Whether you are picking out a fly line for your first fly rod or your tenth fly rod, there is no denying the fact that choosing a fly line can be a bit overwhelming. Understandably, deciding which one is best can be borderline paralyzing between floating, sinking, and shooting head fly lines; there is a lot to process.
However, when you feel a bit overwhelmed staring at the seemingly endless options of fly lines, ask yourself this question first, “What type of fly fishing will I primarily be doing?”. Wanting the quintessential small stream dry fly experience you read about? Choose a double taper. Looking to just try out the sport and fish a variety of different ways? A Weight-Forward floating line should be your first choice. Thinking your fly fishing journey will take you beyond the small streams of the west? Maybe a shooting head fly line is in your future.
Whatever the answer is to the above question may be, having a definitive answer will help tremendously when picking out a fly line. If you are still unsure which fly line is best for you, continue reading for our quick guide to fly lines.
WEIGHT FORWARD FLY LINES
Over the years, fly lines have advanced, and in turn, improved. If you were to make your way down to your favorite trout stream this weekend, I would argue that around 60-70% of the trout anglers out on the water have a fly reel that is spooled up with a weight-forward (WF) fly line. In modern-day fly fishing, forward fly lines have become increasingly popular for anglers of all skill levels. It is widely accepted that WF fly lines are much easier to cast - especially for the beginner angler - and due to the weight forward fly line design, the head turns over flies easier giving the angler a better presentation. Weight Forward fly lines also provide the angler a lot of utility when they are out on the water. With a Weight-Forward fly line, anglers have the opportunity to throw large hopper dropper rigs during the summer, turn over heavy nymph rigs when the water is deep, and if you decide you want to throw streamers, a high-quality weight forward fly a line is a great option.
The first series of lines to feature the revolutionary AST PLUS slickness additive, the Amplitude will shoot farther and last longer than any other line on the market. It’s slickness down to a science.
Fly fishing for trout has never been so smooth, especially with a triple-textured line. Featuring SA'S unparalleled AST Plus slickness additive, the Amplitude Trout is slicker than any trout taper they've ever made and will last over 8 times longer than other lines on the market. Built for precise presentations and those who love dry flies, the Amplitude Trout is a game-changer on any stream, anywhere.
The Elite RIO Perception is an easy casting, a general-purpose fly line that quickly casts nymphs, dry flies, streamers, and soft hackles. The short head makes this a particularly good line on smaller rivers and lakes when long-distance line control is not necessary.
This line is built with RIO's low-stretch ConnectCore Plus, resulting in exceptionally smooth, durable fly lines, with the added benefits of incredible sensitivity levels when casting and fishing and providing enhanced detection of takes and faster hook sets far greater control when playing a fish. In addition, this line is built with SlickCast, RIO's proprietary coating technology, creating the slickest, most durable fly lines on the market. Lab tests show that lines built with SlickCast have the least amount of friction ever measured in a fly line.
The RIO Perception is the best all-around fly line on smaller rivers and lakes.
The first series of lines to feature the revolutionary AST PLUS slickness additive, the Amplitude series will shoot farther and last longer than any other line on the market. It’s slickness down to a science.
The conventional wisdom in fly fishing is that there’s no such thing as a “do it all” freshwater line. We have something to say about that. The Amplitude Infinity has the power to bomb out streamers, yet retains delicacy for dry flies. It mends like an absolute dream, and delivers flies at all distances. Built a half-size heavy, with a long head and substantial front taper, it’s perfect for everything from trout and panfish to pike and steelhead. There’s a reason we call it the Infinity: there is no end to what you’ll be able to do with it.
For years, the gold standard in the Scientific Anglers lineup was the GPX taper. From tossing small dries to slinging huge streamers, the GPX could do it all. But all good things must come to an end. Built a half-size heavy, the MPX taper starts where the GPX left off. Redesigned with more mass toward the front of the head, the MPX provides the same benefits of the GPX, with an added emphasis on presentation. The power is still there, only with an added bit of finesse. Meet your new best friend and the best all-around fly line we’ve ever made.
Some fish are afraid of their own shadow. Others have seen every fly known to man. So when you're up against the absolute pickiest of eaters, it's time to get technical. The precision line that casts well on any action rod.
Long front taper for beautiful turnover. Longer head for control at distance. Smaller tip diameter for presenting smaller flies. The Haul zone extends the usable head length. Ultra-thin running line shoots like hell, takes up less spool space. Now with our new Ridge 2.0 treatment, this line makes it even easier to reach those fish out at distance with the utmost accuracy.
The Power Taper does exactly what is says - puts the energy in the line to turn over any big fly or rig on even the fastest of rods. The addition of the Ridge 2.0 Tech makes it even easier to cast these heavy loads, and with less resistance in the guides, casts are going to go even farther than before.
The precision line that casts well on any action rod. Long front taper for beautiful turn over. Longer head for control at distance. Smaller tip diameter for presenting smaller flies. Haul zone extends usable head length. Ultra-thin running line shoots like hell, takes up less spool space.
