Shooting line is the name given to lightweight line sometimes erroneously called “running line” that is used in conjunction with a shooting head. A variety of types are available and even standard nylon monofilament of suitable size can be used, typically this would be at least 20lb BS for trout fishing and at least 30lb BS for salmon fishing. Monofilament specifically designed for use as shooting line may be oval or flattened in profile to help prevent serious tangles and some of it is hollow or is said to have little or no memory, a big plus for the avoidance of repeated tangles.
Examples of mono shooting line
Shooting line that is too light for purpose will fail to provide sufficient tension during the “shoot” and the shooting head will lose form in the air (loop will collapse) and fail to “turnover” or present the fly correctly. Conversely shooting line that is heavier than necessary will probably ensure good presentation but casting distance may be limited by the friction and drag it produces in the rings and in the air. Ideal choice of shooting line is a compromise between these two extremes. Most coated types are of similar construction to fly lines i.e. they have a core material, usually monofilament and a coating to give a little more mass and provide better handling qualities. Some have ridged or patterned surfaces which are said to reduce “line stick” (friction) in the rod guides. Care should be taken when using some of these types because the rough surface can cause skin abrasion and laceration during stripping, a painful and unpleasant experience which occurs particularly if the line gets dirty! Most purpose made shooting lines are designed to float hence the use of hollow monofilament and coated types and floating types are certainly much easier to cast. Sinking shooting lines are also available, primarily intended for salt water use but also useful for salmon fishing in cold water when a slower drift is preferred.
In some situations it is advisable to use a stripping basket in conjunction with shooting heads and shooting lines to avoid the line becoming tangled in the surrounding vegetation, stones etc or being dragged away by current or tide. Stripping baskets are also very useful in boats. Anglers who salmon fish in running water usually learn to hold several loops of shooting line in their hands whist wading deep rather than suffer the dangerous effect of a basket attached to their waist.