Connections – Backing > Fly line

Winter is a great time to sneak out for the odd decent day of fishing but it’s also a time to service gear, prep rigs, tie flies and think about your plan of attack for the coming season. 

Something that came to light while changing fly lines recently was how many shitty backing to fly line connections I’ve seen. There’s no denying powerful fish need strong connections.  

Marc Clinch about to hear his backing knot sing.
Strong fast runs see the backing knot tested rigorously.

My flats Kingfish assemblies tend to step down from 60lb fine diameter backing to fly line (approx 35lb) and ending with around 20-30lb straight section of fluoro leader. This is to help avoid losing fly lines but also try to prohibit fish carrying excess line around if they bust free (barbless hooks should also get a mention for this reason). 

At a pinch you can double your backing and make a doubled Bimini loop. This has twin loops and is better than a single strand which can bite into a fly line.   

My favourite is to create a sleeve of braided 50lb mono and use this as the load distributor through your loop-loop connection. The steps below should get you underway and have more confidence in your connection as it sings out the guides. 

All the tools you need for this connection

  • Cut a length of braided mono to make a loop big enough to pass your reel through – this makes changing lines easier if you need.
    Braided loop should be big enough to pass reel through.
  • Pass backing through braided mono and leave tag end of 50cm 
  • Thread whip one end of mono. Give it a light dab of super glue and roll in fingers to absorb. 
  • Smooth the mono tightly to the other end, ensuring no slack. Repeat whipping/gluing. 
  • Now double the backing up to form your mono sleeve loop. Make the two whipped ends slightly offset – this should help taper the transition of finished knot. 
  • Plait braid back down onto the mono whipped tag ends. Start far enough up from mono ends to create a 4-5cm plait. 
  • Once you reach mono start half hitching, using opposing hitches. These should start to trap the braided mono. 
  • Work hitches down until you’ve covered previous whipping and secure tag with a rizutto finish. 
  • Cover knot with Loon soft head or similar flexible glue. 
    Tied, glued and dried. Ready for a beating.
  • Allow to fully dry, nothing worse than winding fly line on and discovering you’ve glued it to your backing knot!
  • Attach fly line by passing backing loop fully through fly line loop then passing reel through large backing loop. Finished connection should resemble a reef knot. 
    Finished loop to loop connection.

Some useful knot links. 

Plait – NB: stop at 1:20 mark, don’t use finishing knot in video. Start hitching instead. 

Rizutto finish –

That’s a wrap

That’s a wrap. A term used to signify the closure of an event or season. But since Tauranga’s season doesn’t seem to be quite over I’ll apply the phrase to those pesky tail wraps some larger fly patterns tend to acquire. 

Over time my top fly patterns have been developed and adjusted to suit the many factors required in everyday fishing. To me durability, practicality, castibility and some other key assets are always top of the pile. 

Tail wraps are a (insert cuss word here). While they can’t always be avoided they can be mitigated during the tying process and best avoided with some slick casting. 

Something I’ve found key is to build an internal core that will support the more supple fibers without compromising movement. Faux Bucktail is now a firm favourite for this task. A few thread wraps tucked under the fibers near the bend or solely around the fibers themselves adds to the value. 

Faux Bucktail, the best thing since sliced bread
SF fibers perched upon Faux Bucktail ready for more layers

Building heads that hold their shape also allows the fly to keep itself in order. Anything more than a third of total length may prohibit action so be mindful of this and also not restricting the gape of the hook. 

I’ve been a huge fan of Loon Soft Head for this purpose for a long time, recently I’ve tried Plastidip also and found this to be just as good. Although it takes a while to prep and better suits finer material. A light head of Senyos Lazer Dub will be enough to cover the other synthetics nicely and bind the adhesive better. 

The water pushing head and initial air trapped inside the front cone will get the attention of any super predators nearby. Nothing says eat me like the noise of a bubble trail. 

Masked eye and hook ready for a spray

There’s other tricks out there also such as building mono tail guards and using shorter tails so it is really a case of finding what suits your fly. Another quirky trick I picked up while twiddling a fly cruising the flats is the dreadlock theory. As most of the flies I tie and use are synthetic they can be twisted at the tip to lock the fibers up a little and stop wayward hook wraps

Dreadlock the tips, great time killer while on the water
Finished product ready to swim

With all these things now going in your favor it leaves more time for fishing and less time untangling or even worse throwing twisted, matted flies away. 
The countdown is on for the new season now, although there’s still a few to be caught between low pressure systems. With 16c water and lots of bait it comes as no surprise there’s still a few stragglers about. 

Dealing with rejection

Just a handful of reasons you may have suffered in the hands of the fishing gods.

At some point in your life you’ve had to deal with rejection. How you go about dealing with it is your business, but one thing is – if you don’t pick your own self up you ain’t never going to learn from it.

Therefore I’ve put together a few little snippets on making a rubbish situation a little more bearable and maybe even turn it into an eat. And also help me get through the flats drought over winter.

Kingfish are by and large a cunning predator. They are on top of their game and one day will be terrorizing bait relentlessly, the next day scrutinizing every single fibre on your fly. So as a rule of thumb for these days I’ll fish as natural as possible. Muted colors and minimal bling can still turn them on. Otherwise “if you can’t catch em, piss them off”! Bright, bulky and loud being the modus operandi here.

