Like many of you I hate buying fly line. The stuff is expensive and I never know if I'm going to like it until after I cracked the seal and flipped it on the water. Most times I let price dictate whether I buy line, but on occasion I'll splurge and get the good stuff. I'd like to discuss what I think makes up a good fly line and detail a few of my favorites. If you are a smallmouth guy I think you'll like the same types of line I do.
Before we get too far in this post I want to let you know what I expect from a fly line. My expectations may be different than yours, so it's good to get this out in the open. As I mentioned above, I expect line to be affordable. Affordable to you may be different than affordable to me. I expect to pay under $75 for a spool of line. Now I want to be clear when I say $75....that is my absolute high. The closer I get to $75 the crabbier I get. I have spent $70 before and to be honest it was the best money I have ever spent.
I expect to be able to cast flies in the wind with a quality line. Nothing worse than having wimpy fly line. I had a spool of Cabela's Prestige line that was an absolute turd. I think I paid $25 for it - a total waste of time and money. The line was limp and could hardly turn over a tiny trout fly. The wind pushed it everywhere. So for that reason I don't buy Cabela's Prestige line.
If I pay boku bucks for line and I take care of it (keep it clean) I expect it to last a 3+ years. So far the higher end lines have been incredible and many have lasted over 5 years.
The key here is to keep the line clean and conditioned. If you do that it has been my experience that high end lines will meet and/or exceed your expectations.
Line Weights and Fly Rods
One thing I learned right away is that every rod has a favorite line weight and taper. I have a rod that is only happy with WF Rio Clouser line. I don't think this phenomenon is uncommon, especially if you use vintage gear. Sometimes you need to poke around and find the line that bet matches your rod. Sometimes a double taper works better than weight forward...
My local fly shop recommend that you match the line weight with the line weight listed on the rod. Makes sense doesn't it? I have a 6 weight rod...I'll buy 6 weight line....well not necessarily. Many people I fish with (including myself) over-line our rods. Over-lining means you pair up a heavier line than is listed on the rod. For example, you match a 7 weight line to a 6 weight rod.
Why over-line? Well many times it helps you cut the wind and cast better. Trout guys will recommend you take 6 months of casting lessons before over-lining, but if a slighltly heavier line makes me cast better....bring it on. Here is what Tim Holschlag has to say about over-lining:
"Another common mistake is not using the right weight line for smallmouth bass fishing. A fly rod's line weight rating is suited to the shorter casts and delicate presentations used in traditional (trout) fishing, but this line weight does not properly load the rod to drive out a heavy fly. So many smallmouth bass fishers end up struggling with an underloaded rod. The correct line weight for smallmouth bass fishing is at least one weight up (9-weight line for an 8-wt rod), or even 2 weights up (8-weight on a 6-wt) for a beginner."Cut to the Chase Already
I have 3 lines that serve me very well. All three are weight forward, floating lines - one with shooting heads. There certainly are others lines out there, but I have found these to be my go-to products for river smallmouth fishing.
Rio Coldwater Clouser
|Rio Clouser Fly Line|
The first high quality line I purchased was the now famous Rio Clouser fly line. Rio teamed up with Bob Clouser to formulate a line that man-handles weight forward flies. The bullet taper of this line cuts the wind like a knife. This line lives on a Pflueger Medalist 1495 reel that is pared with a vintage Fenwick FF85. The 8wt version works wonderfully with my setup.
Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance
|Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance Fly Line|
This line was a real surprise for me because I thought it was too good to be true. A line can really help me cast farther,,,uh huh....right? I gave this line a whirl and was very pleased. Even a hack like me can cast with this line. The head portion of the line is 35' long with a low diameter running line. Don't take my word for it, watch the clip below - seeing is believing.
Airflo knocked it out of the park with this line. I use this line of my Lamson Konic/Ross FlyStick setup. One of my favorite lines yet!
Airflo Supple EX
|Airflo Supple EX|
This is my bargain line of choice. I picked this up at Cabela's for $30 - this is an outstanding deal! The line itself is excellent, but what makes this line special is it comes with two shooting heads. The poly-leaders give you options on the water. All loop-to-loop connections allow you to adapt to water conditions. If you want a sink tip, just loop on the leader and shoot away! Here is the blurb from the Cabela's website:
This line lives on my Bronson Royalist reel and Fenwick F806 combo. This line is a great value - really good stuff."Made of a PVC-free polyurethane, this advanced taper line performs over a wide range of fishing conditions. It has low stretch properties that enhance pickup and hooksets. Factory-welded loop on front end for quick loop-to-loop connections. Resistant to DEET and other chemicals. Dry PTFE coating doesn’t leech harmful chemicals and ensures long-lasting line slickness. Includes two free 5-ft. Airflo poly leaders (a slow sink and a fast sink) for additional versatility, a $16.98 value."
|Rio Smallmouth Fly Line|
This is my newest fly line. At the top end of my price range ($75) this line appears to be more than a marketing gimmick. I have only spent a few days with this line on my Dream Rig, it has been nothing but a dream. As the name suggests this line was designed specifically for smallmouth bass fishing. From poppers to clousers this line flipped everything with ease.
The Rio Smallmouth line completed my dream rig. It just seems fitting that I used smallmouth line on my ultimate smallmouth stick. Any of the lines in this post would have worked perfectly!