To braid or not to braid... that is the question.
Since discovering this revolutionary material a few years ago, I had used it exclusively with great satisfaction... UNTIL I learned the art of dropshotting!
Having kitted myself out with a SPRO Insync rod, accompanied by a lovely little Shimano Biomaster, spooled with 0.6PE 9lb braid, I added 5ft of 7.4lb fluorocarbon leader, an Owner Mosquito hook and dropshot weight and was ready. As with any new technique, it's not immediate that you are confident enough to get the results consistently, but it didn't take long at all before I was convinced I was on the right track.
The sensitivity of the setup surprised me, despite having a much softer tipped rod than I am used to. The braid really enables you to feel every movement of the weight bouncing along the bottom, giving you great insight to the make up of the bed. With the pencil weights, you can even feel when the weight is standing up and falls over horizontal. In the beginning, at times I felt it was too sensitive as when I was retrieving, every rock I hit felt like a bite!! Silt has a much softer feel and you can really feel that weight dragging through the mud, so you know that's probably not the best spot as perch generally prefer a harder bottom. Needless to say, when you DO get a bite on the retrieve or a tight line, it is much easier to detect with the braid.
It was only when I went out to the canal on a fairly windy day, fishing crystal clear water that I realised there may be a down side to this amazing new braided line I'd discovered! You don't feel the bites on a slack line! For the first time since learning to dropshot, I had actually seen perch in the water before catching them. Having made a few casts to them and to my surprise catching nothing I went in to closer analyse their behaviour. I stealthily approached the shoal (anyone who's fished with me will know that 'stealth' is not my strong point!!) and instead of casting a distance that made it hard to see my lure, I was able to almost drop it vertically into the shoal I had been targeting. Those who've caught perch will know that the bites can come in many different forms, depending on their mood on any given day and on this day they were on a 'go slow'.
With a small swing of the weight, I lobbed the rig just a yard or 2 away from me where it dropped tantalisingly down to the waiting shoal. With only a 3g weight, this was a slow and deliberate drop that gave the perch time to see the lure and 'bite' it. To my amazement, 2 or 3 of the fish managed to inhale and spit out the lure without me feeling a thing. Continuing with a few more casts, I was further surprised by the amazing camouflage of the fish, only noticing some bites when the lure disappeared from view and I lifted into a fish without even seeing, let alone feeling it!
After much discussion with a few like minded angler friends, I made the brave decision to remove my beloved braid from one of my reels and spooled it up with a 6.6lb Seaguar/Grand Max Soft fluorocarbon mainline. As another friend who'd recently done likewise put it; "It was like a light being switched on". Because fluoro is a denser material than braid and monofilament, the theory is that it transmits more energy. This certainly seems to be the case, but the most notable difference for me is that it is never entirely 'slack'. Unlike the super fine braid that was blowing about all over the place in the wind, with the additional density/weight offered by the fluoro it seemed to hang in a much neater bow/arch when on the drop or under 'slack'. The weight of the line creates a relative amount of 'tension' between rod tip and lure, so the line is never fully 'slack' as you find with braid, which definitely helps with bite detection. This 'downward arch' that you naturally get with fluoro continues into the water, since fluoro sinks, as opposed to an 'upward arch' that you get from your lure trying to pull the floating braid down. This also enables you to keep the lure tighter to the bottom on the retrieve.
Some people have cited the additional stretch that is characterised by fluoro as a disadvantage, as opposed to braid which has very little to no stretch. To them I would ask how much stretch one can get in a few meters of line, fishing a shallow river or canal at close quarters. I would also offer a positive to any additional stretch in these circumstances when the fish are a little tentative, enabling them to pick up the lure and with the small amount of stretch, coupled with a soft rod tip, feel much less resistance. This results in fish hanging onto the lure a bit longer giving the angler more chance to set the hook and not 'ripping' the hook out of their mouth as over enthusiastic strikers tend to do with braid.
When you take the same setup into deep water or a scenario where there is more movement either through current or boat movement, then braid really comes I to its own. The thinner diameter and lack of stretch enable you to use less weight to keep in touch with the lure and detect bites more easily. In these circumstances, as a result of the aforementioned movement, heavier weight and fishing vertically, your line will be 'slack' for far less time than the canal fishing scenario I have described, the benefits of fluoro are less apparent and the added stretch of fluoro can reduce sensitivity as you have more line out, with more weight on the end in deeper venues.
So the moral of the story is: Every line has its place. Don't get transfixed with any one line material in a "one size fits all" style, as they all have their own unique advantages and disadvantages in different circumstances.