The short answer is that beginners will usually find a lighter line easier. We’ve explained learning to cast a fly for beginners and this is easier with a lighter line.
A normal fly fishing line is a relatively thick (as compared to monofilament) line composed of an inner core of Dacron coated with a smooth vinyl plastic. The ‘weight’ of the line is actually an indication of the weight of the first 30 feet of line in grains (a grain is a fourteenth of a gram). Lighter weight lines are used for casting smaller flies and heavier weight lines are used for larger, heavier flies.
Some of the common line types available are as follows.
- A floating line is used to present a fly on or near the waters surface. It is the most commonly used line for trout.
- An intermediate line can be used either as a floating or a sinking line depending on how it is prepared.
- A sinking line is used when you want to present the fly right on the bottom. It is heavy and therefore more difficult to use.
- A sinking tip line is designed so that only the first part of the line is heavy enough to sink. The depth to which the line sinks is determined by how much of the line is weighted. This line is easier to cast than a full sinking line.
A five weight floating line could be used for trout fishing with dry flies on a calm creek where a delicate surface presentation is important, whereas a fourteen weight lead core sinking line might be used for large tarpon feeding under the water.
Fly fishing lines can vary in their overall shape – or ‘taper’. To understand why fly lines are tapered it is necessary to understand how a line is cast, keeping in mind that it is the weight of the line itself – and not the fly – that is cast. When a fly line is cast it takes the shape of a rolling loop. As the line is cast, energy from your arm is transferred through the rod to the line, to roll the loop forward. Sufficient energy is needed to sustain the loop until the line is unrolled.
One way of maintaining enough energy is to decrease the weight of the line by tapering it. Tapered fly lines typically decrease in diameter and weight to the end, giving a smooth transfer of the rod’s energy through the entire length of the line. However there are also double tapered lines. Typically tapered lines are 90 feet long and tapered at both ends; the 70 or so feet in the center are the same diameter, but the last few feet on either end taper down to a smaller diameter. This line can be used twice as long as other lines; once you have worn out the first half, the line can be reversed and used again. It also makes both roll casting and delicate presentations easier.
The beginner’s choice (in most cases)
So long as you plan to start fly fishing for trout in streams, rivers or lakes, using all types of flies, your first line should probably be a six weight floating line.
with thanks to Judy Lehmberg