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Currently conducting a raging internal debate about whether to go with a head and shooting line or a fully integrated line for my new big river trout / smallmouth stick, a 12.5 foot 4 weight. I plan to fish everything from soft hackles and streamers to medium and small wakers. Mostly surface and near surface presentations, but I would also like to throw some sinking poly-leaders.

Your thoughts on pros and cons of head & running line rigs versus full lines?
 

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I love tinkering with heads/tips/leaders. So for me, shooting line, with the option of switching things out while on the water, the way to go.

For example, the short, dense, Commando heads are great for tips and heavier flies, but you might want a longer scandi-type head for turning over long mono leaders to swing those small soft hackles.

The disadvantage, of course, is pulling all those loop-to-loop connections through your guides. Mostly, it's an annoyance.

Let us know what you decide, and what heads/lines you go with.
 

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I like to be able to switch heads easily, so I'm in the shooting line camp. Sometimes I want a more scandi type line with a floating or intermediate poly leader, or even a fast sinking one for lighter flies (even though I find coneheads and heavy flies are cast-able no problem, too), bu then if I get to a deeper run or higher flows, I want to put on more of a skagit style head with 10' of t8. So, I like the shooting line with heads. I also don't find it terribly troublesome to strip in the junctions of shooting line/head through the guides. If you plan on stripping all the way in on a regular basis, and the junction bother you, then you need an integrated running line.
 

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It’s all about the heads! It is nice to go from a Scandi, to a skagit or an integrative skagit without have to bring a bunch of reels. Just my 2 cents.
 

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I too like to tinker around with different heads, changing lengths, densities, etc. However, on a recent outing where I was using my 10ft 8wt single heander for GL's steelhead in the upper sections of my home river, I found the shooting heads to be somewhat of an annoyance in some areas. Mainly in areas that did not require the full head, tip and leader to be out of the top guide, but yet needed extra line to mend for a good swing. Even when using the ubber short Commando heads, I faced the challenge. It was the loop to loop connection that was the pain. The loops were tiny, but the hang up was still present. I never faced this before since on the lower sections, I always needed the entire head, tip and leader out of the top guide, but here in tighter quarters, I found the opposite in some cases. So now I am faced with finding another spool for my reel and loading it with an integrated line, or just bite the bullet and get an integrated line to do everything and get rid of the heads that I have accumulated so far. I like having options, so I doubt I will go with the latter option and get the spare spool. I'm leaning towards either the Wulff Ambush line or the Guideline Bullet Evolve. Both do well with polys and fish mono leaders very well.


Mike
 

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To me it really depends on the fishing tactics you most often employ. If you are frequently retrieving the head into your guides (fly to within under 30 ft of the rod tip), an integrated running line is a pretty good tradeoff to the inconsistency/irritation of the head hanging in the tip too while retrieving. I've been fishing shooting heads on and off for 40 years, and was really resistant to admitting this so myself, but there is a time that integrated lines are just nicer, and worth the dozen feet of distance you loose over mono.

I think having two reels rigged- one an integrated scandi, the other an integrated skagit, would be almost as convenient as swapping heads, and much nicer fishing. The Speylite lines from SA could be a really good combo.
 

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I carry an extra spool when I single hand fish often since I like to swing an intermediate lake line with it, but it's more stuff to carry. I try to not carry anything more than can fit in my pockets now. It's better than carrying a sling or the like imo.
 

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Pros of shooting heads are that they enable thin backing line to be carried along to cast some distance, although factory loops to heads, being bulky, catch in the guides.

A useful trick is to replace those loops with braided ones, being more flexible and somewhat smaller, they tend not catch so much.

Mono running line is not pleasant to use in my opinion as it tends to snarl, but most importantly for me, some drag of the running line tends to help the head straighten on the forward cast.

