size heavy. And then we do make heavier weighted lines than that, but we don't have any that are really applicable for creek fishing.
Tom R.: I mean, why make one that's more than a half size heavy, you might as well just call it the next line size up, right?
Josh: Trust me, yeah. That's probably the question I get most.
Tom R.: We're fooling ourselves these days. I mean, I get this complaint from people on the podcast all the time, you know, why do they make rods so stiff that I have to put, you know, one or two line sizes heavier on it? Why don't they just make them true to standard? And that's not the case with Orvis rods, by the way. We do make our rods true to FTMA or AFFTA specs so that an Orvis rod for 5-weight's gonna perform best with a 5-weight unless you're casting 15, 20 feet all day long, then you wanna use a half, or even a hole size heavier. But there's a lot of rods out there that are...
Josh: I remember...
Tom R.: Go ahead, Josh.
Josh: Actually, I ran lines for Sean for development purposes that, and they were all true to AFFTA standard, but he wanted color breaks at certain distances so he could exactly dial in when he's casting without having to measure out, you know, I'm casting 30 feet or 40 feet now, or 50 feet. The lines, I think he's still using them at least at the time were AFFTA standard. And then to your point, my opinion is biased, Orvis is definitely not the worst perpetrator in this world, or maybe not a perpetrator at all, but I think the advent of overweighted lines came about because of "fast action rods."
Tom R.: Yeah. They're too stiff.
Josh: May or may not have been designed around... They may not have been designed around AFFTA true lines, but the problem is if you are a raw designer and an expert caster like you probably are, your casting ability is much beyond the average angler. And so, you design this rod that is very fast action, it's got sexy marketing because everyone wants to go fast and you buy it, and you can't cast it with an AFFTA standard line because frankly, your casting skills aren't up to the par of the person that designed it. And so, you know, who gets the blame there? Is it the $900 rod that you just bought, or is it the $100 line that you [inaudible 01:18:07]? What we found is that generally, it's the line.
Tom R.: The line gets the blame.
Josh: The line gets the blame. And so, for better or for worse, we started making these overweighted lines to sort of compensate. And then, you know, we kept the standard rating weight system just to make it easier for consumers to match up. But now, you know, it's a giant mess. I think it would be great if AFFTA stepped in and updated their standard. I think it's probably about time for that.
Tom R.: Well, they've got a standard on fly lines and, you know, rods. I mean, rods casting is a subjective thing. And you're right, the expert caster can cast an underlined rod pretty well because they've got the hand-eye coordination and the line speed to make it work, but most of us mortals don't.
Josh: That's my answer. It probably sounds like I'm shirking responsibility.
Tom R.: No, no, it's not your fault, You're just making what the market needs. It's not the fly line's fault. Not the fly line's fault.
Josh: It is amazing how many times...we do BYOR events, Bring Your Own Rod, and we essentially have these Orvis reel cases with like 50 reels in there, loaded up with a number of our tapers in a few sizes. And, you know, consumers can bring whatever rod they have and they can try out all of our different tapers. And it's eye-opening for them to show up with their line. And if I know what it is and I know the weight scheme, I can hand them a line that's a little bit heavier. And it's like you transform their rod. It's pretty amazing. I's like night and day difference. I don't think people realize how big of a difference that can have on your casting.
Tom R.: Yeah. Because the rod bends more and you can feel it more and you're gonna get more out of the rod when it bends. That's what they're supposed to do. They're supposed to bend. Let's see. Oh, I got another question. So, smooth versus textured lines, you know, in the premium lines in the Orvis Pro and I guess in your, what's your top end?
Josh: Amplitude.
Tom R.: Amplitude. They come in smooth and textured. And honestly, I go back and forth. Sometimes I use smooth, sometimes I use textured. What advice do you give someone for, you know, deciding whether they want a textured or a smooth line?
Josh: Well, anymore, the only real downside is the noise. We definitely went through a period with the original shark skin where our texturing was too aggressive, And there was legitimately some issues with, you know, braiding your hand or your finger. We've since dialed back the aggressiveness of the texture, at least in the majority of the length of the line. So, that's no longer an issue. In my mind, the only downside is the noise. You know, some people don't really like it. I personally don't fish them at night because it can be kind of distracting. Here in Michigan, we have Hexagenia, and, you know, your only sense is sound, listening for this rising fish. And if you start casting and you can't hear the fish rising anymore, there's a legitimate issue there.
But for any daytime fishing, usually, I'm using textured. So, the downside is noise and probably cost because generally they cost more because you're getting an extra technology. And the upside is you get easier shooting, there's less friction in the guides, and a little bit better floatation because you have more surface area due to that texturing on the surface of the line.
Tom R.: So, all things being equal, you can cast a little farther and the line might float a little better.
Josh: Mm-hmm. And it's marginal, but there's a gain on durability as well. You get a little more longevity out of a textured line because of the reduction in friction.
Tom R.: Okay. So, basically, you're telling people, if you can afford to get the textured line as long as the noise doesn't bother you?
Josh: Exactly.
Tom R.: I like the feel of a smooth line sometimes.
Josh: That's a great sales pitch. I'm an engineer, I can't sell products. So, that is a great sales pitch. That was a much more [inaudible 01:22:16] than what I just said.
Tom R.: Yeah. You know, I don't know, trout fishing, I kind of like the feel of a smooth line. I guess, you know, it might be harking back to my early days when the Cortland 444 was the standard of excellence in fly lines. Not the case anymore, but it used to be. And they were nice and smooth.
