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> > Fluoro vs. Mono

GONZODecember 9th, 2006, 11:30 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I just thought I'd spin off a comment that David made in another thread into a new topic. This is not a new source of debate among fly fishers, but I'm curious to know what other's experiences have been.

David wrote:
I don't use fluoro though due to the environmental issues. We have enough mono tangled in bushes, and that stuff breaks down much faster than fluoro. Just a thought, though, I won't send the fluoro police after you. :)

I certainly share David's concern about fishing line littering our waters. I once had a hell of a time trying to untangle a gosling that had become ensnared in discarded spinning line on the lower Brodheads. Not only was the gosling uncooperative, but the protective parents made the situation nearly impossible. All involved had the best intentions (survival, parental concern, sympathetic altruism), but we were totally at cross-purposes. Fortunately, my fishing partner came to my aid and was able to distract the parents long enough for me to free the bewildered baby goose.

I also share David's concern about the persistence of fluorocarbon; although, from what I understand, the modern UV-protected copolymers we call "mono" are not a whole lot better. Making every effort to avoid line litter (of either type) seems like the best policy.

Personally, I'm not sold on some of fluorocarbon's supposed advantages. The vaunted "invisibility" has a directional quality and apparently only applies when the material is between the primary light source and the fish's eye (backlit). This seems to create a practical contradiction. The leader/tippet would be least visible in a dry fly application, yet its greater density would conspire to sink the fly. In nymph fishing, the sink rate may be advantageous, but the visibility is often about the same as "mono." (Light reflecting off the surface of fluoro negates the refractory advantage.) In either situation, the added stiffness of most fluoros (of equal diameter to mono) inhibits the drift. I have found that fluoro is quite a bit more abrasion-resistant than mono, but there are only a few situations where this is significant to me.

What do you think? As David said, the "fluoro police" will not come knocking on your door if you disagree.
TroutnutDecember 9th, 2006, 3:19 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2721
Making every effort to avoid line litter (of either type) seems like the best policy.

I agree. That's much more important than which type of line is used.

I used to use fluoro but I switched back to mono because it seems less stiff in fine diameters and for wide diameters high up on the leader there's no need for questionable invisibility anyway.

Now, thanks to tips from some guides in Wisconsin, I use very heavy fluoro as an ultra-abrasion-resistant leader when fly fishing for pike or muskies, to replace a steel leader. I haven't fished for those toothy things for over a year, though, so I don't go through a lot of fluoro.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
GONZODecember 9th, 2006, 3:22 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Thanks, David and Jason. Litter left by anglers is a special pet peeve of mine. No, it's more than a "peeve"--it enrages me!
GripngrinDecember 9th, 2006, 3:44 pm
Front Range - Colorado

Posts: 17
It is another tool and has its appropriate application. The thing we see is that most people do not know how to use it correctly. Flouro is horrible for dry fly action because it sinks quicker than mono. Used as tippet for nymphing is its' best application.

There are many crystal clear tail waters out here with finicky trophy trout that get pounded hard and are definitely leader shy. The tail waters of the Taylor, Chessman Canyon, Blue River, Yampa, etc, all have great fishing if you have the right tools.

I adopted flouro early during my guiding career and swear by it for nymphing.

Grip'n Grin Mike
Upnorth2December 9th, 2006, 4:53 pm

Posts: 62
Naturally, materials and leaders work for the situation. I like Frog Hair products myself and work out a musky/pike leader that works for me.
Upnorth2December 9th, 2006, 4:55 pm

Posts: 62
I tend to fish some remote places so I do not see too much of the line waste problem. No reason for it....pick it up and pack it out.
TroutnutDecember 9th, 2006, 6:20 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2721
Thanks, David and Jason. Litter left by anglers is a special pet peeve of mine. No, it's more than a "peeve"--it enrages me!

Me too. I think punishment for littering along a trout stream should be extremely stiff, and by stiff I mean that the state would have to earmark some money for guillotines. I say guillotines because they are reusable; anybody who tosses his empty beer cans randomly along a trout stream would be a waste of lethal injection serum.

Who let's this Jason guy post anyway? We talk about Salmonidae on this board, not Esocidae! Jeez, man. I move that we ban Jason from the board...

