Home River

Fly Fishing 101, Part 5
Unscrambling The Fly Line Alphabet Soup

Occasionally, fly fishing can have unexpected results. Like the 36-inch sand shark caught on a streamer on one of my local beaches. The shark thought he was a salmon, took off for Whidbey Island and cleaned me well into my backing. Everyone on the beach thought it was a salmon ... right up to the point it was landed. (That's another story about pliers, sharks really have ugly teeth.) I really felt dumb about that shark, but a while later on the telly a fly fishing program showed folks intentionally fishing for lemon sharks.

Maybe if I had been using a floating line, instead of a sink-tip, it really would have been a salmon.

Here is where the size and type of fly lines comes into play. Each line company uses the same uniform designation. A Scientific Anglers, Cortland, Teeny, Rio, Wulff, AirFlo, Orvis, Monic, Borger or whomever's 6-weight fly line is designated for a 6-weight fly rod.

Variations from company to company have to do with the core of the line, the hardness or softness of the outside material or, in the case of a floating line, how high the floating line rides.

Those choices are only part of the decision. What fly are you casting? Wet - or dry? Short or long casts? Delicate presentations or slogging nymphs or streamers?

A "DT" line means the line is tapered on both ends. It was originally marketed as a budget line. If one end was worn or cracked, you could take the line off the reel and wind the worn end against the backing. The DT has been used for many years as a dry fly line.

A newer line, called the "TT" for Triangle Taper, marketed by Wulff, has a longer distance of taper. It casts very well, rolls out smoothly, making it not just a great dry fly line, but a super line for roll-casting.

"WFF" is more alphabet soup for "Weight Forward Floating." This fly line is mostly used for fishing nymphs, streamers, and artificial bait. Some folks use the WWF for dry flies in areas where constant winds can cause your fly line to collapse without the additional weight.

So called "Level" lines are mostly used as running line for shooting heads. A speciality distance-type of line used in some places for steelhead or blue-water fishing from boat or shore. Shooting heads can be very heavy, with lead cores and require a "chuck & duck" method of casting.

"WFS," is Weight Forward, Sinking ... yes, sinking. Make a long cast and the whole line sinks. Great for some special uses, like steelhead or other fast-bottom fish, or lakes. There are disadvantages to the sinking line that are better handled with other lines. Pulling a full sinking line up out of the water and casting it is tough. Not much fun in a float tube either.

A better solutions is an "F/T," a floating line with just a tip section, usually 10 feet or so, that sinks and takes your fly with it. There are sink-tips that sink fast, or very fast. Or slow - or slower yet!

If you look in a catalogue or at your local fly shop, the variations in all of these lines is mind-boggling. Some have longer - or shorter tapers. Some are better in cold water, some coil up like a kids' slinky in cold water. Others stretch in warm water. In as many colors as jelly beans.

You need to match the type of fish, fly, and water you fish to know which line is best. (Keeping in mind of course it has to match the weight of the rod.)

Now you realize you may wish to use more than one fly line. Guess what? The reel manufacturers have thought of that. Most reel companies sell extra spools, cassettes or reel inserts. Just so you can change lines to fit the fishing du jour.

My personal advice to our casting class students is to buy one very good quality line to start with. If your interest in fly fishing was sparked by the traditional image of dry flies, go for either a double taper or weight forward line. Yes, good fly lines are expensive. But the bottom line is a cheap line will not cast well on any rod. A good quality line will throw a proper loop on the worst rod made. The fly line is the most important part of your fly fishing gear.

Stop by the Chat Room and meet some fellow anglers. It is a nice bunch of people - always willing to help the new fly angler! Or just share your fishing adventures. Fair skys and tight lines, ~ DB Have a question? Email me!

Beginners Archives

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice