5 Top Best Floating Fly Lines in 2021 (Tested and Reviewed)


With regards to versatility, one of the best all-around pieces of fishing gear you can buy is a floating line.

You’ll have the ability to fish pretty much any style, and the best thing? It’s seriously exciting when you see a fish steaming in to attack your fly.

I will help you choose the best floating fly line so that you’ll get the best out of your sport.

I’ve had a look at a few great options and will run through some top tips to help you pick.

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Best Floating Fly-Fishing Lines – Need to Know

Let me quickly run through a few pointers about some of the best floating fly lines.

fly reel with orange fishing line

Color

Unlike with sinking fly lines, color isn’t too important. It boils down to personal preference. I like easy-to-see colors.

Line Weighting

This all depends on where you fish and what you are fishing for. A #5wt line is a great middle-ground for most types of fly fishing.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb.

The bigger the water, the thicker the line.

Breaking Strain

Here’s one area that you don’t need to think about. Fly line is pretty thick and will easily handle most fish into double figures.

Leader Attachments

Time spent tying knots is missed fishing time. Look for fly lines with pre-attached leader loops. Aside from saving time, they make for a better fly presentation.

Taper

Taper is a biggie. Your best bet is to go for a weight-forward line in most cases (unless you are fishing tiny nymphs on small streams).

Here’s how you tell…

It will say “WF” on the fly line!

Top 5 Best Floating Fly Lines in 2021

Scientific Anglers Air Cel Floating Lines

Scientific anglers are rapidly becoming one of the best fly fishing brands out there. They aren’t quite as big as Orvis, but they don’t tend to charge the same premium sums either (however, as you will see, there is an exception to every rule).

Here’s the deal.

I really like the look of this fly line.

First off, it is very reasonably priced.

But it isn’t all about the money… It performs really well too. The air cel coating is really slick, giving you a great feel and casting distance. Throw in a decent weight-forward taper, and you’ve got one of the best floating fly lines for trout fishing on the market.

This is a great all-rounder and would be perfect for most fishing styles, from nymphing and medium dries all the way through to the odd streamer when the fish aren’t up and about.

Pros

  • Really great value.
  • Easy to see bright yellow color.
  • Easy to cast.

Cons

  • The line may feel a little on the light side for some.

Takeaway

Nothing fancy, just a fly line that works. It floats, has a decent taper, and is relatively easy to cast. For the money, what more could you want?

RIO Products Mainstream Trout Fly Line

Rio is the leader of the pack when it comes to making high-quality fishing lines. When talking about value for money, they also seem to be leading the way. You can pick one of these premium branded lines up for around the same price as some budget offerings.

Here is why they are great.

First off, the coating on the line is super slick. You only have to try a cheap fly line to be able to tell the difference.

One area where Rio fly lines stand out is the memory. Or should I say the lack of it? Straight, kink-free lines cast and sit much better than their cheaper counterparts. You’ll be hard-pressed to find something nearly the same quality for this price.

The tapered head is slightly thicker and shorter than standard. This gives improved casting characteristics.

And then there are the looks.

The line is a kind of green chartreuse color, so if you aren’t looking for anything too outlandish or bright, it could be ideal.

Pros

  • A premium branded product without the price tag.
  • Excellent performance in casting.
  • Pretty much memory free.

Cons

  • Either this is cheap, or their other lines are overpriced… I don’t know which!

Takeaway

Normally when you say “Rio fly line” to most anglers, they will grimace and put their hand on their wallet. However, I can’t get over how good a deal this is.

If you aren’t sure about Rio’s premium fly lines, give this a go and decide whether you see an improvement (hint: you will).

Cortland 444 Floating Fly Line

Now here is a little bit of a blast from the past. Cortland used to be the fly line specialist when I was learning to fly fish.

Then…

Orvis and Rio came and knocked them off their perch. Some anglers still swear that Cortland’s 444 series of lines are the only way to go… I want to agree.

If you are looking for one of the best fly lines of all time, then you are in the right place. This isn’t premium as such, but it performs like it.

