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Home Fly Fishing FAQ's Fly Fishing Gear

Frequently asked questions about fly fishing gear

Freshwater vs. Saltwater Fly Line Weights; how do they equate?

By Doc Trout

 

     For over two years now, I have been searching for a definitive article on the Web that would tell me how to equate freshwater fly line weights to saltwater line weights but, since I was unable to find any such article, I decided to research the subject and write my own article.

 

     Now, most anyone who has spent any time at all gazing at a fly rod manufacturer's catalog is undoubtedly aware that freshwater fly rods are normally available in weights 1 through 6 while saltwater fly rods are normally available in weights 6 through 14.  Also, most fly fishermen are aware that the larger the number is, the heavier the fly line is and thus, the larger sized fly it can cast. But, how do you equate freshwater fly line weights to saltwater fly line weights? Well, the answer to that question is the culmination of several months of ferreting out and assembling various tidbits of information. For instance, I read a post on one forum from a fellow who stated that he used a 10 weight for everything "even though it was a bit heavy for some of the smaller species". Also, I noticed that when looking at fly fishing catalogs, the 9ft. 9wt. fly rod always seems to be the best seller. So, after a bit of pondering, I realized that these two saltwater line weights were starting to sound an awful lot like a freshwater 6wt. and a 5wt. Then, I was pursing the Batson Enterprises web site one night when the final piece of evidence clicked into place and I was FINALLY able to fully and confidently equate freshwater fly line sizes to saltwater fly line sizes and thus, I have created the following chart FYI:

 

 

Fresh Water Fly Line Size                                    Saltwater Fly Line Size

2 wt.                                        =                           6 wt.

3 wt.                                        =                           7 wt.

4 wt.                                        =                           8 wt.

5 wt.                                        =                           9 wt.

  6 wt.                                        =                           10 wt.

 

      

     Therefore, choosing a 6 wt. fly rod for saltwater use is like choosing a 2 wt. fly rod for freshwater use because both fly line weights (and thus both fly rods) would be considered ultralights for their respective genres but would also deliver extra delicate presentations. On the other hand, choosing a 10 wt. fly rod for saltwater use is like choosing a 6 wt. fly rod for fresh water use knowing that by moving to a heavier fly line, you will be sacrificing delicacy of presentation for casting distance and fighting power.


     So, although this chart was intended for freshwater fly fishermen who are looking for a saltwater equivalent to their freshwater fly rods, the chart also works in reverse for saltwater fly fishermen who are looking for a freshwater equivalent to their saltwater fly rods.

 


 

Why Should I Balance My Fly Rod & Reel?

By Doc Trout

 

     As you view fly reels in a magazine, on a web site, or at a brick & mortar fly shop, you will see that they are made from different materials such as graphite composite, cast aluminum, and machined aluminum and have an accompanying range in price. In addition, fly reels are available with three different sizes of arbor (the post or space in the center of the spool) which are either: small, medium, or large. Consequently, reels with standard arbors have the slowest rate of retrieve but also tend to be the lightest of the three types while reels with mid-arbors have a somewhat higher rate of retrieve and yet are often lighter than fly reels with a large arbor. However, while fly reels with a large arbor have the fastest rate of retrieve, they also often have oversized spools in order to be able to hold the backing and the fly line and thus they tend to be the heaviest of the three types of fly reels.


     But, regardless of which material or arbor size you choose, it is important to find a reel that is neither too heavy nor too light for your particular fly rod. The reason that I mention this is that there are a couple of fly reel manufacturers who make very nice reels but, they are rather heavy. Thus, when you mount a heavy reel on your nice, light, graphite fly rod, the resulting lack of balance can be annoying at best and can adversely affect your castin accuracy at worst. Therefore, before purchasing any reel, try mounting the reel on your assembled fly rod and then hold the rod horizontally, grasp the grip as if you were going to make a cast, then remove your all of your fingers from the grip except your middle finger and see how the rod balances with the reel and line locked in place in the reel seat. If the balance point is forward of you middle finger, then the outfit it tip heavy. Yet, if the balance point is behind your middle finger, then the outfit is butt heavy. Thus, the ideal balance point is directly under the middle finger and by balancing the rod and reel outfit, you will enjoy greater accuracy and much less fatigue in your casting arm.


 

How Do I Choose a Small Steam Fly Rod?

