It’s very easy to get seduced by videos showing people casting #5 weight lines apparently 100ft with just one false cast, however invariably these lines are overweight (sometimes by two line weights according to the AFFTA table). This doesn’t present any problem at all when it comes to fishing, if someone wants to use a #7 line but pretend it’s a #5 then that’s perfectly ok so long as they’re getting the results they want. However for competitions it’s not ok, but it’s hard to explain to people why, when they’ve paid a lot of money for an ultra-casting #5 line, they can’t use it at the BFCC.
To me it’s a shame that AFFTA don’t hold some sort of rights over the words ‘#5’ or ‘5 weight’ or ‘AFFTA #5’ or any combination of these. If they did, they could prevent line manufacturers from using them on their boxes unless the line did in fact conform to their very simple specification. And therein lies the problem, a manufacturer can make a line any weight they want and stick it in a box with #5 written on it.
Now I suspect the vast majority of people who buy these lines have never bothered weighing them, nor, to be honest, do they care what it weighs. For them, if it says ‘#5’on the box then they’re fishing a #5 outfit, and if their fishing distance has suddenly improved without any increase in skill level, then all the better and the line’s seemingly great.
Personally I weigh every line I get. Yes, this is because I tend to buy lines for two purposes – fishing and casting competitions. This ensures that if I’m ever lucky enough to break a BFCC record then I’m absolutely confident that my outfit (and Tracy’s, as we often use the same gear – and she does break the records quite often) will pass the compulsoryscrutineering. Since this tackle testing has been introduced no one has been caught out, but I’m sure it will happen one day and almost certainly it will be because someone is using a line which they genuinely bought as a ‘#5’ or a ‘#7’ but is in fact overweight. I know I would be very disappointed to have a potential record ruled out in this way.
I also send lines back if they don’t match up to what’s written on the box. Now this doesn’t happen very often at all, mainly because I buy the type of lines that are known to be true to the specification. I wonder what would happen if more people did this – perhaps it would force manufacturers to look at their labelling if they got a high number of returns. Again, to be clear, I don’t have any issue with short, heavy-head type lines, they definitely have their place in fly fishing, however it’s the deliberate mis-labelling of them as a lower AFFTA number that bugs me. Like it or not, distance clearly sells in fly lines and heavy goes further than light. Until we effectively take a stand against this practice by rejecting lines, it will no doubt increase. I am, however, under no illusion that anyone other than a small minority of fly anglers care, as most can’t tell the difference between a #7 touching down and a #5.
All the best, James.