I love the Cortland line because it feels a lot softer than many modern lines. It is seriously supple and bendy.

And here’s the thing.

It offers pretty much everything that you want in a floating fly fishing line. It sits really high in the water, casts like a dream, and is pretty tough stuff too!

This line comes in #5wt, with weight-forward taper, making it pretty much ideal for an all-purpose fly fishing rod.

Pros

  • An old classic and still a trusted favorite.
  • I love the peach color, its easy to see in low light.
  • Slippy coating for ease of casting.

Cons

  • A small part of me wonders why they still aren’t leading the game if they were the best?
  • It doesn’t come with a leader loop.

Takeaway

The saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’… Cortland seems to have followed this mantra. This is a no-nonsense, mid-priced line that performs exceptionally well. Cortland has got form and practice. You can trust this one.

Orvis Hydros Trout Fly Line

From the second I saw the cool packaging, I knew that this would be something just a little bit special.

Orvis has gone slightly different from their contemporaries and has made the weight forward taper much more gradual.

Why?

This helps pick the line up off the water when casting and gives you more stable loops in the forward cast.

Sounds fancy.

The line has a sort of dry feel to it. Orvis calls this AST slickness which apparently repels water and dirt, keeping your fly line fresh for longer.

Here’s something great.

The line is two-tone in color. This acts as a visual indicator as to when you’ve got enough line in to start a new cast and allows you to judge casting distance more accurately.

And as a final neat feature…

The Orvis Hydros fly line features two welded loops. One attaches to your backing, the other to your leader. It’s easy to set up and wind on, saving a lot of time and effort.

Pros

  • This is one of the best feeling lines on my list.
  • It casts well and feels really smooth on the rod.
  • I love the two-tone color.

Cons

  • The price is pretty high.

Takeaway

Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth that much more? Maybe. I can feel the difference, but this one might be wasted on a beginner.

For those who are serious about their fly fishing, this is one that you’ll want to keep.

Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity Fly Line

Remember a little while back, I said that scientific anglers don’t charge huge amounts for fishing gear…

I guess I was wrong.

This line is pretty… Pretty expensive!

But is it worth the cost?

Well, I think, yes, it definitely is. Here’s why.

As with the Orvis line, this too features AST patented slick technology to keep the line fresh and dry (sounds like Huggies diapers). Scientific anglers claim that this is the perfect single line for all fly fishing.

Meaning?

That, using this one line, you’ll be able to throw out a huge streamer with it, but also be able to delicately present tiny dry flies – a bold claim. But one that is likely accurate. This line casts like a dream.

One cool feature is that the tip section has been made really buoyant. As a result, your flies will sit high and proud, exactly what you want in a floating line.

And here’s something even more interesting. Scientific anglers have made each line slightly heavier than is traditional. So a #4wt line is actually more like a #4.5wt. This gives increased casting distance, better line turnover and really allows you to load up your rod.

Pros

  • The best casting fly line out there.
  • Non-stick AST coating.
  • Suitable for all styles of fly.

Cons

  • Again, just the price. Apart from that, it is pretty perfect.

Takeaway

This line is proof that sometimes spending a few dollars more gets you the best. I can’t really fault it, and it is evident that a lot of thought has gone into this line. Ok, so it might hurt your wallet, but you’ll be using it for years to come.

Complete Guide to Floating Fly Lines

Ok, you’ve seen a fair range of fly fishing lines there.

(did I tell you I’ve got more? Specifically for Bass fishing?)

It can be hard to know which to choose, so I’m going to give you some pointers. Here’s everything you need to know about floating fly fishing lines.

fly fishing rod with a reel and orange fly line

What Does Weight Forward Fly Line Mean?

This refers to the taper of the line.

You know what a taper is, right?

Unlike conventional fishing lines, fly line is slightly different. This is because aside from the fly, there is no weight whatsoever to propel the fly on the cast. The answer is to use a line that has weight placed in strategic points…

Otherwise known as… A taper.

