What's the best fly line? Illustrated Pros and Cons Guide

Updated: Mar 23

What’s the best fly line? With so many lines on the market, it can be tough to determine which one's the best. The reality is, it depends on what type of fly fishing situation you're in. We've create this guide to help you select the fly line that best fits your situation so you don't have to break the bank using trial and error.

In this article we’ll cover:

Different fly lines for different situations

Each make and model of fly line has differences in the mass, length, and taper for each of its sections. These specific differences determine how the fly line will perform, and which fly fishing situations the line is best suited for.

Click here to see our article about understanding fly line tapers

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Best All purpose fly line

RIO Gold:

An all purpose fly line works especially well for newer anglers or anyone who fishes in several different situations. Our top pick is the Rio Gold. It has a well balanced design that almost appears "symmetrical". There're no dramatic taper changes or exceedingly long or short sections that would prevent someone from being able to use it effectively in the vast majority of fly fishing situations.

Rio has added in their proprietary “slickness technology” that we’ve noticed reduces “gunk” building up on the line. Less gunk equals less friction. This translates to smoother line shooting, better floatation, and less drag on the water.

rio gold fly line taper design diagram
Rio Gold Fly Line

Pro: It's this uniform design that allows for predictable energy transfer throughout the line and makes it a great choice for all purpose fly fishing. This predictable energy transfer makes it a great choice for someone using/learning the basic fly fishing casts.

Con: With this being a "generically" tapered fly line, it doesn't shine above others that have been customized for specific situations.

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Best Fly Line for Short Casts

SA Amplitude Creek Trout

SA Amplitude Creek Trout Fly Line

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Creek Trout is our first choice for short casts because of its short front taper and a shorter/heavier belly and rear taper section.

This line is designed a full line size heavier for quick loading. Example: if you’re using the line on a 4 w rod, the line will weigh the equivalent of a typical 5 wt line. This does NOT mean you should deviate from using the line with the same weight as your rod. If you’re using a 4 wt rod, it would be best to use the fly line designated as 4 wt.

As part of their "Smooth" line series, SA states that this translates to 5 times less drag and 8 times more durability than traditional fly lines. I don't know about those extremes, but I can definitively say that it creates less drag than many other fly lines on the market.

Pro: The short belly and heavier rear taper create more mass and weight in the front of the line (first 25 feet), which helps create and maintain significant energy on the forward cast and allows for the line to load and shoot at short distances.

Con: The energy created by the heavier belly and rear taper dissipates somewhat with the shorter front taper, but if the forward cast is overpowered, there's often too much energy transferred to the leader and fly. This causes the line and leader to "crash" on the water instead of landing with a delicate presentation.

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Best Fly Line for Delicate Presentations

RIO Trout LT

rio trout fly lt fly line taper diagram
RIO Trout LT Fly Line

Rio Trout LT takes the top spot for delicate presentations because of its long, smooth, gradually decreasing taper throughout its entire head section (first 47 feet).

Its long taper also reduces surface tension when it's on the water. This makes picking up, mending, and feeding line much easier, as well as reduces the amount of disturbance that often puts fish down.

Pro: The taper design allows for a smooth dissipation of energy throughout the forward cast. By the time the line's rolled out, very little energy is left. This allows the line and leader to land softly on the water's surface.

Con: Due to the limited weight and mass at the front of the line, it's difficult to create enough energy to make an effective cast at shorter ranges (less than 20 feet).

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Best Fly Line for Bamboo Rods

Cortland Classic 444 Peach

Our highest rated fly line for bamboo rods is the Cortland Classic 444 Peach. With its long heavy body and front taper, this fly line allows for the "slow" loading that goes hand in hand with a bamboo fly rod.

I can't even describe how it felt the first time I cast my bamboo rod with the Cortland 444 peach. I'd been using a line with a "generic" taper, but was finding I had to put a lot of power into my back and forward cast.

With the taper of the 444, I could make effortless slow back casts with enough power to basically just "release" it on the forward cast without having to make an over exaggerated power stroke. Being able to "release" it on the forward cast allowed the line and leader to gently unroll so it could land softly on the water instead of crashing into it.

Pro: The long belly provides plenty of mass to make a slow back cast without the fly falling in the water behind the angler. The longer tip section allows much of the energy created to dissipate before it reaches the leader, allowing for a more delicate presentation.

Con: Although this line appears to have most of its weight toward its front section, at shorter ranges (15-20 feet) , much of the mass is still on the reel, making it hard to effectively load and cast at less than 20 feet.

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Best Fly Line for Windy Conditions

SA Mastery Infinity

We rate the Scientific Anglers Mastery Infinity as the best fly line for windy conditions. It has a long increasing taper from the running line all the way to its shorter front taper (45 feet).

When using the SA Master Infinity, it's very hard to slow the line down enough on the forward cast to get the fly to land softly on the water. One way to help with a delicate presentation is to use the George Harvey leader formula and casting technique.

Pro: With the majority of this line's mass and weight in the front end of its belly, it increases speed and power throughout the forward cast until it hits the front taper. This speed and power allow for enough energy to punch through the wind without sacrificing casting accuracy.

Con: The energy created by the increasing taper design has little time to dissipate as it reaches the short front taper. This makes it extremely difficult to deliver a delicate presentation.

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