Shooting Tapers by Mel Kreiger and Lefty Kreh


The shooting-taper is the ultimate distance casting line, a sophisticated version of the weight-forward line, most often used with monofilament running lines of small diameter floating lines used as running line.

The shooting-taper is also among the most versatile of lines. Various density (slow-, medium- and fast-sinking) shooting-tapers can be quickly interchanged, allowing you to use the same reel and running line. A monofilament running line is easily controlled by lifting it into the air while guiding the shooting-taper and fly (in some cases a superior line handling technique to traditional line mending) and monofilament is more sensitive than heavier, larger diameter fly line, a quality useful in detecting strikes and playing fish.

Despite these assets, shooting-tapers are not popular, perhaps because they are difficult to cast for the average angler. The combination of 30 feet of sinking line, 4 to 10 feet of overhang and running line is more than even experienced fly fishers can handle comfortably.

A solution to these handling problems is to reduce shooting-taper length. This shortened version of a standard 30-foot shooting-taper reduces casting difficulties and makes roll casting a sinking line much easier. The shortened heads fish as well as standard-length fly lines, require less back-casting space and lose comparatively little smoothness and distance. (See Lefty Kreh's following article of lengthening your cast by lengthening the shooting-taper.) A shorter sinking line of the same weight and density also has a slightly faster sinking rate.

Now the bad news. You can’t buy one of these lines. Line manufactures produce only 30 -ffoot heads, you must make your own shortened shooting-tapers. (Some fly-fishing specialty shops will make them for you and reloop the ends.) Before we get into the do-it-yourself information, let's take a look at some specific taper lengths and their behaviors.

Shooting-taper: 26 feet long.
Very similar to the 30-foot taper in casting but distinctly easier to roll cast sinking lines to the surface. For experienced casters.

Shooting-taper: 23 feet long.
Significantly easier to roll cast and to cast the line. A little loss of smoothness and distance in casting. For intermediate casters.

Shooting-taper: 19 feet long.
Easiest in every area. Still holds its loop and although it falls short in distance and smoothness, is an excellent fishing line. For beginner and intermediate casters.

What about shooting-tapers that are even shorter? Fly lines that are much shorter than 17 or 18 feet long are clumsy to cast and are not much easier to handle than the 19-foot model mentioned above. I've tested shooting-tapers down to two inches long (a lead weight) and they handle well and can be cast long distances, but are more suited to spinning rod use than to fly rods.

Fishermen who don't have access to a grain weight scale may wish to use the following general formula. Cut the back end of the shooting-taper (the heavy end with the loop on it) 3 1/2 feet for every line size you wish to reduce. Thus, a 10-weight shooting-taper of 30 feet cut to 26 1/2 feet would become a 9-weight line; cut to 23 feet would be an 8-weight line and so on.

I suggest you overload your rod by one line size, regardless of the length of
shooting-taper you use. Thus a rod that normally uses a weight-forward 7-weight or double-taper fly line should have an 8-weight shooting-taper. The relatively short length (30 feet of less) and smaller diameter of the sinking lines result in less air resistance and require additional weight for more efficient rod loads.

Let's take a sample rod and work out a shortened shooting-taper.

A 6-weight rod that balances with a weight-forward or double-taper 6-weight line will need a 7-weight shooting-taper - 26 1/2 feet long. Cut off 3 1/2 feet from the back end of an 8-weight shooting-taper to make the 23-foot-long, 7-weight shooting-taper. You can make the same 7-weight shooting-taper by cutting 7 feet off the back end of a 9-weight shooting-taper or by cutting 10 1/2 feet off the back end of a 10-weight shooting-taper. Both ends of a double-taper line can also be used to cut appropriate weight and lengths of shooting-tapers.



Few anglers realize that a fly line travels forward as an unrolling loop. Once the loop has opened, most of the line's forward motion stops. When your line straightens in flight, the cast is near its end. As long as the line loop is unrolling, forward motion is maintained. It follows, then, that if you lengthen the unroll time, you increase distance.

When using a shooting-taper, if you hold 30 feet of line aloft and make a cast, then it will unroll for a specific length of time. By lengthening the shooting head, you can lengthen the unrolling time, thereby increasing distance.

A 30-foot head often develops so much speed that once the line straightens, and the front begins to slow down, the rear of the line keeps moving as a faster rate and overruns the front. Anyone who has made casts on a lawn with a shooting-taper and walked to the end of the cast has often looked at a pile of line and leader that a spring robin would rent to lay eggs in.

If we make the 30-foot shooting-taper 40 feet long, we increase its total length by about one third. But then the head weighs considerably more than the rod may call for. In actual practice I find that a 40-foot head works well even in the line size called for by the rod.

What I'm suggesting is this: If your want to increase your distance with a shooting-taper, use a longer head. Here's a simple way you can do it.

Let's use an 8-weight line as the example. A conventional 8-weight, 30-foot shooting-taper weighs about 210 grains. Instead, buy a standard double-taper 7-weight line, and cut it 40 feet from the front end. If you weigh the two lines, they will be a close match. Make a quick connection with shooting line at the rear of your 40 footer. Try a few casts to determine if this length line is comfortable for you. Most men who use shooting-tapers are good casters, and a 40-foot head will offer no problem. If you're not comfortable with it, lop off a foot at a time, casting each time until you find the length that pleases you.

What are the advantages of making your head about 10 feet longer? You delay the unroll time and thus increase your distance. And the longer line creates more friction on the water, allowing you to load the rod better on the pickup for the backcast. You also have more line on the water for mending, and with the thinner diameter line you get less air resistance to that on windy days you'll make better casts.

I have found with most rods I own, that if I just cut a line that is sized for the rod to 40 feet (instead of using one a size lighter), the rod will handle the extra line with no problems, and I get an increase in casting distance.


Code Weight Range Code Weight Range

1 60 64 - 66 7 185 177 - 193

2 80 74 -86 8 210 202 - 218

3 100 94 - 106 9 240 230 - 250

4 120 114 - 126 10 280 270 - 290

5 140 134 - 146 11 330 318 - 342

6 160 152 - 168 12 380 368 - 292

These universal standards are based on the weight of the working part of the line the first 30 ft, exclusive of the tip on a taper.

Weight is in grains. Range is allowable tolerance's.

These universal standards are based on the weight of the working part of the line the first 30 ft, exclusive of the tip on a taper.