Choosing the best fly line for your needs can be a daunting task. There are different weights, tapers and casting styles to consider. Not only that but you need to match the line to your fly rod, or do you?
The fly line is the most critical component in the delivery system of the fly. It generates the weight and the kinetic energy that launches the fly to the target.
This is different from typical fishing  where you cast a heavy lure or sinker. The heavier the lure, the farther you can cast. In fly fishing, the flies typically weigh next to nothing, therefore, we need to rely on the fly like to provide the casting weight.
This comprehensive guide provides all you need to choose the right fly line for your next trip.
How to Choose the Best Fly Line
Want a successful excursion? It allows you to cover more water, reduce tangles, use less effort, and catch fish on your terms. Here are some tips to help you choose the best fly line.
Fly Line Taper
Most lines come tapered to help the angler cast more efficiently. The shape, length, diameter and thickness of the taper determine the amount of energy transmitted and dissipated when casting. There are five types of taper, each tailored to meet a specific need:
The weight-forward taper:
It is the most popular and also the best fishing line for trout if you are a beginner. It has a tapered front end with the first 30 feet heavier than the rest of the line, also referred to as the running line.
Just as the name says, this kind of taper is great for casting long distances in fast-running rivers and in extremely windy conditions. The front section of the line is short and stout to form a casting loop.
The saltwater taper:
It resembles the weight-forward design only that the front section is not as long. This design is the best fishing line for trout when using with heavy flies hence, great for catching large game on saltwater bodies.
This type is ideal for experienced anglers who want to make delicate presentations on small and medium-sized rivers. The line has taper all around. This design makes this line highly economical because when one end wears out, the angler turns the line around to use the other end.
Fly Line Weight
Fly lines have different weights usually measured in grains. The scale runs from 1-14 (14 grains make a gram) where a smaller number denotes a light the fly line and vice versa. The fly fishing line weight determines the type of fly you will use and the fish you intend to catch. Lightweight trout flies, for example, should be used with light lines. Heavier lines tend to slam into the water and scare any trout approaching.
Conversely, if you use a large streamer with a light fly line, you will have poor control over the cast and fly. Here’s a guide to help you choose the right line weight:
- 1-3 weight:Ideal for small fish and catching larger trout living in tiny streams.
- Four weights: Catching large trout where the angler does not need to make long casts.
- Five weights: Ideal for all-around trout fishing.
- Seven weights: Most larger rivers.
- Over eight weights: Suitable for only the largest of rivers, lakes or saltwater fish.
Match your Fly Rod
The weight of the rod does not need to match that of the fly line. As such, a four-weight fly rod can work with a five or six-weight fly line. One primary factor for choosing the appropriate fly rod for your fly line is the speed of casting motion. The rate of casting motion should be compatible with the flex speed of the rod as loaded by the fishing length of the line for optimal results.
There are two ways of looking at this feature: the material used to make the line and its size. A thicker, more massive line may not cast a long distance as a thin, light line. This is because a light line has less drag in the air and the guides. The material of the line also affects the casting distance. A thirty-pound braid casts a more extended range than a twenty-pound fluorocarbon.
Different methods of casting, and fishing can determine the line you should use:
Nymphing: Lines around 4 to 6 weight are ideal for nymph fishing and Euro-nymphing techniques while those around 5 weight make great all-round nymph fishing lines hence, a favourite choice for competing anglers.
Roll Casting: It is the most natural cast to learn as it requires only one forward stroke. A double taper fly line is ideal for this type of cast. Its full form on the loading portion of the front end and large length provides ample load on the rod.
Shooting: It is the length of the line that can go through the tip after the line is released from your hand. Note that it is not similar to the casting distance as there are fly lines that shoot further away but don’t cast as far.
Fly Line Durability
The coating applied over the fly line core determines the how long the fly line lasts. Most manufacturers use PVC coating, which can be made soft, flexible and durable by adding plasticisers. Other manufacturers use polyurethane as the base material, which is more durable and resistant to cracking. Polyethene coating is also durable, shoots farther away than PVC-coated lines and is abrasion-resistant.
Floating Fishing Line vs Sinking Lines
The dilemma of whether to use a floating fishing line or a sinking line comes in. The best floating line should be versatile enough to handle nymphs, dry flies or streamers on rivers and lakes. For this type, you can use a double tapered or a weight-forward tapered fly line. The floating fly line is excellent for beginners.
Sinking fly lines, on the other hand, sink a little further away than the floating fly line. They have a weight-forward taper all around and range from intermediate lines to type 7. For example, an intermediate level line sinks 1.5-2 inches per second while Type 7 sinking lines sink 7-8 inches per second.
The Best Fly Line Reviews
When you have factored all the highlighted features, it’s time to choose the best fly line for trout. Here are five products you can choose from.
