As a fly fishing guide and a fly shop guy, I meet lots of anglers, both on the water and within the retail side of fly fishing. I get to see what equipment they have and talk with them about what they need or should consider. I am often asked the question from buyers or guests: “What is the best fly line?” This is another one of those simple questions with no simple answer. It is a simple truth, that fly fishing enjoyment and productivity is dependent on a good fly line. The answer to the simple question of the best fly line is however, much more complex. Not only must the fly line be good, but it must also be the correct best fly line for the technique or fishing style the angler intends. While a general floating line is a pretty good all around choice for a variety of fishing styles and most often recommended as such, it is not the best fly line for everything. Today, anglers have many, many, best fly line choices. Choices that when properly utilized, can add immensely to success and pleasure on the water. When misunderstood or misguided, a bad fly line choice can lead to frustration and possibly ruin a great fishing opportunity.
There are many considerations when choosing a best fly line for premium performance. Taper, texture, coatings, grain weight, high floating, hover, intermediate, sink tip, full sinking, shooting heads etc. Without delving into all the technical details, lets look at why we need options.
The daily program on most guide trips makes a great example. We often employ multiple techniques on any given day. That might mean throwing streamers in the morning, nymphing through the middle of the day and searching for risers in the afternoons. The average 5wt trout rod with a standard floating line can do all this, but success and enjoyment are compromised.
For streamers, a short head sink tip or intermediate tip is the best tool. The short head allows quick loading and easy pick up of heavy or bulky flies. This puts the angler in the game, by allowing them to put more casts into the strike zone with better efficiency. Conversely, a floating line with the necessary longer leader, requires more false casting, is usually less accurate, and is generally less effective at maintaining depth and contact with the fly. The result is the angler may catch a fish or two, but they will expend more effort and they will definitely not be in the game.
For nymphing, a standard Weight Forward Floating 5wt line is ok, but a heavier nymph taper or upsized (one or two line sizes) line is far easier to control. It takes a line with more mass to load the rod effectively when tossing a strike indicator, split shot and one or two flies. Mending and line control is also far easier when a line has more mass. For a variety of reasons, many anglers don’t like, or say they don’t like nymphing. No one can argue the effectiveness of the technique (when done properly), or the fact that it is often the primary means to success. Having the right fly line makes nymphing far more fun, and far more effective.
Finally some heads appear. It’s dry fly time. Fly delivery is critical to success. These fish are not pushovers. Your guide has put you in the best position, but you may only get one cast to get it done. If your fly line is too heavy, it is going to be very hard to accurately and correctly position the fly. A big splashdown will end the game before it starts. A fly line made for delivering dry flies with a delicately tapered tip is your best option.
This is just a small sampling of some key line choices and their applications. Don’t plan on coming to Alaska, Montana or Mexico and think that one fly line will be all that you need. You will still catch some fish, but if you really want to be in the game, you often need several best fly lines. There are a ton of choices and most premium fly lines are very good. You can explore the options by checking out these websites. If you have a local fly shop, they should be willing and able to help you make your best choices for the several best fly lines you need to have.
Best Fly Line
Rio So many great tapers. Check the Line Selector option for quick reference.
Airflo Great spey lines and unique single hand lines. Very durable. Great for guides!
Scientific Angler Lots of textures and tapers to choose from.
Cortland An industry standard with many great new choices.
Orvis Wonderlines are wonderfully slick.