CHOOSING A FLY LINE
If you are just starting out in the sport of fly fishing or planning to try a new species, select the species you'll be fishing for most often. If you have already made your rod purchase and want to chose the right line, look at the rod (above the handle) and find the line weight rating designated for the rod. All rod builders label each rod with the correct line weight corresponding to the line that casts best with that rod.
There is some latitude in ideal weight to accommodate a reasonable range of fishing situations. A rod might be labeled 6-7 weight, meaning it performs best with a 6 or 7 weight line.
Matching the rod and line weight is a key feature of a balanced fly fishing system and the foundation of good casting. Casting power comes from the relationship of line to rod. When you pick up the line from the water, the line "loads" the rod by adding enough weight to flex it fully. Then, with a properly timed cast, the flexed rod straightens out, driving the line foreword.
With a mismatched outfit this is just about impossible. Your rod will cast better if you select a line with the same number as the "weight" of your rod to give you a balanced system.
How to read a fly line box:
In most cases choosing a brand or grade of fly line is a question of price vs. performance. A high performance line costs more, but will be easier to cast longer distances, will float higher on the water's surface and will last longer. This makes for a more enjoyable and more successful fishing experience. The differences between low cost lines and high performance lines will become more important to you as you become a more experienced caster and spend more time on the water.
The taper describes the changes in the diameter of the fly line along its length....changes that can affect casting and fishing success.
The best choice for most types of fishing is a weight forward (WF) line. WF line makes long casts much easier than the other designs, because most of the weight is located in the foreword section, while the rest of the line is a light, small-diameter running line that slides easily through the rod guides.
A double taper (DT) fishes like a weight forward at short distances (up to 30 feet), but is not as easy to cast long distances. DT line has a long level center section which tapers down to a fine point at each end. This design will help you make a more delicate presentation of your fly and is also the best taper to perform a roll cast.
A level (L) line is uniform in diameter throughout its length. It is lower in cost, but is more difficult to cast and doesn't present the fly as delicately.
In addition to these basic taper designs, there are a number of specialty tapers, high performance designs for very specific types of fishing. As your fishing interests and expertise grow, you'll want to add these to your fishing system. Such lines are variations of the basic weight forward taper, created to increase your angling success in situations that call for them.
The Bass Bug Taper (BBT) has a shorter front taper than a regular weight forward and is designed for casting wind-resistant flies with a minimum of false casting. Perfect for fishing large poppers and hair-bugs.
The Saltwater Taper (SWT), which is essentially the same design as the BBT, is ideal for quick casts to cruising fish at close or medium range. The Bonefish and Tarpon Tapers are actually Saltwater Tapers coated on a core designed for hot weather fishing.
The line wt. rating is based on the first 30 feet of line. The weights range from 1 to 15 (the lower the numbers indicate the lighter lines, a 1 weight being the lightest) The higher the line wt. rating, the heavier the line weight and the stiffer the rod needs to be to match it. Generally, heavier lines can cast larger flies, longer distances and in stronger winds.
As a result of over 30 years of research and testing, fly fishers have lines that float (F), or sink (S) and some that will do both (F/S). These lines have expanded the effective range of fly fishing and enable anglers to take whatever species they choose with greater consistency.
Floating (F)- Most beginning fly fishermen are drawn to fish species that feed on the surface and often spend all their time fishing this way. It's no wonder. Watching a fish take your fly on top is truly the sport's greatest thrill. Floating lines are also the easiest to cast and fish for someone new to the sport. Whatever your fly fishing interests, you'll find floating lines available in a complete range of tapers, weights, and colors to meet any condition you will face on top or near the surface.
Sinking (S)- Many anglers don't understand the feeding habits of fish, and are often disappointed when they can't take fish on top. With more experience, they soon shift their focus to areas below the surface because they learn that's where most species feed 90% of the time, particularly the big ones.
In selecting a sinking line, remember you have a very specific objective: you want to use the fly line with the sink rate that will get your fly down to the level of feeding fish at the fastest speed and keep it there the longest. Lines come in various sink rates, which is the speed your line will sink-from very slow (Type Int/I) to very fast (Type V). The sink rate is measured in inches per second (ips) and is listed on the fly line box. Sinking lines are most often used when fishing from a boat or float tube.
Floating/Sinking (F/S)- After you've fished with both floating and sinking lines, you'll discover situations where neither are just right. For example, when fishing a stream and you need to get your fly deep. Adding heavy split shot to a floating line will cause you to lose casting control and keep you from putting your fly where you want it. A full sinking line prevents your from mending or repositioning your line on the water to get a natural drift of your fly (a key to getting fish to strike)
Because of situation like this, the sinking tip (floating/sinking) fly line was invented. The body of the line floats and the front section (tip) sinks. The length of this sinking portion may vary from 10 to 30 feet; the most frequently used is 13 feet. While the tip sinks your fly, the rest of your line floats, allowing you to mend it for a drag free drift. Just like sinking lines, sinking-tips come in various sink rates that describe how fast the tip section sinks-from slow sinking (Type II) to very fast sinking (Type V). As the water gets deeper and as the current gets faster, select a faster sinking line.