Fly Line: How, What, Why and More
When I teach an E.I. Fly™ course, I emphasize the need to balance the combination of your fly line, rod and reel. Specifically, I feel the most important aspect of any fly rod set-up is the fly line design and its physical properties. For the beginner, it starts with a basic understanding of the weight difference between monofilament and fly fishing lines; how the weight of the fly line is designed to produce flex in the fly rod vs. the weight of the lure creating flex in a spinning rod. You don't hear much talk about fly lines, but experts agree, to achieve a great casting stroke, it has very little to do with the rod or reel. The use of the highest quality fly line, combined with sound casting mechanics, is the key to becoming a successful fly caster.
To get you moving in the right direction, legendary casting champion and instructor Joan Wulff defines the fly-casting stroke as:
|Tapers: Level, Double, Forward, Long, Triangular, Shooting|
Parts of the Taper
1. Tip: a short 6-12 inch level section where you attach your leader. This section is to protect the lines taper. Since many anglers cut off a small part of the fly line when they change leaders, the tip allows these changes without shortening the front taper and altering the way the line casts.
2. Front Taper: this section of the line determines how delicately or powerfully the fly is delivered. Typically, 4-8 feet long, the Front Taper decreases in diameter from the Belly section to the Tip. This graduation of the line’s mass (weight) determines its ability to transfer your casting energy.
3. Belly: because it’s the widest diameter and longest length, this section is where most of the weight of a line is located, and, consequently, where your casting energy is carried.
4. Rear Taper: decreasing in diameter from the thicker Belly section to the much smaller diameter running line section, the rear taper creates the transition so important to smooth casting.
5. Head: a term used to describe the combination of parts (front taper, belly and rear taper).
6. Running Line: typically a much smaller diameter from the belly, this section of line has been designed to make casting distance easier.
Level Fly Line (L): are the easiest to understand and the least used. A fly line that has a level taper, in essence has no taper. A level taper fly line is of uniform weight and width for its entire length (+/- 75 ft). In other words, it has one diameter (thickness). Level lines float extremely well due their constant weight and width, but are much difficult to cast and control. Delicate fly presentation may be difficult because the line tends to splash on the water during a cast. Further, level lines do not shoot as well, thus, limiting your ability to make longer cast. Take Away: Low Performance features. It transfers energy erratically and is hard to control while casting. The best function of the level lines is in the form of fine diameter shooting lines or sinking lines to be cut up for tips for custom lines.
Weight forward (WF): The line has extra weight and width (diameter) built into it the front potion of the line. Taper design can vary by Manufacturer and targeted species. But generally speaking, a WF taper is about 30 feet in length, with a short belly and short back taper followed by 60 feet of thin diameter level line. The advantages of the WF line: works over a wide range of conditions. Casts ranging from 20-100 feet with normal size flies. More effective line to cast in windy conditions. Take Away: easy to false cast and good for long cast.
Special Note WF Lines: because the extra weight and width are on one end of the fly line, it is crucial that the line be put on correctly. Today, almost all manufacturers will assist you in this process by adding a tag(note) on the line. A WF line cannot be reversed. Lastly, any line whether floating or sinking which has a “head” and “running line” section which are seamlessly joined can be termed a WF fly line. For example: Rocket Tapers, Saltwater Tapers, Steelhead Tapers, Triangle Tapers, and Teeny are well WF fly lines.
Double Taper (DT): Historically speaking the DT fly line was the most popular line at one time, and the fly line of choice for trout fisherman. DT lines are perfectly balanced; both ends of the fly line weigh the same and each end gradually increases in width and weight the closer it gets to the middle section of the fly line at an equal rate. Thus, due to identical tapers at each end, the DT line is reversible. If one end becomes worn, simply switch ends. Specifically, the DT line is 90 feet long. The first 15 feet of the line, from one end, gradually thickens . Thereafter, the line maintains its diameter throughout the belly for 60 feet. Upon the last 15 feet of line, the DT line gradually decreases in thickness (at an equal rate of the front taper) till it reaches the end point. Take Away: designed to make short/medium cast at 20-50ft. The belly of the line makes this line difficult to shoot line (you must make more false cast with line over 30ft). Advantages: Easy to mend and roll cast due to weight of line in belly section. Great line for dry fly delicate presentations.
Shooting Taper (ST): Also, called Shooting Heads, were originally designed for fly-casting distance tournaments. Like the WF line, the front portion of the ST line (or, commonly called the head) has 30 feet of heavier weighted line. The remaining running line is uniformed in diameter and weight, but is much thinner than a traditional WF fly line. The “Head” is joined to the shooting line by a loop-to-loop connection. The purpose of this configuration is to reduce air resistance, and reduce friction in the rod guides. Take Away: Great for long cast +100f feet (world record over 200 feet). Can be highly effective in strong wind conditions (Ocean, Patagonia, etc). Disadvantages: delicate fly presentations are almost impossible. Line control is challenging. thin running line tends to coil and gets knotted up. To avoid these known issues, many experienced Anglers use stripping baskets.
Teeny Taper (TT): Developed by Jin Teeny, this taper does not have a front taper and has a smaller than normal running line (similar to a shooting taper/head). The taper is designed to be very fast sinking…think deep fast water.
Standard Line Weights
Margin For Error
Tip: The sooner you start thinking and talking in grains, in the long run, the better your fly line knowledge will be. Why? Experts and most of the world other than the USA, speak and label products in grains.
More Information at: Equipment Overview