This past winter, I called my buddy Nate Koenigknecht, guide and rod junkie at C.F. Burkheimer, and asked him for some line advice. I told him I wanted to turn over a 12 inch leech with my 8134 (13'4" 8 wt), and asked if he thought the rod could handle a 700 grain line. After he finished laughing, he gave me some keen advice. His words have resulted in a simplification of my tackle bag — a rare occurrence for a Spey fiend.
Instead of upping the grain of the head, Nate suggested I up the grain of the tip. In his words, the head (in this case a 570 compact Skagit) is plenty heavy to turn over a big fly, even an absurdly large snake-fly. But the tip (in this case a ten foot section of T-14) doesn't have the mass to unstick that large fly from the river. In the fight between fly and tip, the fly wins.
So, Nate suggested I build up a tip made of Rio's T-17 material, eight feet or so would be sufficient. He also suggested, I smooth out my casting stroke: less punch on the forward stroke and a more sustained loading as I came through the D-loop.
I was skeptical. But he was right. My next trip to the river, my 8134 turned over every ridiculous concoction I tried, the 12 inch leech and then some.
As a result, my tackle bag has been simplified. Instead of switching up in head size when I want to throw a heavier or 'stickier' fly — a cumbersome move when midstream — I now switch up in tip mass. On my 6 and 7 weights, I go from T-11 to T-14, and on my 8 and 9 weights, I go from T-14 to T-17.