SINKING AND FULL SINK FLY LINES
As you navigate the different avenues of fly fishing, you may find yourself pondering sinking fly lines. And when you get to this point, you will find two options: a Full sinking fly line and a sink tip fly line. As the two names suggest, the former is a line that will sink when in contact with water, and the latter only allows for the tip of the fly line to drop. Full sinking and sink tip fly lines are much more challenging to cast than floating fly lines. Since they are weighted, these fly lines often do not need multiple false casts to get them out on the water.
If you find yourself navigating large lakes or reservoirs, a full sink line will be your best bet. The ability of the entire line length to reach deeper sections of the water column will be a significant key to success when fishing big deep still waters like lakes and reservoirs. When you look at full-length sinking fly lines, you will find that they come with different sink rates. Again, as the name suggests, Sink Rate corresponds to the rate at which the fly line sinks in the water. The most common sink rate for anglers would be Intermediate. Typically you will find that Intermediate fly lines have a sink rate of about 1.5 inches per second.
On the other hand, sink tip fly lines are an excellent option for anglers looking to fish deep, wide rivers. Since only the tip section of the fly line sinks, the anglers can still mend line upstream effectively when fishing large deep runs. Sink tip fly lines are an excellent option for the angler who wants to fish streamers day in and day out. Since the tip of the fly line is designed to sink, anglers can target specific locations in a water column more effectively than they would with a weight forward line.
SA took one of their most popular fly line tapers, the Titan, and drenched it in various mixtures of tungsten powered, creating one of the most innovative full triple-density sinking fly lines. If you want to elevate your streamer tactics, this fly line is your ticket. This is a fully tapered sinking line, so it casts like a floater but provides a straight-line sinking connection to your streamer. The days of chucking and ducking are finally over. Welcome to the triple-density revolution.
With a name like Titan, this line promises big things. Luckily, it does more than deliver. The SONAR Titan Full Intermediate fly line is designed to manhandle even the largest flies, and with its intermediate density, it allows you to fish your most heinous flies just below the surface. Right where they need to be.
A series of fly lines with short, 10 ft sinking tips, specifically built for fly fishers that like to fish streamers out of a boat. A short, heavy head loads rods at close range, allowing anglers to make fast, one-shot casts. An aggressive, powerful front taper casts large conehead muddlers and bunny leech rigs with ease, while a welded loop on the front end allows anglers to change rigs quickly. Each line is built with SlickCast—the slickest, most durable coating on the market.
There are 2 different density lines to cover every fishing situation:
A Floating line with a 10ft clear Intermediate tip(F/I), for hitting the banks
A Floating Line with a 10ft fast Sinking tip (F/S6), for fishing in deeper water
SHOOTING HEAD FLY LINES
If your trout chasing has you needing to cast father and fish deeper, then a great option would be a shooting head fly line. While shooting head fly lines are not typically used on inland freshwater trout streams and creeks, shooting heads are a perfect option when targeting salmon, steelhead, various Stillwater species, and the occasional saltwater quarry. Most of the time, you will find that those who use a shooting head fly line often use it on a two-handed fly rod or "Spey rod."
Shooting Head fly lines (or shooting tapers) are typically the length of a heavily weighted fly line and are often around 30' in length. These fly lines can be tapered or have no taper at all.
Shooting heads can be purchased individually and attached to a section called running line. Another option is to purchase a whole kit complete with a shooting head and running line. Similar to WF fly lines, Shooting head fly lines allow anglers to choose between floating or sinking options. Each option allows the angler to cover large amounts of water and target fish holding in deep pools. Shooting head fly lines are often seen on large river systems like the Yakima River or the Rogue River, where covering large amounts of water efficiently is critical to a successful day on the water.
The original OPST Commando Head changed the game for trout spey and single hand Skagit tactics. But we knew we could improve it for streamer, dry fly, and nymph fishing, where you often fish at close range and strip flies right up to the rod tip. Enter the Commando Smooth—a Commando Head and a thin, slick coated running line integrated into one with a smooth, gradual taper. No longer will you feel a bump as the running line/Commando Head junction enters the guides. You won't feel anything at all, except a jarring strike as a fish attacks your streamer. We listened to the requests of numerous Commando Head fans and created a line that fishes even better than the original. The Commando Smooth is designed to be used with our Micro Tips and Commando Floating Tips, from 5 to 10 feet long. The running line is orange to provide a nice contrast against the Sauk Blue head. If you are looking for a line that can do almost anything, experience the Commando Smooth. It's just like the wildly popular Commando Head. Only smoother. Length: 99.3 feet. Head weights: 150, 175, 200, 225, 250, 275, 300 grains.
* Note that 150-250 grain Smooths are rated at 25 lbs, while the 275 and 300-grain Smooths are rated at 30 lbs. Please take this into account when targeting larger species.
RIO's Scandi Short head is a very easy casting Scandi style shooting head, built on RIO’s ultra-low stretch ConnectCore for the utmost in casting control and sensitivity. The "Short" nature of this head makes it ideal for Spey rods and Switch rods less than 12' 6" in length, and also for fishing in the tightest of situations.
