Fly Lines Explained

Fly Lines can be very confusing so here's a guide for those new to fly fishing to help you understand what they are all for


Fly Lines come with weight rating (AFTM) which lets you know the weight of the line. The line weight should be matched to your fly rod's weight.


Fly Lines are made with an inner braided core that gives the line it's strength and has a plastic outer coating. Depending on that outer coating the line will either float or sink.


It's the weight of the line that allows us to cast it. Where the weight is situated is controlled by the line taper; a fine tip section to allow for delicate presentations, a thicker middle section with the weight for casting and a long tail section (running line) helps the line slide through the rod guides and gain distance.



Fly Lines are constantly evolving, with new designs continually becoming available like the latest and greatest from Airflo: The Ridge Line which as the name suggests, features a line with small groves along the length of the line which reduces friction allowing for longer casting. Check out the Ridge line here.


Lines in NZ  tend to come in two tapers, a weight forward taper and a double taper with the weight forward being favoured because of it's ability to cope better in windy conditions.


Fly Line Tapers;

Fly Line tapers

Floating Fly Lines

These are the most common type of line used in NZ and can be used for a wide variety of fly fishing. Particularly suited to sight fishing with nymphs and dry flies.


It's the materials used in the coating of a floating line gives them their buoyancy.

Floating fly lines used in NZ will be of a Weight Forward or a Double Taper design.


Tapers are important as they signify what use the line is best suited for.


A Weight Forward floating fly line (WF) as the name suggests has more weight in the front half of the line hence it casts better in windy conditions, short casts and also will cast longer distances. Some are designed for delicate presentations while others for distance. So the WF lines are used for most general fly fishing situations.


A Double Taper (DT) has the weight in the middle, with a longer fine tip section that allows for delicate presentations. The back half of the line is the same as the front half, so the line can be reversed which doubles the life of the fly line. They are best suited to smaller streams where delicate presentations are required.


For NZ conditions, particularly when sight fishing, line colour is important, dull earth toned lines are best, as bright lines will spook fish. It's no so important on the likes of the Tongariro were the fish don't seem to be bothered so much and the extra visibility of the line can be a help.


Sinking Fly Lines

The coatings on sinking lines have a denser outer coating so that they sink. The speed at which they sink is controlled by the density of the coating so there are slow sinking intermediate lines that sink at 1/2 inch per second down to the fast sinking lines that sink at 7 inch per second or more. Match the sink rate to where you are fishing and what you are trying to achieve.


Sinking Lines are used in combination with nymphs or lures/wet flies where extra depth is needed to sink your flies down to where the fish are. Lakes and medium to larger rivers for example. You can estimate your flies depth fairly accurately by counting; 1 second = depth in inches (of your fly lines sink rate)


An intermediate fly line will sink at a relatively slow rate. Intermediate fly lines are ideal where you want your fly to sink slowly, with the fly line slowly settling into the water column. There's a Slow Intermediate line that sinks at just 0.5 inches per second. This line is use when fishing lakes to take your flies just below the surface, under the surface wake or in shallow water where your line would otherwise be on the bottom. Or use it on rivers when fishing nymphs or wet flies just below the surface when fish are on emerging nymphs. An Intermediate fly line will sink at 1.5 inches per second are used when fishing lakes that have lots of weeds and you want to keep the fly just above the weed. And also has applications when fishing rivers to aid sinking your flies to a medium depth.


A fast sinking fly line will sink quickly at a uniform rate as indicated on it's box. Fast sinking lines will sink from 3 to up to 7 or more inches per second. Which sinking line is best really depends on how you want to use it, how far down you need to get your fly and how quickly you want to get it there. In fast moving water or really deep pools, a fast sink rate will be needed. Otherwise, a slow sinking rate will generally work well and they are easier to pick up and retrieve than the fast sinking lines.


Shooting Head Fly Lines

These lines are designed so that you can change the heads for different situations. The shooting heads come separately to the running line and are connected with a loop to loop connection, the running lines are a fine diameter to reduce friction through the rod guides which with the heavier shooting head allows the line to shoot easily. Therefore they are used for distance casting and the lines we stock are aimed specifically at fishing the likes of the Tongariro where the combination of distance and depth are desirable.


Specialty Fly Lines;

There are a range of these for different situations. eg;


The Streamer Max: An integrated shooting head/running line with fast sinking tip. These have similar applications to the Shooting Head lines where depth and distance is required. Use them when fly fishing for Salmon or for Sea run trout at the river mouths, fly fishing large heavy water rivers like the Tongariro river.


Getting the Best out of your Fly Line

Fly lines do need to be looked after, they pick up grim over time so it's a good idea to give them a clean every now and again in warm water with a mild soap.


They also need to be kept lubricated, there are many line treatments available to achieve this, you'll notice a big difference right away as the line will zoom through the rod guides giving more distance and reducing the effort required.


Out of all your fly fishing tackle the fly line is one of the most important, a good quality line will help your casting so it's good advice to buy the best you can afford, generally with fly lines the price indicates quality.