No, after thirty years of photographing live music, I can’t hear you if you mumble in the opposite direction while we’re standing next to one another in a rushing stream.
A pity really, or I might have heard my friend Ash ask if it was cool to cut off the little snap swivel on my three-weight he was rigging up while I was as busy as Trump’s lawyer getting the camera gear ready.
I almost heard ‘cut’ and ‘off’.
It’s then, with heart-stopping clarity, that I remembered all the pain and suffering that went into tying the tiny tippet ring on for testing and that I had left the whole set of rings, on their swivel, on the line to make sorting a new rig stream-side easier.
Ash, the bastard, without a care in the world, had just cut it off.
Ungrateful, mumbling, smarmy young punk, I thought. But I said, in the calmest voice I could manage: ‘It’s cool. Tie it on again.’
Ha! That’ll learn him, I thought, but Ash had it tied on again in a few seconds, first go.
Did I mention how much I don’t like smarmy young punks?
The first day on the water with the new Powerflex Plus leader set-up started tough because Ash—my friend and current favourite new tackle guinea pig—being fairly new to fly fishing and very new to small streams, was giving the leader and tippet a fair flogging in the overgrowth and across the stones.
I let Ash do all the fishing so I could concentrate on the photos, but checked the condition of the fine four-pound tippet regularly.
After the first half hour, a few snags, a couple fish and a near-death experience with a neck deep pool, the tippet was looking pretty good, save for a little scarring in the first half-inch above the fly.
The other thing I was watching was tippet twist and I expected the worst with the hair-like four-pound and a size 14 Stimulator and wasn’t surprised that it eventually spun up, but the six-pound remained straight with any fly.
On the Maxima three- and four-pound tippets that I normally use, minor damage was ignored and spin only happened with some big flies.
Maxima tippets are tough, no question, but generally it’s half the breaking strain of the new RIO Powerflex Plus stuff at the same diameter and it’s also a little less supple.
So, is it better to go tough, or fine?
The question is a tough one that should centre around what sort of water we’re talking about. For me, I’m a convert to the new stuff because I feel that, on the small water, the suppleness makes natural drifts easier to achieve on shorter leaders and the fine diameter makes sinking a nymph quicker without resorting to heavy, snaggy flies.
I can also fish shorter over-all leader lengths with higher-breaking strains and still get good sink rates with small nymphs and better presentation with dries.
On big water, free of obstruction, like the Mitta Mitta on an evening rise, the new stuff wins, no question. I fished small dries with the six-pound tippet and still got long natural drifts and good numbers of fish.
Is there a downside in this change?
One—and it’s important—is that the new tippet has to be more closely monitored than the wire-like Maxima stuff and stopping for a minute to change a damaged tippet will have to be a priority.
While I didn’t ping off any fish during the last few weeks of testing, I did break off more often trying to remove flies from the trees and also lost a couple more flies trying to free flies off deep snags.
The tippet rings will make the process of changing much quicker and save digging into the length of the leader every time. I also think they’re the way to go on water where frequent changing of tippet length and weight or quickly adding a dropper or second nymph will catch more fish.
As an example, my new set-up for small streams on the three-weight is a seven-foot leader to six pounds with a 2-mm tippet ring tied to the end. To that I add three or four feet of four-pound tippet and a single nymph with a sliding indicator a couple feet up the leader. If I run into a deep corner or plunge pool I can tie on a second nymph off the ring on a short dropper and move the indicator up a bit to quickly hit the bottom. One snip, and a slide of the indicator and the whole thing is back to normal. Remove the indicator and it’s a great dry fly set-up.
On my four-weight, and maybe the three-weight glass rods on larger water, I’m going up to a 7.5-pound leader with the six-pound tippet. This set-up is still very fine and very supple compared to what I’m used to and will still punch out a big hopper.
On my five-weights, for lakes and bigger water like the Mitta Mitta, I’ll run 7.5-pound leaders and six-pound tippet for everything except streamers or deep nymph rigs where the 7.5-pound tippet will be first choice. I haven’t tried any of this in New Zealand yet, but that will be where I start.
The serious big-water nymphing and streamer rod, a Sage 10’ #5 One, will be rigged with a heavier leader again, probably 3X, a 3-mm tippet ring and then either five- or seven-pound Fluroflex Plus depending on fly size and weight and 8.5-pound for Woolly Buggers.
I found the new Fluroflex Plus material very tough even though it’s quite fine diameter for it’s breaking strain and excellent for knots and will be running a operate review on it at some point over the off-season after more testing.
So is this the end of Maxima for me?
No, not at all, as I can think of a couple of small streams that are so overgrown and tight that snagging trees is more common than hooking fish.
It’s the sort of water where getting a fly anywhere near the water is an accomplishment and side issues like fly size, leader make-up and drift are not a big part of the success rate. Here, the Maxima’s low maintenance will make it first choice.
I’m not really a fish counter and generally not interested in keeping score, but I do feel like I’ve had a higher success rate on my regular waters using the new material. Whether that’s down to the finer nature of the stuff or the fact that I’m actually paying more attention to terminal tackle is a question I’ll need another season or two to answer.
RIO Powerflex Plus tippet weight and diameter.
7X 2.75 lbs / 1.2kg / .004in
6X 4 lbs / 1.8kg / .005in
5X 6 lbs / 2.7kg / .006in
4X 7.5 lbs / 3.4kg / .007in
3X 9.5 lbs / 4.3kg / .008in