Flying Fish Fundamentals

Thought on Flag balance and Tails

In the years that I have been shooting competitive benchrest I have seen a myriad of different flag designs. Almost every shape of vane that one can imagine, with and without daisies, single vane and dual vane, even dual vane with uppy/downy vanes added in.  I found all designs to be “good” and “bad”, but the most common bad characteristic I found was flags that were out of balance.


What is a “balanced” flag? In a simple sense, it is a flag that is statically balanced at the point of pivot. But there is a great deal more to it than that. I am sure anyone who has attended a BR match has seen a set of flags that react very quickly, but never settle down. No matter how light and steady the winds, those flags are always twitching. To me, that twitching is like a electronic circuit that is squealing with feedback, it needs to be squelched.  The flag needs just a “touch” dampening in it’s balance. I achieve that by a dead flat balancing of the bare flag (see photo) and then adding whatever tail, surveyor tape or sailtail, you are going to use to see speed changes. That tiny bit of bias to the tail is all I have ever found necessary to dampen the feedback, no matter what kind of flag we are talking about.






















Daisy or no daisy, the eternal debate in BR shooting.  I personally have a hard time shooting over flags with no daisy. I see a lot more in a daisy's spinning disk that speed, letup, or push.  The shape change of that disk, from circle to oval, also tells me of an angle change.  You would be surprised how small an angle change you can see in that disk. Balanced daisy or not? For me, I want the daisy to be only “close”  to balanced.  When daisies are balanced like you would the tires on your car, I find that they have a tendency to “run on” or not slow down when the wind starts to let up.  If you are a shooter who only shoots the letup, no problem.  But there some of us who shoot both the push or the letup, dependent on what is most prominent that relay. And if the letup comes and you don’t see in the tail or the daisy, you will crash and leave a lot of wreckage.  The daisy that I supply with my flags is only a close balance. If you want them precise, about 5 minutes with a pair of scissors and a rod to spin the daisy on will get you there. Trim VERY small amounts off the tip of the vane that consistently stops at the bottom. You can always trim more, but it hard to put weight back. One other thing to keep in mind, even though daisies are pretty available today, unlike a few years ago, DON’T throw a daisy away that you break a petal off of.  Break the exact opposite petal off and keep that daisy as a spare.  Won’t change a thing with respect to the rotational speed of the daisy, just the visual.  But it is always a good thing to have a spare daisy around.


Surveyor tape or sailtails? A very personal choice. Surveyor tape to me is like the nervous flag, I don’t understand it. Sailtails are my choice because I can see subtle twitches in it in soft conditions and I can still see speed changes in even as bad as 15 mph winds.  Neither is right or wrong, just what makes sense to your way of thinking/seeing. One thing I will say is for either, you should keep a couple different colors around.  Different backgrounds, like desert vs verdant green timber, will call for different color tails for best contrast.  Surveyor tape is cheap, $2-$3 per roll, and sailtails will last a long time if you keep them stored in their tube when not on the flag.  So neither is all that expensive.

Flag w/o surveyor tape. Flat balance

Flag with only 3 foot of surveyor tape.  Just enough bias.

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