Types of braids, and why Superlines are the best.
There are hundreds of different fishing lines available, and braid is no exception. Most brands have several variations. But, not all braids and created equal, and not all play nicely with spinning reels. In general, the thinner the diameter of the braid the more problematic it becomes.
Most braids do not work well with spinning equipment, this results in wind knots and line twists which can result in tangles or even break offs.
Conventional braids were designed for overhead reels and bottom fishing. This is why most braids handle a lot better on bait casters.
Spinning specific braids
Luckily there are braids made for spinning reels. Most of which are made from fused gelspun fibers.
Commonly known as superlines, these fused braids were pioneered by Berkely Fireline.
Fused gelspun is more user spinner friendly than traditional braid. The outer coating makes the line smooth and stiffer. In some ways, It performs more like a mono. While maintaining near zero stretch and a much thinner diameter.
It really is an exceptional line for spin fishing and it my preferred type of braid on ultralight spinning reels. That is because in close to twenty years of spin fishing I never had a wind knot when using fireline, I can not say that about any other braid. I have also been entirely free of line twist despite never using a swivel.
Despite being spinner friendly, it is still a braid so it casts very well. It is a high-performance line that glides off the spool like a rocket. New anglers and some old-timers more accustomed to slower casting spinning reels can be caught off guard by line velocity during the cast. Casting requires finesse, a short smooth flick and fireline will glide off the spool. With practice, casting braid will be no problem. In nearly twenty years of spinning,
Some things to keep in mind
One downside with gelspun, and especially fireline is that the advertised break strain is rarely correct. It always massively over tests. I used to say 6lb fireline breaks at 6kg (13lb), over double the rated amount. It offers some peace of mind, that it will never break under test. It is always safe to use a slightly lighter line than usually recommended. So if you usually spin with 6lb nylon, it will be safe to use 4lb fireline and still have strength to spare.
While Fireline might cast like nylon, its knot strength more resembles braid. So take care when tying knots. When tying a knot in braid complete more rotations to achieve the same knot strength.
A very capable alternative to Berkely Fireline is Sufix Fuse, it shares many of the same characteristics.
Why Braided superlines is better than monofilament
Many trout fishermen still fish with nylon or other monofilaments. So how do the two lines compare?
- Superlines are a lot more sensitive. Very easy to feel every vibration, bump or strike.
- Zero-stretch. Superlines have next to no stretch, so ever jerk or sweep with the rod is immediately reflected in the lure. Be careful, avoid striking too hard, the zero stretch can easily rip a lure away from a trout.
- Longer casts. The thin diameter makes long casts a breeze, changing to a superline is the easiest way to increase casting distance. For more advice on casting further check my previous written article.
- Floats. Superlines are very buoyant. This allows for easier line management. Making it easier to avoid snags and underwater obstacles, especially when slack lining. It is surprising how often a buoyant line comes in useful when fishing floating jerkbaits or a float / bobber around obstacles.
- Longevity. Superlines are very UV stable. If stored in a cool, dark, and dry environment superline can remain on a reel for years without breaking down or losing strength. On some of my less frequently used reels, I am still using line which is 8 years old.
Advantages of monofilament over Superlines
Nylon and fluorocarbons still have advantages.
- Price. A spool full of nylon is significantly cheaper than braid.
- Knot strength. Knots in nylon are simply stronger and simpler to tie.
- No need for scissors or expensive braid cutters. In a pinch, we can bite through nylon with our teeth.
- No leader. There is no need to tie on a leader, fewer knots and fewer complications. It is also one more cost saving.
- Easy. Nylon is easy and smooth to cast. Easy for children and beginners to learn with.
- The risk of line cuts is also very low.
- Abrasion resistance. While not a big issue, monofilament lines are more abrasion resistant. Line damage is also easier to detect.
What are the best braids or Superlines for trout fishing?
Berkley fireline – My top choice for over 20 years
There are a lot of competing braids on the market, some with even 8 or even 12 strains braided together. So why do I favor a old braid like Fireline over all of the competition?
The main reason is that I can not remember the last time I got a wind knot when spinning with Berkley Fireline. I don,t think I ever had one. Fireline is simply a very well behaved line that gives me minimal trouble. For spinning with line weights under about 12lb I do not know of a better braid on the market at any price point. Yes, that includes the expensive 12 stain Japanese braids.
Fireline has good knot strength, and for a braid it is surprisingly abrasion resistance. I know this is a trout fishing site, but I also use Fireline when fishing in the sea. I often fish around barnacle and mussel covered rocks, and fireline even lives up to that abuse. I also landed Rays (underwater bulldozers) heavier than I could lift on 14lb fireline, impressive stuff.
There are a few complaints targeted at Fireline.
Some anglers find fireline wiry and waxy when new. This is true, it does feel stiff. But, within days it loses that initial wiry feeling and starts to soften turning into a much more manageable line.
