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SFF Review - Rio AFS Shooting Head Kit.
I first saw this line shortly after it was launched in the UK. AFS or Advanced Fight Spey to give you its full name. It has been out for 2 or 3 years now but I felt a review was appropriate considering the interest in shooting heads here.
AFS from Rio Products in the USA is a ready to go shooting head system that appears to be targeted at those wanting to use a shooting head but without the need for the custom cutting to length and splicing of loops etc.
You can buy an AFS in a floating kit form with the running/shooting line and 3 different density tips or as a single shooting head in various densities. The common line sizes available in the UK are 7/8 - 10/11 in the following lengths and weights.
AFT 7/8 - 37.5' - 30g - 8wt
AFT 8/9 - 38.5' - 34g - 9wt
AFT 9/10 - 39.5' -38g - 10wt
AFT 10/11 - 40.5' - 42g - 11wt
On opening the box you find a tip wallet and a spool of running line.
On closer inspection inside the wallet you find the AFS shooting head and three different 10' tips in floating, intermediate and fast sink densities. There was no indication of the sink rates of these tips but I would guess they will be around 1.5"/sec on the inter and 6"/sec on the fast sink which is common with Rio's other sinking versi-leaders.
The shooting head is a yellow/green with the front 24' in an olive green, the rest is yellow except for the final 12' where it joins the running line which is again olive green. This colour change at the rear makes positioning your head before the next cast (overhang) very easy. There is a clearly marked sticker near the rear loop, again to denote which end of the head connects to the running line. The rear loop now has the line weight clearly printed on it as well which is real improvement over the old bar code affair used previously, 10/11 in this case.
There is also a loop on the front of the head to attach either your leader material or one of the tips included.
On the plastic spool is 100' of 0.35" Powerflex running/shooting line in a sky blue colour. Upon measuring I found the diameter of the shooting line to be 0.35" and uniform along its length. There is a 6" long welded loop on one end and a clearly visible instruction sticker on the other indicating which end is to be attached to your backing.
The three 10' tips are easily distinguishable, green/floating, clear/inter, black/fast sink and they are looped at one end with the nylon core exposed at the other.
To make these tips ready for use you need to create a loop on the exposed nylon end, this can be done with a simple surgeons loop or any other type such as Perfection Loop etc. Some people will choose to tie on those small seamless leader rings, whatever you prefer.
Once you have tied your backing to the running line you then connect your shooting head in a loop to loop fashion. This can be done quickly by passing the blue running line loop through the rear of the shooting head then putting the whole coiled shooting head back through the 6' loop in the running line and easing the loops together snugly, no need to pull them together with white knuckles, snug is enough!
In the same way you can attach a tip or just nylon leader if required using the loop to loop connection but be sure to do it the right way.
This tip is connected the wrong way and will wear prematurely.
On inspection and measurement of the 10/11 kit I found the overall length of the head to be only 38'7" and not 40'6" as quoted by Rio but the weight was 42g as quoted.
You can also get AFS in bright orange from the USA and this 8/9 was again bang on the weight at 34g but again shorter than specified at 36'3" as opposed to the 38'6" quoted on Rio's website.
All 3 tips were 10' long and weighed 4g.
The profile of the AFS could be described as a triangle style taper with a lot of the weight bias towards the rear then tapering down to a tip diameter of 1.35mm or 0.053". On the 10/11 the weight split front to back was 27g/15g or 64%/36%.
I have taught pupils and used these lines many times while fishing so I know them well. It is easy to see why the AFS has proven to be popular, it is an easy casting line for beginners while being a very useful fishing line. Because of the triangle shape taper there is a lot of weight in the back part of the line nearest the rod tip and top half of the d-loop. This helps with rod loading while the lighter front taper and tip which makes your anchor doesn't require much effort to release from the water. Overall an easy casting line and very user friendly.
There is however a trade off in the shape of the taper, that is its ability to cast heavier tips than now supplied and heavy flies such as brass tubes etc. In the beginning Rio used to supply this line with 15' tips and in my opinion it used to struggle a bit with the fast sinker, especially in conjunction with a heavy tube. Shortening this to 10' has certainly helped. Casting into a strong headwind can at times be a little challenging but that is more a problem with shooting heads in general as opposed to this line specifically.
The running line at 0.35" strikes a good balance between feel during use and shootability. It can be figure or eight retrieved without causing any lasting memory and it shoots well with only the occasional tangle, this was as much down to the operator as the running line itself. Thinner running line than this in conjunction with very cold fingers can become a problem with the running line slipping during the forward cast, this diameter is fine. Casts of 25-30yds are easy enough with a fair/average technique and a good caster will see 35-40yds if needed.
Overall I think this is a good product and I would recommend it.
It has limitations in the respect of a beginner casting tips longer than 10' but so long as its used for what it was designed for and with the tips supplied it will perform very well, you could also use Airflo 10' salmon poly leaders if you have them. The fact that the line was slightly shorter than specified may prove a little troublesome for use on 15' rods unless you use the tips supplied even in floating. I have used them before as full floaters with only a 15' tapered leader without problem but you need to watch your anchors for slipping, especially if the line is 2' under length. The floating kit will cover a fairly good range of salmon fishing scenarios once the water warms a little. Because of the 10' versi-leaders I would class this as a floating shooting head with the option to use a sinking leader rather than a dedicated multi-tip shooting head. For that you would need to look to the AFS Tracker with dedicated 15' tips included in the overall length of the head.
This line was supplied for review and can be purchased from Angling Active
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