You are currently viewing What fly fishing line should I get for my fly rod and reel combo?

What fly fishing line should I get for my fly rod and reel combo?

Did you know that your fly fishing line set up is the most important piece?

Your fly line what can make or break the accuracy and the power of your cast. To add to this, it’s also the connection in which your fly presentation either catches or spooks your fish.

Like many other systems, fly fishing requires a well balanced system. You can either purchase your fly fishing rod, fly fishing reel, and fly fishing line separately or buy it pre-assembled as a fly fishing kit.

With that being said, here are some EASY steps to picking out the right fly line for your fly fishing line setup:

What Are The Different Types Of Fly Fishing Lines?

There are three different types of fly Fishing lines that you need to be aware of. These are:

  1. Floating Fly Lines [Amazon Link]
  2. Sinking Fly Lines [Amazon Link]
  3. Sink Tip Fly Lines [Amazon Link]- the combination of floating and sinking fly line

Two reasons why you need to be concerned with your fly type are: fish eating habits and presentation.

Floating fly lines do exactly as their name describes, they float on top of the water. Most beginners tend to pick a colorful floating fly line when they first start fly fishing. When learning how to fly cast, being able to visually see your fly line makes it that much easier to learn.

This is not to say that only beginners use this. The most common type of fly when fly fishing with floating fly lines are streamers, dry flies, and nymphs.

So where can you fish with a floating fly line? Well there’s no real limitation as to which body of water you can use floating fly line. However, they are more commonly fished in smaller streams and rivers.

You’ve probably seen fish going up to the top water for a brief second. This is where they are feeding on flies. But what about the times where this isn’t happening? Well this is when the fish are either not feeding or their feeding in the water. This is why we need sinking fly lines.

Sinking fly lines also do exactly as their name describes, they sink into the water.

For the scenario listed above, sinking fly lines are a great way to target fishing eating habits under the water surface.

Sink Tip fly lines are a combination of both the floating fly lines and the sinking fly lines. They only have the tip of the fly line sinking in the water.

These fly lines offer best of both worlds – they tip sinks so you can catch fish feeding below the water surface, as well as allow you as the fly angler to visually see your fly line.

What Does Fly Backing Do On A Fly Fishing Reel?

Backing is a must to every fly reel. Can’t stress how important backing is, especially when fishing for larger fish.

The last thing you want is to catch a large fish and it take all of your line away from your fly reel. As an angler, there’s nothing worse than the fish that got away.

Your two most common used backing strengths are:

  1. 20 lbs backing [Amazon Link]
  2. 30 lbs backing [Amazon Link]

If you’re fishing for smaller fish such as panfish, bass, or small trout then go for the 20 lbs backing. If you move up in fish size such as walleye, pike, steelhead or salmon, then the 30 lbs is recommended.

If you’re using a smaller fly reel (up to 5 weight), then you probably won’t be able to fit too much backing. This is completely fine as it’s very rare that a smaller fish will take all of your fly line and get into your backing.

Heavier fly reels (5 weight and higher) will take up much more backing and fly line. They are equipped with larger spools which allow for all this excess backing and fly line.

Backing is loaded on your fly reel in the case that you catch a large fish and it takes more of your line. In most cases, depending on how your drag set up and the reel force you use, you might rarely run into your backing.

Fly Fishing Line Weight Guide

There is a large variety of fly line weights. This gives fly anglers many different options to improve their game, if they know what to look for.

The scale of fly line weights ranges from 1-14. In this rating, 1 is the lightest while 14 is the heaviest fly line.

The rating actually helps you for two reasons, it helps you properly balance your fly line with your fly reel, and it determines what fish you’ll be catching.

If you’ve read our fly rod or fly reel articles, you’ll know that having a balanced system is the only way to properly fly fish.

Your fly line weight determines what fish you’ll catch for because if you pick the lightest fly line weight and you fish for large salmon, you’ll break your line.

If you pick the heaviest fly line weight and fish for small fish, your presentation will suffer. You’ll end up spooking the fish.

Your fly line weight also matches the size of your fly. If you use a heavier fly line with a lighter fly (for smaller fish), the force of the casted fly line will propel the fly forcefully into the water. This is undesirable as it will spook the fish and create the wrong presentation.

Fly Line Code Made Simple

Each fly fline out the box comes with fly line codes. These appear very intimidating at first sight but are rather easy once you understand the breakdown.

We’re going to look at an example of a fly line and explain what the numbers mean. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to look at ‘WF5F’ fly line.

The first two characters define a fly lines taper.

The third character lists the fly line weight.

The last character lists the density type of the  fly line. This is to determine whether that fly line will float or sink.

What does WF mean on fly line? The ‘WF’ stands for Weight Forward Taper.

What does WF5F mean? In combination of everything this is what this fly line code represents:

  • Fly line is a weight forward taper
  • Fly line is 5 weight
  • Fly line floats

What is the best fly line weight for trout?

The most used fly line weight for trout is a 5 weight.

What Is A Tippet Used For In Fly Fishing?

The most important piece of fly fishing is its fly presentation. How to properly present your fly in front of a trout so that the trout will eat it.

Depending on your fly line set up combination, your tippet is normally located in between your fly line and your fly. The thick part of the tippet is connected to the fly line, while the thin end will be connected to your fly.

The tippet is used for gradually decreasing line density. The gradual decrease in fly line density allows better transfer of energy going from thick to thin on casts. These more controlled casts allow you to have better fly presentation.

A good recommendation is to buy a spool of tippet. The reason for this is changing hooks will gradually decrease the length of your tippet.

What Is The Best Color Fly Fishing Line?

Fly line color most definitely matters! There are times where a muted color will work better while other times where a bright colored fly line will work better.

If you look at the anatomy of a fish, you see that they have their eyes on top of their head. Their cone vision goes behind them.

Many fly anglers believe that because of this, fish are able to spot bright colorful fly line moving in the air or landing in the water behind them.

For example fishing in winter can be tricky as the water is something clearer and more calm.

A solution to this is fishing in muddy water so the fish aren’t able to see the fly line. Another solution is using a muted, low visible, colored fly line.

You have to remember that bright fly lines visually help the angler with mending the line on the water, and/or watching your fly line on the drift.

Using a muted fly line will blend in with its surroundings which allow for better fly presentation.

This same advantage is actually a disadvantage for you as the fly angler. You won’t be able to see your fly line properly when line mending. You also will have trouble seeing the fly line on the moving water.

In conclusion

There are three different types of fly lines that were covered in this article – floating fly lines, sinking fly lines as well as sink tip fly lines. Each come with their own advantages and disadvantages. These advantages and disadvantages are weighted on how they target fish eating habits, as well as their presentation in and on the water.

The backing is very important when it comes to your fly line. It generally comes in two different weight tests – 20 lbs for smaller to medium fish, as well as 30 lbs for medium to large fish. If you’re catching bigger fish, you want to have enough backing incase the fish runs through your fly line.

Fly fishing line weight ultimately determines what fly line is best for your fly reel. It also determines what fish you’ll be catching.

Fly line codes are confusing at first but are very easy to understand once you understand the code metrics.

A tippet is used for gradually decreasing line density from your fly line to your fly. Doing this helps your improves your casting because there is a better transfer of energy.

Fly line color also matters. If you’re a beginner the recommendation is to use a bright color fly line. This will help you visually see your line drift as well as your line mending. However, if you’re fishing in crystal clear water, be weary that the bright colors can spook the fish.

Hope this article clears any sort of confusion when it comes to fly fishing line.


Here are some more articles we know you’d enjoy!