Floating Fly Line Comparison: Ambush versus Outbound Short

I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount of gear I have to take beach fishing.  I moved from a vest to a sling pack several years ago; take only a few flies in a small case; and carry only one or two sizes of tippet material (typically 1X and 2X).  So I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using only one fly line along with poly leaders to cover most of the fishing situations encountered on the beach.

My favorite and primary fly line for beach fishing with my six-weight Winston  is an Airflo 40+ Floating/Intermediate line. Its 35-foot transparent slow intermediate head settles nicely beneath the water surface. And it nicely loads my 9’ 6” rod and allows me to easily cast out to 50 feet with no hauling.

Still, there are times when I’d like to cast surface flies (e.g., popper) with a floating line. I’d carried a spare spool loaded with floating line for those low-tide low-water situations in which a surface fly excels.

Consistent with my goal of reducing what I carry, I’ve been considering the use of floating lines with poly leaders as a one-spool solution for my fishing needs. Given that poly leaders come in a number of densities (from floating to fast sinking), I thought that might be all I’d need.

Yesterday I went to my local beach on a falling tide (and no wind) and brought along two six-weight fly lines: a Royal Wulff Ambush and a Rio Outbound (OB) Short Floating.  The Ambush has a 235 grain weight 18 foot head; the OB Short has a 265 grain weight 30 foot head.  I also carried an Airflo Slow Intermediate 10-foot poly leader.

First up was the Ambush. I used the poly leader along with a five foot length of 1X tippet (the fly was a tube fly with a size 4 hook).

The Ambush roll cast very nicely. It provide a nice D-loop and gave a nice crisp cast.

It did also work in overhead casting. With one or two false casts, I was able to shoot line with no problem.

But there was something about it that wasn’t clicking with me. It may be that the line itself is very large and it felt clunky. And I found that if I did a poor cast the line would collapse.

I switched over to the OB Short, including the poly leader / tippet combination described above. Roll casting was near that of the Ambush, but I think the Ambush was slightly better.

Overhead casting was no comparison. The OB Short was a much easier casting line for me. If I made a bad cast, the line still performed and didn’t collapse. I also had the sense the line moved through the rod guides a good deal smoother than the Ambush. I easily was able to get out to 40-50 feet with no effort. In that regard it felt a lot like casting my Airflo 40+ line.

So have I found a one-line solution for the majority of my beach fishing with my 6-weight rod?  I’d have to say not yet.

I know if I was dealing with a high tide condition with no room for a back cast I’d want to use the Ambush.

For most of my beach fishing where there’s some wind and surface chop (and I know I’ll not be doing any surface flies), I’ll stick with my Airflo 40+.

But on days where I might want to go either surface or sinking, I think the OB Short is a great solution when combined with poly leaders from either Airflo or Rio.

Could I get to the point where the OB Short would replace the Airflo? I’m not ready to say that. I’d need to cast the OB Short more to say that. And it might take a beach shootout in conditions that favor the use of the Airflo.

Stay tuned.

Winston BIII-SX: First Fishing Trip

My previous post on casting the Winston BIII-SX (see post here) came after my fist afternoon casting session in my backyard. Since then, I’ve had a chance to cast it more in the backyard; experimenting with different reels for balance; and got my first time with it on the water – using it during an Introduction to Beach Fishing Course (see post here)

I’ll say this with no hesitation: the BIII-SX 9’ 6” 6 weight is a wonderful casting rod with plenty of power, and with the fishing soul of every other Winston.

First on the choice of reel. After a bit of experimentation I decided the Galvan Torque T-6 reel was the best match. Coming in at 5.2 ounces, it gave me a balanced feel in the hand. I had tried a couple of older reels I still had and a Nautilus FW8 7/8 (4.1 ounces), but in each case the rod felt tippy in my hand. That’s not a slam on the Nautilus reels; I use them on my BIIIX and find the lighter weight a great match for lighter rods.

One point to consider is that both the Galvan and Nautilus reels were loaded with SA Mastery GPX 6-weight for the comparison; what I might have thought had I made the comparison with the line I used on the water I can’t say. I suspect the Nautilus would have been a bit better balanced given the extra volume of backing. I may test that at some point.

In terms of the line I used on the water, I went with the recommendation I got in the Introduction to Beach Fishing Course and rigged it with an Airflo Forty Plus Intermediate Fly Line. This is a great line for beach fishing; with its semi-translucent head that sinks at 1.5 inches per second, it tends to float just beneath the surface on the windy conditions of Puget Sound.

One thing I did learn in the class was that a stripping basket made all the difference in terms of line management of intermediate lines. Without it, there was too much drag from line in the water.

As far as casting the rod on the water, I found the elusive groove.

One of the challenges I’ve had since I starting fly-casting is learning to not overpower the cast. I’ve had glimmers of doing it right, but nothing consistent from cast to cast.
Even in my first session in the backyard and the first few casts on the beach with BIII-SX I was doing the same thing.

Then I started to experiment and things got much better. What I found was the rod’s obvious power allowed me to slow down my cast and let the rod do the work. I felt like I was casting better than I had before. Blake, our guide and instructor, came by twice and complimented me on the way both the back casts and forward casts were rolling out in straight lines. After that, it didn’t matter if I caught any fish– the confidence of his compliments made my day.

We had a bit of wind from the left (I’m a right-handed caster) and I had no trouble in keeping the line moving in the direction I wanted. I could vary my cast to see how the rod handled it and most casts felt easy and relaxed.

I gave the rod to Blake for a demonstration of double hauling (something I still have to learn) and he easily got the line out to some distance, showing me what this rod’s capability in the hands of a great caster.

Did it turn me into an expert caster? Of course not. I have to much to learn and need to get miles under my casting belt. But the concerns I had about whether this was a rod I could grow into were dispelled within the first hour on the water.

I can’t wait to get out with it next time I go chasing sea-run cutthroat trout.