WHAT MAKES A GOOD BONEFISH LINE
(and why this line fits the bill)
- It floats high. This seems like a simple thing but it’s about the most important consideration for wade fishing, regardless the species. A line that sinks, even a little is much harder to pull off the water for a quick cast, forcing you to make more false casts and modify your casting action. This line simply glides off the water, making the whole thing more effortless and enjoyable. RIO says it floats high because it’s got something in it called AgentX Technology. (I think that means it’s the line a spy would use, which is pretty cool.) Whatever; it works.
- It cuts through the wind. This is critical whether wading or from skiff. The tropical Trade Winds are legendary and ever present. Lines that are too limp tend to get blown around. A stiff line cuts through the wind giving more control and accuracy. The stiffness also helps eliminate slack in the presentation, which is good. On the salt slackness is a bad thing. You want to make the cast so the first strip you do moves the fly. If your shot is on the money, that first strip could be the strike and hookup. Any slack means the fish will have spit your stupid little fly long before you get your s*** together. This line lays out straight and tight at the end of any decent cast.
- It loads the rod quickly. I can’t stress how important speed is in bonefishing. It’s one of the bigger shocks to the trout angler, first time on the flats. On a trout stream one has time. The fish are there, in their lie, holding in the current. You can consider the presentation, maybe even sift the stream to see what’s hatching and perhaps make a cup of camp-coffee as you contemplate the poetry of it all. Bonefish are never still. Many times you need to make a cast immediately or your opportunity is gone. But the trouble with bonefishing is that the environment is so soothing, so relaxing. I mean, there you are floating/wading the turquoise waters, feeling the soothing salt breeze, listening to the rustle of the ocean when all of a sudden the guide calls, “Fish! 60 feet. 11 o’clock. See them?” “Um. No.” “Ok, 50 feet, same direction.” “No.” “Ok, 40 feet, cast now!” This takes about five seconds and if you’ve got to add a half-dozen false casts to get to 30 feet then you’ll miss that shot. It’s as simple as that. The heavy body of this line loads the rod almost instantly and lets you feel the rod for greater accuracy. During the course of this test I noticed anglers shaving false-casts off their presentations, dropping from 3 or 4 casts to 2, and simply shooting it out there. At the end of the day we reached more fish and missed fewer shots. You can’t ask for more than that.
MY FLY LINE PHILOSOPHY
(Why Anyone Should Care What I Think About Fly Lines)
During season I’m on the water 4-8 hrs a day, 4-5 days a week. I’ve been doing this for about 12 years now. That’s a lot of sun and salt… and bonefish. Nevertheless, I don’t think I expect much from a fly line. It should be able to cast, withstand the tropical sun and float. Basic stuff. Of course, it should do that with a minimum of fuss and maintenance—spray it off at the end of the day and maybe I slap a bit of line lube/cleaner on it once a fortnight, but that’s about it.
Not too surprisingly there are many lines out there that meet the criteria. What is surprising is there are still those that don’t. I mean, we’ve still got lines that cast well but have to be cleaned daily with soap (but never detergent), in warm water only, and soaked for exactly 5 minutes to dissolve the salt, and then dressed it at least once every 3 days… and I suppose all this under a full moon on midsummer’s eve while mumbling a few sacred spells, preferably in Latin. Frankly, who has the time?
Then there are the lines that say they float, but don’t. These really get me going. When you’re wading a line that doesn’t float is only marginally better than having no line at all. No. I retract that. It’s worse, because if you had no line you wouldn’t be spending all your time frustrated by a line that’s tangled around your ankles, turtle grass, conch shells, coral or lying peacefully two feet below on the ocean floor where you have to struggle with might and main to get it out of the water and into the air. With no line you’d be back at the beach bar telling fish stories, eating conch chowder and generally having a good time. So, a line that sinks when it should float is actually worse than not going fishing at all.
Basically, a line should do what the box it came in advertises. It doesn’t have to have some trippy nano-texture copied from a Jesus Lizard or slide through the rod guides faster’n a greased up snake. It just has to not tangle, load the road and not fall apart too soon.
So, when I find a line that not only ticks all the right boxes but also makes my rod a better casting machine, I’m truly impressed.
Let me clarify. Very often my guests that don’t bring their own tackle get to fish with my personal flyrod, a 9’ 6” 8-weight R.L. Winston BIIx and the best casting bonefish rod ever made. Period. It’s basically the Stradivarius of flyrods. Yet, I might get one client a week that comments on this rod. Usually it’s so understated and businesslike they never notice it. But since I’ve been using RIO’s new Bonefish Quickshooter the comments have been non-stop:
 ACTUAL TESTIMONIALS
Wow! What kind of rod is this?
Sorry I lined those fish… I didn’t think I could cast that far. This rod really shoots!
Well, the fishing was tough today but I’ve learned that the rod and line really matter. That rod and line combo is amazing.
Of course, most folks don’t realize that I’ve been fishing with this rod for several years now and while it’s done its job brilliantly, I’ve never heard the profusion of praise before, and it started the first day I strung up this new line.
I was asked to test this line, for free. This is SOP in the industry; tackle companies seek out individuals who can simply put in more time on the water than they can. If they’ve made a good product they’re willing to take a bet that the tester will like it. If that tester has access to a media out let of some kind (website, blog, facebookthingy) then so much the better.
