How important could a fishing line be? Well, for trout fishing, it’s about as important as it gets.
You could have the best rod in the world, but without the fly line to match, it just isn’t going to happen.
Choosing the best fly lines for trout fishing is pretty straightforward, provided you know what you are looking for. If you don’t, fear not.
I’ve got all of the information you need right here, including some quality suggestions and a buyer’s guide.
Let’s dive right in…
Table of Contents
- A Quick Guide to Fly Lines for Trout Fishing
- Top 9 Best Fly Lines for Trout Fishing 2023
- RIO Elite Rio Gold Slick Cast Fly Line
- Cabela's Prestige WF Floating Fly Line
- RIO Products Avid Series Trout Fly Line
- Scientific Anglers Air Cel Floating Lines
- Aventik Floating Fly Fishing Line
- Orvis PRO Trout Textured Fly Line
- Orvis Hydros Bank Shot Intermediate Sink Tip
- Scientific Anglers Frequency Trout Fly Line
- Orvis Clear Water Fly Line
- Complete Guide to Fly Fishing Lines
- What color fly line is best for trout?
- What is the best fly line weight for trout?
- Are expensive fly lines worth it?
- What is the best fly line for distance casting
- How often should you replace a fly line?
- Do I need a leader and tippet?
- How long should my leader be for trout fishing?
- How long should a tippet be on a fly rod?
- How do you match a fly line to a rod?
- How much fly line do I need?
- Should you stretch fly line?
- How long does unused fly line last?
- How should I store my fly line?
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A Quick Guide to Fly Lines for Trout Fishing
OK, want to know how to find the best fly fishing lines for trout?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you.
I use the term size, but you might also hear it referred to as weight. All fly lines come with a number. This can range from #1 all the way up to #12. But what does it mean?
Simply this is the thickness of the line. #1 is the thinnest. #12 is thick and heavy.
I’m going to make it simple.
Match the number of the line with the number of your rod. If you are a beginner and don’t know which weight rod to use, I’ve created a quick start guide here. Have a read. It’s got loads of good info!
Note, this is different than ‘weight’. Fly lines have different ‘shapes.’
Seriously. There are two main types
- Weight forward
The easiest to cast line is weight forward. This is where the line starts off really thick at the tip and gets thinner.
Tapered can be useful for fishing really light and small flies for delicate presentation. Still, it is hard to cast long distances.
Most fly lines are brightly colored. You don’t need to worry about the fish seeing the line as you’ll be using a leader. If you don’t know what ‘leader’ is, read this… I’ll be here waiting when you get back.
Color is all down to personal preference. I like a nice bright line so I can always see where I’m fishing. You’ll often find lines with different colors marked along with their distance. This is a great help for casting accuracy.
Floating or Sinking?
There are two general types of fly lines. Floating and sinking. For me, a floating line is the most versatile as you can fish on the top (dry fly fishing) or sub-surface (wet fly fishing).
If you pick a sinking line, you are going to limit yourself to sub-surface fishing only.
This one is actually really important. The finish on your fly line can make all the difference when you start out and learn to cast.
My preference is lines that offer a ‘slick’ finish. They are coated to make sure that you get every last foot of distance in your cast. They also prevent the line from sticking if you hook a monster.
Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics, let us take a look at some ideas. If you want to know more about fly lines for trout fishing, I’ve got a detailed guide below.
Top 9 Best Fly Lines for Trout Fishing 2023
RIO Elite Rio Gold Slick Cast Fly Line
Alright, I know what you are thinking…
Did you ask how much?
I thought I’d start with the gold standard. When it comes to fly lines, Rio is one of the best fly fishing brands out there. If you want to get your hands on the best line you could use for fly fishing, you need to check it out.
Its weight forward meaning you’ll be able to shoot the line a fair distance.
This is about as slick as it gets. Rio has formulated the line with an ultra-slick coating. It’s basically non-stick and effortless. They’ve increased the length of the line’s thick front end to make it really easy to cast.
And there’s more.
Additional features include a low stretch core. This leads to fewer bites missed through the line stretching as you pick it up on the water.
