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Fly Fishing Line Tips

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If you have a fly rod and reel, you are almost set to hit the water. The next thing that you need is a good fly line system. The fly line system is a particularly important aspect of fly fishing. It can be a game changer when it comes to how many fish you will catch. Lots of people are not exactly sure what they should be using for fly line backing, fly line, and leaders.  

In this post I will explain the different components of fly lines and how you can go about choosing the right fly line system that will work for you. Everyone has a different fly rod, using varied sizes of flies, and are fishing for different species and sizes of fish. These things all come into play when rigging up your fly line. 

 

Why is choosing the right fly line important? 

The main purpose of a good fly line is the way it transfers the cast energy from your fly rod, through the line and leader, then onto your fly. If this energy transfer is clean, the way your fly will land on the water will look like a natural fly. This natural fly presentation is especially important as the fish will see it, and then they will want to strike.  

 

Different types of fly line. 

Depending on the type of fly fishing that you are doing, you may need to change your fly line. Floating fly line, sinking fly line, and sinking tip fly line are all used. Floating fly line is what I normally use for the type of fishing I do. Floating fly line is also the most common of the three. 

Floating fly line does just that, it floats. If you are dry fishing or nymphing with a strike indicator, floating line is perfect. You want your line to float so that it does not sink your dry fly that is meant to stay on the surface of the water. You also do not want your line to sink if you are using a strike indicator because it will help push the indicator under the water. You do not want that, as you only want your indicator dropping if a fish strikes it.  

Sinking fly line is used for two reasons. The first reason is that it helps to sink your fly as quickly as possible. This is if you want your fly to be in an exact water column in a hurry. The second reason is that sinking fly line lets your retrieve your fly at a deeper depth without causing a jigging action. If you were to just use a weighted fly with floating line, you would get this unwanted jigging action. Sinking fly line is normally used in deep waters, often found in lakes and ponds. 

Sinking fly lines are indicated by a number that tells you how fast the line sinks, by inches per second.  

  • #1 – 0.5 to 1.5”  
  • #2 – 1.5 to 2.5” 
  • #3 – 2.5 to 3.5” 
  • #4 – 3.5 to 4.5” 
  • #5 – 4.5 to 5.5” 
  • #6 – 5.5 to 6.5” 
  • #7 – 6.5 to 7.5” 
  • #8 – 7.5 to 8.5” 
  • #9 – 8.5 to 9.5” 
  • #10 – 9.5 to 10.5” 

Sinking tip fly line is floating line, but the end of the line, usually 10 feet is sinking line. This type of line is also used for deeper waters, but it can be easier to use than that of normal sinking line. The reason for this is for when you need to cast. If you are only using sinking line, you will need to reel in the entire line before casting. With sinking tip line, you can often reel in a bit of the line, then you can make your cast. 

 

Fly line length. 

A normal setup in your fly reel will be fly line backing, fly line, leader, and tippet if nymphing.  

Fly line backing is normally 50-100 yards in length. 

Fly line is normally 100 feet in length. 

Leaders are normally 9 to 15 feet in length. 

Tippet is normally an arm's length. 

The length of your fly line and backing will depend on the spool size of your fly fishing reel, and what sizes of fish you are fishing for. The above-mentioned lengths are good for larger trout fishing. Keep in mind that with fly fishing, you normally are not casting a far distance, especially if fishing from a drift boat or with waders. 

 

Fly line weight. 

Fly line weight is covered by numbers 1 to 14. It seems that everything to do with fly fishing has a number system... Anyway, the smaller the number, the lighter the fly fishing line is. Fly line weight is all determined by the types of fish you are trying to catch. 

  • Weight 1 to 3 is for smaller types of fish. 
  • Weight 4 is for smaller to medium sizes of fish. 
  • Weight 5 is a good all-around weight for trout. Most anglers use 5 and 6. 
  • Weight 6 is better for larger trout. 
  • Weight 7 is good for salmon and steelhead. 
  • Weight 8 are for bad ass large fish, normally found in saltwater. 

The fly line weight needs to match up with the sizes of flies that you are using. Using the right fly line is important for casting and presenting your fly to the fish. If you are trying to cast a larger streamer fly, you will need heavier weighted fly line. If you are a newbie to fly fishing, I would suggest going with a 5 weight, or checking what fly line is recommended to use with your fly rod. It should say it on the rod above the grip. 

 

Fly line tapers. 

Tapers will affect your casting, and there are three main types that we will cover.  

  1. Weight Forward is the standard and most used type of line taper. This fly line has additional thickness and weight added to it in the beginning 10 yards of the line. The rest of the line is standard weight and thickness. This line will help you to cast farther and better in windy conditions, but the line often splashes when using a light dry fly.  
  2. Double Taper line has the same taper at each end and the weight is evenly distributed throughout the line. If you are doing more dry fly fishing, this line is probably better to go with for its gentle presentation of the fly.  
  3. Level Taper line is barely used, but it does exist. It just means that the line is the same weight and thickness the whole way through. This line is often cheaper, so be aware when you are shopping for line.  

 

I personally use 100 yards of fly line backing, 100 feet of floating weight forward fly line at weight #5, and my leader is normally 9-foot 1x. Most of the fly fishing that I conduct is on rivers and streams with fish ranging from .5lb to 15lb. I hope this article covered the basics so you know what you should be using on your next fly fishing trip. 

 

If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.