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Fly Fishing Lines Explained

With the option of a floating line, sink-tip line, intermediate sinking line, sinking fly line or fast-sinking fly line…what do you chose?

Density is the keyword here, and refers to whether the fly lines floats or sinks. And, if it sinks, how it is designed to do so. There are 5 alternative densities available; the floating line, sink-tip line, intermediate sinking line, sinking fly line or fast-sinking fly line. So what do you chose?

The floating fly line does exactly what it says on the tin – it floats. Seen as the easiest to cast and a mandatory first fly line for novice anglers, the floating fly line is by far the most popular. Generally floating fly line is used with dry flies, streamers and nymphs as the weight of the fly pulls the line down slightly and returns to the surface when retrieved. This allows for adequate sub-surface fly fishing in most conditions.

The sink-tip fly line is the second most popular as it combines both a floating and sinking line. The first 10-30 feet sink whilst the remainer of the fly will continue to float. The sink-tip fly line is frequently used for nymph and streamer fishing as it allows the fly to be placed deep but retrieved back to the surface with ease.

An intermediate sinking line will sink entirely but at a slower rate to a normal sinking fly line. This is the fly line of choice for anglers who want to submerge their fly a little with it settling down into the water very slowly.

The sinking fly line sinks at a uniform rate relatively quickly and the fly line packaging usually details the rate at which is does so.

Finally, a fast-sinking fly line sinks like a stone, as the name suggests. Again, depending on the what you buy, fast-sinking fly line will drop at varying rates. This type of fly line is only really required when you are trying to present your fly at an extreme depth and is generally used for sea fishing.

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One Response


A nice article, pity you did not cover polyleaders.
With a high proportion of Trout anglers fish still water up to 15 feet deep, numerous lines of varing densities are not really required to cover all eventualities, you can simply stick with a floating line and adjust your presentation by attaching a polyleader of the required density to put the flies where you need them, it is certainly quicker to change leaders than the main line. I have used polyleaders almost exclusively since they originally came out and I have rarely blanked. From the Highlands of Scotland to the quietist chalk stream in southern England and the big lakes and reservoirs they put fish on the bank at a fraction of the cost of carrying multiple lines. A fast sinking polyleader will take the floating line tip down with it and on retreive give a perfect presentation for an “induced take” from a boat, in a river it is a darn sight easier to put a “mend” into a floating line with a sink tip than a full sinking line – ask anyone who fishes for Salmon seriously. But there again I suppose there are “Tackle Tarts” and “Tackle Smarts”!

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