Big, loud and bright. Small, natural and subtle.
Those follows… Heart stopping, time seems to slow right down as they meander along behind your fly. One kick of that yellow tail will see them overtake it but they’re content on just following. You run out of line, now what? Get that fly out of the water, no point educating the fish more than it need to be. Wait for them to turn then flick the fly into their exit path – departing body language will dictate if they eat it or not, just remember to make the fly move straight away. You can also try changing your retrieve but bear in mind you can’t out strip a kingfish.

Eat it you f*%ker!

A few points about these precious few seconds boat side. Don’t look them in the eye, keep very still, no pointing at them and yelling eat the f*%ken fly. Keep the rod still and away from overhead. In fact just ignore the bastards and wait for your next shot, almost as they disappear from sight or at your casting range limits are best bets.

Gear failure sucks big time. Buy the best gear you can afford and keep it in great condition. Saltwater is a reel killer and a water/bomb proof drag is highly recommended. Retie suspect and overworked knots. Research the best connections for each stage of line join and practice them over and over again. And when you’ve mastered that find an even better way to do it…

Sometimes however it just doesn’t go to plan. My mate Andrew Marshall got backlashed on a big kingfish a few years back (keep the drag set, not undone after stripping line off). The monstrous surface take and sound of that fly line snapping as it came tight was epic and forever etched in our minds. All these little lessons serve a purpose to strengthen your resolve, if you’re not learning something from it then get an easier hobby.

Quick re rig and time to ponder the big kingfish that just destroyed a fly line.

Most people don’t eat meals all day long, same applies to fish. Perhaps a smaller portion will be snapped up more readily. This is a good time to mention bite times and solunar activity. Keep an eye on these you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the fish activity correlates to these times, even if it is just a brief window.

And finally the worst of all, blanking! You’ve worked hard all day, covered all your spots and tried all your tricks. Best to go home, clean your gear, curse the fish and have a beer (in no particular order, but if you’re really clever you can do them all at once). Strip things back to the basics and think how you can do better. Often keeping things simple will take the clutter out of your head and fishing. Leaving you free to chase fish, not faff around distracted.

3 days of searching, blanks and refusals ended with this in the dying minutes.

Cheer up dude. At least the old man caught something.

Even the best of the best have had a shit day or two. Just bear that in mind next time you find yourself raging in a bad way. Tomorrow’s another day.

Pre Season Look-see

With all the prevailing Westerly wind we typically have over Spring I managed to find a gap between gusts and sneak out for a look at what lies ahead this season. Even this recce was windy but I managed to tuck myself away from both the wind and the world for an early morning high tide hunt. It was very enjoyable just to be back on the water with a purpose after a hard slog of swatting through Winter.

I managed to find loads of baitfish where they normally reside with the occasional big Kahawai cruising the flats. The newly added Minnkota making the job all that more easy and enjoyable. The stealth approach game has been lifted to all new levels, some of these fish were oblivious to my presence until well within a 20ft cast. I left these fish alone as the 10wt was stripped and ready, waiting for that Kingfish shot that comes and goes faster than it should.

Also of note was the big black ray that mooches around one spot was there again – which is very refreshing as he holds numbers of Kings on him at times and the first we took off him was Nov 05 last year. The Kingfish are being caught out the front and also appearing in harbour catches so in a few weeks time the water will be that little bit warmer and the flats should start to produce some great sight fishing. To say I’m getting excited is probably about right.

This video doesn’t exist

UPDATE ON PROGRESS… I have just sat my Skippers exam and gained a pass. Still loads more to complete and timing has been pushed out due to a few unforeseen hurdles (won’t go into detail!) Please get in touch here if you have any further queries or would like to book a trip for when things get the final sign off.

An eye for detail

Since  I have had minimum time on the water over the last month (work, baby, bad weather, work, work… repeat) I figured best to write something that is the next best thing to time on the water. Prepping for fishing trips is a very close second, especially when Winter is making itself present.

Call me slightly OCD but I have a thing for tying flies with a fair bit of attention to detail. Maybe not quite the levels of some hyper-realistic flies, who really has time to tie those Picasso pieces? It’s something I find gives me more confidence while fishing them, especially when the days are tough and the fish not as Kamikaze as you’d like. Eyes are definitely a major trigger for most of my salt water flies

Eyes are a deal breaker. Picture a fleeing baitfish, eyes wide as a predator closes the gap in pursuit, the predator keyed on dinner. They’re both watching each other, looking for clues as to each others movements. Many good fisherman also understand these subtle body gestures and use them as an indication themselves. Liken it to a first date, something I’m out of touch with but if my memory serves me right you can read a fair deal from eye movement and whether or not you’re getting lucky.

There’s such a vast array of options from homemade works of art to mass produced sheets of pupils. It’s really up to the fly makers imagination. Personally I prefer function and durability when using them, most of the time bound under a coating of resin. The flies and eyes below are just the tip of the ice berg and the options are limited only by creativity.

So next time you’re tying or even better on the water stop and give them a thought. It may be the difference between a donut day or a damn good day.

Fish Skull weight and eye combo
Fish Skull weight and eye combo
Crease fly with classic holographic pupil
Crease fly with classic holographic pupil
Tube Squid fly with light weight plastic moulded eyes.
Tube Squid fly with light weight plastic moulded eyes.
Piper eyes buried under resin
Piper eyes buried under resin
Tungsten dumbbell eyes
Tungsten dumbbell eyes
Floating booby with rattle doll eyes
Floating booby with rattle doll eyes
Lightly weighted shrimp
Lightly weighted shrimp