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Adventure, Fish / January 10, 2016

How to Choose the Best Fly Fishing Line

Written by: Eric Jackson

Choices, choices, choices – that’s a good way to describe all the fly lines we have available to us now. There are literally hundreds of choices for trout alone. Then, we have lines for steelhead, redfish, permit, tarpon, muskie, and bonefish, too. 

How do you choose the best brand? What weight do you need? How do you decide what is best for your situation?


There are a few basics of fly lines we will get out of the way right now. Lots of different types are out there; double taper, weight forward, sinking tips, sinking lines, shooting heads, and more. The most versatile and what I recommend to cover the largest variety of circumstances is the floating weight forward line. It will give you the ability to fish 90% of situations that occur during a day on the water. If you are fishing subsurface flies more often than not, you can get your fly down by using weight of some kind on your leader/tippet which is a different discussion we will have later.


“The most versatile and what I recommend to cover the largest variety of circumstances is the floating weight forward line. ”


Now, we know that the weight forward floating line – commonly marked WFF on the box – is our best all-around line. So, now we need to pick the right size line. If you already have a rod, look at it and you will see a size such as 4 wt. or 5 wt. which tells us that the best line for use on this rod is a line with the equivalent number weight on it. What does that number mean? It refers to a grain weight of the first 30 feet of the line which gives it the designation of X weight in relation to that grain weight. Can you use a heavier line? Can you use a lighter line weight? Yes, but right now you will experience the best performance with the designated weight for your rod.


“For the majority of trout we fish for a 4-6 weight ”


If you haven’t purchased a rod set up yet, fly rod and reel, we will talk about what weight rod will work best for your trout excursions. And many other species as well. For the majority of trout we fish for a 4-6 weight; your rod and reel will handle all the jobs you need in a tremendous way. But what length do you need? I see everything from a 7 foot to a 12 foot rod out there. Why so many? There are lots of “specialty” situations that you can encounter where these extremes in length are useful, but we are dealing with the largest percentage of situations. For that, you should focus on a 8’ 6” to 9’ rod. This will give you a great balanced system that will work for the largest portion of fly fishing you will do. Why a 4-6 weight? If you find yourself thinking about hitting the lakes in the North Texas area for bass, as well as trout, the 6 weight will give you the backbone to fight a 5-6 pound bass successfully. If you think you’re erring toward fishing some small creeks for bream and small bass along with trout, the 4 weight is more than enough for that. With the 5 weight sitting in the middle giving you the best overall compromise for either direction


“ You should focus on a 8’ 6” to 9’ rod ”

Is the line important? Isn’t line just a way to get your lure out to the fish? In fly fishing, the line is more than just “string” to get the lure to your target. For fly casting to work you have use a line for the weight to load the rod. Meaning if you have just basic monofilament fishing line on your fly rod it won’t cast well, if at all. The line has a weight and that is what causes us to be able to cast those weightless flies to our target. Over the years, I have used lines from many manufacturers – some worked well and others completely hindered the performance of the rod. So the line is very important. A very nice, read expensive rod, can cast horribly if paired with a poor quality line. Yet a decent, affordable rod will cast infinitely better with a nice line.


We are getting closer now so let’s talk about the brands we find most successful and what our experience has shown us in this area. After using various lines, I have found two brands that across the board offer the qualities I find essential – performance, durability, customer service and quality. I have found that Rio Products and Airflo fly fishing lines offer those qualities and more. They have great lines that consistently perform and do not disappoint the angler.

If you look at Rio’s website for a list of their trout lines there are 14 options there, but I recommend the Grand and Gold models for your everyday fishing situations. The other lines offer many specialty features that are great, but not necessary for most of the fishing community. Rio has a very smooth coating called AgentX on their lines that is great for a nice, efficient cast. They also use MaxCast and MaxFloat on them to create a superior performing fly line. The Grand model is built a line weight heavier to make sure you get a fully loaded rod on each cast. The Gold is designed with a specific line taper to load easily in close, but also give amazing control on longer casts.

Airflo has a model called the Super-Dri Xceed which will give you a great experience on the water also. Their page has lots of specialty options as well, but this is the best all-around line for most situations. The SuperDri technology has been developed for the serious floating line angler, featuring a friction-reducing coating, which lets the line glide through the rod rings and adds yards to your cast. Another new feature of the SuperDri range from Airflo is ‘Zone Technology’ ensuring the line doesn’t stick to the rod guides when hauling and shooting. This new line technology will minimize friction during the cast. The SuperDri Xceed has been designed to load today’s faster action fly rods. This slightly heavier weight forward head has a condensed taper optimized for casting into the wind and generating higher line speeds.

The long and short is that you can’t go wrong with any of these lines for your fishing. I have found the “you get what you pay for” analogy to be very true. Don’t skimp on your fly line; your time on the water will be infinitely more enjoyable.

about the author

Eric Jackson

From the time a nine pound catfish nearly pulled three-year-old Eric Jackson in the water to the time he waded the flats of the Texas coast for redfish, all of these experiences have led Eric to share and guide others in fishing.

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