Fly Fishing Line Tips and Basics

by | Jul 19, 2018 | Fly Fishing | 0 comments

There are hundreds of different fly lines out there, and if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, choosing the right one can be tough!

The first thing to understand is that the fly line is the weight that carries the bait to the water and ultimately to the fish. Put another way, if you try fly fishing with your normal fishing line it isn’t going to be prett.

When shopping for fly line there are a few key things to consider, we’ll break those down here for you!

Fly Fishing Line Weight Explained

Putting together a well balanced fly fishing setup involves your fly rod weight, fly line weight and fly reel weight..  Much like your rod and reel weight system being from 4-14/15 so is the line as well.

  • Smaller freshwater fish up to Trout and Panfish are best using a weight of 4/5/6/7.
  • A line weight of 7/8/9/10 are best used for Bass, Pike, Salmon, Steelhead and small to mid-size saltwater fish.
  • Use a 10-15 line weight for larger saltwater fish such as Tarpon, Marlins and Billfish.

Length of your fly line

  •  Most fly line will be between 80 and 90 feet and that’s what you’ll need in almost any situation. (If you’re doing distance casting there are specialty lines that are over 100 feet long).
  • If you’re worried that 90 feet isn’t enough, don’t be. Most of your fishing will actually be done while only using about 40 feet of the line!
  • When you fall in love with fly fishing, if you have a chance to fish an area of saltwater flats, then you may need the full 90 feet. Casting to that length takes great practice, but it is an epic feeling when you get it down!
  • For those of you just starting out, get a standard length 80 to 90 foot line, it’s numbers 2 and 3 below where you’ll focus your selection process.

Fly Line Tapers

When buying fly line, you’ll definitely run across this term, while every fly line out there has a taper of some kind, the type you choose should be based on what type of fishing you’re mostly going to be doing.

*What is meant by a taper is that the fly line (think of it as a piece of string) starts getting gradually thicker at some point along the line. That particular section of line will therefore carry more weight, the section that carries that weight is referred to as ‘the belly’ of the line. It will then gradually taper back to the original width of the string for the remainder of your line.

Weight Forward Tapers

            Generally, with a weight forward taper the first 50 or so feet of line is a consistent diameter, no taper. Then the taper initiates, so the forward half of the line is heavier; ‘the belly’. With somewhere between 5 and 10 feet to go it will go back to the original thin diameter so you can more easily attach your leader to the tip.

            The rule for weight forward tapers is the more aggressive the taper is, the more power and therefore more distance you can reasonably fish. If the majority of the weight is in the last 20 feet, you’ll be able to fish at a greater distance than if the weight is mostly carried in the last 30 feet.

Double Taper Fly Line

            With a double taper the majority of the weight will be in the center of the line. Whereas the weight forward had 50 feet of consistency to begin with, a double taper will start its taper much earlier, within the first few feet of the line. Then, after the belly, it will taper back to the original diameter. The taper before and after ‘the belly’ will, for the most part, mirror each other.

            The big advantage of a double taper is the subtlety it allows for. You will sacrifice distance compared to the weight forward taper, but this is the taper for you if you’re trying to sneak up, surprise, or spook your fish!


Level – No Taper

            Pretty simple explanation here, there is no taper. These are not as common, but they are cheaper. Still heavier than a regular fishing line, so you can fly fish with them.

I would basically only recommend these if your just teaching your young kids to fish because they don’t cost much so you can afford to get a few of them tangled up and if you have to cut the line it won’t hurt as much.



3.     Floating, Sinking, or Sink-Tip?


These are the three main types of fly line, but sub-categories do exist. Thankfully, when it comes to the types of fly fishing lines, the names do a good job summarizing their characteristics.

Floating Fly Lines

            That’s right, they’ll float! These are versatile, you can fish in most places with them, there are both weight forward and double taper varieties. When you’re first learning to fly fish, this is where I would start.

Sinking Fly Lines

            Usually the taper for a sinking fly line will be weight forward. There are quite a few options when buying this type of line and the difference all comes down to sink rate, or how fast your line will sink. If you know the depth the fish you’re targeting feed at, this is a critical thing to consider. Sinking fly lines are most commonly used in lakes.

            Sink Rates: the range goes from intermediate to Type 7. Depending on the manufacturer the sink rate, measured in ips (inches per second) can vary. Keeping it simple for now, you should know that intermediate has the slowest sink rate and Type 7 has the fastest.

Sink Tip Fly Lines

            A hybrid of the first two types of lines, the first part of the line, typically 7 to 20 feet or so is the sinking portion. The remainder will float. If you are fly fishing streamers in rivers, this is the line for you!

            It may not sound like a huge deal, but believe me, there is a lot more tension when trying to retrieve a line from a river when the whole line, including the excess line around your feet, has sunk!


Because there are so many fly lines out there, our advice for which one to buy needs to remain simple and generic for now.

1.     Buy a line whose weight matches the weight of your pole.

2.     Unless you’re doing specialty fishing, 80 to 90 feet lines are just fine.

3.     If you’re just starting out we recommend a weight forward taper.

4.     Get a sinking fly line if you’ll only be fishing in lakes.

5.     If you’re primarily going to be in the river, consider a sink tip fly line.