One really neat feature is that this line is multicolored at set distance increments. This is great for ensuring cast consistency.
- Superslick finish for ease of casting.
- One of the best fly line brands in the world.
- The multicolored line for consistency.
- Literally, the only thing I don’t like is the price, but it is worth it.
OK, it’s a premium brand with a premium price, but you can see and feel the difference the second you open the pack. I’ve been using this line for a couple of years, and it’s still going strong.
Cabela's Prestige WF Floating Fly Line
OK, so did you find the RIO line a bit ‘steep’?
Don’t worry. If you are on a budget, then there are plenty of options.
This fly line has been created with the budget beginner in mind. Just like more premium offerings, it has a slick finish to ensure ease of casting. Cabela has actually beefed the line up slightly. It is ever so slightly thicker (by about half a size) heavier line makes it easy to cast much further.
I like the orange finish too. It’s bright and vivid. You won’t fail to miss it in the water or in bright conditions.
The line comes finished with a front welded loop. This makes it easy to attach a leader, perfect for beginners.
- A great fly line for the money.
- Bright color.
- Anti-stick finish.
- While I like the front loop, it isn’t the best for delicate fly presentation.
OK, so, you do get what you pay for, but as a budget fly line, this ticks quite many boxes. It will get you out and fishing. It will also allow you to figure out which direction you want to go when you want to upgrade.
RIO Products Avid Series Trout Fly Line
If you liked the look of the first Rio line I showed you, you will love this. You get a lot of similar features for about half the money. On a cost vs performance basis, I’d have to say this is one of the best floating fly lines for trout on the market today.
Not bad, eh?
This line features a shorter head length, with a little more weight. As a result, casting nice tight loops should be really easy.
As with my other Rio product, the line is treated with a special coating that will ensure a practically frictionless feel when casting.
I particularly like the bright yellow finish to the line. It makes an ideal pairing for dry flies and small nymphs as you can see the line all the way to the tip, even at a distance.
This also comes with a premade loop ready for your leader. If you don’t like it, you can always cut it off and finish your line with a braided loop.
- Rio performance at an affordable price.
- Easy to see color.
- Easy to cast finish.
- The line is more prone to ‘memory’.
- Difficult to roll cast.
You really can’t go far wrong with Rio lines. They specialize in making quality fly fishing lines, and it shows. It floats really well and will allow you to fish in various styles, a great all-rounder.
Scientific Anglers Air Cel Floating Lines
For a budget offering that performs like a premium product, scientific anglers might just have the answer. They are well versed in providing quality products at a low price.
This is a bare-bones and basic fly line but would be perfect for a beginner or those anglers on a budget.
First off, it works. The line is weight-forward, enabling even inexperienced casters to ‘shoot’ the line with a fair amount of speed.
As with the Rio products above, it is finished in a nice bright color for easy visibility.
For the money, it is a good all-rounder.
- Low price point.
- Highly visible.
- Fairly easy to cast.
- As it’s a budget line, it doesn’t include a leader loop. This is easily solved but could put off a beginner.
Honestly? This performs just as well as some really high-quality lines. It makes me feel bad when I consider how much I spent buying premium brands. It is a little basic, but for a beginner who is learning or looking to outfit a spare rod, it makes an ideal choice.
Aventik Floating Fly Fishing Line
OK, this is my budget and basic option. I’ve included it as it would make the ideal addition to your setup as a spare. It would be useful if you are fishing an area with snags or the potential for breakages, and you don’t want to spoil your good line.
It is available up to size #5 and also features a premade loop for leaders.
If you are trying to keep costs way down and pair it with a cheap rod, it could make the ideal choice.
The green color might make this line ideal for fishing in commercial areas where the fish are easily spooked. It is pretty low profile when rested on the water.
- The super-low price point.
- Low stretch.
- Low visibility.
- The green color is a little difficult to see.
- If you are anything other than a beginner, you might find this too basic.
This line isn’t going to compete with Rio, but if you want to really get the benefit from a great line, hone your skills with this and then upgrade to see a massive improvement in your performance,
Orvis PRO Trout Textured Fly Line
You know me, I love Orvis. This line is a worthy contender to anything produced by Rio. It’s got some clever technology hidden within.
