Ultra-thin line means lean times for fish

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The Independent Online

Technology Correspondent

Pity the poor fish. As if anglers did not already have enough advantages, with carbon-fibre rods and motion-sensitive detectors, technology is about to deliver them another weapon. This time it is a line so thin and strong that its makers warn: "Do not attempt to break this line with the bare hands - it will cut fingers to the bone."

Gel-spun microfilament is made of extruded plastic 10 times stronger than an equivalent strand of steel. To anglers, its big advantage over monofilament lines is that it stretches by a tiny percentage - about 3 per cent, against monofilament's 20 to 30 per cent - and is 60 per cent lighter for an equivalent length. This makes it useful in sensing when a fish has taken the bait on a line, and for long casts.

"When a fish strikes on a line that's been cast over a long distance, say up to 100 yards on a lake, a non-stretch line means you can set the hook [in its mouth] more quickly," says Richard Howard of Coarse Angling magazine. "A monofilament line, because it has that extra give, can't do the job as well."

Until recently, gel-spun lines have cost five times more than a comparable length of monofilament because their manufacture takes much longer. But later this month at the Sport Fishing Association show in Las Vegas, US anglers will get their first look at gel-spun lines priced to compete with the rest of the market. British anglers can expect the lower-priced lines, which are made only by American companies, to appear in the shops around Christmas.

However, the new lines might give the fish an early advantage: American anglers equipped with stiff carbon-fibre rods found a strong fish sometimes broke the line, despite its advertised strength. Experts say the line's low elasticity means it can snap when a sudden shock is applied.

The answer, says Mr Howard, is for anglers to take a technological step back and use a more flexible rod which will provide the necessary "give".