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Better Hook Ups Or Lose More Fish? - Bucking The Low Stretch Trend

Better Hook Ups Or Lose More Fish? - Bucking The Low Stretch Trend

With copious variations of head lengths, densities and styles you would not be wrong to find the extensive fly line choice somewhat confusing. One particular fly line variation you will have likely heard of are low-stretch or low-stretch core fly lines. Several manufacturers offer these lines in various types from floaters to midge tips to full sinking lines. The recent modern trend has seen a shift towards less 'stretch' in the fly anglers tackle, all combining in a bid to increase hook ups. The following blog will discuss their uses and how they fair against more forgiving set ups and how some small changes may result in less snap offs and lost fish.

What are low/non-stretch fly lines?

Now lets get one thing clear before we dive in. Non-stretch fly lines do in fact stretch. If they did not, they would not function. On average, a standard fly line will have somewhere in the region of 20-30% stretch, whereas a "non-stretch" fly line will have 5-6%. The key difference between the two (aside from this percentage) is that the stretch capabilities of a standard fly line will increase or decrease depending on the amount of line you have out. Whereas low-stretch fly lines will maintain the same amount of stretch throughout. This means that when fishing standard fly lines, the more line you have out, the more you need to consider line control when fishing and control when playing fish. 

Low-stretch fly lines were originally designed to aid bite detection and hook up rates. The reduction in stretch makes the connection between the angler and their fly/flies far more sensitive. The less give the line has, the easier it will be to feel even the softest of takes, especially at range. Low stretch fly lines were originally developed for sinking lines, where Airflo were the pioneers for some time. This trend has been since followed by other companies and now also incorporates floating lines.

Playing a fish on a "Standard" Cortland 444 Floating Line while nymphing. 

Non-stretch sinking lines have also been around for some time. They are excellent for detecting takes, whilst their low stretch cores help the angler to effectively set the hook when your flies are presented deep and/or at range. They are best for when presenting flies slowly. However, they can sometimes be unforgiving with fast or pulled retrieves, particularly when combined with a low stretch fluorocarbon leader. 

A deeper dive into standard and non-stretch fly lines

Standard fly lines, as mentioned before, have around 20-30% stretch. The more forgiving nature of these lines makes them perfect for applications when fishing flies higher in the water, being favoured particularly for nymphing techniques. Their composition reduces the risk of being snapped off on the classic arm-wrenching nymph or buzzer takes. Although it can be avoided, snap-offs tend to be more prevalent when fishing non-stretch fly lines. Furthermore, once a fish is in play, the give in the fly line will also absorb some of the head shakes and sudden runs. When fishing low-stretch fly lines, you need to be more considerate when playing fish, more so if using a fast action or high weight rod. 

Consider using a poly coated leader to act as a shock absorber.

Nonetheless, they are not without their flaws. Where standard fly lines are ideal for reducing the risk of smash takes, if the angler does not have perfect contact with their flies, they are liable to miss sensitive or subtle takes. When fish become pressured or shy, they take flies cautiously, and line management is of utmost importance. In situations like these, a non-stretch fly line can offer an advantage.

In addition to their sensitivity, low-stretch fly lines are also ideal for fishing at range. Not only due to their perceptiveness but also for striking into fish. At range, when striking a standard fly line, you need to account for the distance, any slack, and the natural stretch of the fly line. These factors all affect the quality of the hook set. On the contrary, low-stretch lines would negate the stretch element, contributing to a stronger hook set at range. However, the lack of give can lead to snap-offs at shorter ranges due to the lack of stretch/give. Furthermore, the low-stretch cores that provide the sensitivity of the line also cause them to hold memory which can often require more stretching than standard lines to resolve.

Cortland Camo Intermediate fly line offers monofilament core.

Other variables to consider

However, other variables must be considered. Fishing set-ups don't solely rely on the fly line. The rod, line and tippet must all be considered when discussing stretch, give and sensitivity. For instance, if you fished a fast-action rod with a low-stretch line and stiff leader, you may well get snapped off, because your set-up has no forgiveness. Set-ups require balance. A more considered combination would be a medium action rod matched with a Cortland 444 or Snowbee XS Floating Lines and a forgiving copolymer tippet material. An alternative is to add a polyleader to absorb shocks, the loop to loop connection omits adding another knot to the line and they can aid turn over. The set-up depends on the confidence the angler has in their kit. Nonetheless, a more balanced setup and application will help. In terms of application, your rod placement can also have an effect on sensitivity when fishing high in the water. Holding the rod tip a couple of feet above the water's surface or at a 45-degree angle indicate takes early whilst maintaining line control. Simply watch the loop of the line for any movement. Read our recent Buzzer Blog for more information on this.  

Ben's Top 5 Tips to Prevent Snap Offs.

     1. Opt for a lower stretch fly line like a Cortland 444 or Snowbee XS

     2. Switch from fluorocarbon to copolymer or add a nylon polyleader

     3. se a more forgiving slower action rod such or go down a weight category

     4. Hold the rod at 45 degrees to the fly/flies to absorb the shock of a big take

     5. Shorten dropper knots to prevent tangles or hinch knots forming weak points


Thank you for taking time to read the blog, we really appreciate your thoughts and feedback. Please feel free to drop a comment on wh. If you enjoyed this article please subscribe to our newsletter via the homepage. Use code WELCOME10 at checkout for 10% off your first order with us. 

Tight Lines

Ben Beckwith

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Chris - June 4, 2024

What low stretch , low memory floating line could you recommend for a Norwich m400 9’6 4/5/6 wt graphite rod? , it casts lovely, but a line with stretch feels to soft playing a good fish.

Tom Glen - July 22, 2023

Very helpful information even for an experienced fly fisher.

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