Shooting heads DIY


The sections

About lines
Sink rates

2nd section - cutting and splicing fly lines

by Martin Joergensen

8th chapter
Calling for help
In which you learn that having friends is a nice thing

   The scales can be used to determine where to cut a useless WF line
If you want to weigh a WF line just coil it and let the running line remain on the table weighing only the part you intend to use for the shooting more


If you have no experience casting a shooting head, now is a good time to use a telephone! Call a friend or fellow fisher who has some experience with shooting heads, and have him or her come over for a cup of mocca and some lawn casting.
You will have a hard time adjusting the setup if you have no experience with this type of casting, and the risk of trimming a head too short can not be ignored.

9th chapter
First cut
Where you are warned that the first cut might be the last

It's not nice to cut a fly line in two. Especially if you have - contrary to my advice - bought an expensive brand name fly line. One wrong cut and what might have been a great shooting head - maybe even two - is ruined and ready for the trash bin.
So check yourself a couple of times and measure just once more before applying the scissors. Should you wind up with a line that has been cut too short and can't load your favorite rod... well, save that line. It will fit a lighter rod and make a maybe less-than-perfect, but serviceable shooting head.

10th chapter
When all else fails
In which we learn that everything can be overdone

If the shooting head doesn't load the rod in the first few casts, let out a couple of feet of line and blind cast again. If it still doesn't load, you let out even more line. When the rod overloads, you can start the above process.
If there is no overload, and the whole half DT line gets out without loading the rod properly, you have a problem. This means that your shooting head is more than 12-13 meters (36') long, which will typically lead to problems with low back and front casts. You will need to go up one or maybe even two line classes. Before going to the extreme of buying and cutting one more line, have a friend test the setup, or try it on a lighter rod - just to be sure.

11th chapter
Casting tests
In which we prepare the newly cut head for the first step in the trimming process

The best way to trim the shooting head is by casting it. Mount a leader on the tapered end - with a nail knot, a loose loop, or by splicing a permanent eye on the line.
Put a braided sleeve type loop on the back end of the shooting head and a loop on the front end of your running line - no matter what type of connection you want to end up with. During the tests you will need to take the assembly apart several times.
Fit the whole thing on a reel. It will typically take up a bit less space than a WF or DT line for your rod.
Now you need to find a lawn somewhere. Water can do too, but is not necessary.
Bring a pair of scissors, some extra braided loops and a couple of fake flies - bright yarn or pipe cleaners will do fine.
String your line assembly through the eyes and strip out most of the shooting head. Hold the lower end - the connection between running line and shooting head - and make a few overhand blind casts. Don't shoot line.
The rod should load well and preferably overload a bit. This is a good sign. Take in a foot or so and blind cast again. It should still overload. Keep on taking in line and blind casting until the rod loads perfectly.
Now mark the spot where the line passes through the top eye and draw out the whole shooting head.

12th chapter
Action! Cut!
In which we learn that iteration can lead to perfection

The mark indicates where the line loads the rod well. We will not cut here immediately for two reasons:
1) we don't want to cut the line too short - there's no splicing it back together again
2) we want the head just a bit on the heavy side in order to really load the rod
In other words: cut the line 1.5 meters or 4-5' behind the mark, leaving the head just a bit longer.
   Few tools are needed to make your own shooting heads
The primary tool for shooting head fabrication is a pair a scissors.


Put on the loop and assemble the whole thing again. Repeat the casting steps.
This time the line should cast well at some point where the connection between the shooting head and running line is in front of your hand, but not out of the top eye.
If this is the case, bring the connection out, and cut one or two more feet or 30-60 centimeters. Connect again and test again.
Repeating the testing and cutting with still smaller trims should eventually lead to this result: at some point the connection will pass a foot or so beyond the top eye before loading the rod so well that you can hardly resist shooting line. When this happens, you should stop cutting and start the real casting. Do some practicing with a couple of blind casts, double hauls and the works, and shoot line.
The trimming process is a question of iteration - cast, cut, cast, cut and so on, until the head casts well.
Your shooting head should now ideally be somewhere between 9 and 10 meters (27' and 30').

Next section...
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Missed the intro...? This link will bring you there.

User comments
From: Jim · Thomasmckeen·at·  Link
Submitted June 25th 2015

Thank you so much a really informative piece

From: Dimitris  Link
Submitted November 27th 2009

Very helpful article! Many thanks Martin!

From: Jim  Link
Submitted September 16th 2009

Awesome intro to shooting heads, has answered a lot of questions, thank you.

From: alan brown · alanbrown436·at·  Link
Submitted July 5th 2007

this is the best guidance for making shooting heads i have found.

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