Updated on November 17, 2020
This is a complete guide to sinking fly line in 2020.
In this new guide you’ll learn:
- Introduction to fly line
- Quick note about RIO Products
- Info on tapers
- Floating vs sinking fly line
- What is sink rate?
- Why choose sinking line?
- Sink tip vs full sink fly line
- Best sink tip fly lines, reviewed
- Best full sink fly lines, reviewed
Let’s get started.
Introduction to Fly Line
One of the main characteristics that separate fly fishing from other forms of fishing is the fly line.
Fly fishing line is a heavy line that uses its weight to propel the flies. Fly line is usually 80 to 100 feet long and comes in a variety of colors. Fly lines are measured based on their grain and typically marked by numbers ranging from 1 to 12.
The weight of a line will match up with the same weight as the reel and rod. You will generally use a lower line weight when fishing for smaller fish and using smaller flies.
Line weights serve different functions—described below.
- 1-3 are normally used for lighter flies and more precise placement.
- 4-7 are medium-weight lines, and the most common “all-around” weight and line for fishing trout.
- 8 and above are used for casting large flies or targeting bigger fish such as salmon, bass, and northern pike.
A Quick note on RIO Products
When it comes to fly fishing you’re going to hear the word tapers when describing the fly line. Tapers are changes in a line’s thickness, and fly fishing lines come in a variety of tapers.
Each kind of taper functions differently to change how a cast is performed or to change the presentation of a fly.
Double taper lines
Double taper lines have equal tapers on each end of the line with a long midsection between the two ends. This type of line is helpful in making short and medium casts or when euro-nymphing. Additionally, double taper lines are reversible—therefore, if one end of the line becomes worn it can be flipped around.
Double taper lines are the best for beginners as they allow for easy loading of the line and accurate fly placement.
Weight forward lines
Weight forward lines are another common type of line taper. Weight forward lines are thicker and heavier in the first 30 ft—followed by a long thin midsection called running line.
Weight forward lines are a great line for many common trout waters, and can cast further distances than double tapers. One downside to weight forward lines is they lack accuracy.
Shooting tapers; oftentimes called shooting heads are short but heavy tips that attach to monofilament or a basic running line. The head is designed to have enough weight and small enough to pull the running line through the guides on its way to your target.
The shooting taper allows the angler to cast very far distances—but with unfortunately little precision. Shooting tapers are usually unnecessary for the typical trout fly fisherman but certain situations will utilize this style of line.
Fly Line Color
Fly lines also come in a variety of colors from bright orange or green to a dull brown. Most of the time brighter colors are used as they are easier to see on the water. Because of this many believe the bright colored line spook the fish, and prefer to use a darker—muted color. Others feel that any color line will cast a shadow potentially spooking fish.
Either way, the line color is up to the angler—and frankly, I’ve never noticed a difference in my fishing based on the line color.
Floating vs Sinking Fly Lines
Fly lines may seem pretty similar to the novice but can actually be very unique. Apart from different types of tapers and styles, lines can come in either a sinking line or a floating line.
Floating lines are lighter lines that float above the water surface to present dry flies without pulling your bug underwater. Furthermore, a floating line allows the caster to easily pick up the line to mend or recast.
A floating line is the most common type of line for the basic trout angler. Alternatively, sinking line is often used depending on the type of fishing you’re doing, and the water you’re on.
Sinking fly lines
Sinking fly lines can be broken into two categories – sink tip lines, and full sink lines. Sink tip lines have 5-25 ft of heavy line at the end, followed by a floating midsection. With full sinking lines, the entire line sinks. This can make casting challenging as most of the line needs to be retrieved prior to the cast.
Another difficulty with full sink lines is their inability to mend. This can often lead to an unnatural drift when fishing nymphs or streamers.
These lines have the same grain weights as floating fly lines, but there are major differences in density between the two types of lines. Density, not line weight determines a line’s sink rate. To explain this further, floating fly line has small air pockets in the coating to keep it more buoyant. Alternatively, sinking lines have lead or tungsten mixed into the coating to fill the air pockets and allows them to sink.
Sink Rates Explained
The density determines how fast the line will sink at a rate of inches per second (ips). The slowest rate is denoted as intermediate, which correlates to 1-2 inches per second sink rate.
Each rate after intermediate will sink faster and will be represented by a number. The number meaning roughly the inches per second it sinks at. For example, a type 4 will sink at 4 inches per second—while a denser type 6 will sink at a rate of about 6 inches per second.
Why Choose Sinking Line?
There are a couple of different reasons why an angler would fish with either a sink tip or full sink fly line. The majority of a trout’s diet is subsurface; primarily on the bottom of the river bed.
Most of the time an angler can get away with longer leaders and extra weight in the form of split shot(s). Although this method is useful, casting with heavy split shots or other weight can be challenging, and result in tangles instead of hooked fish.
Sink Tip vs Full Sink Fly Line
Sink Tip Line
Sink tip line is ideal for fishing nymphs in deeper pools or shallow lakes. The sink tip will get your bugs on the bottom in those fast-moving currents. They are useful when casting into shore on a lake or through weed beds. Sink tips also work well when fishing streamers through deep pools or lakes.
Full Sink Line
Full sink lines work best when fishing ponds or lakes. When fishing these stillwaters a full sink line will allow the fly or streamer to stay in the feeding zone longer even during the retrieve. When you retrieve your fly with a floating line, the fly will automatically move towards the water surface the more you retrieve. However, with full sink line the entire line sinks—leading the fly or streamer to stay deeper and longer during the retrieve.
Rigging with Sinking Fly Line
Setting up your rod with a sinking line is generally similar to your normal rig with a few differences. Most of the time you will use a shorter and heavier leader. Longer leaders may not sink at the same rate as the sinking line, resulting in a noticeable bend in the leader and an unnatural drift for the fly.
