Changing sink tips on the river already takes up valuable time that your fly should be in the water. When it comes time to change tips, the last thing you need is to open up your tip wallet to find a heap of unorganized tips of varying densities. While some tips (such as RIO’s MOW tips), are easily identifiable at a quick glance, custom cut sink tips built from bulk sink tip material or even some polyleaders are often not as easy to identify. Here’s a simple fix to help organize your tips and keep your fly in the water longer.
Whether building tips from Airflo, RIO, or another form of bulk sink tip material, oftentimes the end product comes out looking quite similar. Airflo has done us the pleasure of providing color coded welded loops on the ends of their ‘custom cut’ sink tip material that corresponds to different densities (T-10, T-14, and so on). However, when building multiple shorter tips, often times we are left with a section with no color coded loops, raising the need to color code them ourselves. Here’s how we do it.
Take your desired color of fly tying thread and load it in your tying bobbin. Near the butt end loop of your sink tip, secure your thread by wrapping the thread back over itself just as you would when tying onto the shank of a hook (a few overhand knots to start the thread works fine as well). If you have built your loops using the nail knot method, in between both nail knots is a great place to start your thread. Once your thread is attached, hold the sink tip in both hands between your thumb and forefinger, with the thread in between both hands. Then, using a ‘jump roping motion’ with the sink tip, use the weight of the bobbin to swing the thread around the sink tip in touching turns (This is the same method used for whipping a loop into your fly line). Make sure to keep your fingers close together in order to guide the thread wraps in the desired direction as it spins. Guide the thread in touching turns to create a band of color. Tie off the thread using a whip finish or series of half hitches and coat with your favorite adhesive or cement. We prefer UV Knot Sense due to its fast curing time and flexibility, but Aquaseal or super glue will work as well.
Since we use both Airflo and RIO sink tip material, as both are great products, we find it easiest to color code our tips using threads similar to Airflo’s coding system. That way, regardless of the make of our tip material, there is some consistency in our tip wallet. You can use what ever system works best for you, but here’s an example of the colors we use (Note: Airflo and RIO offer slightly different densities, however we code similar densities the same color to simplify things).
- White: T-7(Airflo) and T-8(RIO)
- Orange: T-10(Airflo) and T-11(RIO)
- Brown: T-14 (Airflo and RIO)
- Black: T-17 (RIO) T-18(Airflo)
Due to the fact that poly leaders (Airflo) and Versileaders (RIO) tend to come in a wider range of densities, we find color coding them all with different colors is a bit overkill. Trying to remember eight different colors only makes the problem worse! Therefore, try using this method instead.
Using one color of thread (that will appear on both clear and colored poly leaders), use the same method described above to wrap thread near the butt end loop of the poly leader. However, instead of wrapping one band of color, use the thread to wrap a series of small bands that correspond to the poly leader being used. For example, in the case of Airflo polyleaders, on a floating polyleader make one band of thread, on a hover polyleader make two bands of thread, on an intermediate polyleader make three bands of thread, and so on. If you have more than four polyleaders, simply switch over to the roman numeral system using one long band of thread as five and a short band as one. Don’t worry about how many ‘inches per second’ each leader sinks. Unless fishing in still water, the exact sink rate is irrelevant anyhow. The most important thing to know is which tip is heavier and which is lighter than the one you’re currently using.