Fly Line Basics for Beginners

Fly line is made from special polymer materials and is much heavier than normal nylon fishing line. Special materials – such as the ‘microballoons’ developed by 3M Scientific Anglers – are also used to coat the surface of the line so that it runs very smoothly through the ferrules of the rod.

Without proper fly-line, fly-casting cannot even be attempted.

Most fly lines are about 30 – 40 metres (33 – 44 yards) long, but there are some fly lines (designed for specific fishing situations) that are much longer than this.

Fly Line Loads the Fly Rod

‘Load’ is one of the fly line basics beginning fly-anglers must understand. Because of its weight, fly line ‘loads’ the fly rod during the cast. By ‘load’ I mean that the line makes the rod bend or flex in its middle section.

This flexing means that the angler can, by flicking the rod continuously backward and forward, gradually increase the amount of line being cast, before finally laying the line down on the water.

With spin-fishing, which involves casting and retrieving a small metal or plastic lure, it is not the line itself but the metal lure that loads the rod (i.e., causes it to flex and spring forward) and thus allows a cast of some distance to be made.

With fly-fishing, it’s the other way around. Trout flies are as light as the tiny feathers and mixtures of fur used to make them. Thus in fly-fishing the weight of the fly line is needed to gain distance from the cast.

Floating or Sinking?

Floating’ and ‘Sinking’ are two other fly line basics beginners should understand. These are two different types of fly lines.

Floating lines lie right on the surface of the water. They are used by anglers on rivers and streams where floating – or ‘dry’ – flies and small nymphs (flies designed to look like the larvae of insects) are productive. Sinking lines are generally used by people fishing in lakes or on very big rivers where most fish are caught deep down on big feathered lures.

Sink-tip Fly Lines

A recent development in technology has seen the emergence of the ‘sink-tip’ fly line. This is a normal floating fly line that turns into a sinking line in its final two or three metres.

Sinking Tip Fly Line

Sink-Tip Fly Line

This line allows anglers to enjoy all the benefits that a floating line offers – such as visibility and ease of control – while also getting the fly a bit deeper than is usually possible with a full floating line. Sink-tip fly lines are particularly deadly in combination with feathered lures on shallower lakes, big boisterous rivers and on the estuarine lower reaches of rivers.

Fly Line Basics: Weight

Fly line comes in differing weights. It is important to try to match the weight of your rod and line to the type of fishing you are going to be doing. Delicate spring creeks may require a very light rod and fly line. Big rough water will probably call for something heavier. However, if you want to buy an all-purpose fly-fishing rig, then the best weight to opt for, in my opinion, would be a 6 weight line. This will work perfectly in most fly-fishing situations.

Fly Line Buying Tips

It is worth spending money to get a good quality fly line. A fly line with a good finish to it significantly assists casting and will help a beginner improve his technique more quickly than is possible with a cheap line. Leading brands include 3M Scientific Anglers, Cortland, Airflo and House of Hardy.

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