Jan 18

The Curse of Line Over-Run

There is a time when the dreaded reel bird’s nest strikes with more venom than most other times or at a time when fish have come on the bite, being fully focused on getting your line in the water the finer points of casting left behind, a lovely cast is interrupted by the unmistakable sound of an over-run, followed immediately by the sudden breaking of your line releasing. Amid the cursing and frustration things are often made worse by those around you catching fish right over the bite time. As the reality of the situation sinks in, your heart sinks as you realize you will be spending the next 10 or more minutes untangling line, for those with failing eyesight and low on patience venting usually proves to be fruitless. The mechanical principles behind developing birds’ nests are relatively simple, once understood the means of stopping them becomes clearer.

When a lure or bait is cast, the rod stops in the direction you want the bait or lure to go, and the acceleration provided by the rod straightening out sends the bait or the lure out into the wild blue yonder. At the same time the line behind the bait starts to pull line off the spool. Inertia resists the pull of the line until the spool yields to the pressure and starts to spin, allowing line to follow the path of the bait or lure. The spool extracts a price for allowing itself to spin by storing the energy it gained from its original inertia, and adding some extra centrifugal force to its storehouse where this force waits for the best time to do the most harm. (seems almost vindictive doesn’t it?)

As soon as the lure or bait starts to slow down on its fish driven journey toward the water, the force on the line peeling off the reel lessens. Now it is the first opportunity for the spool to wreak its havoc. If it is not slowed at this point it will carry on spinning – spewing out loose loops of line that wrap around, under and over each other, forming a birds nest or over-run.

If you manage to get over this hurdle, the next chance for the spool to do damage is when the lure or bait hits the water, as again no line is being pulled from the reel. As in the above paragraph, unless the  spool is stopped at the same time it will go on spinning a wonderful web of loops.

Understanding these principles should lead us to conclude that to avoid the dreaded over-run we need a system that allows the line spool to spin with the least amount of force to overcome inertia. The less force required to overcome inertia, the less force is stored by the reel, impairing it’s ability to keep spinning once the line is not pulling at the line-spool. We also need a method to quickly and effectively slow the spool down, when the bait and lure slow down.

The first thing to consider is the reel itself. If you are planning to do a good deal of casting with a free-spool reel, you need to buy a reel that is up to the job.

A good casting reel should have the following features:

  • There should be a way of quickly and easily getting the line spool in and out of the reel.
  • There should be a line spool-tensioning knob, on the drag or opposite end-plate.
  • There should be a shoulder on the line spool that sits up above the level of the line.

The reason that a good casting reel features a quick take-down to get to get at the line spool, is so the spool mechanics and the spool spindle can be properly lubricated with a fine oil – less is best.

The aim is to allow the spool to start spinning as freely as possible.

The spool-tensioning knob is used to achieve the same result. It should be adjusted so that the spool spins as freely as possible, without ‘wobble’.  The best way of achieving this is to hold the line spool gently between the thumb and forefinger and adjust the spool tensioning-knob until the spool moves just slightly from side to side, a mere fishes eyelash width is just right, revealing only a faint hint of movement.

The shoulder on the line spool is a catalyst.

Once the rod is cast and the lure starts pulling line off the reel the angler must at the critical times slow the spool down; but with a feather-light touch. This is not a time to be manly,,, think light. If the thumb is placed lightly on the outer coils of line on the reel spool, the stored energy in the line-spool will keep the spool spinning, and the layers of line just under the top few layers will spill out. This builds truly nightmarish birds nests, where you discover that a web of loop de loops is not so bad, and a tangled group of knots is devilish.

The thumb must be placed on the spool shoulder not on the line.

Now the mechanics are sorted what about the cast itself?

The first thing to be conscious of is to make the whole casting action as smooth as possible, right through the whole motion from whoa to go. It is important to give the action plenty of oomph and like a golf swing be mindful of follow through, sudden reversals increase inertia. Casting lightly is probably causes more horrendous birds nests than any other type of cast as it is impossible to get the timing and pressure of release right. Remember it is a delicate balance between pulling forces, not a matter of fast or slow casting. If the line is only coming off the line-spool slowly, the line will start the spool spinning, but this will in itself ‘stall’ the lure or bait, and bird nest building starts immediately.

Once the cast is made and the bait is heading toward its destination, it is usually only necessary to ‘feather’ the line spool once – at the top of the baits trajectory. As the bait starts to curve downward toward the water it slows. ‘Feathering’ is lightly slowing the line-spool by applying a little pressure with the thumb to the shoulder of the spool to slow the spool-speed to the speed of the lure through the air. The idea is to slow the spool, not stop it. This takes some practice but once you get it, you get it. I can remember as a kid watching my dad thumb the line as a matter of course.

When the bait is about to hit the water, lock the thumb down on the shoulder of the spool to stop it completely.

Unpicking a Birds Nest (yay)

If you do build an awe inspiring birds nest (for the purposes of this article, an over-run is the easiest to disentangle, the first thing to do is stop swearing, then do nothing and calm down, and think on this. Frustration gets in the way of clear thinking and is likely to result in you cutting yards off a perfectly good line due to making poor choices in how you extricate from the mess you created. oh yea, you.

Trying to thread the line under, over and through loops will achieve exactly the opposite of what you want.

Most over-runs can be unpicked with some patience, usually in a relatively short time. A crochet hook, if you can find one to buy, helps unpicking no end, they are cheap and worth having in your fishing kit.The trick is to pull gently on each loose loop until you find one that releases some line, as opposed to pulling on any and all of them making the whole thing tight and impossible to deal with. The key loops to find are the loops around the base of other loops – these loops are the ones that bought everything to a halt. Then move onto more loops till you find another loop that will release some more line. Sooner or later you will come across the loop that started the problem and as if by magic you are fishing again, often surprised by the short time taken to unpick the mess. If you found this article helpful (cough cough) feel free to share your best birds nest story in the comments.

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