Given that in fly fishing, it’s the line that carries the fly to the fish, choosing the proper line is vital for a successful outing.
Historically, anglers cast fly lines made from braided horsehair, and later silk, which were treated with wax to keep them afloat. In the mid-1950s, Cortland introduced nylon lines, and from there, line technology exploded.
Today, manufacturers offer unique fly lines for specific fishing conditions. The choices can seem daunting, but the reality is that most choices fall within just a few broad categories.
For general freshwater fishing, including most rivers and occasional lake fishing, a floating line is ideal. Look for a weight-forward option for easy casting in all conditions. Note that the weight-forward descriptor refers to the specific taper design of the line. In a weight-forward line, the lines if thickest and heaviest in the first 20-30 feet, with a narrower, lighter ‘shooting’ section behind that.
Orvis’ Hydros HD Trout line proved to be a great all-around line. We’ve cast this line in a variety of situations, from fishing big, heavy nymph rigs into fast-moving western rivers, to flicking tiny dry flies onto mirror-still lakes. The textured nature of the Hydros HD Trout improves the castability of the line, and improves its flotation. Available in 3- to 6-wt versions, the Hydros HD Trout perfectly meets the needs of trout anglers. Price: $98.
For targeting fish that stick to the depths of clear, clean lakes, a sinking line is needed. Sinking lines can be found in various configurations, with different sink rates and casting performances. But for general lake fishing, I’ve found nothing better than the new Rio InTouch CamoLux.
The CamoLux sinks at a rate of 1.5- to 2–inches per second and the clear-camo coating of the CamoLux makes the line virtually invisible to fish. The line performed well in a variety of lake conditions. But because it is nearly invisible, and is most effective in getting flies down through the first 6 feet of lakes, I found it excelled in the crystal-clear high alpine lakes of the Cascades and northern Rocky Mountains.
General purpose lines — floating or sinking — work well in virtually all situations, but sometimes, a dedicated tool is needed for success. For example, when throwing big, heavy dry flies, a short, heavy line can help make better presentations. Rio’s InTouch Big Nasty line provides shorter casting with a heavier front end. That helps turn-over heavy flies for cleaner presentations. The InTouch Big Nasty also helps fully load fly rods faster with fewer back casts to minimize arm fatigue and reduce the chances of tangles or wind knots. The Big Nasty sells for $90.