Most Viewed Stories
On the fly: Choosing the right fly line for beginners
One of the more confusing aspects for newcomers to fly-fishing is learning the different fly lines and their purposes.
A cautionary note to beginners: Don’t let this intimidate you and keep you from getting into our sport. Understanding the functions of various fly lines is easier than it seems, and once you have a basic knowledge of the different lines you will start to see how fly-fishing can become an important weapon in your arsenal.
A fly-fisher’s line includes several components. The first is a 20-pound braided line similar to what bass fishermen use. It’s called backing and serves as a backup in case you hook a big fish that starts ripping line off your reel. Why is this important? Because fly lines are short — usually around 100 feet — and that doesn’t give you a lot of room to play trophy fish without having a backup.
After the backing comes your fly line. The first question I ask new anglers is, “What loads the rod when you’re casting with a traditional spinning outfit?” About 40 percent answer the question correctly. The weight of the lure or whatever weight you add to your line, such as a lead splitshot, is what loads the rod and allows you to cast your offering to the fish.
Well, flies are wind-resistant and relatively weightless, meaning they require additional weight to carry them to the fish. This is why fly lines are essential. Fly lines have the weight that loads the rod, allowing you to cast the distance to present your fly.
Some fly lines float, some are designed to sink at the tip and some sink completely, but they all are designed to have enough weight to cast your flies. They come in different weights because some fly patterns are larger and more wind-resistant, meaning they need more weight to cast properly.
When you’re bass fishing, you might use Bass Poppers. Most Poppers are big and made of cork, rubber legs and feathers, so you would need a heavier line such as an eight weight to cast them. Most of the trout fishing in Colorado can be done with a five-weight rod, which is the standard.
Always remember that, to cast properly, the line weight should match the designation on the rod. A seven-weight line would be too heavy to cast with a five-weight rod. If you own a five-weight rod, you should be looking to match it with a five-weight line. Most fly rods have the appropriate line weight written just above the handle.
Fly lines also come in different tapers, but all you need to know to get started is “weight forward.” This is designated on fly-line boxes with “WF” after the line weight. Weight-forward fly lines are easier to cast, making them ideal for beginners. So if you’re just getting started or need to replace an old, beat-up line for your five-weight rod, remember that you want to purchase a five-weight, weight-forward floating fly line — or 5 WT WF floating line.
For questions concerning line selection, stop by any specialty fly shop and someone gladly will help you pick the appropriate line for your rod.
Kleis is a Colorado Springs native and professional fly-fishing guide for Anglers Covey Fly Shop. To schedule your fly-fishing adventure, email Jon at