Others complain, that the line bleeds color fast. Again, this is true. Within the first few months much of the original color will bleed out of the line, it will end up on your fingers and coating your rod guides. Not pretty and not really good enough, but losing the color does not impact on the line performance. This is entirely cosmetic. Well fished Fireline, for that reason is much paler in color because all the dye has leached out.
Finally, Fireline does have a tendency to become a little furry with use. But, in my experience, it does not really impact the performance of the line. I am still using 8 year old Fireline on one reel, and despite being furry it still casts and catches fish just fine.
One note I will make, is to never let your Fireline wash around in the waves. It hates getting rubbed against rocks. This can cause Fireline to become furry within hours. But if you actively fish any furriness does take quite a while to develop.
Fireline Original vs Fireline Ultra 8
They are both great lines.
I know many people want to compare the original Fireline with the newer ultra 8. The main difference is the price, Ultra 8 is more expensive. So is Ultra 8 worth the higher price? I do believe it is a better line, but not better enough to justify the higher price tag.
Just like the Original Fireline, it is very rare to get wind knots in Ultra 8. That automatically puts it ahead of most braids on the market for ultralight spin fishing.
Ultra 8 also feels a lot smoother through the guides and makes less noise. This is not something that bothers me. Being smoother, probably also means slightly longer casts, but when casting both products side by side I was unable to measure any significant difference in casting distance.
One of the biggest complaints about the Original Fireline, is that it frays and becomes furry quite quickly. While this is mostly a cosmetic change, it does put a lot people off fishing it. Ultra 8 on the other hand, takes significantly longer to start to fray. It looks new longer.
There is one downside, that is knot strength. Ultra 8 smoothness, does make it trickery to tighten knots down securely. Although, I find an extra turn or two is usually enough to compensate for the extra slickness in the line. I can not give a exact number of turns in a knot, because that depends on line diameter, and are soft the leader material is. Just takes a little trail and error.
Fireline vs Daiwa J Braid
I recently got asked, how does fireline compare against the popular and affordable Daiwa J braid. Will, I do like J Braid and I also think it is a great product for the money. I fish J-Braid in heavier breaking strains but for lines under 6lb I still think fireline is king.
The reason I like Fireline, is the absent of wind knots. While Daiwa J Braid is better than most braids, I still get a few wind knots when fishing with it in low breaking strain line. It is simply less forgiving to use than Fireline.
If you can not find fireline, then J-braid is a good runner up choice.
Sufix fuse is a very similar product to fireline. It uses the same technology but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find. I suspect the company is favoring their new Sufix 832 which does not work as well on ultralight tackle.
Do not use heavy braid when trout fishing | Why using 30lb braid is a bad idea.
I was watching a YouTube video earlier today, and the host was promoting using 30lb braid for trout fishing. This is a bad idea and I will explain why below.
Using a braid allows for longer casts. That is because is has a much thinner diameter than monofilament. If I look at the advertised diameter of a typical 6lb nylon, Say Stern Original. It’s 0.22mm across, very thin. While 6lb fireline is 0.15mm, So about 30% thinner. But let’s compare 30lb fireline instead, which has a diameter of 0.38mm. Even wider than the nylon, that means 30lb braid would not offer any casting distance advantage over the monofilament we typically use in trout fishing.
This thicker braid is also less sensitive than a thinner braid. While still an improvement over nylon, you are sacrificing sensitivity for no good reason.
Another disadvantage is that a thicker braid results in thicker knots. Including the joining knot between braid and leader. Every time you cast that larger knot is going to rattle through the guides, increasing resistance and reducing distance. For optimal, smooth casts the thinner, more low-profile the knot the better.
Finally, the rods, and reels we use for trout fishing are designed for ultralight styles of fishing. The drags are optimized for 2-8lb lines. The rods bend profile are optimized for 2-8lb lines. 30Lb line totally exceeds all the design parameters of the reels and rods we are using. Sure, experienced fishermen know not to over tighten the drag, allowing it to slow not stop the line. But too many fishermen love to max tighten their drag, and brute force the trout in. Sooner or later, this amount of strain is going to result in premature equipment failure.
Arguments for using heavy weight braid when trout fishing
Heavy braids get recommended for lightweight spinning applications primarily to avoid issues with line twist, tangles, wind knots and tip wraps. A thicker 30lb braid is much more controllable.
These tangles and wind knots are a real problem. But 30lb braid is not the best solution. Most braids are not designed for spinning reels or frequent casting. When fishermen use these braids on a spinning reel they experience the above issues. But, there are Spinning reel compatible braids. These braids, made from Gelspun do not suffer from the same issues. The reason why fishermen use 30lb braid, is because they are using the wrong type of line.
Another common argument is that there is big fish in the lake and they want to be prepared. While the 30lb line is strong enough to winch in big fish, the rest of the setup is not. If they try to winch in the big fish, chances are the leader, split rings, hooks or even the rod will fail. 30Lb braid does not make landing a big fish on ultralight gear significantly easier.
