Double Taper vs Weight Forward Fly Lines
Which Is Really Better?
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Few fly line subjects have been discussed more than which
is the better taper -- double taper (DT) or weight forward (WF). The answer,
according to Bruce Richards, fly line product engineer for 3M Scientific
Anglers, "is neither is inherently better, but one may be better than the
other for you."
Richards has designed fly line tapers for Scientific Anglers for more than 20
years. There are not many in the fly fishing industry who possess Richard's
knowledge on fly lines - and he shares the following on the DT vs. WF
question. John Mazurkiewicz
A lot of generalizations are made about these two tapers
based on outdated or incorrect information. All fly anglers
have heard that double taper lines are more delicate, give
better control, roll cast better, etc. In some cases,
these performance features of double taper fly lines are
true, but not always.
Delicacy of delivery is determined by the mass of the front part of a fly
line. This is determined by line diameter (which relates directly to mass),
and taper length. A line with a small diameter tip and a long taper has much
less mass up front than a line with a large tip and short taper. Don't be
mislead by taper length alone -- a line with a long front taper but a large
tip diameter will not deliver delicately. A DT and a WF line with the same
taper and tip diameter will deliver the same.
For many years, most DT and WF lines were made with the same tip diameter and
front taper length so there was no difference in how they delivered, although
many claimed there was. Today, many of the DT lines are actually designed
specifically for use in spring creek-type fishing and do have longer tapers
and/or smaller tips.
Anytime a fly line (or any product for that matter) is designed to do one
thing very well it usually has a shortcoming somewhere else. Lines that are
designed to be very delicate have little mass in the front to carry larger or
heavier flies, and will not handle windy conditions well. It takes a better
caster to throw the kind of loops it takes to make these lines perform their
best. And no, DT lines are not a more "accurate" casting line -- that is
entirely in the realm of the skill of the caster.
It is very true that DT lines are easier to control and roll cast at long
distances than WF lines. At shorter distances, there is no difference. The
key to line control and roll casting is to make sure the large diameter line
belly is in the rod tip. If the small diameter running line is in the tip,
it's nearly impossible to transmit enough energy through it to the belly to
make the line do what you want. What many fly anglers don't consider is that
WF lines control and roll cast as well as DT lines at the distances most of
Almost all WF lines have heads that are 35-40 feet long. Add a 9-foot leader
and the distance to the fly from the end of the head is 44- to 49-feet. Up to
this distance when both DT and WF lines control and roll cast the same. There
are not many typical trout fishing situations that require longer casts. What
this all means is that DT and WF lines work pretty much the same at the
distances we fish most often. Certainly if someone fishes a big river that
requires a good deal of long distance roll casting and mending, a DT or a WF
line with a long head should be considered. Either a Mastery Series XPS or
GPX double taper or Mastery Series XXD weight forward taper would work well.
Everybody knows that WF lines are better for distance than DT lines, but is
that really true? Well, yes, but the difference isn't as big as you might
think. Because of their small, light running lines, WF lines shoot better.
But remember, this benefit starts at 44- to 49-feet when the running line is
in the rod. If your fishing situation calls for many long casts, it is
certainly a little easier to do with a WF line - but don't think that DT
lines won't shoot. They will, just not as far.
For most fly anglers in normal fly-fishing situations, it probably doesn't
make a lot of difference which taper you use. Most of us fish at distances
less than 50 feet, which is where weight forward lines start to shoot better,
but with less line control. Most of us don't have the need, or the ability,
to roll cast longer than 45 feet.
So, how do you decide which is the right taper for you? Double taper or
weight forward? For short to medium casting range situations, there is no
reason not to have a DT line rigged and ready. If you are consistently
throwing longer casts, you can make them with fewer false casts with a WF
line. But if the need arises, you lose the ability to do long roll casts and
mends. For most, it doesn't make much difference which taper is used most of
the time. Base your decision on DT versus WF on how much small fly, short
distance fishing you do - when a delicate DT line like a Mastery Series XPS
would offer advantages, against how much fishing you do where longer casts
are needed - and the advantages of a WF line.
Scientific Anglers offers taper diagrams on all its Mastery Series fly lines
- providing the length of tip, front taper, belly and rear taper, and the
total head length and running line length - on its web site at:
~ Bruce Richards, Scientific Anglers
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