By Doc Trout

 

     In order to choose the proper size fly rod for small stream use, you need to choose an action that loads easily over the range at which you will be fishing and that is short or long enough  to cast the fly line over the appropriate distance at which you will be fishing most often. Consequently, when choosing a small-stream fly rod, first ask yourself "what is the shortest cast that I am likely to have to make on a regular basis?" and then choose your rod's action accordingly. Then, ask yourself "what is the longest cast that I am likely to have to make on a regular basis?" and choose your rod's length accordingly. Now, obviously this leads us to a the question of what action and length is appropriate for a particular size stream and while the choice is ultimately up to the angler, I would like to make the following suggestions: for casting at a range of 10 to 30 ft., choose a full-flex action and for casting at a range of 25 to 40 ft. choose a mid-flex action. Also, when casting at a range of 5 to 15 feet, use a rod that is 5 1/2 ft. to 6 1/2 ft.; when casting at a range of 10 ft. to 25 ft., use a 7 ft. rod; when casting at a range of 20 ft. to 35 ft., choose a rod that is 7 ft. 9 in.; and when casting at a range of 25 ft. to 40 ft., use an 8 1/2 ft. rod; and for casts over 40 ft., use a 9 ft. rod. Also, it is particularly important to note that when fly fishing on a small stream, it is far easier to make precision casts at short range with a short rod having a slow to medium action. In addition, keep in mind that it is far easier to maneuver a short rod through and cast underneath any streamside foliage.

 

PS.  For more detailed informaiton on this subject, please see my article "How to Choose a Small Stream Fly Rod" located in the Fly Fishing Articles section of this web site.

 

 

List of currently available, small-stream specific, fly rods:


Winston WT Trout series -                                           $750.00

Sage ZFL series -                                                        $675.00 - $695.00

G. Loomis Whisper Creek GLX series -                   $610.00 - $655.00

TXL-F series -                                                              $625.00

March Brown Hidden Waters series -                       $498.00

Orvis Superfine Touch series -                                   $495.00

Scott A4 series -                                                          $375.00

St. Croix Avid series -                                                  $230.00 - $280.00

Cortland Brook series -                                               $189.00 - $199.00

Temple Fork Outfitters Finesse Series -                   $189.00

Redington Classic Trout series -                                $149.00 - $169.00


 

What size leader should I choose?

by Doc Trout

 

     Most fly fishermen are aware that the larger the fly you are casting, the heavier the fly line you need to cast it. This is due to the fact that small flies have very little wind resistance but, the larger the fly, the more wind resistance it has and thus, the heavier the line required to cast it. However, not all fly fishermen are aware that the larger the fly you are casting, the stiffer the leader needs to be as well. In addition, different types of water and different situations call for different lengths of fly leaders. Thus, I have published the following charts below to help you determine the correct size leader (designated by the size of the tippet) and the correct length of leader for the particular application for which you intend to use it.


Fly Leader Size Chart


Tippet Size 

Tippet Diameter 

Approximate breaking strength in pounds 

Balances with fly sizes: 

8X

.003" 

1.75 

22, 24, 26, 28 

7X 

.004" 

2.5 

18, 20, 22, 24 

6X

.005" 

3.5 

16, 18, 20, 22 

5X 

.006" 

4.75 

14, 16, 18 

4X 

.007" 

6 

12, 14, 16 

3X 

.008" 

8.5 

6, 8, 10 

2X 

.009" 

11.5 

4, 6, 8 

1X 

.010" 

13.5 

2, 4, 6 

0X 

.011" 

15.5 

1/0, 2, 4 

.012 

.012" 

18.5 

5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0 

.013 

.013" 

20 

5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0 

.015 

.015" 

25 

5/0, 4/0,3/0, 2/0 

 

 

 

Fly Leader Length Chart


Leader Length 

Best suited for… 

6 foot 

Sinking and sink-tip fly lines in tiny, brushy streams. 

7.5 foot 

Trout in streams from 10-20 feet wide. Also streamer fishing for trout with big flies or with heavy nymphs and big indicators 

9 foot 

Trout streams larger than 20 feet wide where the water is mostly riffled or the fish are not spooky.

12 foot 

Trout in most lakes using floating lines. Trout in streams with flies smaller than size 16 when the water is flat, low, or very clear. 

15 foot 

Spooky trout in extremely clear water in both lakes and rivers. 


 

What line weight should I choose?

By Doc Trout


     When choosing a new fly rod for a particular purpose, many anglers start by determining  what line weight they want to fish with. However, not everyone is aware that choosing the correct fly line size is dependent on the range of fly sizes an angler intends to cast with it. Thus, I have published the chart below that shows the range of fly sizes each line weight will comfortably cast. But, also be aware that this is intended as a general guideline since some line tapers will cast considerably larger flies than listed in the chart below.

 

Fly Line vs. Fly Size Chart

Fly Size

F

l

y

 

L

i

n

e

 

W

e

I

g

h

t

6/0

5/0

4/0

3/0

2/0

1/0

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

20

22

24

26

28

1

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

2

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

3

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

4

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

5

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

6

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

7

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

8

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

9

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

10

X

X

X

X

X

11

X

X

X

X

X

12

X

X

X

X

13

X

X

X

X

14

X

X

X

X