Choosing the right line

  2017-12-03 at 20:35 pm


Choosing a fly line can be a bit daunting. With the plethora of different options that are available these days, choosing the right line for your needs can seem like an arduous task to embark upon. Here are a few things you must consider when you are going to purchase that new line for your single hander:


Firstly, you must choose a line that is the right weight for your the rod you will be fishing it on. Ideally, you want to have a line that matches your rod weight. This will allow for effective casts and good presentation. With a mis-matched line, it is nearly impossible to harness your rod's casting power and your cast can becomes weak and ineffective. Just like the rods they are meant to be fished with, lighter lines are more suited for casting smaller flies, and heavier lines have the capabilty of turning over larger flies. There are certain rods that don't fish true to their weight which can make things a bit more complicated, but for the most part you should match up your line with your rod weight.


When it comes to fly line, you get what you pay for. A higher priced line is simply going to perform better.  Although high a performance line costs more, it will shoot more smoothly through the guides (making it easier to cast longer distances). It will also float higher on the water's surface (enhancing your presentation). It is also just a good investment because it will certainly last longer than a cheaper line. This can result in better fly presentation, making for a more enjoyable and more successful fishing experience.  The differences between low cost lines and high performance lines will become more important to you as you spend more time on the water. Most of us in the shop would argue that having a high quality line that is suitable for your rod is as important (if not more important) than having a high quality reel.  

Concerning Floating Lines (DT vs. WF):

There are two options for line profiles that you must choose from-- a weight-forward taper (WF) and a double taper (DT). Both of these line profiles have their advantages. A weight-forward line makes long casts much easier than the other designs, because most of the weight is located in the foreword section, while the rest of the line is a light, small-diameter running line that slides easily through the rod guides. This can be a huge selling feature of the WF line as there is somewhat of an obsession with distance when it comes to casting flies. Most anglers can shoot line further with a WF line, but this isn't often necessary. If you are fishing small dries on a mountain stream, a WF line might not be necessary especially when you could be sacrificing a delicate presentation for the unneeded ability to 'shoot line'. Alternatively, if you are fishing a hopper-dropper on a gusty day on the Bow, a WF line can have that ability to peirce through the wind and help you get your flies where they need to be. Both lines can be fished effectively in different situations and it ultimately comes down to what works best for your style of fishing, the type of water you are fishing, conditions, and what you enjoy fishing more. 

Double Taper:

-Allows for more delicate presentations

-Is better suited roll casts

-Makes mending your line much easier

Related image

double taper line profile


Weight Forward:

-Allows you to cast further distances

-Is aasier to cast in the wind

-Gives ability to cast larger flies more effortlessly

Related image

WF line profile


Concerning Streamer Lines:

If you've fished streamers with both floating and sinking lines, you'll know that sometimes, neither is quite right. A great example of this is when you are fishing a river or stream and need to get your fly deep. Loading heavy split shot to your floating line will cause you to lose casting control and keep you from putting your fly where you want it. It's also much less enjoyable to cast.   A full sinking line prevents you from mending or repositioning your line on the water to get a natural drift, which can ruin your presentation. Because of situations like this, the sinking tip (floating/sinking) fly line was invented. The body of the line floats and the front section (tip) sinks. The length of this sinking portion may vary from 10 to 40 feet. While the tip sinks your fly, the rest of your line floats, allowing you to mend it for a drag free drift. 

Some types of these streamer lines, such as the Airflo streamer max, (seen below) come in a series of grain weights. These are a measurement of grains per foot that correspond to the line's sink rate, as well as your rod's line weight (this measurement is only based on the first 30 feet of line). Heavier lines will be able to turn over larger flies more effectively and will have a faster sink rate. The grain weight that you should select for your rod is usually going to be in the following range:

5wt 160 Grains 
6wt 200 Grains 
7wt 240 Grains 
8wt 280 Grains 
9wt 320 Grains
10wt 380 Grains


Airflo Streamer Max Short


Another common classification of sinking lines is through their sink rate in inches per second (ips). This rating is also common elsewhere, such as replacement sink tips for Skagit heads. But that's a whole other article. Different sink rates are as follows:

Type Sink Rate IPS
(inches per second)
Fishing Depth

General Use

1" to  2" 1' - 2' Ideal for trout feeding just beneath the surface
2 1.5" to 3" 2' - 4' Excellent general sinking line, especially for fishing lakes with shallow to medium depths.
3 2.5" to 4" 3' - 7' Quickly gets flies 3' to 7' deep.
4 3.5" to 6.5" 10' - 15' For deeper lakes and ocean-fishing. 
5 4.5" to 6.5" 15' - 20' For the deepest lakes, ocean fishing, fast moving streams
6 6" to 7" 20' + For fastest descent to deepest lake fishing; or slicing through rapid moving water


Lines such as RIO's InTouch Streamertip offer the option of an intermediate/Type 1 tip or a Type 6 sink tip. This line feature an agressive taper and a short, heavy head which give anglers the ability of loading their rod effectively at close range. 


Rio InTouch StreamerTip

Similarly to floating line, something that absolutely must be considered when purchasing a streamer line is the line's profile. Streamer lines can come with both longer heads with gradual tapers, and shorter heads with more blunt tapers. Depending on the type of fishing you are doing, one line can be more advantageous than the other. Fishing a shorter tip can be extremely effective when you are fishing smaller water, or if you are retrieving/stripping your fly passively. It is also ideal for fishing from a boat because you can quickly load your rod, shoot line, and have your fly back in the zone without missing a beat. With longer tips, you can strip the fly in more aggresively while keeping your line all at one depth. Your longer sink tip also won't be rising up through the water column to chase the floating portion of line. If creating long, tight loops and casting your streamers greater distances is your goal, then a longer head is probably for you. One great option is the Airflo 40 Plus (seen below). 


AirFlo 40 Plus


Recently, I purchased the AirFlo Streamer Max Short. After fishing this line for the past week, I love the casting capabilites it offers. My ability to pick up the line off the water and shoot line with minimal false casting is incredible-- making this the perfect streamer line to fish the Bow from a boat. The short, heavy head loads the rod at close range, making fast, one-shot casts a possibility. It allows you to have your line in the water, not the air. One downside is that creating that beautifully long and flat sustained loop is a bit tough with this line as it tends to hinge a little bit when you false cast with lots of line out. However, I am still able to cast to just about wherever I need to. It has a very low core stretch which allows for increased sensitivity and control. I am able to register subtle takes which is a bit of a blessing and a curse as I'm also registering more false strikes. Getting a nice drag-free dead drift with a streamer was easily achieved with this line because the floating portion allowed me to mend with ease. The Airflo Streamer Max possesses a level sink-tip that graduates to an intermediate belly section backed-up by a floating, ridged running line. It's the best of all worlds in one line-- and it's a blast to cast.

If you're after more information on different types of shooting heads for spey rods, here is a link to an informative blog post on: Decoding Shooting Heads.

By Matt