AFTMA fly line standards - problems?
AFTM – A Fictitious Tangled Mess? (written in 2003 prior to the proposed new standards)
I asked a few line manufacturers to comment on my thoughts about line standards suitable for double handed rods, hoping for a common thread, something that might find agreement to make life easier for us. Here is what I got!
Rio Products – comments from Simon Gawesworth
Choosing the right line weight from a range of three weights 7/8/9, 8/9/10, etc is not easy and, in its current format, is pretty much left to guess work as well as a lot of trial and error for the average caster. We believe that our new system will catch on and maybe even revolutionise fly line ratings and we will not be using the AFTM system because it is flawed when using anything other than a double taper line.
Snobee are currently working on a revised system of line ratings for a new range of Spey lines, making the choice of line more to do with line form and less to do with the current AFTM system, which in our opinion is a much simplified process. Thus the lines will be made with either a 51 foot head or a 62 foot head but both versions will be available in three sizes #9, #10 and #11.
Cortland – comments from Leon Chandler
I am certain that 2-handed rods were not considered when the AFTMA Fly Line Standards were adopted in 1962. Through the years, there have been several feeble attempts to modify the AFTMA Standards to allow for aerialising more than the 30 feet measured length on which the Standards are based. Fortunately, wiser heads have prevailed and no modifications have been seriously considered. Changing to accommodate the aerialisation of 40, 50, 60 feet would be a nightmare for the fly line manufacturers in the world. While the AFTMA Standards may not be the perfect system, they have withstood the test of time for more than 40 years - and beginning in 1962, resulted in accomplishing some order to the chaotic situation we had previously with the old "letter" designations based on diameter.
Scientific Anglers – comments from Bruce Ritchards
This is a troublesome issue. The real answer to the problem is for the industry to establish weight standards for Spey lines, there are none now. Using the AFTMA standards for single hand lines doesn't work as most of the spey lines available have long front tapers which make the lines very light at 30 ft., but very heavy at longer lengths. Using currently available DT lines as a standard is OK, but again, front tapers vary greatly which will have a big impact on belly diameters, and hence weight, at longer lengths. I have spent some time, with others help, developing weight standards for Spey lines and believe that there is a good, workable solution to the problem that addresses both lines with long and short heads. The problem now is getting everyone to agree to adopt it. AFTTA (Amer. Fly Tackle Trade Assoc.) is really the group that has to push it, for one manufacturer to try would surely receive resistance from some competing manufacturers. Scientific Anglers has a weight standard for Spey lines that doesn't necessarily agree with others, but works for the majority of users. Until there is industry accepted Spey line standards there will continue to be confusion. Even when standards are in place there will be disagreement related to differing rod designs, casting styles, etc., but at least there would be one constant, line weight, to base upon. We use dual line weights on our lines, but I wish they were single. Dual or triple rating is very confusing and should be eliminated, I agree, but won't happen without standards. The real problem is that there must be someone to champion the change with AFTTA. I used to be on the AFTTA Board and made initial attempts at standardising Spey lines, line sink rates, and slightly modifying the current system to better address heavy lines with short heads. When I left the board a couple years ago the impetus was lost apparently. As Spey fishing becomes more popular there should be more pressure to have line standards. I'm ready to help when this pressure reaches AFTTA.
I take some comfort from the manufacturers comments, at least they recognise the problem. But if you are not confused by the present situation, maybe you didn't’t read some of these responses correctly! FF&FT would be delighted to hear about your experiences (good or bad) concerning weights of fly lines and the AFTM system, especially for double handed rods and to hear your suggestions for improvements. We will present responses to the manufacturers on your behalf with the request that they listen to their customers. From my experience as an instructor selecting fly lines causes individuals more grief than any other item of tackle and so I keep a large variety at hand for customers use.
From the angler’s point of view, in addition to wasted expenditure on a line that is unsuitable, there are fishing practicalities to be considered. For a given amount of thrust a large boat moves slower than a small boat and for a given amount of current a thick floating line fishes slower than a thinner floating line because it has more drag, more resistance to movement in the river and so it fishes more slowly. Additionally and most importantly if you are fishing with small flies in a small river or in low flow conditions when you need to get movement a thick or heavy floating line will reduce your chances of success because it will not balance the flies or the leader and it will cause more disturbance, it is clumsy. Given the choice of fishing too heavy or too light I prefer to fish a lighter line because it is more subtle, it drifts easier in slack currents and even on the biggest rivers there are places when a short cast at my side will be much more profitable than a huge cast to the other bank. Why waste effort on a 1% chance of hooking a fish at the other side whilst ignoring a 10% chance of success on your own side? It is always better to fish half the river correctly than all of it wrong! This is never more true than in summertime when low, warm water demand application of all the angler’s skills if success is to be achieved. Fishing tackle is like any other tool, selecting that most suited for the job makes it easiest. It’s a pity that the choice of fly lines more baffling than needs be at present.
Meantime the best way to ensure satisfaction is for you to try the combination of rod and line for yourself, if it balances and fishes nicely it is correct regard less of the number on the box.
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