- Introduction to fly line
- A 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
Introduction to Fly LineOne 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 are 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 is 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 ProductsRIO is a total powerhouse in the sport of fly fishing—and because they put attention solely on line, leader, and tippet (with some flies and accessories) I have to emphasize this company. Their specific focus allows them the ability to excel when it comes to research & development in this area. Companies like Scientific Angler, Cortland, and Orvis also make great products, but when it comes to anything line-related you cannot do better than RIO products—in my eyes.
TapersWhen 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 linesDouble 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 linesWeight 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 a 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 tapersShooting 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 is 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.
Looking for more info on fly line and like to fish for trout? Explore this article “Best Fly line for Trout.”
Fly Line ColorFly lines also come in a variety of colors from bright orange or green to 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 LinesFly 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 linesFloating 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 linesSinking fly lines can be broken into two categories – sink tip lines and full sink lines. Sink tip lines have 5-25 ft of the 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, a 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 allow them to sink.
Sink Rates ExplainedThe 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 a 1-2 inch per second sink rate. Each rate after the intermediate will sink faster and will be represented by a number. The number means 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 weights can be challenging, and result in tangles instead of hooked fish.
Sink Tip vs Full Sink Fly Line
Sink Tip LineSink 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 LineFull sink lines work best when fishing ponds or lakes. When fishing these still waters 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 toward the water’s surface the more you retrieve it. However, with a full sink line, the entire line sinks—leading the fly or streamer to stay deeper and longer during the retrieve.
Rigging with Sinking Fly LineSetting 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 use a strike indicator. For more info on fishing with a sinking line, click here.
A Tip for Tracking Sink RateBecause 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 a type 5 sinking line would put your fly down 50 inches or about 4 ft.
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Best Full Sink and Sink Tip Fly Lines | 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. 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.
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.
- 4/5 wt – 4 IPS
- 6/7 wt – 5 IPS
- 8/9 wt -7 IPS
- 10 wt – 8 IPS
5wt – 10wt
sink rate is optimized for each line weight
5wt – 11wt
7 IPS sink rate
5wt – 8wt
6 IPS sink rate
Best sink tip fly lines (Around $50)There are some really good sink tips on the market. If you can justify $50 or more you can get some QUALITY line.bass and pike streamer fishing. The Frequency Type III comes in a range of sizes from 5wt – 8wt.
Update: Currently this is $59.95 –solid line for the price
5wt – 8wt
3 IPS sink rate
5wt – 9wt
3-4 IPS sink rate
5wt – 8wt
3 IPS sink rate
Best Full sink fly lines (Under $100)
6wt – 12wt
3 different sink rate sections (intermediate, S3, and S5)
- 5-6 – 7 IPS
- 7-8 – 8 IPS
- 9 – 10 IPS
5wt – 9wt
Optimized sink rates based on line weight
4wt – 8wt
Intermediate sink rate (1.5 – 2.5 IPS)
Best Full sink fly lines (Under $50)
5wt – 8wt
Options for Intermediate, 3, 4, 5, and 6 IPS sink rates
Update: This line is currently $69.95
4wt – 9wt
Type 3 or 5 sink rates
4wt – 9wt
Type 3 or 5 sink rates