A look at one of angling's major advancements
ONE OF the greatest advances in angling for generations has been the introduction of the fishing line now simply known as braid.
Unlike the single-filament nylon lines which ruled from the 1950s to 1990s, this wonder line is woven from tiny strands of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), a plastic that is also moulded into items as diverse as artificial hip, knee and shoulder joints, electric motor bearings, gears, and even kitchen chopping boards.
A precisely heated gel of UHMWPE is extruded through a spinneret, drawn through cool air and then wet down to produce a fibre of strong molecular orientation and tensile strength exceeding steel of similar diameter.
The major manufacturers of the fibre have licensed their products under the names Spectra and Dyneema. Together they supply almost all the world's commercial UHMWPE fibres since about 1980.
The fibre goes into body armour, cables, ropes of all sizes up to something that can tow a container ship, cut-resistant gloves and, of course, fishing line.
If the line manufacturer doesn't mention somewhere that their product is made with Spectra or Dyneema, chances are they're using some inferior fibre such as Dacron.
Early fishing line efforts during the 1980s were pretty open weave, with up to four fibres loosely woven around each other, or even around a nylon monofilament or woven Dacron core.
One of the big breakthroughs was Berkley's Fireline, which is exposed to elevated temperatures after weaving to anneal the fibres together for a stiffer, more manageable line than some of the loose, limp competitors that were prone to tangling.
Other manufacturers chose various types of coatings to make the line more fishable and less prone to looping and "wind knots".
Unfortunately, one of the main characteristics of UHMWPE fibres is their slipperiness. Most coatings just slide off.
That's why very few braids, especially the coarser ones, keep their colour for any length of time.
Because it's so fine, fibre thickness is measured in deniers: One denier equals one gram per 900m of fibre or 0.11 milligrams per metre. Get this: 900m of a one denier fibre weighs a single gram!
A human hair is about seven denier.
Stewart McPherson, from Platypus Fishing Lines in Brisbane, Australia's only weaver of braid, says he weaves eight strands of two denier Spectra into his latest 6lb line, Platypus P8 braid.
A single strand, weighing only 2g, is 900m long.
Eight strands of fibre produce an "eight carrier" braid, which seems to be about the state of the game at the moment with all of the major line manufacturers turning out one.
The eight-ply braids are often made of finer fibres and are woven more tightly - that is, they have more "picks" or weaves per centimetre.
The more picks, the more tightly woven and finer - and also the more costly because the weaving looms have to work longer to make a given length.
But a tightly woven line is generally better behaved on the spool and going through the rod guides.
Coatings continue to play a vital part in line quality, preservation and visibility. Some of the waxy coatings last a long time but can make the line bind in hot weather or become stiff in near-freezing conditions.
Other coatings are applied to individual fibres before weaving and each manufacturer is continually looking for the Holy Grail of coatings - one that is colour-fast, slippery and durable.
THE North Coast Fishing Bonanza started in Ballina yesterday and runs until Monday and there's still time to sign up.
The big prizes in this catch, photograph and release comp are reason enough to fish anywhere from the Tweed to the Clarence over the holiday weekend.
Grand prize draw winner gets a Tabs Cruizer 4.3m with 50hp Evinrude ETEC and trailer with all safety gear, while the runner-up wins a Hobie Outback pedal canoe. There are cash prizes for species winners and loads of giveaways in adult, junior and cadet categories.
Visit www.fishingcomps. com.au/ncfb or turn up at the Fawcett Park HQ.
THE NSW trout season opens tomorrow morning and there should be plenty of water in all the rivers and streams - maybe too much in some.
There's a fair bet that the waterways around Ebor will be in their prime but there are also some great streams just west of Guyra.