I’m talking about the textured surface. While you may not think this makes a massive difference, what this means is the line has a bigger surface area. As a result, it sits high (and dry) on the very top of the water. This makes picking up the line to cast or hook a fish that much more efficient!
Unlike the other products, this line has a variable taper to give you maximum performance throughout the cast.
Just like the premium Orvis line, this fly line has a color gradient so you can tell exactly how far you are casting.
- The best in class for dry fly fishing.
- Large surface area and low spray.
- Variable taper for max performance.
- The price!
This is another line that is an absolute joy to use. It casts a long way with really low memory, and the technology really works. It almost hovers in the surface film. Another of my favorites. It could become yours too!
Orvis Hydros Bank Shot Intermediate Sink Tip
Sometimes you don’t want to fish in the water’s upper areas but want all of the benefits and ‘feel’ of a floating fly line. If this sounds like you, check this out.
The heavy head is designed to sink from the tip at about a foot per second. This is great as you can work your way down through the water column until you find the fish.
Because the line is slightly heavier, you’ll shoot it a fair distance with very few false casts. It starts at a weight #5, so it is more suited to bigger waters and heavier rods.
And there’s more…
Sinking lines can feel a little ‘sticky’. Orvis has dealt with this by giving the line an AST patented dry-slick coating to make it even easier to cast.
- Great feel and frictionless casting.
- The multicolored line for easy accuracy and identification.
- Great for different casting techniques.
- I wish it was available in weights less than #5.
This would be the perfect line for fishing nymphs or big streamers on a mid-sized still water venue. If it’s a cold day and the fish are showing, you’ll need to get down deep. This line will let you do it. It is great when paired with some solid winter trout flies, such as these.
Scientific Anglers Frequency Trout Fly Line
If you’re looking for a versatile line that can handle a variety of fishing situations, this is a great option. It can come in several different sizes so you can adjust depending on the body of water that you are fishing in.
It is very affordable while still being very comparable to a lot of the more expensive lines in the market.
It has excellent line control which is extremely useful in harder to navigate situations. It also lays and presents very well on the water with its multifilament braided core.
It is great for fishing with dry flies because it floats and has a mid length head that is perfect for more delicate presentations.
- All weather.
- Versatile with conditions and equipment.
- Works for any and all trout.
- Presents very well.
- Sometimes not as specialized as you need.
This fly line is one of the best on the market for fishermen looking for a reasonably priced line that can handle any situation. The line is versatile and can be used in a variety of conditions, making it a great choice for anglers of all skill levels.
Whether you’re trying to catch trout in a river or bass in a lake, this line will give you the performance you need to be successful. In addition, the line is constructed from high-quality materials. If you’re looking for a fly line that can do it all, this is definitely one to consider.
Orvis Clear Water Fly Line
The line is a versatile line that is perfect for most kinds of fly fishing. The Clear Water is meant to be an affordable fly line option for an intermediate level fisherman.
This weight-forward taper is especially good for fishermen who want to improve their casts with better results and a quicker learning curve. It is easier to make precise casts with the compact head.
The Clear Water is also an easy line to manage and load onto your rod with minimal difficulty because of the heavy grain weight loads. The loops also ensure that the line easily connects to the leader and backer.
- Affordable price point.
- Good for all types of fisherman.
- Easy connection to the backer and leader.
- Highly visible on water.
- Line that enables precise casting.
- Needs consistent stretching.
- Not the best for experts.
If you are looking to get better at fishing and in particular improve your casting, this is a great line for you.
It is a fairly low maintenance line that connects easily to your leader and will become easy to use. The price is also affordable and the quality is good. You will be able to cast it and retrieve it without any issues.
Complete Guide to Fly Fishing Lines
If you are shopping for a new fly line, you’ve probably realized that there is a hell of a lot of choices out there, and it can get quite technical.
Here’s what you need to consider when choosing a fly line:
The Right Fly Line for the Right Rod
What do I mean by this?