Josh: Again, if we get back to the creek example, if you're not consistently shooting line and maybe you're not taking full advantage of the texture anyway.
Tom R.: Yeah. True.
Josh: Kind of on the Delaware or the Missouri or something, and you're actually needing to, you know, shoot a decent amount of line because you have to be separated from the fish at a good distance, then that would be maybe where I'd want texturing.
Tom R.: Yeah. Good point. Good point. I do use a smooth on small streams, so that's a good point. All right. Let's see. You know, I think I have reached the end of my questions and the questions that I get from people. Anything else you can offer to people who are confused with buying a fly line, and you know, looking at, how many do we have? So, just freshwater flowing,1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14. So, there's 17, well, including a sink tip, there's 17... Oh no, there's some sinking lines in there. Never mind. So, there's about, I don't know, there's about a dozen choices that you have in a float, let's say a 5-weight floating line, about a dozen choices you have. Any other general recommendations you can give people about picking a fly line?
Josh: I think probably the most valuable thing you could do is learn the AFFTA weight standard and how it relates to the line you're looking at. So, usually, manufacturers of fly lines will list the 30-foot weight of what the line actually is. So, if you can take that and reference it to what the standard should be, you can interpret how overweighted it is. SA has pivoted to actually just naming the overweighted scheme directly on the front of the box. So, if you pick up a new MPX box, it will tell you on the front that it's a halfway heavy So, that would probably be number one is understanding overweighted schemes and being able to interpret that.
Generally, if you're a novice angler, just getting into it, a halfway heavy is probably gonna be the best line for you, the best general-purpose trout line especially. And then the second one would be probably learning to interpret taper diagrams a bit. And there's some nuance there, but you can boil it down to a couple of things. The more weight that you have towards the front of the line, which in a taper diagram is depicted with a larger diameter, the more aggressive that taper is going to be. And because it's more aggressive, it's gonna be better suited to larger flies or heavy indicator rigs or streamers.
And on the flip side of that, if you have a long fine paper on the front and most of the mass is pushed towards the middle or the back of the head, that's gonna be more delicate. So, if you understand the weight of the line, and if you can understand some basics of taper diagram interpretation, then you can do a lot on your own in sort of determining what that line was designed to do and if it will work for what application you're looking for.
Tom R.: Yeah. I mean, I can think of two extremes in the Orvis line anyways. There's the Bank Shot, which is almost like a shooting head. It's really heavily front weighted and it's designed for one false cast and shooting the rest of the line with a big fly and it'll drive it out there. And I guess the other extreme would be the Superfine. That has a longer front taper.
Josh: Or the Pro Trout has a very, very long front taper.
Tom R.: Which has a longer front taper, the Superfine or the Trout?
Josh: Oh God, you gonna test my memory here. I wanna say the Trout. I think the Trout, probably a majority of the head length is front taper. Yeah, I would say that. You also have to consider the tip diameter, like if you have a really long front taper but it ends at a large tip diameter, then it can still be kind of aggressive. But I think the Pro Trout might be sort of more finesse than the Superfine.
Tom R.: Than the Superfine. Oh.
Josh: Don't quote me on that though. I could look real quick, but it might take a couple of minutes.
Tom R.: No, that's all right. I'll look it up. I think we have taper diagrams on our website anyway, so people can look these up. I think they're there somewhere, I hope. They should be, anyway.
Josh: They should be. Yeah.
Tom R.: All right, Josh. Well, I think that's been a great education in floating lines and hopefully, that's, you know, going to answer people's questions. You know, it's wintertime and people are probably thinking of replacing their line for next season when they get out and start doing more fishing. I mean, people are winter fishing, but not as many as us fair-weather anglers. Is there any line that you think is better in the wintertime?
Josh: No. I think basically any of our cold or freshwater lines are gonna perform about the same. We don't have any lines that are designed specifically for freezing temps. Mostly they'll be fine. No. I think if I could give one tip, one thing that was always kind of salient to me, and I had a buddy here in Michigan sort of explain this to me and it makes a lot of sense is, it's less about the line, it's more about the style of fishing when it gets really cold. And the biggest thing you can do is just try to limit how much line is going in and out of your rod tips. So, if I'm indicator fishing for, you know, lake run steelhead here, I'll try to work out 40 feet and then just use that the entire time I'm in the run.
I won't strip it in. I'll try to have enough out that it's reasonable to just roll, cast it back to the top, follow it down, and just keep doing that rather than stripping in line and shooting it again. That's how you get water in your guides and that's how it freezes.
Tom R.: Yeah. Until you hook a steelhead at that 40 feet and your line is glued to your rod tip.
Josh: Locked up. Yeah.
Tom R.: Or the knot won't go through the guides.
Josh: Yeah. That's true. I've had that happen as well. You know, it's better to try and I always say, it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. That's sort of the core of winter fly fishing.
Tom R.: Yeah. Ain't it the truth? All right, Josh. Well, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge. That's great stuff. And I know you got lots of exciting things coming down the line that we can't tell people about, but they'll find out pretty soon.
Josh: Mm-hmm. Soon enough. Thank you again for having me on, Tom. It was great.
Tom R.: All right, Josh. Take it easy. Talk to you soon. Thanks.
Josh: You too.
Tom R.: Okay. Bye-bye.
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