When it comes to feeder fishing at long distance, by that I mean 40 metres and beyond, the most fiercely debated question amongst anglers is whether braid has an edge over standard monofilament lines.
To help us shed some light on this, we invited ex-England star Dave Vincent and his twin brother Mick, out for a day at Bough Beech Reservoir in Kent. Dave is usually a mono man, but was keen to spend a day on braid and see if there were any advantages to using it on the venue. With Dave on the braid we asked Mick if he would mind fishing with mono for the day. “No problem” said Mick, “I'm not much of a braid fan anyway” he confessed (that was lucky then!). So our test was set up.
For more details on fishing at Bough Beech contact: Mr K Crow, Honeycroft Farm, Three Elm Lane, Golden Green, Tonbridge TN11 0BS. Telephone: 01732 851544.
Mono The word monofilament means single strand, which is made by melting down Polyamide (nylon) pellets and then extruded through very fine nozzles into long continuous strands. These hot strands are cooled slightly then carefully stretched to get the desired finished diameter. The line is then passed through various immersion tanks where a series of complicated coatings are added to change line colour, UV resistance and add abrasion-resistant coatings, etc.
There is one particular characteristic which mono has and braid doesn't... STRETCH. Up until the late 1990’s feeder anglers required some stretch in their line. Most general nylon mono lines have a stretch factor along their length of between 20 and 30%. The German line, Maxima, actually has quite a high stretch factor, at about 34% and it was Maxima which proved the number one choice for feeder anglers for many years. Anglers liked the stretch and the exaggerated diameters of Maxima because the line was very forgiving and robust.
Stretch, of course, has its drawbacks. First, delicate bites can be hard to pick up. Secondly, the stretch muffled some of the force given to each cast. So anglers started using braid to help see these bites in difficult conditions and, in particular, to cast further than was possible with classic nylons.
About 5 or 6 year ago, mono manufacturers started to catch up with some of the braids 'Nil stretch'. Lines like Preston Direct Mono and Tubertini Gorilla Feeder started to appear on the shelves. These had stretch ratios of nearer 10%. There is now a good choice of these 'reduced stretch' feeder lines on the market, like the Browning 'Feeda' used by the Vincent's.
Braid Braid lines are made from twisting together a number of very fine strands of high density polyethylene fibres to produce a braided line, and, because the lines are twisted together, any stretch that would be inherent in a single strand of material is completely eliminated. There are two fibre types used to make fishing braids. Most European and Japanese braids are made using threads of Dyneema. American braids are made using Spectra fibres. Both fibres have similar properties as they are both extremely strong. In fact, diameter for diameter, Dyneema claims to be 5 times stronger than quality steel, whilst claims for Spectra are as much as 10 times stronger!
Fishing is only a tiny part of the market for both these materials. Both are extensively used in a variety of applications from bullet proof vests to strong industrial rope and surgical stitching applications. These fibre lines are incredibly strong for their diameters. For instance, a standard 0.06mm mono line would have a breaking strain of about 500 grams, or 1lb+. A braid of the same diameter could be 4 kilos (8.5lb+) or even more!
The earliest braids used for fishing were natural Dyneema and flat in profile. The problem with natural Dyneema, as with Spectra, is that it floats. Ideal for surface lure fisherman in the USA, but not very acceptable for feeder anglers in Europe. Over time flat braids gave way to round profiled braids and 'sinking' braids. Kevlar is a very dense material and by adding anything up to 20% Kevlar strands, a braid can be made to sink. However, Kevlar is very abrasive. It was the Kevlar in some braids which started causing problems for tip anglers who were using feeder rods with poor quality lined rings. Some braids are now using polyester to help them sink, rather than braid.
There has been much talk in the 'big fish world' of new Fusion lines. Some, like Berkley Fireline, are made by giving the braided fibres a thin coating to make them feel less like material and more like fishing line. Others are made by heating the braided fibres to fuse them together, again to create more of fishing line feel.