With a sinking line, it is unnecessary to add extra weight in the form of split shot(s) or using a strike indicator. For more info on fishing with a sinking line, click here.
A Tip for Tracking Sink Rate
Because sinking lines sink based on inches per second (ips) it is easy to track where your bug or streamer is in the water column.
Once you cast out, simply count the seconds until you reach the appropriate depth. For example, an angler would count to 3 to get their type 5 line down 15 inches. Furthermore, a count of 10 while using type 5 sinking line would put your fly down 50 inches or about 4 ft.
Best Full Sink and Sink Tip Fly Lines | 2020 Review | (sorted by Price)
Now that we have given an overview of sinking fly lines, let’s look at the best lines on the market in 2020.
We have created 4 categories for our review
- Best sink tip fly lines for under $100
- Best sink tip fly lines for under $50
- Best full sink fly lines for under $100
- Best full sink fly lines for under $50
At the time of writing this these pricing categories are correct. However, companies change their pricing fairly frequently. The benchmarks above are to give you an idea of pricing and budget. It is possible that one of our products mentioned below moves above the $50 or $100 price point.
1) Best sink tip fly lines (Under $100)
There are some really good sink tips on the market. If you can justify $50 or more you can get some QUALITY line.
Some say that Rio’s InTouch fly line is the best sink tip fly line on the market today. It features 15 ft of weight forward line.
It has a sink rate of approximately 3 – 4 inches per second; making a great line for streamer fishing through fast trout waters or casting for bass along shallow lake shores.
Orvis Hydros is great quality and similar in price to many other fly lines. This line has 15 ft of sinking tip followed by 75 more ft of floating running line.
The tip will sink at about 5-6 inches per second. The line is also easy to mend and make roll casts. This line comes in a 5 weight but Orvis makes other size lines from 4 up to 8.
Cortland has created a line to rival Rio and Scientific Anglers. Their streamer series line has a 10 ft sink tip that sinks about 6 inches per second.
This line is intended for streamer fishing but also makes a great line for nymphing or swinging flies for steelhead or salmon. The overall length of the line is 100 ft.
2) Best sink tip fly lines (Under $50)
There are some really good sink tips on the market. If you can justify $50 or more you can get some QUALITY line.
Scientific Anglers frequency sink tip fly line is a great line at a modest price. This line features 10 ft of a type 3 sink tip. The first 10 ft of line will sink at a rate of approximately 3 inches per second, while the rest of the line will float.
We chose a weight forward 5 weight line as it is a very universal sinking line for most streamer fishing.
Bozeman FlyWorks has created an affordable yet durable sink tip fly line. This line comes with approximately 5 ft of sink tip that sinks at a rate of 3-4 inches per second. This is a shorter sink tip than most other lines on the market and works well for fishing shallower, but faster moving water.
The line also comes in weights ranging from 5 up to 9. Additionally, all lines come in a small fly box; an angler can never have too many fly boxes.
Sunshine Fishing offers a very affordably priced line that sinks and casts well. This line comes in a 5 or 7 weight, with an 11-foot tip that sinks 3-4 inches per second.
The line also features a black sink tip camouflaging the line under water and near the fly. The remaining 89 feet is an easy to see orange.
3) Best Full sink fly lines (Under $100)
Here is another great line from Scientific Anglers. Their Sonar Titan series of line features some awesome technologies. It has 3 distinct sections of line density and therefore different sink rates.
The first 35 ft and connection to the leader is sink type 7, followed by 20 ft of type 5—and lastly roughly 50 ft of type 3 line. This line also features a unique line texture which keeps the line slick and moves through the guides very easily.
Rio has created a fantastic straightforward sinking line ideal for lakes. The sub-surface Deep 5 is a full sinking line that sinks at a rate of approximately 5 inches per second.
Another cool feature of this line is it has a “hang marker ” 13 ft from the end of the line. This allows you to know when to let the line pause and hang. This line has a 30 ft weight forward section at the end—followed by 70 ft of running line. Rio sells this line in 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 weights.
This is another awesome line from RIO. The Camolux is an intermediate sinking line, which sinks at a rate of 1–2 inches per second. Because of the slower sink rate you can fish shallow—but fast moving water with confidence your flies will be on the bottom. This is also a great line for lake fishing in waters between 2-6 ft deep.
The line is uniquely camo colored and comes in 5, 6, 7, and 8 weights.
4) Best Full sink fly lines (Under $50)
This is a great line for someone wanting to try out a sinking line but are on a budget. Scientific Anglers’ Wetcel line is nothing fancy but does what it should; cast well and sink. The line is weighted in the first 40 feet followed by 40 ft of running line. It is offered in several different sink rates at intermediate (1.25 inches per second), 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 ips sink rates.
Sunshine fishing is a fairly new fly fishing company but has been gaining a strong reputation over the last couple of years. They offer a full sink line with a sink rate of 5 inches per second.
The line is black to blend in better with murky or deep water. This line is slightly thinner in diameter than some of the other more well known fly lines, which results in easier casting and better accuracy. It’s also one of the most affordable lines out there—perfect for anyone wanting to test out a sinking line.
This is an incredibly affordable fly line made by Wild Water. It is a weight forward full sink fly line that sinks at a rate of 4-5 inches per second. The line comes in a variety of weights ranging from 3 all the way up to 9. There is nothing over the top about this line; just a nice and simple sinking fly line.
If you enjoyed this review please consider leaving a comment below and sharing it with the buttons on the left. If you are new to fly fishing you might find our beginner’s resources of value.
If you want to learn more about fly line in general—you might find this article helpful.