Zero stretch

One of the major advantages of braided lines is the almost total lack of stretch. Braids typically have between 3 and 5% stretch, compared to the 25% of nylon lines. This means that hook sets are far superior to nylon line, particularly at very long range. Believe it or not, at distances of greater than a hundred metres, it's near impossible to create enough resistance to drive a hook home using conventional nylon lines. For extreme range carp fishing this is a big bonus, as the hook can be driven home even at distances approaching two hundred metres. The downside of having no stretch is that the rod must provide all of the shock absorbance. This puts more pressure on the hook-hold when fish are being played under the rod tip, but in practice, it is rarely a problem.

Having less stretch also means that bites are magnified. Imagine being able to tighten up to a feeder the second it hits the water. For quiver tipping and also touch ledgering for barbel, braided main lines can be a real boon, greatly magnifying even the tiniest bite. When touch ledgering for barbel, the fish can be felt gently brushing the line, as they feed confidently on the freebies, yet ignore the hook bait.

Fine diameter

Another advantage of braids in running water is the reduced diameter for a given breaking strain. This means that the size of ledger weights can be reduced, particularly important in floodwater conditions, when several ounces of lead may be required to hold bottom. This fine diameter also makes long casting a breeze, particularly useful for launching deadbaits to the horizon.

The fine diameter and lack of memory also mean that it is possible to step-up breaking strains with little loss in performance. My carp and pike reels are loaded with 30lb tensile strength braid, which has a knot strength of over 20lb. This might seem excessive, but it almost eliminates lost fish. For continental catfish, lines of 50lb tensile strength and above are often used in conjunction with a Shimano Seaspin baitrunner, to provide a balanced outfit.

To get the best from a braid, make sure that you choose a brand with a round profile and tight weave. Although oval profile braids may be quoted as having finer diameters than round braids this is because they are measured across the thinnest cross-section. In practice, oval braids present a much larger surface area than round braids, reducing both distance and accuracy when casting. Oval braids are also notoriously difficult to control on the reel and will tend to bed in, causing tangles and potentially lost fish.

Floating

Virtually all braids currently on the market are naturally buoyant. Unfortunately, I've found it impossible to make these lines sink with any degree of certainty. For the most part, a floating line is suitable for ledgering in water of less than five metres deep, but in water deeper than this, a considerable bow forms between the lead and the rod tip because of the floating line. To remover this bow you must tighten up slowly, not ideal if you are expecting bites soon after casting.

There are many applications where a floating mainline can be a bonus though. Floater fishing is one such example. Here, the line can be picked up off the surface and mended to keep a tight line between the angler and controller. This greatly increases the control you have over the tackle and increases the number of takes hit when the fish are feeding confidently. Drifter fishing for pike is another technique where a floating line is extremely advantageous, coupled with the ability to instantly wind down on a pike even at extreme range, means that I will always drifter fish with a braided line. To keep my line sitting proud of the surface film, I douse it regularly in silicon tent proofing.

Sinking lines are in the pipeline, although most are made denser than water by incorporating a heavy fibre in their construction. This means that they are thicker in diameter for a given breaking strain, but still have the advantages of zero stretch and low memory. Unfortuntely, the extra diameter means that casting distance is not as good as with a floating braid.

Types of braid

As already mentioned, not all braids are created equally, and it is fair to say that you get what you pay for. The most expensive spun braids are superb lines, but they do take some getting used to because of their lack of memory. For the angler used to fishing with monofilament lines, I would suggest starting off using a fused filament braid. These are not as supple as the spun braids, which means they are easier to control. My favourite fused lines are Fireline and Herculine fusion. Both are ideal for ledgering and light spinning. In breaking strains above 20lb, spun braids become more manageable and are my first choice when fishing for super specimens Dynon 3000 and Herculine become my favourites at these higher breaking strains.

If you decide to give braids a go, don't think that they are a panacea for all your problems. Use a bit of common sense and only use braid in those situations where they will really make a difference.