You’ll find with the vast majority of lines that the weight will be focussed towards the top or ‘front’ of the line. This is the end that is nearest the fly. The head of the line is thicker. The body thinner. It gradually tapers down, and with good fly lines, you’ll actually struggle to see it.

The name for this kind of tape is called weight forward. Here are some of the advantages:

  • It’s easier to cast.
  • It is easier to pick up off the water.
  • It is good for a wider range of flies.

A weight forward line is the perfect choice for beginners for all of the above reasons.

close-up fly fishing rod and reel with fly box in background

What Color Fly Line is Best?

Colour boils down to a few things.

And yes…

This does include personal preference. No pink lines in my fishing man-bag, thanks! (Alright, there might be one… it’s sooo pretty).

If you fish in low-light conditions or are a fan of fishing sub surface nymphs, you will want to see the line. It is one of the first indications that you have got a bite. If this sounds like you, pick something bold and bright.

Oh…

And don’t worry about putting the fish off. They really don’t seem to mind (I’ve had trout ‘pecking’ at my line on the surface).

While talking about color, you’ll find that several of the lines above feature a two-tone color. This is a great feature. Once the line changes color in your hand, it’s time to start a new cast, and you should get optimum distance with minimum false casts.

What’s a false cast?

Watch this.

What Size Fly Line Do I Need?

Ok, I need to make something clear. There is only one thing that dictates which size fly line you need.

Your rod.

The number printed on the side of your fly fishing rod is the weight of the fly line you’ll need to cast successfully.

If you are choosing an entire setup, then this is where the decisions have to be made. Here’s a really quick and easy rundown of what each weight of the line is suited to:

  • #1-3wt fly line: This fly line is best suited to small streams and still waters. You’ll be casting small flies and catching fish smaller than a few pounds.
  • #4-7wt fly line: This is your best choice for a range of fishing, the optimum being #5wt. This will allow you to fish in small ponds and streams but also allow you to ‘punch above your weight’ on bigger waters and with bigger fish.
  • #8-12wt fly line: This is heavy-duty stuff, designed for big, hard-fighting fish, such as salmon. It also makes the ideal weight of line to be used in saltwater. The rods that these lines are paired with tend to be quite large.

Floating Line Price

I’ll be honest.

You will get a better fly line if you spend a few more dollars.

But, and it’s a big but…

How much better is a matter of hot debate. You will see diminishing returns the higher you go up in price.

A good fly line can cost anywhere between $20 to $80 and beyond… While I’m not a massive advocate of blowing hundreds on fishing line, I think if you get one good one at the outset, you won’t need to think about it ever again.

man holding fly fishing rod and fishing in river

FAQs

Here are a few things I am commonly asked when discussing fly lines.

When should I replace floating fly line?

It pays to regularly inspect your fishing line. Cold water and ground contact makes for a bad mix, and it is easy to put a crack or nick in your line by accident.

At best, it will lessen your presentation and casting distance. At worst, it might cause you to lose the fish of a lifetime!

If your line shows any signs of damage, it might be worth considering an upgrade.

Are expensive fly lines worth it?

As I said above, expensive fly lines are better… But the relationship between cost and performance isn’t linear.

Here’s what I mean.

The difference between a $10 line and a $60 line will be huge. They aren’t even the same thing! But the difference between the $60 and $100 line is less obvious.

Your best bet, in reality, is to get the best you can afford. You’ll get nicer casts, less memory, and hopefully catch more fish.

How do I know if my fly line is floating or sinking?

Look in the water! Is it on top or below?

Nah, I’m just kidding.

Check the box. Any line with an “F” at the end is a floating line. Anything with an “S” on the end is a sinker.

Summary

There’s certainly more to fly line than meets the eye. It’s all a little technical. Hopefully, my guide has given you a much better picture of identifying the best floating fly lines.

Get the best you can afford and look for one or two key features, and you’ll be fine!

What’s the most outrageous line color you’ve fished with?

Let me know in the comments. I might even tell you where I bought the pink one!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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