How Do I Choose a Fly-Fishing Line?

When it comes to gearing up for fly fishing, picking the right fly line can be a confusing process. It doesn’t have to be, though. In fact, it can be a pretty straightforward. Do not let all the brands, technologies and constructions confuse you.

Picking your fly line should be an informed decision. Your fly line selection should typically match your rod weight and the style of fly fishing you intend to do with it.

Look at all the qualities of each type of line and ask yourself if it matches your intent. Try testing out the lines by casting several of them to see which line matches your style and specific needs the best.

Cast Before You Buy

The more lines you try for your rod, the more informed buying decision you can make. After casting a 6WT line on a 5WT rod, you may find that it matches your casting stroke better.

Sinking lines can be a bear to cast and you may not enjoy using all of them. Some may be better suited for you than others.

While the dozens and dozens of different types of lines all have their place, the most common lines for fly fishing are Weight Forward (WF) lines matched to your fly rod weight. And that’s all you’ll need to get started.

If you have a 5WT fly rod, a floating, WF5 (Weight Forward, 5 Weight) line will handle almost all the fishing you will do. If you’re using an 8WT fly rod for striped bass fishing, an intermediate sinking fly line 8WT fly line will work well.

Different Lines For Different Situations 

Lake fishermen and saltwater fly fishermen should carry a full sinking fly line matched to their rod weight for those situations when fish are down deep rather than suspended or close to the surface of the water. You’ll be waiting a long time for a leader on a floating line to sink down deep and reach fish on the bottom and a full sinking line is a more effective and efficient way to reach deeper dwelling fish.

If you’re keenly interested in streamer fishing, spend time browsing, researching, and casting streamer-specific fly lines. Most will have an integrated sink tip and a larger diameter middle section. These qualities aid in casting larger flies. Using less effort and energy is a big plus if you intend to fish big streamer flies all day.

Breaking the Rules

The weight rating on a fly line does not mean that you could not cast the fly line with a mismatched weight rod. You can cast a 6WT line on a 5WT rod. The reason a 5WT line casts best on a 5WT fly rod is because the line is tapered and constructed specifically for that type of rod.

However, there may be situations where a larger line may help you. For example: Say you’ve spent 3 hours casting weightless dry flies to rising fish. After catching a few fish, you’ve got to be on your way home soon.

Before winding up and calling it quits, it may be worth it to “swing for the fences” and swim a streamer through the hole. Unfortunately, simply clipping off your dry fly and tying on a large streamer won’t work as well as it could. Your line won’t turn over easily and you might have trouble controlling your casts. An alternative option is to reline your rod with a larger line weight and taper (typically one size up).

That said, a ground rule and the best place to start is to match your line to your rod’s weight. Fly casting should be a pleasure and not feel cumbersome. You shouldn’t have to put extra effort into any part of the cast to get your flies to turn over, and a line matched to your rod and your casting style should help in making your casts accurate and effortless.

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