Intergrated lines, as in traditional weight forward lines can and do shoot well, but that is with the faster line speed of single and double hauls; not so easy with longer double handed rods as all those guides tend to inhibit the shoot, somewhat. There is also the increased cost of intergrated lines to consider, and extra spools for them. They can certainly be more pleasant to fish with, without all the lumps and bumps of the connections, if distance is not so important.

Instead of mono running line I favour the step down of the Rio Gripshooter running line which not only handles well in comparison to mono, but it provides some drag which helps the head turn over.

I started on the English reservoirs in the 1970's when there was much experimentation with shooting heads for distance. Popular at the time was braided nylon running line, which being stiffer, did not tangle on the cast so much and most useful was that a fly line could be spliced into it without loops, and the braid would give some drag for the turnover.

In the photo below is half a 10wt trout DT line spliced into the braided nylon which I still use, this time for bass bugs.

The other is a OPST head with smaller braided loop attached connected to said Rio Gripshooter running line

Malcolm
 

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I used to think that loop-to-loops and the ability to change heads quickly was nice. That way I could experiment with different heads and shooting lines to find out what my preferences and needs were.
Turns out I like/need scandi-ish or spey-tapered-ish heads (no super heavy tips or flies for me) and coated shooting lines 99.9% of the time, so it was a no-brainer to try integrated lines.

I find integrated lines much more convenient. Most of the time, I already know what line I'll need for the day before I even get to the river, so there's not much reason to switch heads during the course of an outing. With an integrated line, you can pull the head back into the guides if necessary (either to fish a little closer, or to allow easier casting in tight quarters) and still retain some shooting ability without loop-to-loops clacking or hanging up in the guides.

So far my integrated inventory consists of only two lines, but I like them so much that I've been thinking of permanently attaching my favorite shooting heads to their matching shooting lines.
 

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I find integrated lines much more enjoyable to fish, especially with any kind of stripping. Much better than a running line to strip in. On the downside, I think that integrated lines do not shoot out as far.

The advantage or heads is switching between different heads to accommodate conditions. Easy to carry different heads as opposed to a few reels - which is what I’m doing now.

Also - for night fishing I think that heads are better as you can feel where the head-running line junction starts much better. Integrated lines have a section with altered tactile sensation but not as easy to tell.
 

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Integrated lines vs Heads

I started with integrated lines but changed to heads when they became readily available. Being able to change on/in the river when necessary is a big advantage (to me) and allowed me stop collecting spare spools for line changes.
 

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As far as I understand, you intend to fish a big river. That’s why I would recommend a head-and-runningline-system first. Casting distance can be essential on a big river.
The further benefits are mentioned by the previous posters.
Both ways show its pros and cons and you have to find out what fits you best.

Because the loops were mentioned as potentially annoying:
The loop to loop connections in a retrieve were never a problem for me. If so, especially with the thick factory welded loops, this could be solved easily.
As showed by MHC, loops can be exchanged with simple work.

My way to solve this is doable in two steps.
1.
Coating pealed off only from the Factory welded loop with help of some Aceton and Monofil to cut the coating through (5 mm is enough), „rounding“ the edges from naked core to the coating with some tying thread,
„naked loop“ (5 mm) and tying thread treated with Aquasure.
Let dry over night. Done ! As slim and neat as a loop can be.
2. Good old splicing, to build own loops.

Some work - worth to be done for the lifetime of a line.
And some abilities worth to be learned for any Speyaddicted - for many reasons.
Also to customize a line to a specific rod.
No rod is the same, no line is the same. Minor changes in DIY line customizing can have big results to the better or we have to take everything as it is.

Good luck !
 