I’ve only occasionally been involved in product testing before—several reels and a couple lines, with mixed results. My main hangup has always been feeling a bit leery about taking free stuff from someone yet needing to maintain absolute, stone-cold frankness when it comes to reviewing that stuff. The simple fact that I get it free means I’m already influenced. I mean, if I have to shell out my hard-earned cash for tackle and it’s even marginal, I’ll feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth. However, in the case of most industry reviews (e.g. fly fishing mags, fly shops, etc.) my own money is never an issue and I can’t help but wonder if I subconsciously factor that into my review. You know, something subtle like, “Well, for a free line it’s pretty good.”
I’m reminded of an incident a couple years ago during my annual Keys tarpon trip. On my second cast I hooked a nice fish that ran off the flat into deeper water. We started up and had just begun to give chase when the line went slack. I reeled in to find my fly line gone. Completely. The last couple feet of backing had been shredded down to wisps. We figure a small cuda hit the line-to-backing knot. Anyways, the line was gone so I had to grab a new one. Being on a budget I opted for the store brand instead of dropping $30 more for the top-shelf line. I regretted it. Sure, the line worked but I couldn’t help thinking about how much nicer the line I lost cast and handled. Even at 2/3rd the price I thought my new line was pretty much crap. However, had that line been free I may have felt differently.
I’ve always felt this was the problem with industry-sponsored gear reviews: they’re typically written by industry insiders. It’s a catch 22; on the one hand a buyer on Amazon or wherever can review all the same stuff as a pro, but unless they choose to share them, you have no idea of their credentials. Does, for example, This line doesn’t cast very well actually mean I can’t cast this line very well? On the other hand, they presumably have no incentive to be generous or cruel in their review , so they actually have more credibility in the honesty column than industry types.
But, it’s more than that. For me a review seems the last example of the persuasive essay and we are not only convinced by facts, but by rhetorical argument. In fact, reviews are examples of the practice of rhetoric, in the classical sense. The casual buyer has a more firm moral footing than the industry insider, because they paid their own money for the product, and moral footing is no slight issue as far as rhetoric is concerned. In fact, it’s nearly everything. When an Amazon customer displays righteous indignation because a product performed poorly, as readers we can feel that emotion and empathize. And we know that they’re holding nothing back, because they have no fear of retribution; there’s no nagging thought What if I’m never asked to review this brand again? behind a regular review.
Much of this was on my mind when I accepted this request. Here is an excerpt of my reply to the nice person representing RIO:
Just to be clear, our niche is very specific: we are a strictly wade-in, fly fishing service for bonefish and tarpon. Our gear gets seriously abused and our lines must perform. I am not generous in my assessment of products, nor do I need free (or discounted) gear. I will honestly and clearly review products I’m asked to and you can be sure that if they meet my standards then I will endorse them. For example, I currently boycott [redacted] saltwater lines because they can’t seem to make a floating line that actually floats. I’ve tested product lines from 5 or 6 years (including the [redacted] line) and given many chances. They all failed the basic wading test.
I don’t want to sound too harsh but I just want to be clear about expectations. First, I would run the review by you to OK whether I should publish or not. Second, the review won’t be quick. I can’t assess the quality of a line in a week. What I can offer is an extended use review over the next couple months and provide potential customers with a real review as to the products longevity and quality.
WindKnot the Angler
I was ready to hate this line. I was ready to ridicule. I was, but RIO’s Bonefish Quickshooter fly line is actually very good. I’ve seen fish lost with other quick-shooter style lines. The Achilles of these lines has always been the ultra-thin running line which seems forever prone to tangle. I’ve seen monster tangles jam half-way up the rod-guides on double-digit fish. I’ve seen anglers desperately trying to untie knots as the guides desperately pleaded with them to cast at approaching fish. I simply don’t like shooting-head style lines. I think for bonefishing they’re stupid. But, this one works and works well. Time will tell how long it lasts, but even if it only lasts one season it’s worth it. Even if it only lasts a couple months I’d buy another.
On the water,
WindKnot the Angler
 THE BORING STUFF
Front Taper_________6’6” Body (Belly)________31’6” Back Taper__________11’6” Running Line________50’6” Full Length_________100 Ft / 30 m Temp. Range_________75 - 100° F / 24 - 38° C Welded Loops________Front & Back Colors______________Duotone: Aqua Blue Body, Sand Running Line
1 Poorly recollected from real conversations with clients, but the gist is there. Also, they sound like they’re actually praising the rod, not the line, but you can’t cast a rod without a line. In fact, a line can make or break the feel of a rod. Most folks think the main player is the rod itself, but the line has an equal part to play. [back]
2 Copied pretty much verbatim from the box the line came in. I could have fact checked this stuff, but, hey, they made it, they should know the stats. [back]
3 Unless you consider the subtle and insidious subconscious motivations provided by brand loyalty and consumer-driven identity, but to attempt to unpack those here would be a whole other article, which I’m not even remotely qualified to write. Suffice to say that we all know that stuff is in the background of all reviews and, as modern-day internet consumers, are pretty savvy at factoring that into how much weight we give any one review. [back]