I would ban him, but he knows the password to the database so he would just go in and reverse the ban anyway. He's a tricky one.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
GONZODecember 9th, 2006, 6:40 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Uh-oh! I hope David doesn't discover either of the chub threads. Defenders of Cyprinidae beware! Wait a minute...I vaguely remember something about walleyes, herring, and...wait for it...blind cave fish!!! Methinks "that guy" protests too much! :)
JADDecember 9th, 2006, 6:51 pm
Alexandria Pa

Posts: 362
I have mixed feelings about this topic, I"ll tend to go with Mike as far as thinking floro does really make a difference. About the litter- well their so much plastic along the banks caught in and around the trees, from the supper high water. I know mono filament doesn't do the environment any good but nor does all the synthetics that we use to tie all the flies or the Styrofoam for coffee cups---I think you know where I"m going so I will stop.( Mixed feelings) I just try to pick my trash up and sometimes a little extra. Question--how many years have the been making fishing line? All the miles they made, their doesn't seem to be that much laying around in my way of thinking.
I think Ill start a thread about glass, now that punches my trigger.:)

Dog gone you Gonzo-you made me think again.

Andy Rooney--(JaD)

They fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cockís wattles, and which in colour are like wax.
Radcliffe's Fishing from the Earliest Times,
GONZODecember 9th, 2006, 8:31 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Dog gone you Gonzo--you made me think again.

Sorry, John! I know it hurts, but you'll recover. :)

Seriously, though, I'm enough of a realist to recognize that nothing influences an angler's perspective more powerfully than success. And sometimes we attribute that success to things that really played an insignificant role. D. H. Lawrence used to call success the "bitch-goddess" for the way it could lead us astray.

But I won't try to convince an angler who has just had a banner day that the fluorocarbon leader, or super-secret fly, or rod made from "unobtainium" wasn't the cause of that success. That kind of influence cannot be overcome by a pathetic tool like reason. It requires something much more potent--like a sound skunking while the fellow next to you slays 'em with a monofilament leader, an Adams, and a 1st generation P.O.S.!!!

Charley Brooks once said that "In the field of fly fishing for trout, the only expert is the trout." We all know the truth of that statement, but it makes us feel good to think we've figured something out--if only for the moment. And don't underestimate the value of "mixed feelings"--without them we'd be consumed by a sense of our own infallibility. :)

PS--David, don't even joke about that--I'm afraid a plurality already exists! :)
MartinlfDecember 10th, 2006, 8:47 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3153
If anything Jason should be imprisoned for pushing a drug. This forum is addictive. Again, I should be grading. Oh well, it'll get done.

Gonzo has again made us all think, as have others in this thread. And I'm interested in his and others' thoughts on the following. How does one distinguish between belief and fact when trying to determine whether or not fluorocarbon gives an edge? Or on the many other fishing decisions that are rife with opinion and short on proof? I tend to try to listen to folks who I consider smarter than myself, but there are so many of them, and darn it, they don't all agree. Years ago, a guide I respected on the Delaware used Rio Fluoroflex Plus extensively, so I started to do the same. It is strong, and the company claims that it is more supple than typical fluorocarbon. Following the advice of an experienced angler I once talked with on Codorus Creek, I often allow some of the tippet nearest a dry fly to sink a bit, if it will, greasing the rest of the tippet and leader back to the fly line for better floats and easy pick up. His reasoning was that underwater the tippet seems less intrusive to the fish, less visible, I suppose. (By the way, I haven't found that fluorcarbon in 5X and smaller has all that great a tendency to sink, due to surface tension, anyway.) And I believe I get good drifts when I cast properly, that the Fluoroflex Plus is actually supple enough. But it IS damned expensive, and while I'll go to great lengths to retrive mine or others' line from the environment (and my recovery percentage is pretty good) I am not alwayS 100% successful. All this leans me back towards mono now, but habits and confidence boosters are hard to put aside, as has been noted in this and another thread.