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Loop to loop splices are only a problem when your winding in, playing a fish with the rod well bent is seldom the issue of a straight rod as the loops pass easier!(well they do for me!)
2nd the braided loop on the butt end of the shooting head, that allows things to pass with far less hassle.Actually it makes much more sense too, as no matter the running line, you won't get cracking and erosion of the loop over time/use! compared to DIY or Commercially formed loops in heads.
It also actively encourages regular checking too, as most commercially formed loops are very much taken for granted and tend to be forgotten about untill the inevitable happens!.
Common sense, use 50lb braid for the back end of heads and 30lb for the front end- obvious when you think about it too!.
If you're regularly fishing with the loops in the rod rings, then yes that would be a bind, but I'd also question the suitability of ones line choice in that case, as in head length, or maybe line type.
For that very reason I have several outfits with line type, head length combinations.Guideline- amongst others- have differing length of heads available to suit differing situations and Anglers needs/wants!.
I have what you delight in calling Scandi heads in 10/11 with head lengths of 8m up to 16m, yeah of course neither end of the scale are 100% every day options, but now and again when you have the need, well the choice is there in my lines bag any way!.
Yorkie.
 

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I'm little old school; but I prefer integrated lines.

Might throw a sinking leader on if needed but that's about it.
 

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I like shooting heads because they save me money because I do not have to buy so many extra spools. On the downside, I like that intergrated lines are easier to mend.

So what I am buying inexpensive fly lines - or just using old one that I have - cutting off most the of heads, and building tapered shooting lines that I can easily mend.

If you want to spend the bucks, I think SA still makes a tapered running line.

(Of course you won't cast as far with a tapered running line.)

Randy
 

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I like the head and running line system. Besides the obvious ability to change up heads easily depending on conditions, I don't have any extra spools kicking around for a variety of integrated lines (either too expensive for my limited budget, or hard to come by for certain reels). Also, I don't do a lot of stripping streamers in close, so the junction going through the guides isn't much of a problem for me.

Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
 

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+1 for heads generally speaking. I like the versatility as already mentioned and I don't mind the stripping *that* much as you can pick up a fish that way. Although at the end of a long day it can become a bit of a pain - I might put that down to my own laziness rather than anything else though.

I do have some long integrated lines as well, which are fun where the space allows on big, open rivers swinging small flies on long leaders. For most of my fishing I tend to prefer smaller rivers with structure and pockets, so I find heads are usually a better choice for that kind of thing. Likewise I prefer shorter rods, which in my hands at least, suit the shorter heads.
 

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The best trout Spey set up for me is a scandi head and shooting line on my main reel, a Rio SHS 3D in F/H/I on a spare spool and an integrated Skagit line on a Medalist 7/8. I like the versatility of the shooting heads for trout in varying rivers and water conditions. I like the SHS 3D for small wet fly presentation. I like the integrated Skagit for smallmouth flies and the possibility of lots of stripping. The spare spool and the Medalist are an easy carry in the back of my vest
 

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The best trout Spey set up for me is a scandi head and shooting line on my main reel, a Rio SHS 3D in F/H/I on a spare spool and an integrated Skagit line on a Medalist 7/8. I like the versatility of the shooting heads for trout in varying rivers and water conditions. I like the SHS 3D for small wet fly presentation. I like the integrated Skagit for smallmouth flies and the possibility of lots of stripping. The spare spool and the Medalist are an easy carry in the back of my vest
I also carry a Medalist 7/8 with an integrated skagit. I have a storage bin full of mostly inexpensive 7/8 reels and assorted lines from full floating to full sink (single or switch) and some spey lines for sink tips or versi leaders (skagit and skandit). Before I head to a river I will throw a few reels into my backpack, depending on where I am going and what rod I will be toting.

I own a couple Lazar running lines and various heads, OPST, Rio Skagit Trout Max, SA Spey Lite. They are phenomenal high performance designs but I also still like using some of my older integrated lines that don't cast as far but are just nice and smooth to handle and fish with. I enjoy easy to grip running lines especially in the cold or when stripping the fly.
 
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I find stripping past the head/running line loops is rare with the trout spey & switch rods so I use heads most of the time. Skagits like the Commando or other shorties allow a decent amount of stripping before hitting the back of the head. Spey fishing with single handers is a different deal and I prefer integrated lines. Hauling on the forward cast causes loops to get hung on the tip top with heads so integrated lines solve that.
 
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