Odds 'n' Sods of Information and Opinion

Getting the right long belly

People usually struggle when moving to their first long belly line and that’s pretty normal for just about everyone. No doubt that there’s a learning curve to be rounded, but there are a few things that can shorten the journey.

There are two basic problem areas: the lift and the forward cast. The first mistake usually comes from trying to lift too much line. The guidelines for lifting suggests that a comfortable maximum amount of line to lift is five times the length of the rod. So if we’re using a 15 footer, then the maximum we should attempt to lift is 75’. That’s when we’re ankle deep, if we’re waist deep, then the amount we’re lifting will be a fair bit less.

Now this is the kicker: our long belly maybe right for our rod when most of it is out of the guides, but if we can’t lift that length, we never get to that sweet spot. Say that we’re having to shoot line using just 60’ of it and the rod is not loaded deeply enough at that length to do the job. If all we can lift is 60’ but the line needs 80’ out of the guides to get enough rod load to go for distance, then we’ll never reach that sweet spot and the cast will always struggle. The amount we can lift isn’t producing enough rod loading for a decent forward cast.

The early long bellies were very heavy overall because they assumed that 60’ would be an average lift. There was enough line weight at 60’ to load the rod for a good cast. This why the early long bellies seemed so ridiculously heavy, they had to be sufficiently weighted at 60’ to get the job done. So a 9/10 rod would comfortably cast a 9/10 long belly at 60’, but struggle to manage the weight when lifting and casting at 80’. To work at 80’ we had to drop at least one line weight.

This is why there was some consternation about these early long bellies as a person with a 9/10 rod could buy one of these old 9/10 lines and they’d fit the rod perfectly if they didn’t lift much more than 60’, but problems arose when lifting 80’ or more.

One solution was to drop a line weight or two when casting the entire belly. That came with a price though since at shorter distances, there wasn’t enough line weight to load the rod well enough to fish effectively at shorter distances. As an example of how much of a drop in line weight was sometimes necessary; I received an early GrandSpey 7/8wt. as a trial and the only rod I had that handled it well was my 15’ 6” 11 wt!

If we can lift and cast 80’ we can get away with using a lighter line. If our best lift is only 60’ then we need enough line weight within that 60’ to power the cast. As a consequence, we may need to use at least one line weight heavier than someone lifting at 80’. A lot of modern long bellies are designed to be cast by the typical angler with the end of the rear taper at the top hand. For a 75’ line, that would leave little more than 60’ out of the guides and would fit nicely into the comfortable lifting range of most people. No adjustment needed there. The newer, longer lines aren’t as heavy as the old ones, but we still have to be concerned when we get into the 85’ to 105’ head lengths. We still have to think about that trade off between our comfortable maximum lift and an adequate load. The newer lines have just moved that comfortable maximum lift target a little farther back than 60’.

So the bottom line for choosing a long belly is this: the maximum amount of line we can lift under our normal fishing circumstances, dictates how heavy a long belly we’re going to need. Most people will do well with buying the line rating for their rod, but wherever possible, try before you buy.