Everything Fly Lines
So, your fly line is starting to get a bit beat up, it wont shoot through your guides, its covered in cracks and there may be a solid chunk of coating missing part way through your running line. What’s next? Replacing the line seems pretty steep since you’re looking at $60 to $110 dollars depending on the line. But wait, here’s a blog from BRT that tells me what to do! This is our honest opinion on when to lose hope on a line, how to keep your fly line going, and what to look for in a new one.
Before we get too far, I’ll talk a little bit about how long a fly line ‘should’ last. Fly line life really depends on how much you use it, not so much how old it is. If your fly line is ten years old, but it sat in your dark garage for most of that time, then you’re likely good to go. If you’re like us and you fish a lot, but don’t take the time to clean your line frequently, then you might be replacing your line as often as every couple of seasons. It really comes down to how you care for your line and how much you use it.
What to look for and how to fix it:
There are a few common issues we see time and time again when people bring in their well-used fly lines for replacement. No matter how well you treat your fly line some of these are certain to show up over time.
- Welded loop failure: Front welded loops and nail knot loops tend to be a hinge point where extra wear frequently occurs. It’s not uncommon to see the fly line coating separating from the core just behind the front loop of a fly line. Although this doesn’t always compromise the strength of the fly line, what it does is compromise its ability to float (if it’s a floating line.) Once the fly line core (particularly the dacron cores found in most floating trout lines) is exposed to water it quickly ‘wicks’ more water up the core through capillary action causing the tip of your fly line to sink.
The coating is separating behing this nail knot loop
How to fix it: What we like to do is use our handy nail knot tool to make a new loop. First, cut off the old loop and let your fly line dry for about a day after use, to ensure the core is not holding any more water. Then grab about 30cm of 20lb Dacron or 10-15lb fluorocarbon and your nail knot tool. Use the Dacron or fluoro as you normally would in a nail know tool. Then, grab your fly line; make a fold in the tip end and out it in the nail knot tool. Pull the Dacron or fluoro off the nail knot tool and onto the fly line. Adjust the knot as needed and tighten. Trim the tag ends and you’re good to go! We like to add a bit of super glue or epoxy to make sure its as durable as possible.
- Dirty, cracked coating: This is a constant problem that plagues all fly lines; fortunately it can be mitigated, at least for a while. You might find that when your fly line starts looking more and more like the photo below (dirty and cracked), that it doesn’t slide through the guides like it used to and probably starts to sink later on in the day. This problem, if caught in its early stages, can be prevented or at least mitigated with proper line care.
A dirty, cracked fly line. We've used it a ton and hardly cleaned it.
How to fix it: Clean your line, then apply some line-up or whizz lube. Line cleaning can be done in a variety of ways. I particularly like our guide Jeff Medley’s technique of stretching the entire line out between two points, then cleaning it. Once the line is stretched out, use a soapy wet towel to clean off dirt and grit and then rinse the soap with a clean towel. Let the line dry then apply some line up or whizz lube to help the line float and shoot better.
- The core outside of coating experience (so you stepped on your fly line, hey?)Somehow you’ve ended up with the core of your fly line flopping around outside its coating and its all happening midway down your fly line. As with the welded loop failure this is likely to compromise floating and possibly breaking strength. This problem also can also hurt your ability to shooting line through the guides.
A rip in the coating. This one happens to be near a loop, so could be fixed. Midway through your running line is a bit less easy.
How to fix it: This one is tough because you can’t do a whole lot to fix the core if it too is compromised. If the core seems to be intact, one way we like to fix the coating is by using aquaseal. Get the core back into the coating the best you can, apply aquaseal to hopefully hold the two together, and then let it cure over night. This isn’t a perfect fix, but will keep that line mostly fishable for a little while longer.
When to consider buying a new one:
Now, the problems listed above and the fixes to them will cover most of the problems users encounter, but a beat up fly line is still going to need replacing. Here are a couple factors that put me over the edge:
- When a floating fly line won’t stay afloat for more than a couple of hours, let a lone an entire day of fishing. This is just no fun at all. Unless you like fishing sinking lines with dries, which I don’t.
- When a line no longer shoots through the guides. Not only is this inconvenient and annoying for your ego, but needing to use more false casts than usual can mean missing shots at fish who have a better chance of seeing your line if its in the air for longer.
- When the core has been beaten up. Losing a fish, especially a trout, because of a broken fly line just doesn’t make sense to me.
- If the line doesn’t load the rod properly or work well with your casting stroke. This has nothing to do with wear and tear but a lot to do with having fun, which is what is supposed to happen when you go fishing. If the fly line you’re using is making you work hard to make casts, then the fun factor while you’re on the water can be cut down drastically. Take the line off, sell it to your buddy or keep it as a back up, and go to your local fly shop to consult what line would better suit your needs.
What to think about when you’re buying one:
Put simply, these are the four main components I think of when selecting a fly line:
- Weight. Match the line weight to the rod weight. This usually means that one would put a 5 weight line on a 5 weight rod, but unfortunately it can become a bit more complicated than that. Not all 5 weight lines weigh the same, many manufacturers make lines that are ¼ to ½ or even a full line weight heavier than standard in order to help load fast action rods. So ask the people in the shop which lines might weigh more and which ones weigh less. Also consider the action of your rod, where faster rods, as implied above, require heavier lines if you wish to load them deeply at short distance. Once again, ask us which line we think will work best for you while you’re in the shop.
- Taper. Fly line taper refers to where the weight of the line is distributed throughout the line. Weight forward (WF) lines have nearly all of the weight distributed towards the first 30-40ft, double taper (DT) lines have fairly equal weight distributed through the entire length of the line. Each of these has pros and cons. The front taper of a fly line is one of the most important parts to consider and you’ll want a different front taper depending on what sort of flies and fly rigs you’re casting. To cast a delicate dry fly look for a longer front taper, for heavier flies such as streamers, nymph rigs, and large dries, a shorter taper will help you get better turnover and present the flies where you want them.
- Sink rate. From full floating lines to full sink, there are a lot of choices depending on what you prefer to fish. Most fluvial trout fishing can and should be done will full floating lines, but sinking lines can definitely help you out depending on the situation. For fishing lakes it is good to have a floating line as well as a selection of sink lines to help you reach different depths. Having an integrated sink tip line is highly recommended for those spend a lot of time fishing heavier trout rods with streamer rigs.
- Warm water or cold water. All trout lines are meant for fishing in colder conditions, but if you’re planning on fishing somewhere like the Bahamas, your trout line isn’t going to cut it. The reason for this is because the coatings and cores are meant to be manageable in a certain temperature range, but if they go out of that weird things will happen. Taking a trout line to warm water situations will render your line as fluffy as over-cooked spaghetti and very difficult to manage.
We hope you learned a bit about fly lines in this blog and if you have any other questions or comments on fly lines, come by the shop and chat!