RIO InTouch Gold Review
Rio Gold fly line is your ultimate line if you are looking for an all-around fly fishing line. It boasts an ultra-low stretch performance feature that offers cutting-edge sensitivity for a better cast timing, more precise mends and more comfortable line lifts. The fly line has a tapered design that provides firm loop stability at a distance and is perfect for presenting flies between 2-22 inches. Its lack of stretch also enhances reaction time and detection of subtle takes. Rio Gold fly line has a long head ideal for the typical river fly fisher, and for those who want to control the fly at a distance. This five-weight fly line pairs perfectly with flies less than five pounds.
- Ideal for all-around trout fishing
- Low-stretch benefits
- The short taper at the front also makes it great for nymphing
- Feels extremely light for fast-action rods
Rio InTouch Trout LT Review
If you are looking for a great dry fly line, the Rio’s LT fly line will not disappoint you. It offers a perfect combination of excellent casting ability, presentation and control. The fly line is available in two versions- the double taper fly line and the weight forward line.
Just like the Rio Grand Fly line, it features front and back loops, and a dual colour change that denotes the lengths of the front and back of the fly line. The front taper has a golden colour while the back taper features an olive green colour. Its long front taper delivers softer landings and more delicate presentations compared to other lines.
The LT boasts a casting range of 25-50 feet, but the long head delivers longer casts. At a 47-feet range, the head pairs seamlessly with most rod actions. With the right combination, an average caster can learn how to shoot the whole line consistently. However, according to most flyline reviews, the LT does not deliver reliable presentations when used with fast-action rods.
- Offers great presentation and control for dry fly fishing
- Extremely versatile
- Extremely light for modern-day rods
- Requires stretching before use
Scientific Anglers Mastery MPX Review
A fly line review described the MPX as a joy to cast. Evidently, it does not disappoint. To begin with, its weight forward design allows you to throw flies to the desired area even during strong winds. The line remains on the surface even in fast-moving water, which tends to slow down the average fly line. The MPX is also pretty versatile as anglers can pair it with deep nymph rigs and lightweight flies for more delicate presentations. The taper gives you excellent control even when throwing heavy streamers. Mending the line is pretty simple as it effortlessly floats on the water surface. Additionally, the line does not drag the flies unnecessarily from the trout.
Other flyline reviews cited the MPX fly line perform incredibly well when making longer casts. It effortlessly shoots without sticking on to the rod guides. This feature enables experienced fishers to develop great casting potential, and beginners learn how to cast their lines better.
- Loads pretty fast
- Ideal for both beginners and experts
- Is only useful with fast-action rods
Best Saltwater Fly Line
Saltwater lakes present challenging fly fishing environments for fly anglers. They are characterised by massive game, fast-moving water and waves and unpredictable weather patterns. Heavy flies come in handy to help you catch the massive game; the fly line should also be strong enough to withstand the strong currents. Here are two fly lines you can use during saltwater fishing:
RIO Bonefish Review
The fly line is a fantastic alternative for saltwater fishing. It has a longer head than most flat fly lines and more stable when extended to considerable lengths. The Bonefish has dual tone colouration to show where the weighted head and the level running line meet. The feature has given the Rio Bonefish an easily identified loading point that allows anglers to spend less time focusing on casting and more time catching the fish.
It is also fitted with unique tapers that offer a great presentation and welded loops on both ends of the line, which make rigging easy.
- Easy to shoot
- Compatible with fast-action rods
- Feels more substantial than regular tapered fly lines
- Best used in warm water
Airflo Cold Saltwater Review
Most saltwater fly lines are designed to perform during the hot summer period. However, cold saltwater bodies require a different type of fly line. The Airflow cold water fly line is one of the best saltwater lines used in cold water. The line has an incredibly low stretch core and does not have memory. It features Airflo’s ridge technology, which increases casting distance by reducing friction while making this line great for saltwater fishing. Unlike other manufacturers who start with hard material and add chemicals to soften the line, Airflo begins with a soft, zero memory layer, and does not add softeners. The material is aerated to produce a tough yet relaxed fly line.
According to a fly line review, the relaxed line allows you to cast better because you are not focusing on fighting the memory of the line when making loops. Airflo Cold Saltwater fly line boasts an aggressive taper that hooks large flies pretty well and delivers an accurate presentation.
- Accurate presentation
- Loads up fast
- Does not have memory
- Not great in warmer water
Evidently, several features come into play when choosing a fly line. The fly line taper determines the type of fish you can catch and the casting distance while the fly line weight enables the angler to fish in rivers, lakes, saltwater or freshwater bodies.
The type of coating applied on the fly line also helps determine whether the fly line lasts long. Airflo’s Coldwater Striper, for example, has a polyurethane coating that enhances durability and suppleness in cold water bodies.