2-The big #9 and lead core line

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This is off subject from building a rod, but I’m more of a cat herder than compulsively focused. The nine weight was put to the test on Vancouver Island, BC this year. My only concern had been the strength of the front ferrule. It seemed small compared to the large rear ferrule. No problem. Fishing the Snowmas River in high water required heavy sinking lines that are hard to pickup out of the water and put lots of strain on the rod. Then there is the fish.

We arrived during the spawn cycle of the salmon run. They weren’t feeding, but the steelhead were. They follow salmon and feed on the eggs. My partner and I hooked thirty to forty in three days — one on a dry fly. At one point I was out of the boat casting into a spawning flat and drifting an egg pattern over a drop-off. The fish that hit was big. Our guide yelled to get in the boat. There was no other was to fight the fish. It pulled two to three hundred feet of line off my reel while we followed it down stream into deep water. After one jump and five more minutes of fight the hook pulled loose. The fish was a three foot plus chinook, the only salmon hooked. The rod and Martin reel were a great combination.

Now for the humor break. I didn’t fish this setup until the fourth day. The first fish was hooked by the tenth cast. Things were going well until the reel face including the crank fell off. I managed to control the line against the rod handle with my index finger and also replace the reel face. The fish was still on, but shortly the reel fell apart again. I began to imagine the guide’s thoughts about the guy with the home made rod and vintage reel. At the same time I didn’t hear any LOL from my partner in the stern. I should have. I’d earned it. The steelhead was landed. She had to be embarassed. As it turned out, I had incorrectly installed the reel face when changing spools the previous night.

The Martin reel and lead core line are both over thirty years old. Lead core has no memory and won’t retain coils from the small diameter spool. The reel itself has a 3-1 crank ratio. It could easily bring in the line when a big fish changed direction. Coiling and retrieval speed are the current arguments favoring large arbor reels. Have you heard of fly fishing lead core line? Let me go off on that tangent for a bit.

Dad and I fished Pyramid Lake north of Reno Nevada in the early 70’s. We used spinning gear until Mid, the rod builder, introduced dad to a ten weight fly rod with a lead core shooting head. Dad never turned back. I didn’t have the funds or skill to change. The lead core could be cast a good distance and sank quickly. Dad and mom later moved to Grants Pass and took the technique to the Rogue River and steelhead fishing.

Lead core is a core of lead wire with a fabric wrapping. Mine weighs 16 grains per foot. It is not tapered. Deep line trollers use this line, and for their benefit it changes color every ten yards. Monofilliment is nail-knotted to one end as running line, and the leader is knotted to the other. My line has a 22 foot head to make a 350 grain line.

Casting requires that the head be out of the guides, but not far; otherwise you can’t lift it off the water. Often I would double haul without a false cast. With one false cast, 80 feet seems easy. In comparison to a 400 grain Teeny line I observed these differences. The sink rate is very quick. The line doesn’t belly as much in the current, and the running line doesn’t present as much drag. Spend a day casting and retrieving one of these lines and your arm may fall off if your hands don’t cramp first. My left hand starting to cramp was a surprise.

Next spring I will experiment with lead core of different weights at Eleven Mile in Colorado. I will try building a tapered shooting head with different weights of lead core. This line has real potential in deep water or heavy current, but little sex appeal in the modern market. In the next post I will be writing about spigot ferrules on the new rod.

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