Mainly Misunderstood: five myths and realities about using floating lines for striped bass

No line application in fly fishing is more misunderstood than the floating line for striped bass. Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s the intermediate line. Tell you what — read this, then go forth with your floating line and be fruitful and multiply your striped bass catch. “Mainly Misunderstood: Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines for Striped Bass” includes words of wisdom from striper grandmaster Ken Abrames. It first appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of American Angler.

Mainly Misunderstood-Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines for Striped Bass

All good things to those who invest in the floating line. (Okay, we can add in the flatwing and the greased line swing.)




21 comments on “Mainly Misunderstood: five myths and realities about using floating lines for striped bass

  1. David Ader says:

    We should go for stripers…another new experience for me to learn from you!

  2. Alton Blodgett says:

    Great article Steve.

  3. Rowan Lytle says:

    Great article. I’ve never owned an intermediate, and never find myself wishing I did.

  4. joseph ganun says:

    I only use floating lines in the salt. Most of the locations I fish are shallow to begin with so depth is less of an issue.I hate weight on the line but I will add a shot now and then. I cannot, in all honesty, claim that as a conscious choice. It’s how a buddy set me up with my 9 wt. a couple of years ago and I’m too cheap to buy a second spool. I have 8 rods and a second spool only for the 6 wt with a sink tip line on it. Great article.

  5. Pat Brennan says:

    Great article. Thanks for sending it out.

  6. Kevin Landolt says:

    Great article Steve. Thanks for posting . What would you say is the maximum depth you would / could fish with the floating line, like in a back bay creek or sod bank?

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Kevin. In theory, you could fish as deep as gravity, drift length, leader diameter/length, fly profile/materials, and any added weight allow. I can tell you that I routinely catch oyster shells in overhead deep water at the mouth of the Hous. I can also get to the bottom of the Block Island boat channel. That’s pretty deep.

      • Kevin Landolt says:

        Thanks Steve, I’m going to make the floating line my go to this year. I guess it’s going to be a learning curve, and playing with leader length and weight etc. One more question, if there are no visible signs of feeding fish, would you start deep and work your way up the water column , or would you start with no weight and gradually add weight to get deeper?

      • Steve Culton says:

        Kevin, there is no simple answer to your question, which is a good one. The majority of the time, my answer would be “neither.” It depends on when and where I’m fishing. For example, In late November I fished a river mouth with the floater. Cold air, cold water. There were no signs of feeding fish. I wasn’t catching, but others (spin anglers) were catching with jig heads. I concluded the fish were holding deep, so I used some sink tips and a split shot to get the fly down to the fish. Catching ensued. Cut to January. Colder air, colder water, no signs of feeding fish, but I used the floating line and a flatwing to catch stripers — in water over head high deep. Once spring establishes and we get into warmer weather and water, I almost never use weighted flies or sink tips — through late fall. The exception would be if I want to dredge the bottom of a deep breachway or boat channel. While it’s true that stripers will cruise the bottom looking for food like sand eels and crabs, they — like trout — are looking up for their next meal. Too often, the floating line and the unweighted fly are an overlooked solution.

  7. Kevin Landolt says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to ask answer my questions. That really clears it up for me. Now it’s a matter of getting out there and putting it to work.

  8. Frank says:

    Steve, myself and those I fish with always use a floating line at night for stripers…occasionally use an intermediate in daylight. Like you also suggest, we often drift and swing small flies…trout style. If i was gonna fish a Clouser tied onto a gaff hook with dumbell eyes the size of something found in a gym, I’d probably just grab a bucktail jig and spinning rod! 😃 Cast on sir… Frank

  9. Gios says:

    The biggest fish I hooked into last year was on floating line swung down a tidal flow–with 3/0 triple articulated fly! It was near midnight and the fish jumped under load. Then it fought, stripped me into the backing (10 weight) and finally threw the hook when my drag broke.

    I’ll never know what it was.

  10. Sam Somera says:

    Fantastic article! As a striped and salt novice coming from a trout fishing background it is exciting to see the ways in which floating line can be utilized in various environments. I live on the East Bay of RI and was always told to stick to intermediate lines. I’ve found moderate success, but want to become more creative in my presentation and technique by way of dead drifts, Wet Fly Swings, and of course The Greased Line Swing. (I also want to catch more fish!) I do, however, have a question about those times when you really do need to get the fly down. I noticed that Ken Abrames–of whom I am a huge fan–suggests using lead core sinking tips with his floating lines for versatility, customization, and easy re-rigging. However, I am a little lost as to where this lead core section should in the the set-up. Is it attached to the fly line at one end and the leader on the other? Or is it attached in the middle of the leader? Also, what do you suppose he means by “short sections”? 1 ft? 3ft.? 6ft.? And how fast will such lengths sink? I know I’m asking a lot, but t his is uncharted territory for me and anything would help.


    • Steve Culton says:


      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you liked the article. I can tell you what I do. I use sections of T-11: 2′, 4′, 6′. You could also make a 10′ if you wanted rather than combine a 4′ and 6′, etc. I build loops on each end of the section, then attach the section(s) to the end of the fly line and to each other if needed. Note that if you want the fly to get down and stay down, the leader should be short (3′ or less). How fast the section sinks depends on the “T” type. For example, T-11 will sink at a rate of 7-8ips. I can also tell you that I find this system unwieldy to cast. Good luck, play around with it, and if you’re not hooking oyster shells or seaweed covered rocks, you’re not getting bottom deep. 🙂

      Hope that helps.

  11. […] The answer was found within traditional salmon presentation tactics. Those willing to invest in the floating line — I’m not talking money, but rather in taking the time to learn how to harness its […]

  12. […] is no one-size-fits-all “go-to” striper fly — and why learning presentation with a floating line is so important. Match the hatch, learn its nuances, make it easy for the stripers to feed, and […]

  13. […] you well when the going gets tough. If you want to learn presentation, and you value line control, you need a floating line. Period. Find the line taper and grain weight that’s best suited to your rod, how you cast, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s