The 8x Blues

During a pandemic, when every day starts to feel about the same, my fly-fishing outings have started to blur together, too. This wasn’t intended to be a dry-fly summer, and, trust me, I’m not complaining. But, I’m feeling the need to mix things up next time.

Yesterday found me again waking up at 2:30 and again fishing for about 12 hours, starting at morning civil twilight. With each passing week, the fish have become more and more picky. And, one midge pattern inexplicably looked fine, but two good fish were able to free themselves mid-fight. Some flies just have awful karma.

I fiddled with the #000 fly rod and 8x in the afternoon. I wanted to see if going from 7x to 8x mattered to the fish. It actually did. There were more takes with the lighter tippet. Of course, using it involved “the 8x blues,” a phrase I first heard from a Swift River angler.

For example, I pulled out a good distance of 8x to add to my rig, and, the next thing I knew, it was gone. I thought I had it pinched between my finger and thumb, but that wispy stuff had other plans. I then put it on my 7x with a blood knot, which required many false starts and inordinate patience.

And, I didn’t land a fish with it. My first few hook sets, which I thought were light to the touch, busted off the flies. Gentle hook sets meant that fish were only lightly hooked. Two such trout bid farewell when they jumped into white water and shot downstream. The fish ignored the tiny size 30 dries that usually stick with a light hook set.

Does anyone have good advice on fishing with 8x?

Later, I threw wet flies to add some variety. For some reason, it worked. Two fish quickly said hello, including one large rainbow that absolutely crushed the fly. It had a beautiful yellow hue to it, which I’ve seen only on the winter ‘bows at the Deerfield.

I saw quite a few trout, but they definitely made me work. The tube and bikini hatches were strong (sadly, many people didn’t practice social distancing, and this can make the pandemic more dire and last longer).

The bug hatches? Less so. I think it’s mostly an evening-hatch game these days, but that’s tough for me to do. I like to be home for family dinner as much as possible.

There was no hot fly yesterday, but low-riding size 22s did best. The fish weren’t keyed on any particular pattern or profile, although size 18 Sulphur variants did better than expected. The best one had both yellow and just a touch of orange. I’ll be tying up more later today.

If you’re fishing today, stay cool. A high heat-index day is upon us.


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20 thoughts on “The 8x Blues

  1. Tough yesterdy 3 nymphing took 20 starling and black/silver rib sh fished as a first dropeer. For me 8x isn’t worth the bother. Just saying

    1. For nymphing, I stick with 5x fluoro. Sometimes 6x. Lighter tippet isn’t needed. If you ever do dries or die at flat water, I think you’ll find a different dynamic.

  2. Yes,
    I have a hard time hooking/holding on with 8X. I‘ve had too many break offs of 8X in the last 2 ft. close to the net. Frustrating. I try not to use it if 7X is working. I have noticed, though, that tying 8X onto 6X works better than tying 8X onto 7X. Maybe the combined 6-8 has more tensile strength? But with dries this is the way to go. I usually use 7X with most dryflies, even my #10 foam ant.

  3. I have not been losing any fish on 8x lately. The key: when my 8x ran out I did not order any more! 😉
    I think I tend to use finer tippet to cover up my bad, or not my best habits. That said, I have been fishing the Swift more lately and did order some 8x which is on the way. I agree there are times when 8x seems to be the difference in getting more takes.
    This is kind of a big topic. But a simple test that might help: Cast upstream and watch your flies and tippet float past your legs. Watch your tippet carefully-what do your see? Is it floating? Is it sinking? Fluoro tends to sink and nylon tends to float. Regardless of what thickness or type you are using if it is sitting in the film such that it creates a “chain of shadows” visible on the surface and/or the bottom of the stream I think you are unlikely to have any luck with picky trout. It’s possible that your 8x mono might float better but cast a bigger/worse shadow. My fluoro tends to sink, but not right away, and sometimes not at all when it is new and clean.
    The other thing here is the type of rod, and how much flex/tippet protection it is giving you. Not sure what your #000 rod is like in terms of action? The bamboo rods I have been using lately are pretty forgiving with fine tippets.

    1. Brilliant! I grease up my leader up until the final two feet of tippet section. I wonder if I should revisit that.

  4. Lived in Eastern Pa for a few years and its all 8X or nothing. Learned that nylon tippet is more stretchy and forgiving, also super sharp hooks. The gamagatsu (sp) seem to be the sharpest, though tough to find at times. And keep your rod angle low as you approach the net. All that being said, its still frustrating as hell.

  5. Man, that’s some whispy stuff indeed. I cant bring myself to do it. So far this year the lowest I’ve gone is 6x flouro. I looked at the 7, and said… Nope 🙂

    That said, I’ve increasingly lost joy fishing little flies, and its tough to sling a #6 streamer hook big foam and rubber creation on super light tippet :).

