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Fly Line »

Fly lines come in a variety of tapers and densities. Its a good idea to keep extra spools of different fly lines in your gear bag so you can quickly change out for different conditions, different water and different fishing strategies.

Fly lines are labeled with a series of letters and numbers. These designate the type of line, taper and thickness. The label might read something like this: DT6F, WF65, ST7 F/S. The number designates the line size and the first two letters designate the line taper or how the line thickness varies along its length. The last letters are for the type of line, whether it is floating or shrinking and for how quickly it sinks.

The average packaged fly line is between 80 and 90 feet in length. The weight distribution in generally tapered. The taper in the line allows for the energy in the line to shoot it forward and to land it lightly on the surface of the water.

The thinnest part of the fly line is at the end where you attach your leader. You want the thinnest part of the line here so it makes the least impact on the surface of the water. The fly line thickens about 30 feet from the end into the belly. The belly is what is in the air as you are casting. there are a number of tapers and each provide for different fishing situations.

The DT or double taper is very economical as the end of the line mirrors itself. (see illustration) This allows you to reverse the line and re-spool it after it shows wear or is damaged. Double taper line is great for small stream work and roll casting. The thickness of the taper keeps the line from folding in on itself and allows a great soft presentation from a roll cast.

Weight forward or weight forward lines are great for the novice fly fisherman. The weight forward line casts and shoots the line much easier than a double taper (DT). By putting the weight forward, the caster can shoot more line with much less effort. The front taper on the weight forward line allows for delicate, light on the water, presentations.

ST or shooting tapers are used whenever you need a very long cast or when youre in windy situations. The greatly reduced diameter reduces friction as the line passes through the rod guides and through the air. Thats why its a perfect choice for windy days. Although you can cast further with the ST, its harder to handle the thinner coils of line as they have a tendency to fold on each other and tangle. ST is a great choice for certain conditions.

The most commonly used line type is the floating line or F. Modern floating lines are able to float because of a hydrophic coating that easily repels water and through technology that creates tiny glass micro-balloons in the coating.


Floating lines are the most commonly used lines because their versatility. You can fish both dry flies and wet flies with this line. Dry flies will float along with the line and wet flies will sink because of their own weight or added weight. You can generally fish several feet below the surface in small streams or pools with floating line. Its easy to men and reposition floating line. Floating lines are easy to use, heres why:

  • Easy to cast in most situations
  • Floating-line can easily be manipulated for mending and repositioning
  • Easy to pick up off the water for recast
  • The high air resistance makes it easier to keep the line up in your back cast

S or sinking-line will help you get your flies down to the fish in a lake or in deep fast running water. Sometimes you need to get your fly down quick and sinking line is the line to use. Sinking line comes in a variety of types and consider the type based on your needs. Your choices are sinking, fast-sinking and extra fast sinking line. Fly lines sink at a rate of 1/2 to 10 per second. Pick the type based on your situation:

  • S small streams and deep pools
  • FS larger streams with quick water, lakes
  • EFS fast running water when you need to get the flies down quick, lakes

Choose the S type line based on how quickly you want the line to sink.

Full sinking lines are more difficult to use as you must retrieve most of the line before you recast and you cant really mend or reposition sinking line. Sinking tip lines are a bit easier to use because only the first 10-20 feet of the line actually sinks, the rest of the line is floating line. The sinking tip cant get as deep as the full-sinking lines but it can cover most situations youll face in small-medium streams and ponds. The floating portion actually allows you to mend and reposition sinking tip line and it makes it easier to retrieve for a recast.

The intermediate fly line is just slightly denser than water so it sinks very slowly. the intermediate line can be used in shallow weedy lake and in windy conditions.Intermediate weight fly lines are a great alternative to sinking fly lines. After you cast, the intermediate line sets just under the surface. This line is so easy to cast that many fly fisherman prefer it over floating line. In fact, you can make intermediate-fly line float just by applying a line dressing.

Fline-Line Color
Pick the color you like because it doesnt much matter to the fish. Any color of fly-line will case a shadow on the bottom and all look the same to the fish back-lit from the sky. Pick a color thats easy to see. If you can see the end of your fly line, chances are you can follow it to your fly. Youll also be able to see it easily against the sky if you need to follow your back-cast.

Some fly fisherman think backing is just used to backfill the reel so the typical 80-90 feet of fly line will extend to the edge of the spool. While this is true, backing is also used to run fish such as tarpon that can take your fly and run over a hundred yard before slowing down. The best backing is made from braided dacron.

Fly Fishing the White River in Missouri »

When traveling to fly fish the North Fork of the White River in Missouri:
By Kyle Kosovich from Long Boat Outfitters.

Set aside a few days to get to know the river. This stream can humble the best fishermen. Without a guide or a week to learn how the stream and the fish work you may go home without a trophy picture.

The second reason to stay a few days is that the weather is sure to change and that can make all the difference. Thirdly, it takes days to completely let the wild river wash away that entire residue of civilization locked up inside from work and real life.

A weather example: I fished three days in a row the first days of 2009. Day one, I fished with a national fly fishing tournament member and we both were skunked
Day two, Fished with my little brother in law and caught two bows but had to work for them. Day three, I was fishing by myself and caught ten fish in about two hours. Now, on the third day the weather was changing. The fish went bonkers. Im not sure if it was the weather but in past experience this has been that case.

An example of being freed by the river: In October I planned a trip for seven of my good friends and family. We spent 3 days fishing the North Fork and 3 days fishing the Eleven Point River. When our time was up I forgot where I was in life. I felt like I was on drugs for a week and was on cloud nine

Now I have been on the river a lot! But never have I had such a great time as a week-long trip with my friends and forgot every care in the world. I cant wait to do that trip again!

So next time your down at the North Fork take some time, enjoy your surroundings, and never rate a trip by the number of fish you catch you will always be disappointed. Remember if you dont have the time that is where the guide steps in to tell you what pattern the river is in that day, help you notice the singing wood thrush in the trees, and make your trip the best ever

Have a good time on the water and say hi, if you see a longboat floating down steam.