Dally’s How To: Fly Line Primer


One of those questions we get asked all the time is “what’s the deal with fly lines?” “Why so many?”


Now on with the discussion


Thanks to the Sexyloops website for the diagram.

WF???: If you look at fly lines you will see some marked WF and some marked DT. Double Tapers are the more traditional style of fly line, evenly tapered at each end. They work well, and have the bonus of being able to turn your fly line around to get a longer life. Weight Forward fly lines have a short “head” section which concentrates the weight of the fly line up at the front end and a thin running line to make up the length. A shooting head is a more specialized type of line for distance casting, basically an extreme version of the WF. You will see these styles on a lot of our sinking lines

DT lines have faded out under the onslaught of the WF lines, which work well with modern graphite rods. DT’s still have their place, particularly in delicate presentation or for lots of roll casting. But if you’re starting out, or even an intermediate to expert fly fisher, WF lines are hard to go past, particularly with some of the modern designs, which bring delicate presentation and better roll casting to WF lines.


Starting out, 90% of your trout fishing, you can make one easy decision on a fly line. Buy a floater!

Sitting here in the Journal hot seat, we can spot 13 different types of floating lines for trout on our racks alone from Rio, Airflo and Orvis.

Let’s start with the Workhorse lines from our manufacturers.

Heading our list is the RIO Grand and RIO Gold lines, both of which come in original and InTouch low stretch versions.

The Intouch lines have low stretch cores, which means a more direct connection between fly and hand, which particularly comes into it’s own when fishing by feel: swinging wet flies or small streamers, and they have scored some points from our hopper fishers as well

The RIO Grand taper has been around for many years its a heavier line, which means the rod loads more with less line out of the tip. Hence these are very handy for people starting to learn to cast or for better casters wanting performance in close. Think heavy nymph rigs and indicators in close, including White River nymphing. This line is also a great choice for hopper fishing.

The RIO Gold offers more to the better casters, with a longer head more aerial stability, better roll casting performance and a smoother style in an all around package. This might be our favorite line for high end rods.

The Orvis Hydros HD is similarly a long head floater for modern rods.

Presentation lines:  These fly lines are best suited to the more moderate-actioned graphite rods, fiberglass and perhaps some cane. Line’s like RIO’s Light Line series and the Trout LT suit quieter rods, the Sage Mod series or the Orvis Helios 3 F series rods.

Think small dry flies and nymphs, spring creeks, no wind and picky trout.

Specialty Lines: Fly lines are becoming increasing specialised with tapers and coatings for specific jobs or even species. One example would be RIO’s Smallmouth Bass and Big Nasty Lines. Both are built to do similar jobs, floating lines designed to throw big heavy flies. But the pair are quite different in the details.

The InTouch Big Nasty has a short powerful taper to carry streamers and bass flies, and the low stretch core makes hook sets easier. But the Big Nasty has a coldwater coating for tailwaters and trout country.

The Smallmouth Bass line is built with a warm water coating so it won’t get tacky and hard to cast in the summer heat. It has a powerful front loaded design but the addition of a thicker handling section behind the head allows for mending and a better “handle” on the line at typical stripping and fighting range..


White River streamer fishing has made sinking lines a regular part of high water fishing.

Generally you can split the lines into the heavy shooting heads,  like RIO Outbound Series and the more standard tapers like RIO’s Striper Lines

The Outbound Short is super aggressive, heavy line designed to carry large flies with relative ease. Our favored sink rate here is 6 inches per second, but the slower 3 inch per second hand be handy ion flows under a unit. The Kelly Galloup designed Airflo Shovel Head has similar characteristics but an extra heavy tip to pull down unweighted flies faster.

If the super heavy lines aren’t to your taste try the INtouch RIO Striper Line with its 30′ head and more conventional taper.

And if you are just getting started at the sinking line game RIO’s INtouch 24′ Sink tip or the Airflo StreamerMax Short work really well are training up novices without punishing mistakes.



Keep it clean: So you have finally coughed up the money for a top end fly line, you love the way it casts and shoots. Now the hard part comes, keeping it as good as new. For this bit we thought the advice from our mates at RIO, who actually make fly lines, would provide the best advice on how to take care of your purchase.

 “Most plastic cleaners/polishes contain solvents that attack the fly line’s PVC coating, and can cause it to dry out, resulting in fly line cracking.
Other enemies of fly lines include insect repellents containing DEET, solvents, gasoline, sunscreen, and excessive heat and sunlight.
Recommendations for Cleaning and Dressing…

Most RIO fly lines are self lubricating. However, cleaning is an important aspect of fly line longevity, and we recommend cleaning every day.
In freshwater, microscopic particles of algae will collect dirt and debris. These adhere to the surface of a floating line, adding weight which eventually overcomes the line’s natural buoyancy. This microscopic dirt will also help grind ridges into line guides and destroy line coatings.
In saltwater fly fishing, salt will dry on the line.

When you notice your line not shooting as well, or the tip of a floating line beginning to sink, it is overdue for a good cleaning. Warm water, a few drops of a mild soap without detergent or even a small bar of soap and a rag is sufficient for cleaning a fly line. If this procedure does not result in a clean line, one can use a good brand of micro abrasive fly line cleaning pad to remove stubborn dirt.

The RIO Flyline Cleaning Towelette is a bargain for a buck, to get your line back in great shape. Keep these in your vest, pack or boat bag.