January 15, 2001


Show of hands please… how many of you currently overline your saltwater outfits? Hummm, to no surprise quite a few. Again, show of hands… how many underline? Only token representation I see.

This topic is not really a debate of epic proportion, but I will attempt to offer a candid opinion to what I think is the most efficient and economical method of dealing with this unique dilemma. The reason I personally fall into the genera of "overliners" is simple really. By overlining I am able to initiate suitable flex into the rod, in a shorter amount of time, using a shorter amount of fly line and a minimal amount of energy to achieve this end. This enables me to sufficiently effect my intended result of maximum line speed and fully burdened fly rod in frequently two, but never more than three false casts. Sounds simple, and it is.

An overlined rod not only benefits my efforts at distance but also exceedingly enhances my performance while sight fishing, where casts in excess of 50 feet are rare but accuracy in critical. It’s simple physics. The overlined rod is loading quicker (some cases may even require only one false cast) when I do not enjoy the luxury of excess time to present the fly to a moving target.

A few years ago I estimated that in my tenure at the shop I have had the opportunity to test cast well over a thousand varieties of graphite fly rods ranging from the petite O weights to the hearty 15 weights and in most instances, rods exceeding line weight 6 pleaded for one more line size. It is within this medley of modern day graphite’s that the tool is no longer considered a beloved instrument of sorts, but takes on a more utilitarian roll in one’s arsenal. A means to an end.

The above diatribe certainly invites the question… Won’t present day rods (in excess of 6 weights) perform with the high degree of efficiency intended by premium rod manufacturers? In almost every case they will and most manufactures will indeed be reluctant to suggest overlining. The caveat: They will also take more physical energy to load, require excessive false casting to render distance and inevitably will be asked to support more fly line in the air, the scourge of every fly fisherman ever to dip his piggy-toes into saline water.

I can’t, under any circumstance, understand the benefit achieved by underlining a rod. By doing so, you will without question, increase the alacrity of the rod and substantially add to the number of false casts necessary to achieve proper line speed and rod flex (load). As stated above, I can usually achieve maximum line speed using two false casts and at the same time fully stress the rod. An underlined rod often requires the caster to increase the number of false casts and concurrently the amount of fly line the rod is asked to support in the air to fully load, often resulting in disaster when delivering the ultimate power stroke.

For those of you who have yet to experiment by overlining your modern graphite, I would encourage you to give it a try, the results could improve your distance as well as accuracy.

Good fishing and safe wading,


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