Here is a little help on getting to know more about fly line from our friends over at Fly Fishing Basics.
Fly lines are confusing. You may have browsed through your local fly shop and noticed a wall of all sorts of different lines hanging nicely in their little boxes. Weight forward, double taper, sink-tip, and so on and so forth.
What does all of that mean and which one of those fly lines will work best for you when learning the fly fishing basics and how to fly fish? I’ll try to shed some light on that topic for you.
The fly line is one of the most important pieces of gear in fly fishing. That line is where the whole concept of fly casting and presenting your fly to the fish all comes together.
Fly Line Tapers
There are fly line tapers applied to every type of line on the market today. These will usually consist of one of three different types of tapers. Those are weight forward, double taper. These specific tapers to the fly line help facilitate the fly cast and help make your fly fishing life just a little bit easier. Want to cast further? There’s a taper for that. Plan on casting to spooky trout in a small spring creek? There’s a taper for that. These tapers combine with other specific fly line characteristics to allow you to target pretty much any type of fish in any condition. Here is a great resource from Scientific Anglers to help explain this.
This fly line is probably the most common taper on a fly line today. As mentioned earlier, imagine a piece of string that slowly tapers to a thicker portion at the end. With a weight forward fly line, you will have the end attached to your backing. From there the first 50′-60′ of line is pretty much a consistent diameter with no taper at all and is called your running line. In the last 30 feet is where the taper starts and contains the bulk of the weight of the fly line, called the belly. This will then taper back to a thin line in the last 5′-7′ feet to allow you to attach your leader more easily, called the tip.
Many different varieties and tapers of weight forward fly lines exist and fly line companies are always trying to hit the sweet spot with them. You can have very aggressive weight-forward lines where the bulk is in the last 20 feet or even more moderate tapers that extend past further than that 30 foot mark. Each taper design allows for different situations. The more aggressive taper gives you more power and thus helps make further distances easier. More moderate tapers allow more delicate presentations but less distance.
The Double Taper fly line is another common option you’ll find. Take that string from the earlier example and now imagine it starting out attached to the backing as being a consistent diameter, like the weight forward taper. However, instead of that lasting the majority of the fly line, the double taper will begin its taper after the first few feet of line. The bulk of the weight is pretty much centered in the middle of the line. This will then taper back to the original starting diameter to allow you to attach your leader. The beginning taper on the end of the fly line will mirror the ending taper.
There are two advantages to this type of fly line taper. One is that you can easily reverse your line if one of the ends gets damaged. The second, and biggest, advantage is that this taper allows for a more subtle presentation. You won’t get the same distance from this fly line, but if you are targeting spooking fish, then this is the line for you.
Level fly lines are an interesting type and not very commonly used. Imagine that same string again. Now attached that string to your backing. This time you have no taper on the line and that is all. It’s a pretty boring line in comparison. These lines are budget fly lines and don’t provide any significant advantage other than they are usually less expensive.
So you can see the importance of the fly line. Without this, you wouldn’t be able to effectively present your fly to a fish. Try casting a fly attached to a regular piece of monofilament and you’ll see just how difficult it can be.
A typical commercial fly line that you can purchase today falls in the length range of 80′-90′. This length, in combination with your fly line backing, will cover you in any situation you find yourself.
Learning to cast your entire fly line is a feat that takes practice. Starting out, though, lean towards perfecting your casting in that sweet spot and you’ll go far. This fly line is probably the most common taper on a fly line today.
On a cast, the line unrolls toward the target in a loop form. The larger the loop, the more energy is thrown in a direction that is not at the target. When fishermen overload a fly rod with a line heavier than the manufacturer calls for, they cause the rod to flex more deeply, which creates larger loops on longer casts.
Overloading the rod wastes casting energy by not directing it at the target. If you switch to a lighter line, you may not have enough weight outside the rod tip to cause the rod to load or flex properly if you hold the normal amount of line outside the rod during casting.
But if you extend this lighter line about 10 feet or a little more outside the rod than you normally would for this cast under calm conditions, you can cast a greater distance into the wind.
By extending the additional amount of lighter line outside the rod, you cause it to flex as if you were false casting the normal length of the recommended line size. Since the rod is now flexing properly, it will deliver tight loops, but the lighter line is thinner. This means that there will be less air resistance encountered on the cast.
If you are forced to cast a longer distance into the wind, switch to one size lighter line and extend a little more line outside the rod tip than you normally would. This means, of course, that you need to be able to handle a longer line during false casting. But the line that is lighter than the rod calls for will let you cast farther into the breeze.
Fly lines do need to be looked after, they pick up grim over time so it’s a good idea to give them a clean every now and again in warm water with a mild soap.