OK, have you got a fly rod? If so, get it out and take a look at the butt section. You’ll see a tiny number of a range of numbers printed. It looks like this (#4)…
This tells you which number (or weight) of fly line you need to make your rod perform at its optimum. Some rods have a huge range. Most decent rods are fine-tuned to cast one or two weights only. You’ve got to make sure that you match these numbers.
Go too light, and the line won’t cast at all. Go too heavy, and you are in danger of over-stressing your rod leading to breakage.
Weight Forward or Tapered?
Wight forward line is where the end closest to your fly starts off fat (relatively speaking). The further the line is from the fly, the thinner it is.
All fly line has a core, so you don’t need to worry about the breaking strain with the thinner section of the line, its consistent along its entire length.
What does a weight forward fly line do?
Placing more weight at the front of the fly line makes it easier to generate the required inertia to make it travel. In the most basic terms, what this equates to is an easier-to-cast line. This is what I recommend buying for most beginners.
If you are a beginner and want this explained in greater detail, check this guy out. He knows what he is talking about.
If you fish in windy areas, then a weight forward line is also super useful for ‘punching’ your line into the wind!
A tapered line starts with a belly in the middle before narrowing towards the ends. This line isn’t so great for casting huge distances but is much more controllable when fishing on tiny streams with light flies that require pinpoint accuracy, particularly in summer.
Want to see a selection of great summer trout flies? Follow that link!
Color isn’t just about aesthetics. As you’ll have seen from some of my suggestions above, many lines come in bands of color, designed to indicate distance. This is useful for several reasons.
First, it lets you know how much line you can cast out. If you can comfortably get out 30 yards of line before you struggle, these bands let you know the limit of your distance.
Secondly, the color gradient often indicates the optimum distance for you to pick up your line off the water for a perfect cast.
Pretty neat, huh?
I once fished with a cheap line.
I thought I’d got a good deal.
Boy, was I wrong?
It stuck to the rings, my distance suffered, and it felt rubbery. I was almost glad when a 20lb trout made a run. The line stuck! And then snapped.
I made a promise never to cheap out on my fly line in the future.
Cheap lines have a trashy finish. The higher up you go, the better chance you have of getting a nice and slick line. ‘Slick’ doesn’t mean slippery. You’ll find most ‘slick’ lines actually have a sort of soft and dry ‘powdery’ finish.
Trust me, they are really, really nice to use.
I knew I’d forgotten something…
Joking aside memory in your line is a biggie. You 100% need to avoid lines with high memory.
If you don’t know what memory is, think of a curly pig’s tail or an old-school phone cable… They both have lots of memory.
Or to put it another way…
Memory is the tendency of the line to revert to the shape it was stored in. Normally it’s kept on the reel, but the last thing you need is for it to be ‘reel shaped’ in coils when it is on the water. It means you aren’t in contact with your hook.
You know what this means?
Cheap lines tend to have high memory. The more premium lines are specifically engineered to avoid it.
Here are some great tips from Rio for getting memory out of a line
Got a few questions? Here are some things I hear guys ask often:
What color fly line is best for trout?
It actually makes little difference. Your fly is never attached directly to the fly line but is tied using a clear leader. This tends to ensure the fly line is far enough away from the fly to avoid spooking the fish.
I’ve had orange lines, purple lines, and even a pink line… I still caught the same amount of fish!
What is the best fly line weight for trout?
This all depends on where you intend to fish. Lighter lines work best for small waters, such as streams and ponds. Bigger lines can be cast further and are more suited to larger venues. The best bet is to get set up with a great combo.
If you are looking for a guide on what rod and reel work best in different situations check out my guide just here.
Are expensive fly lines worth it?
Yes, they are.
You’ll see a massive difference in performance. It is up to you how ‘expensive’ you want to go. Moderately priced lines are pretty decent, and you’ll get diminishing returns the higher you go. My favorite is the Rio Avid series lines. They offer a perfect balance of quality and cost.
Better lines mean better casts and presentation. Better casts and presentation means more fish.
What is the best fly line for distance casting
For distance casting, there are a few different types of fly lines that can be used.
However, the most effective type of line is a shooting head. This type of line provides good weight distribution and allows for easy casting. Additionally, it is less likely to tangle than other types of lines.
