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Flylines and leaders

Fly lines are what are the main distinguishing feature of fly fishing. It is the fly line that can propel the fly to the quarry. Unlike spin fishing where the weight of the lure is what is used to enable a cast to be made, with fly fishing it is the flyline that is the main means through which the fly is able to be cast a considerable distance.

Fly lines must be matched to the rod. A rod is able to cast a certain weight of line. If the line is too light, then the rod will not be able to be flexed enough to load the rod and so the cast cannot be made. If the fly line is too heavy then the rod will "collapse" under the weight of it.

The matching of rods and lines is important to ensure casting success.

Sinking lines

Sinking lines, as the name suggests are those that when cast sink below the surface of the water. The speed at which they sink is important. For a shallow lake where you are fishing a lure slowly, you will need a slow sinking line. On a large swift river a very fast sinking line may be important to get the lure down to the fish.

Where you are fishing a large fast moving river then it is important that the lure gets down to where the fish are as quickly as possible. So a fast sinking line is necessary. The sink rate ranges from 1 inch per second through to 9 inches or even more per second.

Floating lines

Floating lines are ones that stay on the surface and are the lines for when you are fishing a dry fly or a nymph.

Intermediate lines

Sometimes the fish are just below the surface and this is where an intermediate line is useful, especially when fishing a small wet emerger type fly. The intermediate line when rwetrieved does not create a disturbance on the surface in the way a floating line does. It is therefore very useful on clear days and in the evenings. It is also a great line to use on windy days as it is not affected by wind gusts.

Tapers and weight
Weight forward taper Most lines are now weight forward taper (written as WF when purchasing). The forward taper lines have more weight in the line at the end being cast and so can be cast further and are more easily cast into the wind.
Double taper Double taper (DT) lines have a fine tip section and the weight is more evenly ditributed along the body of the line. These lines are genrally used as floating lines and are able to give a more delicate presentation in clear still conditions. They also have the advantage that if one end gets damaged they can be reversed and the other end used so doubling the life of the line.
Shooting head Shooting head lines have the weight in a short section and are attached to a fine running line. They are designed for distance and so most useful when fishing large fast waters such as the Tongaririo River.
Line weights

The most important aspect when choosing a fly line is to match it to the rod. The weight of the line is indicated on most rods and is expressed as an AFTM number form 1 through to 12 or even higher. The lighter the line weight generally means the more delicate the presentation. But on big fish, where distance is important or the wind is a factor, heavier AFTM lines are better.

In New Zealand, for most summer fishing, a rod that has a AFTM 5 - 7 rating with a line to match will cover most conditions.

Leaders, backing and tippet

At the end of the flyline it is necessary to attach some fine line known as a leader. This is to allow the fly to be attached as well as to ensure the fish are not spooked by the heavy flyline. Leaders can be made from monofilament (sometimes called nylon) or flourocarbon (which has the advantage of being virtually invisible in water. For most forms of fishing leaders are 9 feet or longer.

Many leaders are tapered with a thick butt section that attaches to the flyline and then tapers down to a much thinner section where the fly is attached. Tapered leaders allow the transfer of energy from the cast to move smoothly down to the fly.


As most fly lines are only 27 metres long a large fish can easily stip this off the reel in a few seconds. It is therefore necessary to have at least 50 metres of backing (when fishing small streams) to over 200 metres of backing when fishing large waters or where large fish can make long runs.

Backing is usually braid and around 20lb breaking strain.

Flyline care
Taking care of your line

Fly lines are expensive and subject to a lot of elements. Over time they pick up grime and dirt. They need to be regularly cleaned. There are a number of products that are designed to to this and the results will be immediately apparent when casting.

As well, despite claims of the manufacturers, all lines have a "memory". If left tightly coiled on a fly reel for sometime they will become coiled and like a spring. To avoid this it is best to take the line of the reel when not in use and store in large loose coils.







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