Time for an exercise in thoughts – which came first rising trout or tweed?!? Ha ha ha! No that’s not the real question today. Today’s question is one that I’ve spent a decent amount of time asking wiser fly fisherman than myself – and the answer came back a resounding, “I think that’s the right answer, but I’m not 100% certain.”
Let me paint a picture and then ask the question. You’re on a bonefish or a carp flat (or whatever wonderful fish your targeting while fishing) and you’re in one of those surreal moments where you can see out in the distance, within casting range a fish that is showing signs it’s actively feeding. You are about ready to cast. There is a very light breeze, sun is shining perfectly so you can see that that happy and hungry fish doing its thing. You lay out a perfect cast…and that’s where the picture painting ends. Sorry for getting your hopes up. The painting stops because this is where the question happens.
“All things being equal (casting distance, accuracy, quality of tippet/leader, fly size, drag power and efficacy of your reel, etc) would using a lighter rod weight be better than using a higher weight rod to target this fish?” To further this question let’s assume the two rods are a fighting butt equipped 6 weight and 8 weight rods, of equal quality craftsmanship and parts.
Let’s take a look at some of the variables in playing/fighting the target fish. I’ve often been told by saltwater and carp fly fishing veterans, and it is something I believe as well, that the quality of your reel (and it’s stopping power) is the most important part of your gear setup (excluding a leader that’s in good shape) for trying to stop powerful fish. In this situation both reels are of equally capable stopping power and startup inertia, so the reel isn’t playing a differentiating factor in this scenario. I know that the some people will likely argue with me on this point, but the ability to turn an enraged carp or blistering-run capable bonefish is very limited with an 8 wt rod (same with the 6wt). You’re only way to stop one of these beasts is to wait until it’s not running away anymore and get line retrieved as quickly as possible and then wait out the next run. So reel stopping power is much more important than head turning power on these fish.
Let’s take a look into some of casting variables. In this scenario there is no wind – that’s a huge variable – so the need to generate additional line speed (one of the benefits of a 8WT over a 6WT) to punch through the wind is eliminated. The ability to cast the fly accurately the distance necessary is also covered with both rods; same with the ability to turn the leader/fly over. I personally know plenty of fly fisher people who can hit 50+ feet casts accurately with almost any properly lined rod they are going to cast.
So, as we can see at this junction, there is no benefit in this scenario to fishing the 8wt over the 6wt. This is where the conundrum begins. The reason why an 8wt rod can generate more line speed is that it has the ability to load a heavier line and then launch that heavier line forward fast enough to avoid the casting loop collapsing into a pile of messy line and leader and fly. That heavier line is going to create a slightly more pronounced impact on the water compared to an equal cast from a lighter (6wt) line. Doesn’t that mean that a lighter line would be highly beneficial when targeting these ready to spook fish that we are targeting in this example? My opinion is that the answer is – Yes.
In this scenario that we have described the advantage will go to a 6wt rod over a 8 wt rod. I don’t have fears that the fish will be over played or overly tired as a result of the fight because I have the powerful reel backing up the fight. If I can stop the fish quickly with both rods because of the reel than I have no concerns about overly fighting the fish. Also, the 6wt rod may actually be a better line shock dampener during fights than the 8wt due to its lighter construction and softer backbone. I don’t have to worry about casting into/through wind, so my presentation will be more delicate.
Now I am NOT saying that you should take a 6wt out to the Bahamas, or that a 6wt should be your go to rod for catching dozens or carp. (Given the breezy nature of the Bahamas, or many other flats locations, I would rather take a 8 weight out to cut through the breeze.)
What I am saying is that find the right tools to maximize your chances of successfully tricking the fish of your dreams into eating your fly.
What are your thoughts?? I’d love to expand our collective understanding! Comment on the article, social media feed or hit me up on Twitter/Instagram @spenceronthefly. Can’t wait to chat with y’all!