When picking out the best fly lines, you should not skimp out. You may be able to get away with a cheaper rod and reel, but your fly line is going to allow you to present flies and get your flies out to where the fish are.
A lot of the nicer fly lines are going to last you much longer than some of the cheaper models. So you may save yourself some money now, but in a year or two, you’ll be buying a new fly line.
Below we go over 10 different fly lines to suit your fly fishing needs. On top of that, we also go over some features of different lines, and what they can best be used for.
What is the Purpose of Fly Line
Unlike using a spinning reel or a bait caster that uses the weight of the lure to cast, the fly line is what propels the fly. So, if you’re using the incorrect type of fly line then you won’t be able to cast very well.
This is why it’s important to have the proper type of line on your reel. If you’re throwing a dry fly on a sink tip then you better hope the fish are aggressive that day because that fly will be dragged under by the line very quickly.
Below we go over in more detail about why you need to have the right line and also how to select it.
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How to Choose the Best Fly Lines
Before we get into the best fly fishing lines, let’s go into depth on how to choose the right one for you. If you’re not using the proper fly line then you’re not going to be catching as many fish as you should.
Basic Types of Fly Line
There are three basic types of fly lines. Most anglers are going to have these on their reels, floating, sinking, and sink tip. Each one has its own unique purpose that will give you the best chance to catch fish.
Floating Fly Line
Arguably the most popular fly line used. Luckily the names of fly lines are usually pretty straight forward. So when you see “floating fly line” that means it does just that.
Floating line is used as a catch-all. You can nymph with it, throw dries or even streamers. However, when throwing subsurface flies they will only go as deep as the leader will allow. This is the ideal line for throwing dries.
Sinking Fly Line
Just like floating line, this name is straight forward. The fly line will fully submerge and sink into the water. There are several different types that all sink at different rates of speed.
They make sinking lines for fishing in deep lakes and when you need to get your fly down quickly then you will need a fast sinking line. Most of the time you will be using streamers or wet flies with this type of line.
Sinking Tip Line
Again, this is a right forward name. Instead of having the entire line sink, the tip of the fly line will sink while the body of the fly line will float. This is advantageous because if you’re wading the body of the line won’t get caught on the river bottom while casting.
With a sink tip, you’ll be able to fish similar to a full sinking line. You’ll primarily be using nymphs, streamers, and anything else that is going to be subsurface.
Types of Fly Line Taper
A fly line taper is an adjustment made by the fly line company to the fly line. This means they make certain spots thicker or thinner. This is to help with control as well as casting distance. Below, we go over these different tapers.
Weight Forward Taper (WF)
This is considered to be the standard taper for most trout and freshwater fishing. This is a line that contains additional weight in the first 10 yards of the fly line. The remainder of the line is even.
This heavier section provides extra weight. This makes casting easier and allows you to cast further as well. This is especially helpful on windy days. The weight allows files to turn over easier and gives them a better presentation.
Double Taper (DT)
This is considered another great fly line for trout. The first fifteen feet of the line gradually widens, the next 60 feet are even, and the last 15 gradually widen. So both ends can be used.
This is to help give the fly a delicate presentation. Great for throwing flies to Brook Trout or other fish that could be spooked by a large splat of a fly. These are not ideal for windy conditions though.
Level Taper (LT)
This line has no taper to it. Meaning it has the same width and weight throughout the entries of the reel. Because they have no weight to them these are very difficult pieces of line to master and use.
It floats well and is cheaper than all other lines, but that’s about where the positives stop. Overall, unless you have a need to use this line it’s best to avoid it and spend the extra money on WF or DT.
Shooting Taper (ST)
The first twenty feet of this line is weighted heavily. The remaining is even throughout. These are used in situations where you want to get the fly out as far as possible and then strip it back in.
This is best for streamers in environments where you have a lot of room to cast and want to cover a lot of water. Primarily these are used in casting tournaments though. Used to see how far someone can cast.
Fly Line Weight
Just like your rod or reel your fly line has a weight as well. Ensuring your line matches those other two pieces of equipment will ensure you have a balanced rig and will be casting as efficiently as possible.
However, there is some wiggle room. If you have a 5 wt rod and a 5/6 reel then you could get away with using a line that weighs 4/5/6 without too much difference.