"Scandi" style heads feature long, fine front tapers that unroll with ease, remain stable and smooth throughout the casting stroke, and are very easy, and pleasant to cast.
Scandi heads are the best line option in tight casting situations and a particularly good choice on smaller rivers, and for novice to average casting skills - particularly when smaller and unweighted flies are used. They are not the right choice of head for windy days, or for casting big flies and fast sinking tips. In these situations, a Skagit head would be a far better choice.
EURO NYMPHING/TECHNICAL FLY LINES
Since we are talking about the best fly lines for trout, it would be a shame if we didn't cover a truly effective style. Euro Nymphing. While the term Euro Nymphing speaks to a style of fly fishing, the fly line used in the technique plays a big role in the technique's success. The weight and diameter are the most significant difference between a Euro Fly Line and the others mentioned above. A Euro Nymphing fly line will be thin and level most of the time. Honestly, in a perfect world, your fly line shouldn't do any of the work. When euro nymphing, frequently you are using the length of your leader and tippet to do most of the work in most Euro Nymphing Scenarios. Even though I mentioned earlier that a WF fly line is an excellent option for nymph rigs, using a WF fly line with a Euro Nymphing setup will prove highly ineffective. This is because Euro Nymphing garners success from the lack of drag that occurs while the flies are in the water.
Euro Nymphing fly lines will be completely level and have no taper compared to the fly lines mentioned above. Yes, some euro fly lines note a double taper, but the taper is extremely minimal. The benefit of using a straight taper is that you can trim back your fly line after it has been worn out. Then, when the fly line gets too short, you can swap it out for a new one. The straight tapers found in most Euro Nymphing Fly lines also are beneficial for anglers when more control of your fly is needed. Your fly line is simply an extension of your leader in a perfect world, thin and delicate. This is why you often see Euro Rods stay within the 2-4WT range.
This .60mm line combines suppleness with incredibly low stretch for superb performance and strike detection. And its hi-viz orange tip ensures you’ll see those strikes every bit as much as feel them. Micro loops at both ends provide easy, low-profile connections. 100% FIPS compliant.
RIO’s Technical Euro Nymph line has all the assets for the modern nymph angler. Built on a monofilament core that creates a stiff, slick line for quick feeding and less line sag between the rod guides, and an ultra-thin diameter to maximize sensitivity, and for lightning-fast hook sets. In addition, the core extends past the front end of the line to become a leader—resulting in no knots to get caught in the guides. The level line can be cut to length (from the back), allowing anglers to tune the line to the perfect length. The leader is .013" in diameter, pink to be easily seen, and is level, so can also be cut and tuned for varying situations.
DOUBLE TAPER FLY LINES
A fly angler has wanted to pursue trout at some point or another. Historically those who have found success with a fly rod in hand often are using a double tapered fly line. When an angler correctly uses a double taper fly line, it allows for the most delicate fly presentation - an optimal scenario, especially when trout are particularly picky. While a double tapered fly line is optimal for delicate casting situations, it is somewhat a one-trick pony, and they are difficult to cast for the beginning angler. Even intermediate anglers struggle to cast double tapered fly lines every now and again.
Since DT fly lines are best used for dry flies and delicate casting scenarios typically this type of fly line is paired with a slower action rod. When paired correctly the angler will be able to feel the fly rod load properly and make a smooth roll cast or mend line beautifully.
RIO is a household name for many anglers for a reason. They manufactured some of the best fly fishing lines the angling community has ever seen for many years. And, even in a world with more competition, RIO fly lines still remain a top pick for many anglers.
If you love fly lines that can switch from one style to another and interchange techniques while on the water, The Technical Trout - Double Taper will be perfect for your freshwater adventures.
The noticeable lack of stretch in the fly line also gives the angler more power and ensures a tight-lined hookset.
Double-taper fly lines may not be the most versatile of the bunch, but they’re very good at what they’re designed to do: delicate work at shorter distances. An excellent dry-fly line, the Mastery Double Taper excels at presenting flies with a touch of grace, which is extra handy on spring creeks and smaller streams.
Hopefully, you understand the difference between different types of fly lines by now. The next step is choosing a fly line. The easiest way to do this is by thinking about the predominant type of fly fishing you will be doing. Ultimately maximizing your time on the water. Remember, fly lines are purposefully built and designed to achieve different goals; next time you are thinking about purchasing a fly line, ask yourself a few questions first.
Only fishing dry flies and need a delicate presentation? A double taper fly line is probably for you. Looking to get a lot of utility out of your fly line? A WF fly line is perhaps in your future. Happen to be fishing wide and deep rivers? Need to turn over big terrestrials or, fishing stillwaters? A shooting head will maximize your chances of success.
When it comes down to it, fly lines are one of the most essential pieces of the fly fishing puzzle. They truly connect you to your quarry, day in and day out, so investing in a fly line that suits your needs best is paramount. Our list of fly lines are all options that we at the shop would happily put on our fly reels and trust day in and day out. Still need some trip-specific fly line questions answered? Feel free to come into the shop where we are happy to help guide you through fly lines. If you cannot go into the shop, reach out to us over the phone or live chat.