Is it Time to Switch How We Think About Fly Lines?

In a former life I spent many days working in a fly shop, part of my job there was to provide on the water instructional tutoring to clients of the shop.  During these sessions I always had the clients bring their own equipment (rods, reels, and lines) to use during the time we spent together.

From my experience the biggest detractor from individuals being decent/adequate casters is an improperly lined fly rod.  As fly rods have through the years gotten progressively faster and lean more towards “tip flex”, it takes exceptional casters to understand how this affects their casting stroke, and the process of properly loading the rod.  Casters that are marginal or not as experienced tend to struggle with this.

The question becomes: if it takes a 6wt line to properly load a 5wt rod for an average caster – isn’t that rod really a 6wt with a 5wt label.

I would argue that to solve the whole mystery around selecting a line that properly pairs with a rod, manufactures of both lines and rods ought to explore changing the game and look more towards measuring each by grains – similar to the spey world.  This would eliminate a lot of confusion and allow individuals to get the most out of their equipment.

Essentially each rod would have a target window of grain weight in respect to the line that allows it to achieve optimum performance.   This puts the responsibility squarely on the rod manufacture to understand and communicate the appropriate line weight to the users of the product.  As well, the line manufactures would replace the weight indication on the packaging with a measured grains – similar to what is being done in the spey world as well as with sink tip lines.


5 responses

  1. I agree with what you’re saying, and where you’re going with this, but line weights are already based on a grain window.

    I would argue that one of the most confusing things for beginners going into the spey world is figuring out the ideal grain weight for their rod.

    No matter what type of fly fishing you get into, line weight just don’t match rods, period. At one point, I suspected this was something rod manufacturers did to make their rod seem faster (call a 8wt a 7wt so it would feel like a broom stick with a 7wt), but I don’t think they would stoop that low.


    March 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

  2. Steve Root

    I don’t understand the “tip flex” thing in the first place. OK, it ** might ** give you an extra few feet of distance. But I’ll argue that distance is the most overrated aspect of fly fishing. You might be able to throw a fly 90 feet, but could you hit a target the size of a car way out there? Can you set a hook at that distance? I doubt it. When you “over line” a rod, you’re making it flex deeper into the blank, making it act more like that old fiberglass rod you started with years ago. And guess what, you might find it’s a heck of a lot easier to fish with.


    March 13, 2014 at 9:42 am

    • Dan

      People can and do hit targets smaller than a car from over 90 ft. They can set a hook from that distance too. I can’t because I suck. About a year ago I was targeting bonefish with a guide from Andros (it was Patterson from Yellow Dog travel… sorry he was a solid guide and deserves mention). He picked up my rod while I was stuffing myself with a damp ham sandwich, and launched it 15 feet into the backing into wind. 3 casts within 3 ft of each other 3rd one he hooks a 5 lb bone.

      Distance may be over rated in many applications but flats fishing is not one. I know from experience how disappointing it is to have your guide tell you a massive fish just spooked because he needed to pole closer to get you in range to throw your limp 60 ft cast. A long cast allows you to target more fish and spookier fish (think double digit bonefish or that massive red you dream about or permit). The is one big condition to that: you need to spot the fish from that far and most people cant.


      March 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

  3. TimmP

    Actually, converting to grains would do the opposite – only cause for more confusion. The spey market is an absolute mess – even experienced anglers question which line weight is best for their newest rod. When you have people arguing over a difference of 40 grains on a skagit head (2.6 grams to keep things in perspective), you have an issue.

    Not to mention, the grain information is already available for lines. Simply knowing the AFTMA standard, or at least looking it up, will give you the answers you need.

    The real problem is in both the dealer and the consumer. Dealers want to sell the latest and greatest and consumers fall for it every time. What really needs to happen is dealers need to become more knowledgeable in what they are selling and actually sell the best tool for the job instead of just trying to make a sale. Don’t sell some brook trout, small creek angler an ultra fast rod. Yes, in order to cast those 15 yards needed on your tiny stream will require you to over line the rod by 3 sizes.


    March 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    • I agree with this 100%. We have standards that work very well, we need to follow them. The Spey world is a mess and the more you read the worse it get’s for the consumer. It’s not about fly lines, it’s about the fly rod makers and so many different actions.


      March 14, 2014 at 8:18 am

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