Fly fishing is all about the line

In fly fishing, line does a lot more than provide a means to retrieve a fish. Most importantly it provides the weight necessary to cast very lightweight flies.

The weight of the line should match the weight of the rod, although with qualifications it can be off by as much as plus or minus 2.

For example, for one wanting to make very short casts very quickly and with great accuracy, an angler may chose to put 9-weight line on a 7-weight rod. But in general, Richard cautioned, the average beginner should stick to matching the weight of the line to the weight of the rod.

Also, fly line is usually not the same from one end to the other. Master casting instructor Keith Richard recommends that beginners fishing in the shallow waters of marshes should use a weight-forward floating line, which as the name suggests has more weight toward the end of the line nearest the fly.

When fishing in marsh waters deeper than 3 to 5 feet, a sinking-tip fly line might be useful. Fishermen targeting offshore big game species typically use sinking line.

Whatever line is used, Richard deems the choice of line color to be insignificant.

Some line manufacturers have made it easy for anglers to select lines by putting pictures of the fish species for which the line is made on the box the line comes in. Pound test is typically not in the decision picture because manufacturers build appropriate strength into the line for the target species.

Fly reels are never spooled entirely with fly line, which comes in lengths of 90 to 105 feet. Since a large fish can easily strip out that much line, the butt end of the fly line is attached to backing.

Dacron in 20- to 30-pound test is a typical backing. Braided line can also be used, but Richard cautions that it can crush the reel’s arbor if spooled too tightly.

As for leaders, two schools of thought exist, Richard said. Some prefer a long leader, especially for species like trout that can be leader-shy. These leaders can be as complex as having five different pound strengths of line in a 10-foot leader.

Some are knotless, one-piece leaders tapered from the higher-test end that is attached to the fly line down to the lowest-test to which the fly is tied. The terminal end is called the tippet.

Other leaders are made by tying pieces of different-test lines together, again starting with the strongest nearest the fly line. In these leaders, tippits might be tied to the next segment up with a non-slip loop knot. This allows the tippit to be easily changed as it wears without having to build a whole new leader.

Others prefer shorter, 3- to 4-foot leaders, often up to 20-pound test for species such as redfish that are less finicky than trout.

Richard’s choice of material for leaders is monofilament for topwater flies and fluorocarbon for sinking flies, primarily because fluorocarbon itself sinks. He is quick to add that he doesn’t think fluorocarbon knots hold up as well as mono knots.

The leader is attached to the fly line loop to loop.

“The Internet is a wonderful source of information on learning knots,” he counseled.

Jerald Horst
About Jerald Horst 954 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.

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