Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Double Taper Experiments: Part One - Trout

The Double Taper Experiments

Part One: The trout rod.

It all began with a reel; a Hardy Perfect 3 1/8” with agate line guard. Loaded on the reel was an old Scientific Anglers Double Taper 4 line. The reel was a gift from a friend, and so ‘perfect’ a perfect that it just had to be used. No sense in letting the ‘good china’ gather dust in the closet.

Of course, the first thing I did was remove the old dumb DT line and put on a new Weight Forward 4. I fished the line for a year, but was unhappy with its coiling memory problems, so early this year I thought, “Why not try out the Double Taper…”, and I put it back on the reel.

A little background here. When Weight Forward lines first appeared, they revolutionized casting. With most of the grain weight placed on the forward 30 feet of line, and the rest of the line acting as a running line, what we had was the first commercially available shooting head. Distance, (always the desire of anglers, after all if we can cast farther we can catch more fish… in theory) became far more effortless. I have articles written in the 1970s that proclaimed the death of the Double Taper. When I started fly-fishing, it was all done with a Weight Forward line. Old-timers used to come into shops I was working at and ask for DT lines. When we didn’t have them, they often cried that “A DT is all you need for trout fishing.” I never listened. Neither did most everyone else. After all a DT is just a DT, but a weight forward offers so many more possibilities.

Weight forward lines come in power tapers, quiet tapers, distance tapers, nymph tapers, longer belly tapers, fish-specific tapers, etc. etc. The DT just sits there on the shelf, in all its boring lack of complexity, lonely and unused, gathering dust.

Until someone with a insatiable curiosity and a tendency towards hair-shirts winds one on his reel one March day.

What has happened can be likened to opening a hidden window in a musty old cellar, and the sweeping of cobwebs from the brain. With the new light of day pouring in, objects and concepts dimly lit or obscured all these years become clear, and the world turns.

I guess I was surprised. I also felt a bit humble. After all, I was a doubter, and a quite verbal one at that. What I found in the DT line opened my eyes.

First, when paired to a full-flexing trout rod such as an Orvis Superfine, it was instantly more accurate; there was something about not casting running line that actually played in favor of accuracy.

Second, the weight in the line was elongated. This weight was within the guides the whole time, adding to the rod load. The rod was not just loading from the tip, but was flexing smoothly and continuously throughout the rod, making the rod design, or ‘action’ transmit or communicate directly to the casting arm what was happening in the load. Interesting.

I was afraid that the DT line would be a limiter in distance, and it was to some extent. However, I found that I could, with some adaptation of my casting stroke, throw 50 to 60 foot casts with ease. That is all anyone would need on small Wisconsin spring creeks. In fact, 50 feet in most places will see one fishing the next run around the bend. I expect that if I make it back to Belize some day, that for long-distance casting in tough situations A DT line might not be my first choice, but for a small trout stream, Eureka!

Another little epiphany occurred in changing fly sizes. The DT line simply turned over everything from size 20 Olive dries, to cone head size 4 streamers. All one had to do was futz with and adjust the leader a bit.

On our trout streams here in Wisconsin, the best friend an angler can have is a good roll cast. Nothing, and let me repeat this, nothing… roll and spey casts on a trout stream like a DT line. It was made for it. On tiny overgrown ten foot wide creeks with boulders and in-stream obstructions that would make a goofy-golf aficionado run screaming, the DT line worked magic. Enough weight was outside the tip of the rod that I could make roll casts to targets 12-15 feet away with accuracy. Later, when we fished a pool a friend named ‘Salmo Mofo’ for it’s recalcitrant browns, the DT line could reach the lie with a spey cast 50 feet away and with amazing accuracy.

At least for one angler with newly opened eyes, the Double Taper line is back. At least for trout fishing. You can teach an old dog a new trick. And.... those old-timers knew a thing or two...