Fresh water
Fresh water

A fisherman's guide to fly lines

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Mike Davis
05 September 2016

Trouble is there are so many different types of line and different brands to choose from. It helps to be aware that the major players in the New Zealand market are Airflo, Rio, Scientific Anglers and Cortland.

Most of the others are made  under licence by one of those four companies.

A while back it was the thing  to buy a general purpose, weight forward line, but manufacturers have started  to produce fly lines in a range of varying tapers for specific situations.  Modern lines can be designed to cast big, heavy flies, but you can also get a  line in the same weight that is supple enough to land lightly when casting  short. A fisherman's guide to fly lines Change has been driven by  advancements in fly rod technology.

As the rod has become faster and lighter  the tapers of the line have had to change to balance the set correctly.  People are also aerialising more line to help them feel the rod load and  unload. This has basically seen the end of the level and double tapered fly  lines, leaving just the weight forward line with specific tapers. These  advancements ultimately make the cast easier and more enjoyable.

The core of  the matter    A fly line consists of two major properties, the core and the coating. The  core determines the line√≠s strength and stiffness. Most lines up to a six  weight have a 20lb core, while the big seven weights and heavier usually have  a 30lb core. Braided cores are usually found in floating lines. A braided  multifilament is very supple giving less memory in the line.

This is particularly  important when fishing the cold waters of New Zealand, especially on the  lakes in winter. They trap air for better buoyancy and stretch more when  under load, which helps when playing fish in close. A fisherman's guide to  fly lines Such gin clear and calm conditions casting the correct fly line is  a surreal experience. Just add fish and it's a match made in heaven.

Monocore  lines (coated monofilament core) have been used in floating lines and are  good in warmer climates but in our colder waters they suffer from excessive  memory. However, when it comes to sinking lines the monocore comes into its  own.

Monocore sinking lines allow all the air to be extruded from the line so  more consistent sink rates can be achieve, even with different weights of  line. The monocore fly line also allows the manufacture to vary core stretch  for different sink rates. This means the fastest sinking fly lines use very  low-stretch cores to give better bite detection, improving the angler's hook  setting ability when fishing down deep.

A fisherman's guide to fly lines  

Subtly different conditions often require niche fly lines. In this case the  angler on the left is working harder to present upstream where the angler on  the right requires a more delicate presentation on  still water.

Colour me bad Fly line colour has always been a topic of hot  debate in New Zealand. Whatever your view, you must be able to see the line  on the water so mending can be done at the correct time to achieve drag-free  drifts. It is probably a good idea to keep a variety of colours on you, some  bright, some dull. When fishing in smaller waters with a presentation line,  the dull, natural coloured fly lines will reduce flash on bright sunny days.  

The last thing you need if fish numbers are low is to accidentally spook a  fish with harsh light reflecting off a bright coloured line. A fisherman's  guide to fly lines When targeting spawning fish I prefer to use a more  visible line that I can follow at a long distance when casting big.

A brighter  line can be seen from far away so mending becomes easy giving better drag  free drifts. Spawning fish sit on the bottom of the river meaning line colour  is less important.

Most New Zealanders hate bright orange fly lines but they  can be handy when drift fishing on smaller lakes with a team of flies. When  nymphing lakes without an indicator something is needed to detect subtle  takes and the bright fly line allows the angler to focus on the tip of the  line so any movement can be struck at quickly. Because boats drifts down wind  onto the fish as they are swimming upwind, the flies cover the fish first  before the bright line moves over them.

Fly line anatomy

A fisherman's guide  to fly lines

TIP: Level section at the end of the fly line allowing the user  to change leaders without cutting into the front taper. Helps improve the  lines casting ability. Typically up to 30 cm long.

FRONT TAPER: The length  and diameter of the front taper will dictate how the fly is presented on the  water. A long front taper will land a fly gently by dissipating energy  through its length. A shorter front taper will transfer energy faster making  it more aggressive ‚Äì great for heavy flies.

BELLY: The belly has the  largest diameter through the fly line. This is where all the casting energy  is held. Longer bellied fly lines cast further and are accurate over  distance. Short-bellied fly lines can load the fly rod very quickly; so high  line speed can be gained with minimal false casting. Great for tight casting  situations. REAR

TAPER: The shape of the rear taper will dictate how smoothly  a fly line can be delivered. This area of the fly line sits near the rod tip  during the final false cast. The smoother the transition between the rear  taper and the running line, the more control you‚Äôll have. A long rear taper  helps with distance and control. Short rear tapers create lots of energy for  a fast casting stroke.

RUNNING LINE: The running line is the very thin level  line behind the head. This section varies in length depending on the length  of the taper of the head being used. The running line is designed to be very  light so it is pulled through the rod guides easily, helping gain maximum  casting distance. Get your coat The coating of the fly line is the shell  around the core that is made up from a series of polymers or plastics. There  are two main coatings used.

American companies like Rio, Cortland and  Scientific Anglers use a PVC coated product and the European companies such  as Airflo make their fly lines from a polyurethane based product.

The PVC  coating feels lovely in the hand and performs extremely well to start with,  but has a tendency to suffer from radial cracking after a few hard months of  use in New Zealand. This is because of the chemical make up in our water, which  damages the PVC bonding of the line √± especially in the volcanic water of  the Central Plateau.