But back to the controversy--I'm actually still not fully convinced. Trained in science as well as literature, I've always been suspicious of anecdotal "facts" on these sorts of topics. I want good double blind testing on everything: tippet performance, strength of specific knots, fly design, boot durability, leader design, wader breathability, etc. etc. So back to the msot basic question. How does one get knowledge that goes beyond faith? Uh oh, now we are in the realm of philosophy, or worse still, theology: belief vs. fact. Yes, I may be getting skunked by that fellow with the Adams and mono, but that doesn't mean that he wouldn't be catching more and bigger fish with my Rio fluorocarbon tippet and a Gonzo emerger. One must somehow isolate the variable to be tested from all the background clutter, and that's often impossible on the stream. Any wisdom here . . . please?

As for recycling, it's not much, but I recently was able to dig into my coffee can of not-yet-burned streambank mono for some 20# test to hang a wreath on the side of the house.

"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZODecember 10th, 2006, 9:26 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

I'll try not to delve too deeply into the faith vs. fact aspect of your question, but I will try to give you the best answer I can. And this approach has been a life lesson for me as well as a fishing lesson, so the philosophical aspects are probably inescapable.

I learned a long time ago (actually from a ski-teaching experience--I won't bore you with the details) that when two "authorities" whose knowledge and experience you respect offer differing opinions, you can waste a lot of time trying to decide who is right. To me, the secret is to ask the question "How (or under what circumstances) can both be right?" By not getting too caught up in absolute judgements about right and wrong (which often are more about faith than fact) you can sometimes arrive at a much deeper and more useful understanding of a subject. This simple strategy has revealed many valuable lessons that I never would have learned if I were to stubbornly insist that someone had to be right and someone wrong.

PS--On the subject of whether the tippet just ahead of a dry-fly should float or sink, I'll defer to someone who was much wiser than I am (and who was almost always "right"). A. J. McClane wrote:

Traditionalists will raise a bloodshot eye at the idea that a floating leader is just as effective as one sunk below the surface, but I am convinced that trout see it one way or the other, and any attempt to hide it underwater is wasted effort....To convince myself, I spent time in a wet suit with scuba gear studying the subject from a trout's point of view; I only came to the conclusion that a sunken leader is more visible with its double image reflecting against the surface when it's an inch or so under the water than a floating leader, which frankly I had more difficulty finding.

Granted, McClane wrote this pre-fluorocarbon, but the basic point is still valid. The floating leader (and its shadow on the bottom in shallow water) is more visible to us, but the situation is reversed for the trout.
GONZODecember 10th, 2006, 10:26 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
One more thought, Louis. As a post-postscript to the above musing, I have to say that the smartest trout in the world will never know what a leader is, and mostly they just react to its influence on the fly (much more so than its appearance). I will grant, however, that trout under extreme dry-fly pressure can indeed become "leader shy."

As a pure tease, (one has to have some fun) I'll tell you that the deadliest deception for these finicky exceptions is to present the leader (or at least the portion nearest the fly) in a way that neither floats nor sinks. I'll leave it to you to ponder that possibility, and only say that there are a couple of ways that it can be done! ;)

Mysteriously yours,
TroutnutDecember 10th, 2006, 1:33 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2721
How does one distinguish between belief and fact when trying to determine whether or not fluorocarbon gives an edge?

I think the answer is simple and you already know it, but implementing it is hard. The answer is to run a lengthy double-blind test isolating that one variable. There's so much uncontrollable randomness in fly fishing that it would need to be a very lengthy test to be statistically significant, so it's really hard to do.

In lieu of that, it would be easier to run a series of tests to evaluate the claims about each type of line. Photography and artificial lighting situations could easily determine under which conditions and to what degree fluorocarbon is less visible than mono. Flexibility, sink rate, and other related factors could also be easily tested. I've thought of doing this sometime this year but who knows if I'll get around to it.

when two "authorities" whose knowledge and experience you respect offer differing opinions, you can waste a lot of time trying to decide who is right. To me, the secret is to ask the question "How (or under what circumstances) can both be right?"

That's a pretty good policy, although it has its limits: many people assume that when the major voices disagree on an issue the answer must be somewhere in the middle, and that's not always true. Sometimes one side is all the way right.