Anything larger than that and you just won’t be fishing as well as you could. For trout, you’ll usually be using line size 4, 5, or 6. Bass will be 6, 7, 8, 9. Any other fish larger than these will be an 8 or above.
Length of Fly Line
Most fly lines are going to come in spools of 100 feet. If you’re coming from the spin fishing world then this might seem really small, considering you’re used to buying spools with hundreds of yards on them.
With your backing and leader, you’ll actually have around 200 feet of line on your reel. Most of the time you won’t be making casts over 50 feet anyway. Fly fishing is more about presentation than distance.
Your fly line will also last longer than typical monofilament. So, while you may change out your line once or twice a year on your spinning reel, you won’t need to do that for several years of a fly reel.
Features To Look For In The Best Fly Lines
There’s a lot to think about when looking at different types of fly line. On top of that they each will have their own individual features that can make it even more confusing.
Below, we go over some of the most important ones. Features that you should be thinking about before you go and buy a line on your own. Check them out below!
An interesting feature you should be thinking about is what color do you want. Some anglers enjoy matching their fly line color to the backing and reel. While it’s something that won’t directly improve your fishing it can be fun to stare at and know your rig looks good.
Now, fly line color does actually serve an important purpose. If you use a sinking line then you would want a mute or dark color. Something that won’t grab attention and startle a fish. However, a nice bright line can be great if you want to use it to help show strikes on a subsurface fly.
Sinking lines are measured in inches per second (IPS). If you’re fishing a deep lake or river and you need to get your fly down quickly then look for something high IPS.
If you want a slower sink then look for one that is lower. The IPS will play to your advantage so make sure you have the proper sink for the proper time.
End Connector Loops
If your fly line does not have an end connector loop to help you quickly tie on your leader then you should take it down to the nearest fly shop and have one welded on.
Having a loop allows for quick and easy leader transitions throughout the day. Use a handshake knot connection between the leader and fly line and you’ll be able to switch out quickly and easily all day.
Many new floating fly lines have a coating around them. This will push water away from the line making it float higher and more stable. Perfect for drifting dries through tougher water.
The coating can also improve casting. It pushes away dirt and debris and allows the slickening agent in the line to shine. This way the line easily slides through the guides and won’t hang up.
List of The Best Fly Lines
Now you know the important aspects of any great fly line, you can start shopping for the best fly line for your particular set-up. Whether you’re casting small nymphs, or heading out on the sea and throwing large Bunny Leeches, you’ll find the perfect line on this list.
- Taper – Weight Forward
- Available Weights – 4-8
Purchasing fly line is not the time to skimp because of price. The Rio InTouch Gold WF Floating is a premier fly line that is strong enough to last fishing season after fishing season while also allowing you to make more accurate casts and drifts.
This has a special taper that gives it a great loop at long distances. The line also features a lack of stretch so that you can focus on subtle takes from stingy trout and other fish.
Match this line to your rod and reel when throwing any kind of surface flies or shallow running nymphs and streamers.
- Taper – Weight Forward
- Available Weights – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
If you’re looking for one of the best floating lines but $100 is a little too steep then the Scientific Angler Frequency Floating Line makes a solid choice. Coming in at half the price of Rio, the SA floating line is perfect for your dry and nymph set up.
The taper is WF but the company refers to it as the versatile taper. Slightly different but similar to a WF. It has a versatile mid-length head which is great for throwing small dries and gives great line control.
- Taper – WF
- Available Weights – 5, 6, 7, 8
The Orvis Clearwater Sinking Line is rated with a 1.25 IPS. Making it one of the best sinking lines for just about any body of water, but works best in deep rivers and lakes. It also features a front welded loop for quick and easy leader change-outs.
For only $50 this is a great deal. You’re getting a solid line that has little memory and will get your fly down to the strike zone. Throw sinking streamers or other wet flies and have full confidence they’ll get where they need.
This is a great set up for someone who is looking to get into a sinking tip or full sinking line. It sinks at a pace that’s not too fast or slow and allows for the angler to fully control the line.
- Taper – WF
- Available Weights – 5-10
The Rio InTouch Sink Tip line features an extra-low stretch to help increase the performance of the line. This also helps with the casting body of the line. Most sink tip lines tend to have a kick on the end but this one does not.
There is a strong front taper that will allow you to easily cast streamers. Perfect for the angler who enjoys throwing large streamers to catch big and feisty brown and rainbow trout. Making this one of the best sink tip lines.
