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Sink Tip lines get no respect

Floating lines are where it’s at these days. Hardly anyone fishes sinking lines and fewer yet fish sink tip lines. Sink tip lines are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fly line world. Yet like Rodney Dangerfield sink tip lines deserve a second glance.
Line Sag was a problemYears ago Sinking Lines were prone to “sagging” when they sank. The line’s belly section would almost always be deeper than either end. That drawback existed in full sink or sink tip lines. That’s no longer the case because today’s technology allows manufactures to create the tapered tips needed for good casting characteristics that actually weigh more than the belly of the line. Despite the smaller tip diameter compared to the belly diameter “Density Compensated” or “Uniform Sink” fly lines will and do sink tip first and that has it’s advantages.

Sink tip lines are particularly good when nymphing where the water isn’t deep. Shallow lakes and ponds, edges of impoundments and stream sections that run 6′ or less are prime areas for a sink tip line. Many people fish these same areas with a floating line and do just fine. But if I’m going to work a sinking fly, be it nymph or streamer in those areas I prefer a sink tip line.

Straight line hookupOne advantage with a sink tip is an ideal hooking angle. A floating line rigged with a tapered leader and split shot will hinge at the leader to line knot. A sink tip line will eliminate the hinge and help maintain direct contact with your fly allowing for quicker hook sets.

Now I know some of you are thinking I use a strike indicator and that provides a straight line connection to my fly. That’s true. What you may not realize is that if I’m rigged with a 4 to 6 foot sink tip line I too am using a strike indicator without the hassle of an added indicator.

The floating section of my line is my strike indicator. In fact, the first mention I recall of strike indicators was an article by Dave Whitlock (in the late 70’s I think) that promoted using a piece of fly line as your indicator. Whitlock suggested you use a needle to thread your leader through the core of a 1″ section of floating fly line and that became your strike indicator. His suggestion was that you slide the 1″ section close to fly when fishing just below the surface allowing more precise strike detection.

Whitlock’s 1″ of fly line had no effect on your casting. There just wasn’t enough weight to notice. With today’s strike indicators that isn’t the case. Even Thingamabobbers, as light as they are interfere with casting. Especially if you combine the strike indicator and two or three split shot. Ease of casting is one thing that keeps me fishing sink tip lines.

If bottom bouncing a nymph is my goal I try to select the shortest sink tip that will get me to the bottom. If I’m planning on swinging streamers or Change of color for sinking sectionwets I follow the same logic and select the shortest head that will get me to the depth I need. A convenient way to convert your floating line to a sink-tip line is to loop a section of sinking line to your floating line. But adding sink tips results in clunky casting because the ends aren’t tapered to help present the leader and fly in an efficient manner. So it’s the integrated sink tip with its tapered tip for me.

So do I never use strike indicators and split shot for nymphing 4 to 6′ deep water? Well, rarely. I carry a spare spool with a sink tip (short head 4 to 6′ long) and if I can’t pull a fish up to a dry I often change my line rather than put on a strike indicator and split shot. I know that sounds time consuming and bothersome but you’d be surprised how quickly you can change out a spare spool. I really don’t think it takes me any longer than changing my leader system to accommodate a strike indicator and split shot.

So the next time you’re out there on the water and thinking about swinging streamers or nymphing in water 6′ or less give a thought to using a sink tip. You can use the looped sections of level line to keep your initial expense down and buy an integrated sink tip later if you like the technique. You may find the increased stability and direct connection to your fly are enough to get you to invest in an integrated sink tip.