In fly fishing you are casting the weight of the line, so it is an important part of your setup. Our Fly Line Guide explains the differences and what to look for.

Choosing a Fly Fishing Line

At first it seems that picking a fly fishing line would be easy. Just match the weight of the line to the fly rod. That is a good place to start, but it gets complicated from there.

As is true with the fly rod and reel, the best fly line depends on what you will be fishing for, the weight of the fly and overall conditions. Basically, some of the fly fishing basics.

Trout fly fishing lines are made with different weights, tapers, sink rates and colors. Each of these is written in code on the box.

Remember that at the end of your fly is the leader, which is usually about 5 to 9 feet in length and a length of tippet which the fly is attached to. Read about tapered leaders. These thin lines are important because how you present the fly to trout will influence your success. The fly line landing on the water right above the trout will startle it.

Read on to learn more about each of traits of fly lines.

Fly Line Weight

The fly line weight is based on the first 30 feet of line. The American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association agreed upon this standard in 1961. This makes is easier for a fly rod and fly line manufacturer to be on the same page and for you to put together a balanced outfit.

Keep in mind that if the average fly caster were fishing a small stream and had more than 30 feet out past the rod tip, casting would be a little more difficult

So, it is generally best to select a fly line that is the same weight as your rod indicates. There are situations where you may want to use a lighter line; for instance if you are fishing particularly calm water it can be difficult to cast a line with extremely long leader. A lighter line will land on the water less abruptly because it will not have as much speed.

A heavier line may be suitable in windy conditions, in fast moving water.

Fly Line Tapers

Trout fly fishing equipment uses four different line tapers.

Double Taper (DT)

Double Taper (DT) fly lines have the taper at both ends of the line. This makes it very economical because you can change ends when one end becomes worn.

Weight Forward (WF)

Weight Forward (WF) fly lines taper down from a heavier weight line to a smaller diameter line. This makes it easier to cast long distances, because the heavier line allows you to generate greater line speed with your cast. Most of these lines have heads, or lengths of taper of 40 to 50 feet.

Shooting Taper (ST)

Shooting Taper (ST) has a 30-foot long section near the leader that is heavier than the rest of the line. This line is helpful in loading the rod for long casts, but makes mending the line once it is on the water(after this 30-foot section is beyond the rod tip) difficult.

Level Lines (L)

Level Lines (L) have no taper at all. They do not perform as well as the tapered lines and are not used much today.

Start Only With the Essentials

Fly fishing is like any other hobby in that there are endless products you can buy. But beyond the rod, reel, and line there are really only a few essentials: A pair of sunglasses, a box of flies, and a place to fish!

Sink Rates for Fly Fishing Lines

Fly lines are available in different sink rates: floating, sink tip, interchangeable sink tip and full sinking. The sink rate for any given fly fishing line is measured by the inches that it sinks per second.

Floating (F)

Floating (F) line is the most popular. It is easier to mend and cast because it stays on the surface. The more a line sinks the more effort it requires to bring up out of the water and into the air.

Sink Tip (F/S)

Sink Tip (F/S) fly lines have a denser core near the tip of the line. These combination lives vary in the length of the end of the line that sinks.

Interchangeable Sink Tips

Interchangeable sink tips are between 10 and 15 feet long and are added to the end of a floating line. They can be changed out depending on the sink rate required. The sink rate you want to use will vary depending on the speed and depth of water and what you are presenting to trout.

Full Sinking (S)

Full sinking (S) fly lines are dense and sink faster. This line is used when you need to fish deeper or faster water. Learn more about sinking fly line.

Colors of Fly Fishing Lines

There are different options for this, but keep in mind that any fly line that hits the water near a trout will probably frighten it regardless of the color. This is where a clear, long leader is important.

The main reason for a certain color fly line is so you can see it.

Other Lines on the Reel

The backing is the first line to be loaded onto your reel. It is a thin line that averages between 20- and 30-pound test. The backing has two purposes: adding length to the fly line so if a large fish runs on you you are ready; and it helps fill up your spool.

The leader is a tapered clear line at the very end of the fly line.

More about factory-made tapered leaders.

It is made up of either monofilament or fluorocarbon. The tippet is the very end of the leader that is attached to the fly. You can vary the size of tippet attached to the leader. I recommend keeping a variety of strengths of tippet in your kit to be able to adjust for different situations on the water.

Learn about tying your own leaders.

What's on the end of your line?

Once you have the right line, and leader you should spend some time learning about and selecting the right fly fishing flies. Explore our curated fly boxes to match the hatch, and learn about the different types of fly fishing flies available.

What is the best choice for your first fly fishing line?

A floating double taper fly line with an interchangeable sink tip system is your best bet. Loading the rod with one weight heavier than it is designed for is a good idea.

The line color is really up to you.