A fisherman's guide to fly lines Polyurethane based  lines have much higher chemical resistance, but also a slightly harder  surface area. They are not quite as supple in the hand but can be used hard  for a couple of seasons without a drop in performance. The density of the  coating determines whether the fly line will sink or float. Floating fly  lines have tiny air bubbles trapped inside the coating to help with buoyancy.  The density of these bubbles can be increased in certain parts of the fly  line, (such as the tip/front taper section and the belly), to help with  floatation. The outer surface of the line carries hydrophobic properties to  help repel water and dirt. Keeping the surface of the fly line clean helps it  float higher and cast more efficiently for longer periods. In sinking lines  tungsten powder is impregnated into the line adding weight.

By varying the  amount of tungsten used in different areas of the line you can compensate for  density allowing the line to sink straight and not suffer from sag; you  don't want the belly sinking faster than the tip.

Because tungsten is so  heavy the diameter of the sinking fly line is greatly reduced making sinking  fly lines much easier to cast than floating lines, this helps them to cut  through the air much faster as they are dense and have less surface area.  Advanced fishing    The advancements in fly line technology over the last ten years have been huge.  

The first lines on the market 60-70 years ago were made of silk. They needed  to be dried after every day fishing otherwise the line would rot. Nowadays  fly lines are made from some of the most expensive and durable plastics on  the market, so they last longer and cast further than ever before.

Don't  taper out    

A fisherman's guide to fly lines When fishing in larger waterways like the Tongariro or some of the large South Island rivers, big casts are often  needed to cover all of the water.

Conditions are often windy in the large  river valleys and this is where the long bellied fly lines work extremely  well. Long belly lines usually have a short aggressive front taper and a long  rear taper; turning over heavy flies at long distances.

The long rear taper  will help when it comes to mending line at long range and will help to aerialize more line in the air when false casting so all distances can be  covered. Long belly lines are made from stiffer coatings so they can cast  further and turn over energy positively by reducing friction through the  rod√≠s guides; ideal for loading the fast tip action rods that have become  popular over the last few years. But an aggressive long belly fly line is not  the answer when it comes to fishing smaller backcountry rivers or where  delicacy and presentation is important.

When shorter casting is needed the  use of rods that are softer in the tip are necessary, a line with a short  belly will load these fly rods quicker and the long front taper of the  presentation line will turn the flies over with accuracy. Typically lines  with long front tapering sections are very soft and supple so they become a  joy to cast with at short to mid range distances. Long front tapering lines  allow the angler to slow down their casting stroke for maximum control in  tight bush-lined streams. These lines have less memory and the core allows  some stretch √± useful when playing large fish in close quarters. Remember,  fly lines are now designed to perform specific tasks for niche situations so  don√≠t baulk at the price of the modern day line. It√≠s the most important  hundred dollars in your arsenal - after your flies. The fly line is crucial  in determining how the flies are presented to the fish, and how the line and  the flies will be controlled as they travel through the air. Skimping here  will lead to a leaner catch. Advanced fly lines    With advancements in technology come increased choice and complexity. We  advise getting expert advice. A one-minute stroll through specialist store  Rod and Reel in Newmarket, Auckland, revealed the sheer scale of lines  available to the modern angler. This is a just a taste of what to expect next  time you upgrade.

TROUT BOSS WF FLOATING A fisherman's guide to fly lines  

Beautifully packaged the new Cortland Trout Boss weight forward floating line  is designed to load fast action rods quickly for tighter loops and extra  distance. It floats higher in the water than its predecessor as well. SINK  TIP 400G FRESHWATER A fisherman's guide to fly lines Sink tip lines  incorporate a heavy grain (in this case 400grain) front section with a  floating line behind. As a rule sink tip lines allow anglers to reach deeper  in the water column while maintain the control to throw a mend. INTOUCH WF6S3  FRESHWATER A fisherman's guide to fly lines The Rio InTouch Deep 3 is a  sinking line with a decent rate of three to four inches per second. This is a  relatively fast sink rate and could be used for lake drop offs with a  relatively strong rip. A good line for stripping booby flies. INTOUCH WF6S5  FRESHWATER A fisherman's guide to fly lines The Rio InTouch Deep 5 is a  sinking line with a decent rate of five to six inches per second. An even  denser line than the Deep 3, the Deep 5 is good for deeper lake drop offs and  to swing wet flies in heavy rivers. TECHNICAL SHOOTING LINE SPEY ‚ÄãA  fisherman's guide to fly lines A speciality spey line, the Technical Shooting  Line offers virtually zero stretch allowing spey anglers to stay completely  in touch while swinging flies in big rivers, with a highly visible front  section to time recasts perfectly. LEVIATHAN 500G SALTWATER A fisherman's  guide to fly lines Specifically designed for the largest of tropical species,  the Leviathan Saltwater features a powerful front taper to cast the biggest  of flies, and a short, heavy head to load blue water rods super fast.  OUTBOUND SHORT 265G SALTWATER A fisherman's guide to fly lines With an  aggressive front taper the Outbound Short casts weighted flies very long  distances, while the powerful head loads rods for effortless casts. A range  of densities make this a versatile line series.

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