Choosing Running Line for Shooting Heads

One the the questions we get asked the most about shooting head systems is about choosing the running(or shooting) line. Your choice of running line can change your whole experience of fishing with a shooting head and Jan Erik Granbo of Guideline has written this article which was first published on the Guideline website.

"Shooting lines are important because they affect casting not only in terms of distance but also efficiency and ease of use. There is nothing more frustrating than fishing with a badly kinked, worn-out shooting line that tangles every other cast. And whilst there is often a lot of reference to how slick shooting lines are how much they can improve casting distance, there is not a great deal of appreciation of some of their other features and how different shooting lines vary
between manufacturers.
Always choose the correct running line for a situation!
Over the years I have tested many different shooting lines. Indeed, I have fished with a shooting head system and shooting lines for the last 20 years. This has given me good experience about what works and how the differing shooting lines affect fishing. You may be interested to know that when I set up my fishing gear for a new season I always have at least 2 different shooting lines installed on my fly reels.

I will explain the difference between shooting lines in a slightly different way than the manufacturers, in this article we will take a practical view.

There are 2 different groups of shooting lines:

1) Classic shooting lines with coating like a flyline.
2) Smooth shooting lines, produced by various mixtures of nylon.

These shooting lines work very differently and your choice should depend on where and how you fish.

Shooting Lines with coating:
Many anglers prefer this type of shooting line, the main advantage being that it is easier to grasp because it is thicker being very much like a traditional coated fly line. Another advantage of the increased diameter over slick nylon lines is that unpicking casting knots is much easier. Certainly, if you suffer from any dexterity problems with your fingers, this line is the best choice for you.
Guideline LRL+ Running Line
Coated lines are also very good from boat or bank when damage might be a problem. Rocky banks and being trodden on in boats is harsh on shooting lines and whilst none will withstand limitless abuse, the coated versions will absorb more damage. Since these lines float they also work well when wading. The drawback is that there is more friction against the rod guides, so you cast shorter with this type of shooting line in comparison to the slicker nylon lines. Guideline LRL+ and LRL DC fall into this category.

Slick Nylon Lines:
These shooting lines are produced in various mixtures of nylon material and they are not all the same as is commonly believed. The way they cast is determined by the material mix, shape (in cross section) and floating or sinking properties. Nylon lines are definitely my favourites: they shoot off at great speed (because of the hard nylon material), and the nature of the material increases precision at long and short range. In short, these lines produce the longest and most accurate casts. It is important to stretch these types of running lines before use to remove any memory coils. Within the category of smooth shooting lines, there are actually two different variants.
Guideline Compline
Guideline Compline:
Compline has a slow sinking density and its cross section is flattened. If you are wading deeply and fish with such a shooting line, you will find that the line can get stuck in the water or there is extra drag on the cast. This is especially the case in slack or slow water where the sinking density and flattened shape provide extra resistance to a “clean shoot.” Therefore, these lines are actually designed for fishing from shore and faster current areas. When fishing from the shore line is vulnerable to damage by rocks / roots etc, and it is noticeable that this running line type can withstand much more punishment than the "hollow" types. In the right environment, the oval shape of the shooting line improves casting distance and gives great turnover. This is due in no small part to the oval cross+section of the line because it reduces the contact area with the rod guides and reduces friction as a result. Compline is my first shooting line of choice when fishing off the shore or in medium to fast paced water.
Guideline Shooter
Guideline Shooter:
Guideline Shooter casts well and is excellent for wade fishing. It is hollow with internal cells that run along its full length and this design feature, along with its round shape ensures that it does not “lock” into the water. Friction against rod guides is minimal, so this line will deliver long casts when wading deep and in slow or slack water. It is a poor choice when fishing from the shore because it is not so abrasion resistant and because the line shoots too quickly when cast off dry land and has a tendency to destroy the cast because it moves at a greater speed than the fly line.

Perhaps the final consideration for choosing between a slow sinking shooting line and a floater is how it may affect the speed of the fly. On smaller rivers, a floating line will pick up more current drag and will speed up the fly while a sinking shooting line will slow it down. The speed difference may be fractional but we all know how important subtle differences in fly speed can be in salmon fishing.

It is because these shooting lines behave differently that, where possible, I like to have reels with both types on my fishing sessions so that i can choose the type best suited to the conditions on the day. There are those whom dislike the slick shooting lines because they are prone to tangling and display memory. Treated properly, however, they remain in good condition and they do deliver longer casts. When you first attach the line to the reel, stretch it thoroughly. You will notice a huge improvement immediately but the line will become more user-friendly after a few minutes of use.
Guideline LSL Running Line
A new type of shooting line for 2012!
In 2012 Guideline will launch a new hybrid line that bridges the gap between coated and slick nylon lines. It is called LSL and it is manufactured using a harder material. Guideline LSL is a coated line but the coating is much slicker than previous generations The result is a line that is easier to grip and yet has improved distance casting potential because of its slick coating. I like a shooting line that has fast energy transfer, as this is a great advantage when fishing on windy days and in tight spots because it is easier to get the leader to turn over. On initial inspection, LSL seems to offer this advantage. It comes with a complete loop at the front and is also tapered to be stronger against wear. I am quite sure that this line will become a favourite and may well prove to be the most popular shooting line of them all."

Jan Erik Granbo

We always have a wide selection of shooting heads and running lines in stock at the GAC and someone is always on hand if you need any advice before purchasing lines.