The 7 Best Fly Lines for Trout Fishing in 2021 (Catch More Fish!)


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…

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

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.

fly fishing rod and reel and caught sea trout

Size

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!

Weighting

Note, this is different than ‘weight’. Fly lines have different ‘shapes.’

Seriously. There are two main types

  • Weight forward
  • Tapered

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.

fly fisherman in river catching brown trout

Color

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.

Finish?

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 7 Best Fly Lines for Trout Fishing 2021

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.

Believe me…

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.

Pros

  • Superslick finish for ease of casting.
  • One of the best fly line brands in the world.
  • The multicolored line for consistency.

Cons

  • Literally, the only thing I don’t like is the price, but it is worth it.

Takeaway

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

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.

Pros

  • A great fly line for the money.
  • Bright color.
  • Anti-stick finish.

Cons

  • While I like the front loop, it isn’t the best for delicate fly presentation.

Takeaway

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.

Pros

  • Rio performance at an affordable price.
  • Easy to see color.
  • Easy to cast finish.

Cons

  • The line is more prone to ‘memory’.
  • Difficult to roll cast.

Takeaway

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.

Here’s why.

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.

Pros

  • Low price point.
  • Highly visible.
  • Fairly easy to cast.

Cons

  • As it’s a budget line, it doesn’t include a leader loop. This is easily solved but could put off a beginner.

Takeaway

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.

Pros

  • The super-low price point.
  • Low stretch.
  • Low visibility.

Cons

  • The green color is a little difficult to see.
  • If you are anything other than a beginner, you might find this too basic.

Takeaway

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

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.

Like what?

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.

Pros

  • The best in class for dry fly fishing.
  • Large surface area and low spray.
  • Variable taper for max performance.

Cons

  • The price!

Takeaway

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

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.

Pros

  • Great feel and frictionless casting.
  • The multicolored line for easy accuracy and identification.
  • Great for different casting techniques.

Cons

  • I wish it was available in weights less than #5.

Takeaway

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.

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:

fly fishing rod with reel and trout

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.

Why?

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

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.

Such as?

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?

Finish

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.

catch of a rainbow trout with a fly

Memory?

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?

Missed fish!

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

FAQ

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?

Honestly?

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.

Simple.

Summary

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.

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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