The latest developments in fishing braids will come from companies using the superior quality Spectra fibres. Claims are that they are rounder and more compact than Dyneema giving them greater abrasion resistance and much less chance of wrapping around the rods tip, or wind knotting. One thing is certain, Spectra is the more expensive, so don't expect a rush of these products on the shelves of European tackle shops just yet!
For our test Dave Vincent used Browning feeder braid of 0.06mm, a classic Dyneema sinking braid, which is similar to many braided lines on the market today. Mick was happy using his trusty Browning Black Feeda 0.18mm line. Braid is like a good wine! Braid improves with age! Any angler who buts new braid should know that it needs to be used 10 or 12 times, at least, for it to wear in. All new braids tend to create a big bow on the cast, which you'll struggle to sink easily As the braid gets more used and roughened up, it takes on more water. Eventually it sinks easier and makes less of a bow on the cast. Here are a couple of things you can try with a new braid to help it sink more easily:
Leave your loaded braid spools soaking in water until they are ready to use.
Rub the braid with lead putty as you wind it back in. This can add a little extra weight to the line to help straighten it on the cast and and also sink it quicker.
Even so, braid is like wine, it needs to age before it's at its best.
Who caught the most? Let me make it clear from the start, this feature is not about which line caught the most, or which is the better, so let’s break with tradition and get the catch shots out of the way. Both Dave and Mick caught fish well in our test with Dave perhaps having a few bigger bream in his net, but the difference between the two was negligible. Whether it was braid or mono, it seemed to make no difference to their catches.
So what was the point of this feature then? Believe it or not, this article was about which line could be right for you! What I want to go through are the pros and cons of each material so that you can perhaps understand how each works in practise. The theory then is that you will be the better able to make a more informed choice between the two.
Basic Tackle Dave and Mick used the same type of rod, the Browning Rhino 13ft Special Feeder. They both used the same basic paternoster rig with a hooklength of about 80cm (2.5-3 foot). Bait was one or two large dendrobena worms, tipped with a maggot. Groundbait in the feeder was a 50/50 mix of fishmeal and Browning M7 Lake. Freebies included in the groundbait was a mixture of large pieces of chopped worm, caster and corn. Braid or nylon doesn't really affect what you fish with, but rather more of HOW you fish with it! Quivertip eyes Obviously when using braid, quivertips have to have high quality lining in the eyes to withstand the extra abrasion. Happily most tips are now made with quality rings as standard. What has been developed in recent years, is the quivertip with slightly larger eyes, which helps casting when using a heavy shock leader. But this is not the exclusive domain of the braid angler. Today, because they were fishing at 60 metres or so from the bank, Mick also used a shock leader!
Shock leaders One very important point when attaching a shock leader, is the knot. Because of the immense pressure placed on the join, the knot must be capable of taking heavy punishment. Here's a fantastic knot which Jan van Schendel first showed Dave and myself a couple of years ago in France. Called the Albright Knot, it's proved incredibly strong and discrete. Effectively the braid is whipped around the shock leader, as you would whip on a hook, using the loop on the nylon to fix the braid.
Check out the cool slideshow on how to tie the perfect Albright Knot... and many others, from:
knot.jpgGet some special shock leader line. This should be pretty strong stuff. Dave uses 0.22mm Browning Feeda leader mono.
Thread your reel line through all your rod rings.
Make a loop in the end of the shock leader;
Pass the braid UP through this loop.
Whip the braid six or seven times around the looped line.
Pass the braid back DOWN through the loop.
Wet the knot and pull this tight carefully.
Trim the ends hard and secure the knot with a tiny drop of superglue.
Trim the tag ends on the knot short.
Now hold the shock leader spool in one hand and wind on enough onto the reel, about 5 or 6 turns will do.