The second best type of line for distance casting is a long belly line. This type of line is not as easy to cast as a shooting head, but it provides good weight distribution and helps to prevent tangling.
How often should you replace a fly line?
Depending on how often you fish, you may need to replace your fly line after 100 to 250 uses.
This is because even the highest-quality fly lines will start to show signs of wear and tear after a certain amount of use.
Do I need a leader and tippet?
Leaders and tippets are two of the most important, yet often underrated, pieces of fly fishing equipment. A leader is a relatively short length of monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line that connects the fly line to the tippet.
The tippet is a much thinner and more delicate length of line that attaches to the end of the leader and ultimately supports the fly.
Both leaders and tippets will need to be replaced on a regular basis due to wear and tear.
However, they are both vital for ensuring a successful day on the water. Without a solid tipper and leader, there is a good chance you will be breaking off or scaring a lot of fish.
How long should my leader be for trout fishing?
When fishing for trout in smaller pools of water, using a 7.5-foot leader is usually a good decision.
The extra length helps to turn over the heavier and bigger flies, and the weighted streamers are less likely to get caught on the bottom.
In addition, this leader provides more control when casting in tight quarters. The extra length also gives you a better chance of hooking fish that are hiding in the shadows or beneath logs.
If you’re fishing in larger streams or rivers, you may want to consider using a shorter leader. The shorter leader will help you to avoid getting snagged on obstacles in the water and will provide more maneuverability when casting around obstacles.
How long should a tippet be on a fly rod?
The tippet is the final section of the leader and is where the fly is tied. Tippet material is usually made from monofilament nylon and is available in different diameters that are measured by their breaking strength.
The most popular sizes are 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, and 6X.
The smallest diameter, 6X, has a breaking strength of 2 pounds and is used for very small flies on light tippets. The largest diameter, 2X, has a breaking strength of 20 pounds and is used for large flies or when fishing in heavy cover.
Normally the tippet is 2 to 4 feet in length and matches, or is smaller than, the diameter of the leader’s tip.
How do you match a fly line to a rod?
When you are choosing a fly line, it is important to match the weight of the line to the weight of your rod and reel.
This ensures that your equipment is best suited for the type of fishing you want to do.
For example, a 5-weight rod is best for smaller streams and lighter fish, while an 8-weight rod is better for larger rivers and heavier fish.
If you are using a reel with a multiplier drag system, you can usually go up one weight class. By matching the weight of your fly line to your rod and reel, you can ensure that you have the best possible setup for successful fishing.
How much fly line do I need?
When spooling your fly fishing reel, you’ll want approximately 30 yards of fly line.
It’s important to keep the line taunt as you’re spooling it, and to make sure the line is evenly distributed across the spool.
The line should spool from the bottom of the reel. continue spooling the line until it’s close but not touching the outer rim.
Should you stretch fly line?
If you’ve gone a few months without using your fly fishing reel, there’s a chance that the line has developed memory from sitting stagnant while being wound onto the reel.
This can cause the line to curl up or become twisted, making it difficult to cast accurately.
The good news is that there are a few easy ways to remove memory from your fly line.
One method is to simply unspool the line and allow it to hang freely for a few hours. This will straighten out any kinks or twists.
Another option is to attach the line to a weight and let it dangle in the water for a while. The movement will help to loosen any memory that has developed.
How long does unused fly line last?
A fly line lasts in proportion to how it is cared for and used. Sunlight, dirt, and grime can all degrade a fly line so if it is unused it is likely good to use no matter how long you have had it.
How should I store my fly line?
Fly lines should be properly maintained to ensure peak performance. One way to do this is to store them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
Another is to hang them in loose coils over a hook or nail. This will prevent the lines from developing too much memory over the winter and ensure that they are ready to go when the fishing season begins.
Some would argue that your choice of fly line is the most important element of any fly fishing setup. I’m half inclined to agree.
It is certainly as important as your rod and reel choice. By choosing the best line for trout fishing, you are setting yourself up for success and enjoyment.
Spend a few extra bucks. It is definitely worth it.
What line do you use, and how do you find it? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see about adding it to my list.