Fly Fishing 101, Part 5
Unscrambling The Fly Line Alphabet Soup
Occasionally, fly fishing can have unexpected
results. Like the 36-inch sand shark caught on a streamer on one
of my local beaches. The shark thought he was a salmon, took off
for Whidbey Island and cleaned me well into my backing. Everyone
on the beach thought it was a salmon ... right up to the point it was
landed. (That's another story about pliers, sharks really have ugly
teeth.) I really felt dumb about that shark, but a while later on the
telly a fly fishing program showed folks intentionally fishing for
Maybe if I had been using a floating line,
instead of a sink-tip, it really would have been a salmon.
Here is where the size and type of fly
lines comes into play. Each line company uses the same
uniform designation. A Scientific Anglers, Cortland, Teeny,
Rio, Wulff, AirFlo, Orvis, Monic, Borger or whomever's
6-weight fly line is designated for a 6-weight fly rod.
Variations from company to company
have to do with the core of the line, the hardness or softness
of the outside material or, in the case of a floating line, how
high the floating line rides.
Those choices are only part of the decision.
What fly are you casting? Wet - or dry? Short or long casts?
Delicate presentations or slogging nymphs or streamers?
A "DT" line means the line is tapered
on both ends. It was originally marketed as a budget line. If
one end was worn or cracked, you could take the line off the
reel and wind the worn end against the backing. The DT has
been used for many years as a dry fly line.
A newer line, called the "TT" for
Triangle Taper, marketed by Wulff, has a longer distance
of taper. It casts very well, rolls out smoothly, making it
not just a great dry fly line, but a super line for roll-casting.
"WFF" is more alphabet soup for
"Weight Forward Floating." This fly line is mostly used for
fishing nymphs, streamers, and artificial bait. Some folks use
the WWF for dry flies in areas where constant winds can
cause your fly line to collapse without the additional weight.
So called "Level" lines are mostly used
as running line for shooting heads. A speciality distance-type
of line used in some places for steelhead or blue-water fishing
from boat or shore. Shooting heads can be very heavy, with
lead cores and require a
"chuck & duck" method of casting.
"WFS," is Weight Forward, Sinking ... yes,
sinking. Make a long cast and the whole line sinks. Great for
some special uses, like steelhead or other fast-bottom fish,
or lakes. There are disadvantages to the sinking line that are
better handled with other lines. Pulling a full sinking line up
out of the water and casting it is tough. Not much fun in a
float tube either.
A better solutions is an "F/T," a floating
line with just a tip section, usually 10 feet or so, that sinks and
takes your fly with it. There are sink-tips that sink fast, or very
fast. Or slow - or slower yet!
If you look in a catalogue or at your
local fly shop, the variations in all of these lines is mind-boggling.
Some have longer - or shorter tapers. Some are better in cold
water, some coil up like a kids' slinky in cold water. Others
stretch in warm water. In as many colors as jelly beans.
You need to match the type of fish, fly,
and water you fish to know which line is best. (Keeping in mind
of course it has to match the weight of the rod.)
Now you realize you may wish to use
more than one fly line. Guess what? The reel manufacturers
have thought of that. Most reel companies sell extra spools,
cassettes or reel inserts. Just so you can change lines to fit
the fishing du jour.
My personal advice to our casting class
students is to buy one very good quality line to start with. If
your interest in fly fishing was sparked by the traditional image
of dry flies, go for either a double taper or weight forward line.
Yes, good fly lines are expensive. But the bottom line is a cheap
line will not cast well on any rod. A good quality line will throw
a proper loop on the worst rod made. The fly line is the most
important part of your fly fishing gear.
Stop by the Chat Room and meet some fellow anglers. It is a nice
bunch of people - always willing to help the new fly angler! Or just share your
fishing adventures. Fair skys and tight lines, ~ DB
Have a question? Email me!