    The super light stuff works, it’s just not personally fun for me at this point – maybe it will be again at some point…

    1. I hear ya. It was great fun making and throwing big articulated streamers on my #7 last fall and winter. I like mixing it up, from Euro to wets to dries to streamers. Right now, dries are what is working for me, and so, that’s why I’m pushing on that front.

  6. One way to get good at fishing 8x is to fish a lot of 9x… then you feel like you can almost horse them in with 8x.

    IMO you have to be willing to break off fish or lose them… a lower landing percentage is part of the game. I’d rather hook 10 on 8x and land 5 than hook and land 1 or 2 on 7x, which seems about the right ratio when fishing sulfurs on the upper Swift where the fish are very pressured. I have also done really well with 8x during needhami, trico, BWO, and midge hatches on the Farmington. The advantage is in the improved drift, especially in slow, uneven currents, since the tippet is basically invisible as long as it is floating (much less visible than the hook point, which thankfully doesn’t deter the fish completely).

    The hook set is the spot where I break off the most fish, and if I get past that (holding the line in an open circle between the thumb and index finger of the line hand helps!), I feel like I have a real chance. When the fish runs, you have to ease off the pressure… you cannot force them to turn, but once they stop, slowly/smoothly increase the pressure and keep it on unless they run again. Keep the rod tip up high during the fight to protect against any sudden surges and to keep line out of the water as the added pressure of the current on the line can be enough to break the fine tippet. A noodle-soft rod is very helpful. Many rods marketed as slow and/or in very low line weights still aren’t soft enough to be great at protecting ultralight tippets. I like to wiggle the rod and feel the flex in the cork… then I have confidence I can fish 8 and 9x. With the right rod, I feel like I can put more pressure on the fish and fight the fish much faster with 8x than I could when I started out fishing with a medium action 4 wt rod (a good all-around rod I still use a lot for more typical/less specialized fishing conditions) and 7x.

      1. I have greatest confidence in the Sage Circa 2 wt and a custom 0 wt from RDP fly rods as I have fished them a lot with 8x and 9x. The Circa is the sweetest rod I’ve owned and the RDP is an excellent value (under 300 for a custom build). I have more recently acquired a used Sage TXL-F 0 wt and a Sage TXL 000 wt that work, but I need to fish with them more before deciding if they are as good at protecting light tippets as the Circa and the RDP.

        I also have an older Orvis Superfine 1 wt that I does not do as good a job of protecting light tippets as I hoped. It’s a nice casting rod, but I now use it only when I am confident I’ll be able to use 7x or stronger for the majority of the time.

        I have a Douglas Upstream 4 wt that is a nice soft rod good for tippet down to at least 7x (I have yet to fish 8x with it), and I would think that the lower line weights (2 and 3 wts) could be good options. Fiberglass rods could be good choices as well, but their shorter length makes them better suits to bluelining IMO.

        Clearly I own too many rods, but I’d rather collect fly rods than stamps or coins!

        1. I have the Sage 000 and really like it. Wish it had more distance for the Farmy, but it works well at parts of the Swift. A sweet fly stick.

          Thanks for all the detailed info. If you, or any other angler (hi Dan!) have time to write a post about dry-fly fishing, that would be awesome. No need to share spots, but an overview on fishing tiny dries I think would be of huge interest.

  7. Glad to see you’re finally getting into FLYFISHING.Tiny flies are kind of my niche and I haven’t found the need to fish 8x on a regular basis at the Farmington even with #30’s. 7X does the job 95% of the time.That being said I have had terrible luck with Cortland Top Secret 8X and went back to Trout Hunter. Ch.Bob and I both did homemade knot tests and found TH to be stronger than Cortland.I fish a Sage SPL 2WT with 8X and have brought a few large fish to the net. With the gear your using you shouldn’t be having that many break offs.It’s possible that you have a bad spool of tippet. As far as knots,six turns on each side of the blood knot and six to seven turns at the hook wetting with salva has served me well.Good luck and best regards.Dan

    1. Great research on tippet brands and knots, Dan. Thank you! Have you tested any other brands vs. TH? I have also used Orvis and Varivas (the only option I know of for 9x) and seem to do okay. The plastic wrap on TH and Varivas gives me confidence I’m using “fresh” tippet that hasn’t been degraded by UV light, but it could totally be effective marketing more than a real advantage.

      I often use the Davy knot for fly to tippet when using ultralight tippet b/c it doesn’t leave the last couple of inches of tippet curled and kinked, which I always worried led to more refusals. I feel like I’m giving up some strength vs. a uni or clinch knot, but I like having a smooth tippet.

    1. Having used it off and on for a few years….

      It’s not worth it, IMO.

      Still, I have a spool of it for dries “just in case.”

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