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How to choose the right fly line

Fishing poles are made for the typical angler and for average conditions in the water. While there are some exceptions, rod manufactures understand that their products work best for most people under typical conditions. However, many who fish take the attitude that their typical fishing rod needs fishing line that is one weight for all conditions.

However, this is a misunderstanding of what fly line weight is all about. While most manufactures recommend a 6-weight line, that does not mean you should automatically purchase it. Instead, you should start by understanding what the weight number means and how it applies to your fishing.

What is Fly Line Weight?

The weight of the fly line is measured with a numerical scale that runs from the lightest (1) to the heaviest (14). While the weight forward fly line is important in terms of casting and reeling, it’s about being heavy enough to catch the type of fish you want without interfering with your ability to maneuver the line. Yes, you can use a #14 to help ensure that it will not break, but it will be unwieldy in trying to catch fish that are far lighter than the weight requirement of the line itself.

While the differences may seem subtle in choosing a #7 line over a #6, there are important reasons to understand why the right line can make all the difference when fishing. You may find that the right weight improves your results significantly, even if you only moved up or down by one number.

Choosing a fly line

Fly Lines come in many weights and tapers, which one gets you the most success?

Type of Fish

To choose the right line, you need to start by knowing what fish you are seeking out. The good news is that there is some play in terms of which line works best for you, so experimenting is encouraged.

  • #1 to #3: Panfish, small trout, and other small fish
  • #4: Medium to large size trout, use in small streams
  • #5 & #6: The all-around fishing line, small &large bass, and large trout
  • #7 Well suited for fast flowing rivers, bass, steelhead, and small salmon
  • #8 and Higher: Large fish, salt water fish, and the like

The best fly line for trout will depend on the size of the trout that you want to catch, but a #4 or #5 may work best for you. If you expect to catch the largest trout, stick with a #5, but a #4 is lighter and will do the job for most trout.

Trout fishing


The weight of the line will also determine the size of the flies that you will use. For trout, the number will fall from 0 up to 22 in terms of size, with most being around 13, give or take two or three. You’ll want to match the weight of the line with the size of the flies so that your casting and reeling will be the most efficient.

A light fly on a heavy line means that it will slam into the water when casting and scare away any trout in the area. Conversely, a heavy fly on a lightweight line makes it difficult to control over the casting, which means that putting the fly where you want it will be difficult and reeling will not be easy as well. So, you may have to experiment a bit to match the right line weight with the right size fly.

Keys to Fly Fishing

Now that you have your rod, line, and flies, now you are ready to go fly fishing. If you are using a new weight for your line, you will need to practice a little to adjust to the different play.

#4 fly weight Line: For those who are just starting out trout fishing, go with a #4 line and matching flies. The lighter line makes it easy to cast and perfect for streams and small rivers. You’ll have a great deal of fun fishing for the smaller trout and learning about how to cast, play, and reel in your line.

Long Leader for Calm Water: You may have heard the advice about having a long leader when casting in calm water but may not know why.  This is because the trout are spooked by the splash from the line hitting the water. So, the further away the fly is from the line slapping the water, the less the trout will swim away from the fly. Of course, in fast moving or rough water, a short leader will provide more control and the splash less noticeable because of the conditions.

Casting into the Wind: It may seem counterintuitive but using heavier line in windy conditions is counterproductive to your casting. Instead, you should extend the line about 10 feet from the end of your rod compared to casting in calm conditions. The extra length will help direct the fly into the wind and where you want it to go. The stronger the wind, the lighter the line so you can cast into the breeze easier.

Shooting Tapers Can Help: Sometimes called “heads”, shooting tapers are good at helping you get extra distance on your cast.  This can be helpful if you are having issues with casting your line at the distance you want. It will take a little practice, but shooting tapers can work wonders, especially if you use a slightly heavier line which will aid in the distance you get.

Remember to experiment with the type of rod, fishing fly line weight, flies, and accessories that help you get the most out of your fishing experience. The true keys to fly fishing is finding out what works best for you and not just sticking to what the manufacturer has stated.

A weight forward fly line that puts the flies on target may mean that you violate some code or guide that has been stated by others, including in this article. But that is okay if you get the results that you want. So, the best line for trout may be lighter or heavier than recommended.

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