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The rod and reel are only half of the story when optimizing gear. The correct fly line is a must for maximizing the performance of a rod and should be matched to the type of rod being used as well as the type of fishing being done.

Here are a few guidelines to help you choose the right fly line. First, we will cover the dynamics of a fly line. The change in the diameter of the fly line is called the taper. The taper determines how the energy of your cast is transmitted from the rod to the fly. The longer and thinner the front taper, belly, and rear taper, the slower the line will dissipate the energy of the cast, which allows for greater accuracy and control. The shorter and thicker the front taper of the fly line is, the more energy is transmitted directly to the fly, which will increase distance and turn the fly over quicker. There are several different types of tapers to consider: weight-forward, double taper and specialty (sinking lines).

Next, we will talk a little bit about fly line construction. It starts with a core material followed by an outer coating. The stiffness of the core material is important to consider in regards to the type of climate being fished. The more supple materials (Dacron) are better for cool weather/cool water environments. When heading to the tropics, a stiffer core is best and will not wilt with the heat, break down in a saltwater environment and will shoot well resulting in longer casts.

Weight forward lines are constructed with the greatest mass of fly line located in the first 30’. This helps to propel the cast outward and will load the rod quickly. These are versatile lines that delicately present to trout or that nasty Barracuda in the tropics. Depending on the application of the line, the length of the head on weight forward lines will vary as well as change the casting characteristics.

For slow to medium action rods, use a line with a delicate front taper like a Scientific Angler XPS, Rio’s Selective Trout or a Sage Quiet Taper. These lines will not overload the rod because they are an exact line weight. This will help with delicate presentations and allow the fly to turnover without crashing down on the surface of the water.

Medium to fast action fly rods will work best with a weight forward line that has a little more belly (first 30’) in the line to properly load the rod at short to medium distances. Lines like the Scientific Angler Trout, Orvis Wonderline and the Sage Performance taper work best on these rods. The longer compound taper on the front of the line allows for delicate turnover at any distance and the relaxed rear taper allows for better roll casting and mending.

Fast to Ultra fast action rods require a line that will load the rod quickly with minimal false casting. This type of line has most of the mass of the fly line towards the head and usually a half of a line weight heavier than the manufacturing standard. The Scientific Angler GPX and Expert Distance, RIO Grand and Orvis Power Taper are wonderful choices for maximum distance, casting big flies into the wind or two fly rigs with lots of weight and big indicators.

Double tapered lines are tapered from either end and have a uniform diameter between the tapers (thin on the ends and thickest in the middle). These lines are designed for ultra-light presentations when fishing small streams. When one end wears out, just flip it around and you have a brand new fly. They are exceptional roll casting lines but sacrifice some distance. The Scientific Angler XPS and the Sage Quiet Taper re best matched with slow to moderate action rods for the most delicate presentations.

Sinking fly lines are used when searching for those elusive fish that like to live in the deep. There are two main categories of sinking lines: sink tips and full sinking lines. The sinking tips have a sinking head section (lengths will vary with manufacturer) and a floating running line. These are best used when the depth is shallow (1-15 feet) and the current is not too fast. Full sinking lines are the depth charges of fly lines. The entire length of the fly line will sink at a specified rate measured in inches per second. Most of the full sinking lines produced today have the technology built in that allows the line to sink at a level rate. With Density Compensation, the entire fly line will sink at the same rate allowing to better presentation of the fly underneath the surface. The Scientific Angler Uniform Sink+ or the RIO Density Compensated lines are the best out there for this application.