Make sure your rod and reel are rated for Superlines
Some entry level rods and reels can get damaged by braid and superline.
The very thin diameter can cut groves into cheap chrome and old style stainless steel guides. I have seen one example where the cut straight through an end guide. Soft line rollers can also develop grooves but this is less commonly seen on new reels.
Most modern reels now come with hardened metal in the roller so roller damage to new reels should not be a problem. I do feel some spinner reels are better suited to fishing fine braid than others. I personally consider Daiwa has the most braid friendly line lay, but Shimano is a close second. I go into a bit more detail in this post or check my spinning reel buyers guide for reviews.
When buying a rod I suggest getting one that uses guides made from aluminum oxide, ceramic inserts or titanium. I know some people question the toughness of stainless steel guides but I have never had them grove. For spinning rod recommendations I have a short write up here.
Which leader material is best when fishing braided lines?
Braid is highly visible in the water, fishing straight braid will scare trout. So to maximize the number of fish caught, a leader is essential.
There are two main types of monofilament lines used for leaders, these are nylon and fluorocarbon. There are also various hybrid lines and copolymers which set somewhere in the middle, although copolymers do resemble nylon more than they do fluorocarbon.
Basically, it does not matter what type of line you us as a leader. They all work and perform similarly.
So if you already own some line of around 6lb it will be fine to use for trout fishing. But, I will still go into more details below. To summarise quickly, Florourcabon is slightly more transparent in the water, while nylon/mono is thinner with stronger knot strength.
Transparency in water
Fluorocarbon is advertised as being next to invisible in the water. There is some truth to this claim. Its refraction rating, in other words how light bends through it is very comparable to water.
But, I will argue that the difference in transparency between floro and nylon is not enough to deter trout from striking, and there is certainly more to visibility than just refraction. There is also reflection, that is how the light bounces off it. I have seen no evidence that fluorocarbon reflects light any better than monofilament.
Finally, and I personally consider this a big one. It is the shadow that the line casts across the water. This, is what I suspect spooks most fish. With the sun above, both types of line can cast a shadow, but with the line diameter of only around 0.22mm the shadow it casts is rather thin.
I have been fly fishing for years, mono floats (or sinks slower than fluoro). It is my first choice for tiny dry flies. When trout zone in on a minuscule size 20 Twilight Beauty, gently floating atop a crystal clear pool they completely ignore the nylon tippet. In my experience mono tippets do not deter trout when fly fishing, why would it deter trout when pulling a lure with one hundred times the bulk of a dry fly.
The only time, where the lower transparency of fluorocarbon might makes a difference is when targeting very wary fish, in crystal clear still water combined with bright direct sunlight. But for 99% of trout I catch spinning, I am not convinced it makes a difference.
Difference in Abrasion resistance
So much advertisement claims that fluorocarbon has been abrasion resistant. This is probably not true. I have seen enough head-to-head comparisons where fluorocarbon breaks first in abrasion tests compared with monofilaments.
When trout fishing abrasion resistance it not a large consideration. While brown trout are smart and fight dirty, but freshwater fishing is simply not abrasive enough environment for the extra resistance to really matter. Smooth scales cover trout bodies, not sandpaper skin like many marine species. Trout teeth are also not a concern. In many years of trout fishing, a trout has never bitten me off. Even when fishing 2lb nylon which seems slightly thicker than hair abrasion is not a big issue. Again, in my opinion this is a draw.
Nylon has much stronger knot strength than fluorocarbon, knots are generally the weakest point in our fishing setup. So stronger knots mean fewer lost fish. If you take care, and tie good quality knots the difference is insignificant so another draw between the two types of line.
Nylon floats, floro sinks
Nylon sinks slower than fluorocarbon. This is true, and that is why many fly fishermen use nylon tippets for fishing dry flies but switch over to fluorocarbon when nymph fishing. But, the difference in buoyancy between the two types of line is insignificant compared with the mass of the lures we typically fish. If you are fish flies behind a float, then this is one spin fishing situation where line type might makes a difference.
Do I even need a leader when fishing with braid?
Some fishermen tie their lures directly to their braided mainline, this is not a good idea. While it is still possible to catch trout tying directly to braid, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Below I will outline the four main advantages using a leader offers.
- That is because braid is clearly more visible in the water so easier for the trout to see. It does not take much to convince a wary fish not to strike.
- Braid also lacks the abrasion resistance of monofilament lines. So every time that cunning old brown trout rubs against a rock or fallen branches the chance that braid will snap is greater than monofilament.
- Finally, braid the thin diameter of braid is much more likely to cut unprotected fingers, and even the skin of a trout. A thicker monofilament leader is kinder all round.
- Braid lacks the knot strength of monofilament, and knots are trickier to tie. Whenever I spinfish, I frequently change my lures. Tying knots in nylon is simply faster.
I should give some time to the counterarguments. The first is simplicity, by tying straight to the braid you simply need less gear. No need to carry a spool of monofilament with you, and there is one fewer knot that could fail.