Friday, January 24, 2014

Line Testers - What's Your Fly Line

Here is a question for all you fly fisherman out there; What makes one $80 fly line better than a $12 line?  Sure the brand name adds 20-30% markup but what makes is a better line to cast with?  Why should you spend the extra cash on such expensive line when Gander Mountain or Dicks has the same weight line on sale for $11.99?
    The truth is that unless you are the type of angler that hits the water more than twice a week then you'd probably never know the difference.  The average angler wont be able to tell a $80 line from a $12 one and will catch just as many fish with the cheap line.  I might get a little push back from some of you out there but its the truth.  Sure the expensive brands are more accurately manufactured and the weights are measured to a higher standard, the line picks off the water better, and they stand up to a beating for a longer time but to an angler that hits the water a few times a month in the winter and only slightly more in peak season then they'd never notice the difference.
  On the other hand it is precisely those small differences that make a huge difference for the obsessed anglers out there.  For anglers that have elevated their game a good fly line is indispensable and in the long run it saves them money.  I have had a variety of fly line on my reels over the years - everything from a $9 Academy Sports sale line that lasted half a season to a top end Rio line that served my primary reel for a good number of years.  They both work, they both hook fish and fresh out of the box its hard to tell them apart, but as time takes it toll on the micro surfaces of the line you begin to see the reason people shell out big bucks for top shelf fly lines.  Where a cheap line may last a dedicated angler a single season, the high end lines may last three or more years.

  For the average anglers out there that may only hit the water a dozen or so times a year or the beginning anglers just getting started, there is no need to get those high priced lines.  Get a cheap line and keep it clean and you will do fine until you get the drive to fish like a mad man.  When that happens and you cant stay away from the stream then that's the time to get yourself a good fly line.  It will last longer and resist the abrasion that it is bound to get from having big browns drag the bottom of the river for submerged logs.
    Regardless of the line you get you'd do well to take good care of it.  A well cleaned line picks up off the water better than a dirty one.  During the peak season of fly fishing I clean my lines about every other month - which is not nearly as much as I should and often I find myself stream side wishing In had spent the time to clean the line the night before.

   With all that said I now pose a question to my fellow anglers, What is your favorite fly line and how often do you clean it?


Leigh said...


Great post. Like you, I've bought lines at both ends of the spectrum. I found the performance differences to be minimal and the benefit of cleaning the line is the most important.

Mel said...

Joel, I agree with Leigh. I have spent big money on fly line and I have used some of the lower end priced lines. If you are a guide, or otherwise, on the water daily or close too it, you need quality and durability. Floating lines need frequent cleaning no matter the cost or use will end up being frustrated. Sinking lines for lake fishing or on the ponds are a different story. I have used my lines for years and only clean them at seasons end. Still going strong!

Regular Rod said...

You are right about making sure the line is clean. Pulling the line through a clean wet cloth with nothing but clean water on it makes a lot of difference if you notice the line starting to sink.

You might find a big difference in catch rate though by paying attention to line colour and line design if you spend your time fishing the dry fly for spooky fish in clear waters. I have to admit to being one of those anglers you mention who fish most days in the trout season and are very obsessed with every minor detail to do with being stealthy. This is why I ended up designing and commissioning my own lines, originally for my own use...

No matter all the effort in getting these lines, they would be utterly useless if I let them remain dirty for very long.


Mark Kautz said...

Hey Joel. I don't have any idea what the line is on my rod with floating line, but I clean it every time I come back from an outing. On the other hand, I have a rod with intermediate sinking line that I use in lakes and never clean it. That was what I was told when it was put on the reel. That's my 2 cents worth.

Unknown said...

Glad you all agree that the most important thing for dry fly line is that it is clean. Regardless of the brand a clean line outperforms a dirty one any day.
For the sinking lines, I have actually never used one but I have a box of it just waiting to be spooled up. It stands to reason why you never would want to clean a sinking line - the more grit the better it sinks.
Thanks for the comments guys.