Quivertip weight Generally you can fish a softer tip with mono than braid. Bites on mono are less pronounced so you can read them better on a soft tip. With braid the contact to the fish is so direct that if you use too soft a tip, you'll end up striking at all sorts tweaks and twitches! On our test day, Mick used a special one ounce (28g) glass tip, which he'd specially made longer and softer in order to accentuate bites on the mono. Dave on the other hand used a shorter 1½ ounce (42g) tip, which enabled him to pick out the real bites on braid. When fishing in windy conditions, which whip up a fair chop, it pays to fish paternoster style and quickly tighten the line right down to the feeder. Due to this factor, you will also need to use a softish tip for braid, otherwise the feeder will simply keep rolling about when you tighten the tip up with the stiffer variety.
Fishing at distance At the start of the session both anglers clipped up at their own comfortable distance, Dave at 60 metres and Mick about 10 metres shorter. However, it quickly became clear that Dave started getting slightly better fish on the longer line, so Mick simply swapped over to a heavier feeder and followed Dave out without any problem! The reason why Mick found it so easy to get the same distance as Dave was that he was using the same shock leader line so could punch it with just as much power as his 'Bro', even with the slightly thicker 0.18mm Browning 'Feeda' line behind the leader. Had they been fishing further out, Mick may have struggled more but 60 metres was still a hefty chuck in any ones book, however the mono coped equally as well as the braid.
Casting with braid and mono You wouldn't think that there wouldn't be much difference in the way you cast a feeder. The usual scenario being to swing the rod back, aim at a marker and fire. I'm no expert in fishing at extreme distances so Dave and Mick took sometime out to give me a couple of casting lessons. Here is what I learnt from them.
Casting with mono Mick explained that you should always hold the line on your finger, not on the spool, as this reduces the danger of it slipping off during the cast.
Swing the feeder right back over your shoulder.
Take time and line up a far bank marker.
Push the rod forward, pulling the butt back into you, to launch the feeder forward.
Let the feeder fly fairly high in a big 'lobbing' arc.
As it hits the clip, keep the rod pointing low and at the target until the feeder has sunk.
Put the rod round to the side and gently tighten up the tip.
By casting this way Mick was able to use the fall of the feeder to straighten his line. It could then be tensioned very easily once in the rest by putting 1 or 1½ handle turns of line back onto the reel to get it in direct contact with the feeder.
Casting with braid Dave then passed me the braid rod. I cast the same way as I had with the mono and sure enough the feeder hit the clip. If anything it was easier to cast the distance with the braid. Feeling pretty pleased with myself I handed the rod to Dave and said “Will that do?” “NO” he replied, “just look at that bow in your line”.
The braid had flown out easily enough and I had hit the line clip, but because braid is much lighter, the wind had caught it as it flew off the reel and put a big bow in it! As we went to tighten up on the feeder I realised the problem. It took 4 or 5 turns on the reel handle each time to tension out the bow in the braid. With each turn of the handle bringing in up to a metre of braid his meant that I had hit the clip OK but was in fact 5 metres short of my possible distance because of that bow, which was no good. What was the point of casting that distance then winding back 5 metres of line?
Dave showed me how to cast properly. “You have to punch it out harder, keeping the feeder low”, he explained, “this helps stop the line from bowing”. Dave launched a power cast, hard and low, until it hit the clip and sunk the tip under the water. Sure enough he had less of a bow and once the feeder hit the deck it only required a couple of turns of the reel to set the tip. Impressive stuff! Distance casting feeders Dave and Mick have been fishing in Holland for the last couple of years and had been experimenting with a Dutch feeder design. It consisted of wrapping a lead weight around the base of a basic cage feeder (right). This didn't look particularly aerodynamic, next to more conventional weights, but as we sat and cast them over and over again the feeders flew just as far, and as importantly, straight every time. The other unexpected advantage of this feeder shape is that it offered very little resistance when you wind in. They are quick to wind in when empty and when you're playing a fish, they seem to actually fight less, probably because they can't feel the dead weight of a normal feeder wafting in front of their noses! Seeing and hitting bites The conventional wisdom is that braid helps you see bites better. There is no doubt that Dave saw more pronounced and sharper bites on his braid rig than Mick. Tiny perch (right) bites showed up as angry stabs and lively digs and tugs. The question is whether this was a better thing! To some extent we felt that Dave’s bites were harder to read and because of the amount of movement he was getting on his tip it was hard for Dave to decide when a bream had got the big worm in its mouth, or when it was small perch ragging away at the tip of the worm. Ultimately, both anglers let the bites develop and found the fish tended to hook themselves. On the nylon Mick was seeing bream bites as slow pulls rather than full-blown wrap rounds. They were easy to see and Mick did not miss many of them. Dave was getting more of his tip pulled round so held back until it really slammed round.
