Part X: Fly Fishing for beginners – Fly Lines

Posted by Christopher Paine on

Fly Line

All the equipment mention in past blog post are important but of course there is more. The fly line in the various shapes and sizes, the leader many shapes and sizes, and can say the same about the hooks. Fly fishing is simpler than spin casting/bait casting. You don’t have to worry about swivels, sinkers, or combination thereof. Fly fishing is point and shoot once set up.

Fly Fishing Line

Fly line is totally different than bait casting or spin casting. In spin casting the weight of the hook or split shot sends the hook out to the fish. In fly fishing the weight of the line sends the hook to the fish, just the opposite. The fly is pretty much weightless made out of feathers no less most often.

Originally the fly line was made out of horse hair, if you wanted heavier line you would braid more hair. Now fly line is smooth, plastic coated and has a braided core of nylon or dacryon. Length ranges from 70 to 90 feet long and backed up with 100 years of backing line. Many tackle shops will help you with tying on the backer when purchasing new fly line.

Weight pros and cons

When casting weight is good to a point, the weight of the line causes the rod to bend, which in turn springs the rod forward, which shoots the line toward the fish. Fly line comes in various weights. One weight is light used for delicate rods. At you count up the weigh number so does the line weight. Many trout fly fishermen like 4 to 6 weight range. The rods and fly line should match, a 6 weight rod should through a 6 weight line. My first fly rod and line was a 6 weight. I have caught tons of fish with that rod. I grew up on the coast and always used heavy tackle spin casting. So now I have the big guns 8 weight rod and line, for salmon and strippers. I really use it for everything.

There are no hard fast rules for line weight and type of fish. He is a table:

Fly Line Weight and Types of Fish


Line Weight

Type of Fish

1, 2, 3

Panfish and trout

4, 5

Trout, small mouth and large bass

6, 7

Trout, bass, small blues, stripers, bonefish, pike

8, 9

Salmon, stripers, bonefish, permit, bluefish

10, 11, 12

Tarpon and big saltwater fish


So the table is guest general. I chose 8 weight since I replaced my 6 weight rod that I bought in high school, just because I like it. Sometime these rods can be almost a life time purchase and all you need is the one size / weight. Some use a lighter tackle to get more of a fight when playing a fish. Some suggest to newcomers to overload the rod with the next line weight, using a 6 weight rod and 7 weight line. But that is person preference again.

Color of the line

Does color matter when it comes to fly line? Some say yes some say no? But to a fish which is below the line and a bright sky or lighter sky above it, the line appears dark no mater what color it is when using floating line(my opinion). Being able for you to see the line and how it reacts on the surface is very important to determine if there was a strike or how fact the current is moving. With sinking line is different, you want darker line so that the fish don’t spook, you want it to blend in so to speak. Some like the newer clear monocore sinking lines, have like a see through finish almost invisible. Some use it for bone fish who are very skittish.

The Taper

Most fly lines are tapered on one end. Meaning one end has a slightly larger diameter, the most common type of tapered line is “weight forward” line. The larger diameter is on the “head’ or where you tie on you leader material. The weight forward line head is designed to carry or pull the line out of the rod, which will help with momentum quicker. The weight forward line is perfect for delivery of the fly.

Some weight forward lines are marked with the words saltwater taper or bass-bug taper, these have a more exaggerated taper. Most fly fisherman use weight forward line all the time. A shooting head of 30 or so feet of heavy weight-forward line attached to backing. A well experienced fly fisherman can leverage the head to pull a lot of the thinner line with it to make the cast travel a lot farther.

The double taper line is not a well used or as common anymore. The thought was the line landing near the trout is a lot thinner than the weight forward line. Many fly fishermen instead of using the double taper just go to a lighter rod and line.

Sinking line vs Floating line

Fly fisherman do not just use dry flies when fishing for trout in streams. They use different types of lines in different situations to reach the fish. Many times even now we use split shot weight to get the fly down if they are not on top. Like trout in a stream hanging on the bottom, bass some times hang three feet below the surface, stripers feed 15 feet down. Also, there is lead-core line (inner core of the line is read lead). To use can be a challenge to cast and will tire you out.

Types of cast-able sinking lines are:

Intermediate: slow sinking line fish it as a floater or sinking line. Great for saltwater fishing in the northeast. Gets the line down off the surface and keeps you in contact with the fly.

Full Sinking: get down fast and deep. Slim and wind resistant almost it is not as bad as the lead-core workout.

Threading line can be a bit tricky with fly line, if you fingers slip the whole thing can slip out causing you to start over. Sometimes if you double the line through the eyelets gives a little more resistance for it to let go and slip out.

Line can get dirty over time, which causes it to not slip through your fingers are eyelets as easy. You can take a bucket of warm soapy water and pull of all your fly line into the bucket. Use a range and drag the line back through. Once line is dry you can buy a product called “Stream Line” to lub the line. Do this once per season.




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