Fly Fishing Line - Selecting the Right Line
Choosing the proper fly fishing line is based on the taper and the density of the fly fishing line . We will discuss each of the factors to help you decide which fishing line is best for you and the fly fishing you intend to do.
Generally start with floating line which will keep you on or just below the surface. As the need to fish deeper arises, you can move to sinking line or weight the leader on a floating line system. When you reach the limits of a line's effectiveness, you should switch to a different line density. You should also increase sinking-line density when there is an increase in current speed, rate of retrieve, or depth.
There are three types of taper designs on fly fishing lines.
- Weight Forward fly line starts out thin at the tip and gets thicker going back about thirty feet. This is one of the easiest lines to cast and is commonly used by beginners. This type of taper is also the most popular type of fly fishing line.
- Double Taper line has a taper at both ends and is thicker through the center of the line. The Double Taper line is good for roll casting and works well in small streams and ponds. Since this line is tapered at both ends, you can reverse the line if one end gets damaged.
- Shooting Tapers are designed similar to the weighted forward fly line except they are lighter. These lighter fly fishing lines can be cast much farther than the previous two. These fly fishing lines are typically used by more experienced fisherman because the extra line can easily get tangled and is more difficult to manage.
Fly fishing lines come in different densities. The density of the fly line determines whether it is a floating line or sinking line. Here are characteristics of different density lines.
- Floating fly lines are the most popular fly line because they are the easiest to handle and work well for beginners.
- Sinking fly lines come in three different types.
- Sink tip fly line is very similar to the floating fly line. However, as the name implies, about 10 to 20 feet of the tip of this fly line sinks. The end section contains lead core or other dense material in the inner core to sink it.
- Intermediate weighted fly line sinks just below the surface of the water. This works well in small, shallow ponds or shallow streams. It’s also the saltwater fly fisherman’s choice for tarpon and other relatively shallow fish.
- Sinking fly line completely sinks. The entire line will sink, and each sinking fly line has a sink rate. This sink rate is typically in inches per second.
Here are the technical sinking classifications from 3M:
Intermediate/Type I – 1' - 2' depths. Ideal for trout, bass and panfish over shallow beds or just beneath the surface.
Type II – 2' - 4' depths. Excellent general sinking line, especially for fishing lakes with shallow to medium depths.
Type III – 3' - 7' depths. Quickly gets flies 3' to 7' deep.
Type IV & V – 10' - 20' depths. For deeper lakes and ocean-fishing.
Which is Right For You?
When purchasing fly line, you will see the density, weight and taper of the fishing line designated on the package. Remember the weight of the fly line must match your equipment. The rod, reel and line must all be the same weight. If your rod and reel are a 5 weight, then the fly fishing line must also be a 5. You may see a DT5F, the DT stands for double tapered, the 5 is the line weight which must match your gear and the F means it’s a floating line. WF5F is weight forward, number 5 - floating fly line. Now that you know what the abbreviations mean you will be able to choose the fly fishing line that best suits your purpose.
Note: It is acceptable in some circles to “overline” usually by one line weight. For example, in very windy conditions, some will use a #7 fly rod and use a #8 weight fly line for a little extra punch.
When in doubt, if you have a 5 weight fly rod, by Floating Weight Forward fly line for 5 wt. rod. This is the most versatile all around taper and density for many common fly fishing scenarios.