Your statement reminds me of the false dichotomy of "imitation vs presentation" in fly fishing. Luckily I can't think of a single fly fisher, expert or otherwise, who insists that one is important and the other is not. The real answer, which is not all that hard to figure out, is that presentation is the imitation of action. There is no tradeoff required, because we can improve our imitation of either appearance or action without sacrificing the other. Sure, some of us specialize in one or the other, but people talk like there are two opposing schools of thought on the issue when they're really just two sides of the same coin. The only people who are wrong are the ones who don't realize that they're both right.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
GONZODecember 10th, 2006, 2:24 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Excellent points, Jason. And ones with which I heartily agree. I would offer this clarification, however. Remember that I referred to authorities whose knowledge and experience you respect. There are plenty of "major voices" out there (in fly fishing and in the world at large) whose opinions aren't worth a spit. And they don't warrant the benefit of the question I suggest.

This is a bit like the annoying tendency in news coverage lately that seems to say that "as long as we present both sides of the argument, we're doing our job." This often happens regardless of whether one side of the argument is fact-based and the other is just blowing smoke.
I'm pretty sure we agree on this too, Jason. I just don't want to come across as some mamby-pamby middle-of-the-roader. Nothing could be further from the truth! :)

CaseyPDecember 10th, 2006, 2:41 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653

yippee! my grades are done...

One must somehow isolate the variable to be tested from all the background clutter, and that's often impossible on the stream. Any wisdom here . . . please? posted Louis

heck, it's always going to be impossible because the biggest variables of all are the quarry and the angler: living beings like trout and people are just not meant to act exactly the same way every time. (its' basic to survival.) that's why we fish. we feel smart when what we're doing works, humble/frustrated when it doesn't, and no one can tell which it's going to be until it's over. the trout have the answer, and it's seldom the same one twice, in my admittedly brief experience.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
GONZODecember 10th, 2006, 5:36 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Casey, I'd say that your "admittedly brief experience" is serving you pretty well. We all tend to become a bit more opinionated as we gain experience, but the trick is to keep that tendency from blinding us to the new opportunities to learn that await every time we step into a trout stream. I don't think you'll have that problem.
MartinlfDecember 10th, 2006, 6:51 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3153
Thanks guys, a lot to ponder here, but some very good food for thought.

Casey, I've made good headway on the papers I already had, and may take a fishing day before I complete all my grades. I'll probably stay local for now, but when I'm completely done, Spring Creek here I come.

David, I'm going to start a furled leader thread to see if others have experimented with them. Take a look if you wish.

Jason, run those studies and I'll rescind the warrant for your arrest.

Gonzo, I think I've tracked down some 1/16 inch clear Swannundaze on the web. Is this the right size? Should I buy some of it?

OK, back to that grading.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
GONZODecember 10th, 2006, 7:53 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Louis, if it truly is 1/16, by all means! Cream, clear, even smoke, olive, or amber can be useful. Is there enough for me to get in on the deal?
TclongbeachJanuary 22nd, 2007, 2:01 pm

Posts: 1
OK, maybe this isnt trout fishing, but I can tell you my experiences on a long range tuna trip out of San Diego to Mag bay.

Anglers 22
Mono Anglers 17
Fluoro anglers 5

Jackpot tunal 100% fluoro
jackpot Yellows - 100% fluoro
jackpot Dorado 2 fluoro 1 mono

In a field of sardines, without a doubt, the fluoro leaders were hit 2x more than the mono leaders.

The cows were even more particular with no fish > 50 lbs taken on mono and all 25 tuna over 50lbs were exclusively taken by fluoro anglers.

I have no doubt as to the quality of the product.

After that trip I stripped all of my mono off and run straight spectra to fluoro and I have 50 yds fluoro top shot on all of my rigs now.

tiagra 50wlrs 130lb spectra & 100 fluoro
trinidad 40 - 65 lb specta and 50lb fluoro
trinidad 30 - 50 lb specta and 40lb fluoro
trinidad 16 - 25 lb spectra and 20lb fluoro

I have yet to compare the brands (seaguar is my current stock), but I am looking at cheaper cost fluoro and testing it on one rig at a time.

Althogh it aint trout, I hope it helps!


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