Fly Line Characteristics -- Basics of the Build

Tuesday, January 06, 2015 , , 6 Comments


Recently the President of my local Federation of Fly Fishers chapter, Martin Kollman, wrote the following article on fly lines and their construction. I found it very informative and it is with his permission that I am republishing the article. I hope you enjoy it and learn as much from it as I did. You may find a link to our FFF chapter here: Free State Fly Fishers.


I get a weekly news letter from Deneki Outdoors and one of their topics was on fly line construction and how it is put together to achieve different results. I pay attention to this after asking Davy Wotton what was the biggest advance in fly fishing over the last years and he said easily fly line. We typically use weight forward (WF) lines, as they shoot well and give a little more power in the wind than the double taper (DT), but the DT is smoother on the roll and prized by dry fly fishermen for it's fineness. Shoot heads and skagit/spey tend to be for chucking big flies or going the distance, so these work more like throwing a baseball to drag the running line out into deep water than worry about how stealthy they are. Take a look at this section description of your fly line and think about what you are tossing on your own rig this trout season.

In a typical 'weight forward' fly line profile you can expect to see some, or all of the following components…

30 ft Weight: Just what it says, the 30 ft. weight is the weight of the first 30 feet of line measured in 'grains'. It is what dictates the line's appropriate line weight (i.e. 5 wt., 6 wt., and so forth). Why 30 feet? at 30 feet, both weight forward and double taper lines of the same 'line weight should weigh the same, allowing for some consistency when matching lines to rods from varying manufacturers. However, there is an accepted degree of error in line weights, and some lines can vary from 1/2 to even 3/4 of a line size within the same 'weight'. Therefore, knowing the 30 ft. weight can be helpful in matching a line to your specific needs.

Tip: The tip of the fly line is nothing more than a short level section to which the leader is attached. In the past, the tip was used to extend the life of the line by providing a section that can be trimmed after attaching a leader, without cutting into the taper of the fly line. With the popularity of welded loops however, the tip of the fly line is not as important today as it was before, and thus does not need to be as long.

Front Taper: The tapered section connecting the body of the tip to the line, the front taper determines how energy is dissipated from the line to the leader. A long gradual front taper allows for a more delicate and accurate cast, while a short aggressive front taper lends itself to better turnover when casting heavy flies or casting into the wind, although it is less accurate. Choose accordingly.

Belly (Body): The belly, or the body, of the line is the portion of the line with the widest diameter. It is where the majority of the energy is carried throughout the cast. The longer the belly of the line, the greater distance potential. The shorter the belly, the easier it is to load the rod quickly for shorter casts. Choose your belly length based upon the distance you fish most often.

Rear (Back) Taper: The tapered section connecting the belly of the line to the running line. the rear taper is an underrated portion of the fly line. A long rear taper allows for greater control of the fly lilne over longer distance by creating a smooth transfer of energy. A shorter rear taper creates a quicker transition to the thin running line, allowing for greater distances when shooting line. Both have their advantages depending on the type of fishing at hand.

Head: The head of the fly line is the section comprised of the front taper, belly, and rear taper. The length of the head determines the amount of line that can be effectively carried in the air while casting. The longer the head, the longer casting potential. However, more false casts are often necessary to length the amount of line being carried in the air, which may be difficult for some casters. The shorter the head, the less false casts needed to load the rod before shooting line and may be easier for casters of all abilities.

Running Line: The thin, level line comprising the back end of the fly line, the running line provides a low friction segment designed to send the head as far as possible when shooting line using weight forward or shooting taper fly lines. Unless you are planning on boasting casts around the 100 foot range, the length of the running line is not overly important.






6 Comments:

Hibernation said...

That's awesome - really clearly gets the idea across about how lines are organized and how that organization impacts the line's performance.

When I first started fly fishing I thought the Wal-Mart brand at 9.99 was sufficient to cast my poppers; once I started trout fishing I learned there is a big difference between an average fly line verses a superior fly line. Rio is my main brand now. Excellent information on an aspect of fly fishing that a lot of us sometime overlook. Thanks for sharing

I agree with Bill. I've never paid a lot of attention to the specifics about different lines. After casting cheap lines and then casting a good line, you'll never go back. Thanks for the primer~

Mel said...

Don't have any more to add that Bill and Howard have not already said here.....

I have always tried to use a good quality line based on wanting a level of performance in my fishing. Thanks for sharing how it all pieces together.

~doubletaper said...

Great post. I think the more info out there that gets into the sight of new fly fishermen/women the better understanding they will have. I explain this to all the fishermen that i teach. Sometimes seeing it in an article is best so they can reread it at their leisure and maybe understand it better. Again, great post.

Atlas said...

Glad you guys enjoyed reading it. Great info and I am really happy Martin agreed to share it with everyone.