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Home Fly Fishing Gear How to Choose a Fly Line

 

 

How to Choose a Fly Line

 

 

Cortland Spring Creek Fly Line


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      I remember when the job of selecting a fly line was a simple task! Back then, our only choices were a Double Taper, a Weight Forward taper, or one of those horrible, but inexpensive, Level fly lines. Thus, if we wanted to change our presentation to one that was either lighter or heavier, then we had to either purchase another fly rod or put one line weight lighter or heavier on the rod we presently owned. However, today selecting a fly line is an entirely different matter. For instance, just bring up any major fly manufacturer's web site (Scientific Angler's, Cortland, Rio, Orvis, or Air Flo) and you will be presented with a bewildering array of specialty taper weight-forward lines as well as several different series of double-taper lines. Consequently, you can now have one rod that serves several different purposes by simply carrying additional fly lines on extra spools in the back of your fly vest or pack. For instance, by purchasing one line designed to deliver an extra soft presentation and another line in one of the popular line-weight-and-a-half tapers, you can cast small dry flies with a delicate presentation in the morning, then switch spools and change to the heavier line mid-morning to cast weighted nymphs or streamers and, then switch spools again in late afternoon to cast your delicate dry flies to trout rising for the evening hatch. Thus, amongst fly fishermen who favor small backcountry streams, line weights 3 & 4 are quite popular for fishing dry flies because they are capable of delivering the fly quite delicately while 5 weights are often preferred for fishing larger dry flies as well as nymphs and streamers and for fishing at longer ranges.

 

     In addition to different line weights for different purposes, there are also many different types of line tapers available to fly fishermen today and each one significantly affects the way the line feels and behaves. Thus, these days, choosing the right taper is every bit as important as choosing the right line weight. Therefore, lines designed with one of the "classic" line tapers such as the Cortland's 444 Classic or their 444 SL Classic, Scientific Angler's Trout taper, and Orvis' Superfine Wonderlines are all excellent choices for a general purpose presentation since they deliver a moderately delicate presentation. On the other hand, if you regularly fish crystal clear Spring Creeks such as those found in Pennsylvania, then you often need a line that provides a more delicate presentation such as Cortland's 444 Clear Creek line or Scientific Angler's Mastery VPI line. On the other hand, for fly fishing nymph or streamers, I would suggest using Cortland's Western Drifter or Cortland's Precision Trout series lines, Rio's Grand series, Scientific Angler's GPX series, and Orvis's Trout Power Taper Wonderlines. Furthermore, it is also important to note that due to the fact that increasingly large flies also have increased wind resistance, the larger a fly is, the heavier the line that is required to cast it. Thus, the chart listed below designates which fly line size balances with which fly size.

 


Fly Size vs. Fly Line Weight Chart

(Fly Size)

FL

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

X

 

 

 

 

Weight Forward vs. Double Taper-

     I am often asked what is the difference in the performance of a Double Taper and a Weight-Forward fly line? Well, the short answer to that question is that a Weight-forward line is better for shooting the fly to its destination over a distance and a Double Taper line is better for casting it there. Now, what I mean by that is that a Weight Forward line consists of a thick diameter "head section" and a thin diameter "running line" section and thus the line tends to hinge at the point where the two meet. Therefore, to cast the maximum distance possible with a weight forward line, you must find the point where the head and running line meet, place it just a bit short of the top guide, load the rod, complete your back cast and your forward cast, and then release the line from your stripping hand let it fly as it slides through the rod guides. However, a Double Taper line has a "head section" on each end and the line in between the two is the same diameter as the heads so there is no "running line". Consequently, since a larger diameter line presents more surface area to the line guides and more wind resistance to the air, a Double Taper fly line does not shoot as far as a Weight Forward line. However, most Weight Forward lines have a "head section" that is only about thirty feet long and thus you cannot comfortably hold any more line than the length of the head in the air when casting a Weight Forward fly line because of the hinge effect. But, since a Double Taper line has no running line section, it does not hinge so you can hold more line in the air with a Double Taper line than you can with a Weight Forward line but, you can't shoot a Double Taper line as far as you can a Weight Forward line because of the extra friction it experiences when sliding through the line guides and through the air.

 

Fly Line Taper

 

 

     So, when it comes to choosing a fly line for fly fishing small streams, the choices are both wide and varied. Thus, the trick is to find a fly line that both works well with your favorite small stream fly rod and which presents the fly with the degree of delicacy that you prefer. However, both Rio and Cortland make fly lines that are very well suited for this particular purpose.


 

 

 

 

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