John Berry, as seen in The Fishing Wire
Choosing a new fly line can be a challenging job when you consider all of the options.
The fly line is that piece of gear that we all take for granted. It is the one thing that can actually improve your casting. For this article, I am going to limit my discussion to floating lines designed for use in fresh water.
Back in the day, when everyone fished with bamboo rods, the fly line of choice was made of silk. They had to be dressed with a waterproofing paste before each use. These lines were tapered at each end (the taper allowed for a delicate presentation). After fishing the line for a few hours, it began to absorb water would start to sink. The angler would remove the line from the reel and turn it around. He would then fish the dry half for the remainder of the day. Of course, the line would have to be carefully dried before being stored. These lines are still available for $150 to $175 (I actually have one for my bamboo rod). Cortland now manufactures a direct copy of the silk line called Sylk. It has the same smaller diameter and taper of a silk line but made with modern plastics (that float well and are simple to maintain). This would be a good choice for a bamboo rod.
When I started fly fishing three decades ago, the choices were a bit better. You could buy a level, double taper or weight forward fly line. They were made from modern plastics. The level lines had a consistent diameter with no taper. They were the low cost alternative and did not cast well. The double taper was pretty much a copy of the silk line. It was tapered at both ends with a level center. These lines made for a delicate presentation and roll cast well. This was a great choice for mountain streams or bamboo rods. The weight forward lines had a heavier front taper at one end and a narrow running line at the other end. With this line, the heavy front taper would pull the running line through the guides when you made a cast allowing you to easily increase your distance. I eagerly embraced weight forward lines.
Now there are dozens of choices. The manufactures have tweaked the tapers to accommodate fishing for certain species, different rods and a variety of techniques. By matching the right line to your rod or fishing style you can enhance your casting and hopefully pick up a few more fish.
One of the most interesting new fly lines is Scientific Angler’s (3M) Sharkskin line. This line has a textured finish like sharkskin that has a reduced drag on the rod guides. This reduced drag allows you to cast this line further, all for only $100. I have had several clients absolutely swear by this line. I found that it makes a whirring sound when you cast it, which I found distracting. I had one client that had to use band aids on his finger, because the line abraded it.
A number of manufacturers make a bass taper fly line. This line features a shorter heavier front taper that is designed to turn over the larger, wind resistant flies used in bass fishing. My wife, Lori, uses a bass taper when fishing for smallmouth on Crooked Creek and feels that the line helps her cast the Clousers and crawfish imitations that she fishes there.
Lori uses a Scientific Angler’s Expert Distance fly line when she practices her casting. This line has a long taper and is designed for long distance casting. Lori finds that its bright orange color and long distance capability make this line perfect for teaching casting. This line is also used for casting competitions.
If you mostly fish heavy nymph rigs with multiple flies, strike indicators and split shot, you should consider a fly line designed to cast this much weight with ease. Scientific Anglers makes its Nymph line and Rio makes its Indicator line for this purpose. These lines also have a bit more flotation to help float all of this weight. I use the Scientific Angler’s Nymph lines on my boat rods because I tend to fish heavier rigs, in the boat.
If you fish one of the stiffer new graphite rods like Sage’s Z-Axis, TFO’s Axiom or Winston’s Boron IIx, consider using Scientific Angler’s GPX or Rio’s Grand. Both lines are made a half size heavier. This will help these rods load better and improve casting, particularly at closer distances.
Fly lines for the delicate presentations required for dry flies and emergers are the Scientific Anglers XPS or the Rio Trout LT lines. They both feature finely formed front tapers and slick finishes for easy pick up.
Rio developed their Windcutter II for fishing the windy conditions that we have come to expect when fishing the classic western rivers. They would be welcome here for those brutally windy days when we lave lake wind advisories. This line has a heavy belly that allows it to easily handle wind and at the same time make a delicate presentation with a small dry fly. Silk lines also cast well in the wind. Their smaller diameter just slices through the wind.
If none of these fly lines interest you and you just want a good general purpose fly line take a look at the Cortland 444SL, Rio Gold or the Scientific Angler Trout.
If you have not replaced your fly line in several years, you will be pleasantly pleased with the overall quality and the difference a good line can make. It will enable you to improve your casting and will be money well spent.
For information about fishing with John Berry, visit www.berrybrothersguides.com.