- Taper – WF
- Available Weights – 8-10
The Rio Mainstream Saltwater Fly Line is an all-purpose saltwater fly line. Meaning if you only have 1 reel and enjoy chasing all different types of saltwater fish, then this is the line that you need to have tied onto your reel.
Ideal for temperate to tropical conditions. This is because it has a hard tropical coating on the line. This will not harden in the warm weather. Perfect for throwing big and heavy flies that will turn over in the wind.
- Taper – WF
- Available Weights- 3-9
The Rio Gold WF has a special WF taper that gives great loop stability at a distance while also allowing the rod to still load at close range. The taper will allow you to throw a fly between the size of #2-#22.
This is a great all-around line for the trout fly angler. You’ll also see that the line comes in four different color options. Allowing you to have a line that blends in perfectly or shine bright on your reel.
- Taper – Double Taper
- Available Weights – 3-9
The Cortland 444 DT is regarded as one of the easiest handling lines on the market. On top of this, it also will remain supple and moveable in even the coldest of waters. The 444 also has a bright peach coloring making it highly visible.
With a pre-welded loop you’ll be able to easily tie on different leaders. No longer do you have to sit and fumble around with difficult knots. Undo the handshake knot between fly line and leader and you’re ready to tie on a fresh one.
- Taper – ST
- Available Weights – 6-10
If you’re looking to make long casts in order to give even longer presentations to fish then this is the Scientific Angler Shooting Taper is for you. Strip in streamers across huge swaths of water and entice fish to your fly.
This also works well for fly line casting competitions. The long casts you’ll be able to make and the power behind it will also help in windy conditions.
- Taper – Level
- Available Weights – 2-4
The Tenkara Level Line is a fine fly line for throwing streamers or other flies that you don’t need to worry too much about making a big splat when they land. That being said it can still be difficult to control.
If you’re not an expert fly caster or using a Tenkara style rod then its best to stick to any other type of fly line. If you’re really strapped for cash then you could make this work.
- Taper – WF
- Available Weights – 5-9
The Orvis Clearwater WF Line is built a half-size heavy in order to help load the rod fully. Since the head of this line is so compact, you get a great turnover and you can land your fly accurately and with ease.
The Clearwater WF line also has integrated slickness. Allowing for clear and easy through the guides. The braided multifilament core allows you to fish in just about circumstances.
Best Fly Line By Weight
Generally, if a fly line is good, it will be good in any weight that you purchase it in, but for some reason, certain weights of certain lines sometimes feel a lot better to cast than others.
That’s why we’ve also broken up each of the best fly lines by weight and we even have specific buyer’s guides for each fly line weight that you can check out below each listed line.
Orvis Clearwater WF-3
Not surprisingly, the Orvis Clearwater line made the list twice above (for sinking and WF) and it is also our top 3 weight fly line available. There’s just a good feel when casting the WF-3 with smaller rods.
Hooking this line up to your 4-weight fly reel and 4-weight fly rod set up, you’ll be ready to go after surprisingly larger trout while still having that delicate cast capability from the lighter rod.
The Orvis Hydros Trout WF Fly Line is able to handle any great trout fishing you may do. You’ll be able to toss multi-nymph rigs, dry flies and even larger. streamers with this line and the 4-weight is one of the best for mending in this line.
Spool a 5-weight line on your 5wt fly reel and 5wt fly rod and you’ve put together what is widely regarded as the most versatile fly fishing set up you can have. Anglers agree that if you’re only going to have one weight for fly fishing, the 5wt is likely the way to go.
Orvis Hydros Nymph WF5
The Orvis Hydros WF5 Nymph line is perfect for handling heavy nymphing rigs and streamers. You’ll easily be able to turn over multi-rigger flies on your leader with this line as well. The belly is long and smooth which helps manage the line on the water.
If the 5 weight is the most versatile set-up, then it’s worth spending the money on this amazing fly line.
Perhaps not as versatile as the 5-weight as it is getting large enough to overpower smaller trout, a 6 weight fly reel and 6wt rod is firmly getting into the scope of saltwater fly fishing as you can even land smaller bonefish on this weight, as well as larger trout, salmon and bass.
Orvis Hydros Saltwater
As mentioned above, with the 6-weight being capable of landing smaller bonefish and saltwater species, the Orvis Hydros Saltwater line is the perfect fly line for this set-up.
