Building a Shooting Head System for Spey Rods

I was out fishing Picnic Point this morning, and ran into mattzoid, who happened to be out there playing with his new 13' 8 weight Loop spey rod with a shooting head system. The wind was blowing around 10 knots out of the south, and it was a good opportunity to see exactly what a shooting head system can do with a two handed rod with a bit of wind.

Since I know many members have experience with this sort of thing, I thought I might ask a few questions about building a shooting head system youself. I've seen a few postings about this sort of thing before, but none of them seemed to answer my questions, so I thought I would pose it again.

The standard system I've seen uses a 100 foot running line. I've looked at a few different types of running line, the one that Matt was using was great, super thin diameter, and very very low line coil, even in the frigid water. It was made by Rio, but I'm not sure which one it is.

One of my main questions is this: a few of the shooting head systems that I've used on two handed rods use 30 foot heads. These always seem just a bit too light for larger and longer rods, has anyone had experience building larger heads, like say 40-45 feet? Has anyone had experience casting such headS? From what I've read, the average shooting head is around 30 feet mainly because that's the length of line that the average person can aerialize on the initial backcast. Obviously with a double handed rod you can aerialize a bit more line than with a single handed rod. One of the reasons that I am interested in a longer head system is because part of the reason I'm building this is for my upcoming trip to Tierra Del Fuego, I plan on doing a LOT of fishing in the wind, and from my personal experience, more weight and a longer head can give you even more distance (fishing downwind that is, which is the prevailing direction of the wind in the Land of Fire).

A second question I have is regarding the actual building of the system itself. From what I'm told, you should purchase a Double Taper fly line of some sort, cut it, and weigh it. has a great section on what building your own shooting heads. It talks about weighing your fly line and calculating the weight per foot. However, it doesn't talk about exactly what weights to use for certain size shooting heads! Anyone know where I can find a formula based on rod weight, or had some experience at this?

I'm also not quite clear on what sort of fly line to purchase. Would you purchase a Double Taper Intermediate Full Sinking line in order to create a 200 grain shooting head? If so, what line weight would you select for an 8 weight Spey Rod? Who makes a Double Taper sinking line? Better question, who makes a cheaper Double Taper sinking line? What lines have people had experience with creating shooting head systems with?

What about building a Floating head? What weight fly line should be purchased? Anyone had any experience with that?

The third quetion is regarding creation of non-hinging loops. Obviously, I don't have the equipment to create welded loops. Kevlar loops seem to hinge a lot. Anyone have any idea how to create smooth non-hinging loops that will pass easliy through guides, such as the ones on the Rio lines?

Any information is greatly appreciated...

Tight Lines

Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.
-Paul Schullery
I'm no shooting heads expert but I've been toying with building a couple systems for my single hand 5 and 8wt. I've done a bit of reading (there's some great info in Trey Combs "Steelhead Fly Fishing") and can speak to a couple of your points.

Hinging: Mr. Combs makes the observation that you will avoid hinging between your belly and tip section by making sure the belly section is at least as dense (grains/ft) as your tips. He recommends attaching braided nylon loops and keeping the loop small.

Floating head: I'm going to try making one for my 5wt for summer steelhead and possibly beach fishing. It seems the rule of thumb is go up 3 line weights and start with around 35ft of DT. Trim as necessary to balance the rod.

Good luck, I've got seriouse Del Fuego Envy!

What sort of lines have you been playing with? From my experience, I haven't seen any Double Taper sinking lines, and from talking to a few friends, it looks like all the lines made that are sinking are density compensated or weight forward lines. Since I usually only fish Scientific Anglers and Rio fly lines, I don't have any experience with some of the cheaper lines. Does anyone else have any experience with these?


Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job.
-Paul Schullery