Should I Use A Sink-Tip Or Full-Sink Fly Line?

An angler wearing a PRO Sun hoodie measures out some line while holding the end in their teeth.

Success in fly fishing is all about opportunity. Sometimes, opportunity presents itself in the form of a caddis hatch and rising, feeding fish. That’s when you tie on a dry and go for it.

Other times, insect and fish activity isn’t obvious. That’s when you create your own opportunity. One way to do it is to tie on a streamer, go deep, and do your best trick a nice trout.

Just as there are specialized fly-fishing lines for dry flies, there are specialized lines for streamers. If you want to get serious about going below the surface, you need to familiarize yourself with these types of fly lines.

Sink-Tip Fly Lines

As the names implies, only the front sections of these lines sink. The remainder of the line floats.

  • Different lines offer sink tips with different densities and sink rates. Pick the one that matches your needs.
  • Some sink-tip lines feature changeable front sections. You can swap in in different sink rates to match your fishing conditions.
  • Sink tips get your fly down while making it easier for you to mend line and get a proper drift or swing.
  • Integrated sink tips with large diameter midsections let you cast heavier flies further with fewer false casts.
  • When using sink tips, you can just strip to where the sink section begins, start your cast, double haul once, and then shoot the line forward with limited effort.

Full Sink Fly Lines

While sink tips can get a fly down, sometimes you’ll need more umpf! to get a big streamer to the bottom of a fast-moving current or deep lake. This is when a sinking line makes most sense.

  • Available in different densities and sink rates, so you can match lines to the ways you’ll be fishing.
  • Gets your fly down faster and in the zone quicker. This is key when streamer fishing in a fast current or from a boat floating downstream.
  • Traditionally, the midsection of sinking lines sunk deeper than the thinner ends. This caused a bow in the line and made the fly rise above the line’s belly. While this had its advantages (it’s a great way to fish deep, weedy areas) it made it hard to feel your fly and react to quick takes.
  • The latest sinking lines are density compensated. This means the tip sinks at the same rate as the midsection. The helps the lines maintain a straight connection between you and the fly. It also keeps you in contact with your fly throughout the retrieve, so you’ll be able to detect the slightest strikes.

When to Use Them

We’ve all done it: After a day of fishing dries and nymphs off a floating line, we switch things up and tie on a streamer. But casting this big fly with a floating line is awkward. It’s also a lousy way to get it down to where the fish are, even with a string of split shot pressed on the leader.

Sink-tip and sinking fly lines can muscle big flies around and get them down to where they need to be. If you’re drift fishing and have brief shots at fishy looking spots, a sink-tip or sinking line can get your fly right down to where the fish will be. If you’re wading, these lines can keep you in the zone longer and increase the odds of success.

Most streamer-caught fish hold tight to structure on the bottom and then rise to chase the fly. With a sinking line, you can swim you flies right across the structure and directly in front of them, reducing the distance a fish has to travel to attack your fly.

Join the “In” Crowd

These days, streamer fishing is more popular than ever. This has a lot to with the design of modern sink tip and sinking lines. Not too long ago, these lines were cumbersome to cast and fish.

Today, though, there are more options available to streamer fisherman. They make casting large streamers and getting them to fishy levels easier than ever. And the big trout fishermen are consistently catching as a result, proves just how effective this kind of fishing can be.

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