If you’re not going to be saltwater fishing, then you can stick with the regular Orvis Hydros HD WF6F line in this class, but if you have a craving for big sea game, go for the Saltwater line.
Rio Mainstream Saltwater
We’re sticking with saltwater lines again in the 7-weight category, but the Rio Mainstream Saltwater is a great all-around fly line. The line is pretty easy to turn over so is a good beginner saltwater fly line.
The 8-weight fly rod and 8wt reel is a great set-up for high winds, massive flies, quick casts, chasing boats and big fish. You can expect this weight to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, and it can throw just about anything.
Back to a decent all-around line, the Rio Gold WF8F is a versatile WF 8 weight that is excellent in any weight, but just turns over a bit better than many other lines I’ve tested at larger weights.
The Most Popular Fly Line Brands
If none of the lines above fit your needs, then don’t worry. Because below we’re going to list a few other brands as well as the one above to show you some of the best fly line brands in the market.
Rio is one of the best fly line manufacturers going. They create a high-quality product that is not only strong and durable but is made with the latest technology.
This ensures you get a fly line that will last you several seasons as well as being able to cast and land the fly in those tough to fit spots. They are also very versatile and many can be utilized in several different areas.
Scientific Anglers (SA) has a great selection of fly lines. If you’re looking for something very specific then most likely they will have exactly what you’re looking for. On top of this, they usually are easier on the bank account than other brands.
Many of their lines are made for trout, but you” also find many that work well in all other freshwater conditions as well in the saltwater. There are others that specialize in long-distance casting or accuracy.
If there is any company more associated with fly fishing then I have yet to see it. Along with all the other gear you could possibly need for fly fishing, they also make a wide selection of fly lines.
Their Clearwater series has a bunch of different types of lines that are great for all levels of angler. The weight forward being the most popular.
Airflo is the other company that is at the top with Rio. They are also regarded as one of the best lines for fly fishing companies in the world and it shows when using their product.
The specialty fly lines really do make something for everyone. No matter what you need chances Airflo will have a line for you and probably a few others as well. It’s tough to go wrong with an Airflo line.
Spooling Fly Line Onto a Reel
So now you’ve chosen the best fly line for your favorite fly reel and you get it in the mail, but now what?
Setting up a reel is easy, but it will take some forethought. First, you’ll need to put backing on the reel, then the fly line, then the tippet. But if you put too much backing on the reel, the fly line won’t fit on properly afterwards.
You see, you must use all 100 feet of fly line. You cannot cut the fly line at all. So to fill a reel properly, you must instead measure and cut the backing to the right length, so that the entire fly line will easily be spooled, leaving about ¼ inch between the line and the reel frame.
If you don’t put enough backing on the reel, you won’t fill the reel properly and it can throw off the balance of your set-up and make it so that fish take much longer to reel in.
To properly measure the backing, you should first reel the fly line onto the reel, then the reel the backing in over that. Keep reeling in the backing until there is ¼ inch between the backing and the reel frame.
When you’re done, you need to unspool both the backing and the fly line, and then re-spool it all back on in the correct order, before finishing it by tying on the leader. Check out the video above to see how this is done.
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Table of Contents
- What is the Purpose of Fly Line
- How to Choose the Best Fly Lines
- List of The Best Fly Lines
- 1. Rio InTouch Gold WF Floating
- 2. Scientific Angler Frequency Floating
- 3. Orvis Clearwater Sinking Line
- 4. Rio InTouch Sink Tip
- 5. Rio Mainstream Saltwater
- 6. Rio Gold WF
- 7. Cortland 444
- 8. Scientific Angler Shooting Taper
- 9. Tenkara Level Line
- 10. Orvis Clearwater WF Line
- Best Fly Line By Weight
- The Most Popular Fly Line Brands
- Spooling Fly Line Onto a Reel
- Summarizing The Best Fly Lines
Summarizing The Best Fly Lines
Now that we’ve gone over all the different types of fly linen as well as products and features you hopefully have a better understanding of what you should be looking for.
There is a lot of information out there, but hopefully, this guide broke it down for you. Feel free to take all the information you need out of here and make your own notes to help you pick out your line.
Local shops are always happy to help out, and you can also pick up your line there. If not, Amazon has a great selection and you buy whatever fly line you need. So, head on out and pick up the latest Weight forward or Shooting taper. A solid fly line will only help.
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.
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