Beginner's Corner Pt. II

by Kim Heaston

This is the second installment in a series of articles that will outline the basics of fly fishing gear and terminology. It is being developed because there are a lot of new members who have either never used a fly rod or our out of practice but the information will be useful to the experienced fishermen as well. This installment will discuss fly lines.

As we learned in the last article, the weight of the fly line is expressed as the weight, in grains, of the first thirty feet of the fly line. This, for the most part, should match the weight designation of your rod. A five-weight rod should have a five-weight line.

There are two factors about fly line that we will begin with: Line tapers, and floating or sinking factors. Floating line, like its name, floats on the surface of the water to hold your fly on or near the surface. Sinking line, like its name, sinks. It comes in degrees: Intermediate, sinking tip, and sinking. It is designed to get your fly down to where the fish are.

Lines come with no taper, double tapered, weight forward, and a modified weight forward, the shooting taper. The fact that a line is tapered makes casting easier. As the energy of the cast is transmitted down the line it diminishes. The diminishing diameter of the line allows what energy is left to keep the line going. Line with no taper, called level line, is very difficult to cast well and is not recommended for the novice. A double tapered line is tapered evenly at both ends. It cast well but not for distance. It is especially good for roll casting. That makes it a good choice for areas where there is limited back casting. Another benefit is that it can be swapped end-to-end when you have worn out the working end and the life of the line is doubled. Weight forward line has all of the taper towards the front of the line and is the best line for the novice caster. It casts for longer distances that double tapered line. Its cousin, the shooting taper line is designed for distance casting but is not recommended for the beginner.

Now let's put this together. There is a convention in the description of fly lines:

DT - Double Taper
WF - Weight Taper
ST - Shooting Taper
L - Level
S - Sinking
F - Floating
F/S - Sinking Tip
I - Intermediate

To describe a five weight, weight forward, floating line you would see the following: WF5F. WF for weight forward, 5 for the line weight, and F for floating. Other examples are ST8S, WF6F/S, etc.

Note: This feature originally appeared in our April 2001 newsletter.

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