Striking With mono, Mick was striking with a full sweep of the rod and striking across his body (above left). On each fish the rod ended up at about 5 o’clock behind him. Dave, on the braid, was striking completely differently. On each bite Dave simply lifted the rod and gently leant into the fish, the rod rarely going behind his body (above right slideshow). The reason for this difference in striking is simple. When you strike on with mono there is obviously some elasticity/stretch along the full length of the line as it absorbs the impact. Even with the reduced stretch of the feeder mono, Mick still had to give his rod a full sweep to make sure that he set the hook properly. On braid there is no such stretch. Even at a range of 60 metres, a simple lift of the rod and lean into the fish was enough to set the hook. Another advantage of braid is you can usually tell straight away whether any small fish is hooked. At times, Mick honestly didn't know if he'd hooked a small perch or skimmer, or whether it was just the weight of the feeder. Dave on the other hand could tell immediately whether any small fish was hooked. Playing fish There is quite a difference in how you play fish on braid, compared to mono. Quite simply, you can get fish in quicker with braided line. The absence of stretch allows you to steer, even big fish, straight towards you without giving them too much time to fight back. There is also a very direct feel when playing fish, which is surprising if you are more familiar with the feel of mono. Mick tended to take things steadier and was therefore slower because of the mono's natural stretch.
The danger with braid is that some bream have very soft mouths. Fortunately, at Bough Beech the bottom was relatively hard, being man-made, so the bream tended to have harder mouths so could take a bit more pulling. With silt-bottomed venues bream have much softer mouths so simply 'cranking' them in could be a recipe for disaster. Some anglers use short lengths of pole elastic between the shock leader and the hooklength to give some extra cushion when fishing braid. Nisa have produced soft power gum shock absorbers to do the same job of cushioning the direct force of the braid on a hooked fish.
Braid versus Mono – Fact or Fiction? The decision to fish with braid or mono is a personal one. It depends on what you want and are happy with. Hopefully our day at Bough Beech will give you something further to think about before making your decision. I'll finish by summarising some of the myths and some of the facts surrounding the use of braid and mono. You can fish further out with braid FICTION (at least up to 60/70 metres anyway). Providing that you use a shock leader and a relatively fine reel line, you can fish every bit as far with mono as you can with braid, Obviously, for real distance chucking this is not true, but for distances up to 60 or 70 metres you can cast as far as braid. You can see bites more clearly on braid FACT. Braid shows up every movement clearer than even the new low-stretch feeder nylons. Whether this is actually a good thing or not depends on your point of view. I think when fish are feeding confidently braid may actually lead to more missed bites as you strike too early. For hard fishing though, braid can’t be beaten.
You don’t have to strike on braid FACT. You do have to lean into the fish to set the hook, but only slightly. A full-blooded strike is not required, as opposed to when fishing with mono. You need special equipment to fish with braid FICTION. Modern quivertip rings are good enough to fish with braid, with the exception of the very cheapest rods. Otherwise the same feeder rod, the same reel and rig can be used with either braid or nylon. You need a shock leader to fish with braid FACT. When fishing with braid, a shock leader is essential. It allows you to get the initial push into a cast using strong nylon which is kinder on the rod/rings, and safer for your fingers. The shock leader also helps when netting fish as again this is only ever done off the mono leader. You have the option to use a shock leader when fishing with mono, but with braid it is a MUST. Braid is more expensive than nylon FICTION. A good braid will last for several years whereas you need to change feeder line every few months if it constitutes most of your fishing! So, although the initial expense of braid is greater, it saves money in the long term, making it ultimately cheaper.