Disclosure: Just to be open and honest the buttons and links you click on in the website will in most cases take you to another website where you can purchase the products I am reviewing. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Choose a Fly Line – Some advice for beginners

There are many fly fishing lines on the market today made by many different manufacturers. If you do a search on Google you will come up with hundreds if not thousands of lines. For a beginner, this is an overload of information and can lead to an incorrect purchase. Here we will consider the options available and show you how to choose a fly line suited to your needs.

If you have not already purchased a single handed trout fly fishing rod then you would need to consider that first as the line needs to match the rod and reel setup. In that instance, you can purchase a ready made kit from a reputable dealer which can include all the items required to start out.

These are all made to match and balance the setup and are ideal for someone on a low budget. However, if you can afford a little more I would recommend buying the items individually as you can still get bargains but items with more strength and options than in a basic kit.

How to choose a fly line

The first important aspect is to match your line rating to the rod you have or are considering. Each rod now has a line rating stamped on the butt section usually above the cork handle on the first few inches of the rod itself.

This figure is put there by the rod manufacturer and is a guide as to which line the rod has been made to make it a balanced setup.

Now we can move up or down a size and still fish very nicely but it will need a slight adjusting of the line head to make it work correctly and something for a more advanced caster. If you are beginning I would opt for the same line rating as marked on the rod.

A little more about fly line ratings

The rating for each fly line was worked out using the AFTM or Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers who designed a scale to measure the first ten yards or thirty feet of fly line which was to represent the average length of fly line a caster would be able to aerialise. The line was weighed in grains and each line rating is the same weight for floating sinking or intermediate lines. This then made it easier to match up lines and rods.

Whats the difference to double taper and weight forward fly lines?

To add to the confusion fly rod manufacturers have over the years produced many single handed fly rods with different line ratings. For instance a 6-7 or 7-8 covering two sizes or indeed a 6-8 covering three sizes and even 4-9 which really takes the biscuit. Now to a beginner, this will confuse you some what as in do you go for a 6 line or a 7 line for a rod that is rated 6-7.

The answer to this is you can use either the rod will cast both lines very well. However, for clarity these ratings were put there to allow anglers to match a rod with different types of fly line. In the 6-7 line rating, the 6 refers to a Double Taper (DT) line and the second number to a Weight Forward (WF) line.

A double taper is an older type of line and not so many manufacturers produce it now although some still do hence it being reflected on the butt line rating. A DT line is the same in both ends, for example, it tapers from the tip getting thicker to the middle then tapers down again to the other end, hence double tapered.

fly fishing line tapers

This line type is great for nice presentation of dry flies in a small river and good for roll casting as well as the normal overhead cast. Its great advantage is you can swap the line around after a few seasons if the forward taper is starting to show signs of wear and have a virtually new line to fish with again.

The weight forward fly line is designed to have the weight pushed closer to the front end of the line so the taper moves into the line then tapers down to a smooth running section of the line. As the weight is further forward the caster doesn’t need to have so much aerialised and can usually cast further with less effort. The weight forward line is not so good for delicate close casts but great for large stillwaters where distance becomes important. So to sum up a 6-7 will cast a 6 double taper (DT) and a 7 weight forward (WF) equally well.

Fly line density or sink rate!

Now we have the rating sorted next thing to consider is the fly line density. The density is the sink rate of the fly line. This can be anything from full floating to very fast sinking with loads of options in between. Why do we need different densities anyway? The answer to that is that every place you fish will have a different set of conditions.

These can be depth, flow rate, feeding fish depth or flat calm to name a few. These conditions can all be fished with a full floater but if the fish are lying deep in the pool what do you think your chances are of catching them? Pretty slim I would say as they are not going to want to chase your flies sitting on the top of the water when whatever has got them deep is right beside them.

However, as a beginner, I would recommend starting with a full floating line as it is easier to lift off the water surface to start another cast and hence easier to learn and it will cover a lot of situations. As you progress you could add an intermediate line and a medium sinker.

Fast sinking lines are only really for fast flowing deep water or really deep pools when you want to get your flies down quickly and something to aim for in the future as you gain casting experience.

In these situations, the addition of a poly leader to your fly line can add extra functionality to a floating or intermediate line as you add 5ft, 8ft or 12ft of heavier densities to get a floating line to perform as a sinking line. These are relatively cheap to purchase and can help out in a difficult situation. So again I would start with a full floater as a beginner.

What color should a fly line be?

The final piece to the puzzle is line color. Fly lines come in all colors and full floaters will usually be a highly visible color so you can see any movement or twitch of the line if a trout takes your fly. Especially handy when buzzer fishing just under the surface.

Intermediate lines will usually come in more neutral colors from greens and blues to completely clear, a nice addition when fishing for easily spooked trout. Sinking lines are usually darker in color and come usually in black, dark brown, blues and greens.

Some fly lines now come in two colors or two-toned. They switch usually between a bright head section and running line this shows the caster where the difference is in taper and with a bit of testing can find the sweet spot for making casts correctly. A very handy guide making life a lot easier. I used to mark my line with a black marker to show me, as casting the line out fast it’s not always easy to get the correct amount of line aerialised to perform it properly.

As manufacturers try out new technology they also come up with new color schemes and there are now camouflage lines on the market as well as pure white. Personally, I think the color is more to attract the angler than the fish as the clear butt and leader are what is important to present your flies correctly without spooking rather than fly line color.

Special fly lines and shooting heads!

Other options in fly line are now becoming more popular and special species target lines are on the market like tarpon, trout, river, lake, salmon, pike, and so on. If you have the funds and are species specific then these lines are a great addition to your arsenal.

Shooting heads are also increasing on the market and can be a great tool for distance casting. These are good when shore fishing against an onshore wind as the extra weight gives you the punch to get the cast out. Shooting heads are more intermediate to an advanced line and require more effort to cast properly as well as manage the running line which can become tangled very easily if not treated correctly. These are something to aim for when you get your casting skills improved.

Need more info on fly fishing check my review on fly fishing unleashed!


Now that you have decided on a fly line the next task is how to set up your fly line.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Join our mailing list to receive some extra information not available on the website. With our advice you will be catching more fish in no time. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This