Check your line and improve results

Anglers treat one of the most important parts of their fishing tackle with contempt. The one part that often means the difference between landing a fish and losing it is the line. Granted, the hook and knot are important but more often the line is what parts, not the other two.


Buying a spool of monofilament line and using it for three or four seasons is asking for disaster should a big fish strike. It is probably that fish of a lifetime that will break your line, and chances are you will be on your own and you will only be able to recount the story about the monster that got away. Recount it you will anyway, but wouldn't it be better if you had the evidence. Most anglers buy their line by breaking strain - for trout it is generally from 2 kg to around 5 kg.

What is equally important, and many say more important, is line thickness. Breaking strain can vary substantially for a given thickness. The more expensive line is usually thinner and stronger. Thinner line is more manageable, more difficult for fish to see, easier to cast, allows the lure to work better, lets the lure run deeper when trolling (less drag) and you can put more line on your reel.

Some anglers use heavier line than necessary and almost always get fewer bites as a result.

Stretch is another consideration. All monofilament line stretches, too much and it is difficult to set the hook, too little and it will break when trying to control a fighting fish. The right amount absorbs the shocks of a hard fighting fish.

Stiffness can cause problems with the line coiling up and tangling. Poor quality line often exhibits "memory" and stays in coils after coming of the spool. Limp line allows you to cast further, and hopefully swim your lure past most fish. Line colour is something that is always contentious. No line is invisible - it doesn't matter what anyone tells you - it isn't. Some people use fluorescent line and catch fish (a tip is to use a clear leader for the last metre or so). As depth increases the colour does become less important because the light decreases. Browns, greens and clear line all make claims at being the best, and maybe there are certain situations where each are. Abrasion resistance is something that should also be considered. Not so important in freshwater, but vital in salt water. A line should have the ability to withstand nicks and scrapes from rocks, fish teeth and gills. The stiffer lines are generally better in these situations, but one must find a compromise. A short tippet of stiffer line can often be used when abrasion is likely. Every now and then you should retrieve the line through your fingers to check for nicks and abrasion. Any rough or damaged sections should be cut off or replaced.

The connecting link, and where most breakages occur, is ultimately the knot. Some knots reduce the breaking strain to half. Some anglers have been using the same knots for years, many of these used on new thinner lines are inappropriate. On the other hand, even good knots tied poorly will fail. All knots should be drawn up slowly and a lubricant should be used. Saliva is ideal. If the knot doesn't look right, cut it off and retie it. It will only matter if you have a fish on.

An Improved Clinch knot is good, but perhaps the best knot is the Trilene knot. The trilene has close to 100 per cent knot strength. It is the knot I use most often for lures and hooks. The only time I use other knots is for flies and when I want free movement of the lure and then I tie a loop knot. The Trilene is the same as an Improved Clinch except the line goes around through the eye of the hook twice at the start. Remember the thinner the line the more turns you should take. On 3kg line 6 turns is sufficient.

Spooling up is another area that causes confusion. All reels should be filled correctly. Baitcasters and level wind reels should be filled to where the spool starts to flare outward. Spinning reels should be filled to 2 mm to 3 mm below the lip. Fill a spinning reel more than this and you will end up with tangles and birds nests. To spool line on a baitcaster, slip a pencil through the spool of line and wind it straight on while someone holds it. On a spinning reel there are two lines of thought.

One is to hold the spool so it faces the reel. The line will come of in coils, just as it does when casting. After 20 or 30 turns, let the line hang slack. If it twists up, simply flip the spool over and continue. The other way is to wind it straight on from the spool ala the baitcaster. I use the former method. Apply an even tension when spooling up. Write the date, breaking strain, and type of line on the inside of the spool.