The world of saltwater fly fishing is very different from freshwater and everyone needs some guidance getting set up right.
One of the most important things is choosing the best saltwater fly line for your needs and this is the piece of gear that will help you catch more fish.
Join me as I run through the top saltwater fly lines on the market, why they are so great, and how to pick the one that matches where and what you are fishing for.
Table of Contents
- How to Pick a Saltwater Fly line & Our TOP 3
- TOP 8 Best Fly Lines for Saltwater Fishing
- RIO DirectCore Flats Pro Saltwater Fly Line
- Scientific Anglers Grand Slam Amplitude Fly Line
- RIO Elite Tarpon Saltwater Fly Line
- RIO Elite Flats Pro Saltwater Fly Line
- Scientific Anglers Sonar Clear Sink Tip
- Cortland Line Flats Taper Saltwater Fly Line
- Cortland Precision Tropic Plus Fly Line
- RIO Mainstream Striper Sinking Fly Line
- Things to Look for Before Buying a Saltwater Fly Line
- Do You Need a Different Fly Line for Saltwater Fishing?
- What Color Fly Line is Best for Saltwater Fly Fishing?
- What Density Fly Line is Best for Saltwater Fishing?
- What Weight Fly Line Should I Buy for Saltwater Fly Fishing?
- Is the Length of a Fly Line Worth Thinking About?
- Low Memory is Important
- Check the Core’s Breaking Strain
- Low Stretch is Very Useful
- The Coating
- What Taper do I Need in Saltwater?
- Winding Up
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How to Pick a Saltwater Fly line & Our TOP 3
You will find a full section explaining how to pick a saltwater fly line below the reviews. Here is a summary of the most important factors in case you are in a rush.
- Density – Pick the right density fly line for the fishing situation. Floating lines are perfect 90% of the time but sometimes your fly needs to sit deeper, so look to sink tips, intermediates, and sinking lines.
- Taper – Weight forward tapers are the way to go in saltwater as they help you cast longer distances and turn over big/heavy flies.
- Stretch – Low stretch equals better hook sets, faster line speeds, and more control over hooked fish, it makes a big difference.
- Memory – Lines with memory equals tangles, go for a low memory line.
- Coating – Line with a good coating last longer and having a slick coating reduces friction for longer, easier casts.
- Breaking Strain – Most saltwater fly lines break at 30 lbs, but sometimes you need more than that when going after monsters. If that’s the case, look for a line with a 50+ lb core breaking strain.
If you can find all of these assets in a fly line, it is a great choice.
Here are our top 3 that hit the nails on the head.
The Rio Elite Flats Pro is the best all around line I have ever used. It has low memory, close to no stretch, a slick coating, it’s durable, and the taper turns flies over with ease. Use it in all weights and densities, you won’t regret it.
Cortland’s Precision Tropic Plus Fly Line is the one to turn to when going after big species like GTs and tuna. It comes with all the features mentioned above but it also has a 50 or 80 lb core depending on the weight fly line you choose. You’ll be able to land huge fish with it!
The Rio Elite Tarpon Saltwater Fly Line is ideal if you are looking to catch the fish of a lifetime. Opportunities to cast to trophy fish don’t come around often and this line is made to help you take them.
It ticks all the boxes and it allows you to pick up and make the second shot count, something often needed when searching for bucket list fish.
TOP 8 Best Fly Lines for Saltwater Fishing
Things to Look for Before Buying a Saltwater Fly Line
Do You Need a Different Fly Line for Saltwater Fishing?
Yes, you have to use a saltwater fly line, not a freshwater one. This is because they are built differently.
Saltwater lines are made to last in a saltwater environment, whereas freshwater fly lines will quickly decay and fall apart, even if you clean them.
What Color Fly Line is Best for Saltwater Fly Fishing?
The right color fly line depends on whether the species you are targeting is spooky or not.
Most saltwater fly lines come in two or three colors. These show you the forward taper, head, and the running line, or just the taper + the head and running line
This system is there so you can work out where to start casting from – with the head inside the top eye of the rod.
Since most fish will only notice the tip of your fly line, it is usually blue. But for spooky fish like permit, you can find fly lines with clear tips, or that are 100% clear.
If you know you are fishing in an area where the fish are very line shy, use a clear tip line. If not, a normal line with a blue or other colored tip is fine.
What Density Fly Line is Best for Saltwater Fishing?
Fly lines come in a range of densities including floating, sink tip, intermediate sinking, and fast sinking.
90% of saltwater fly fishing requires the use of a floating line, as usually you are fishing shallow areas or are casting to fish on the surface.
But, sometimes you need your fly to sit a little deeper to keep it in the feeding zone. This is the case with tarpon, deep water permit, stripers, and roosters in the surf.
Sink tips are great for keeping your fly deeper in the surf and flats. Intermediate and sinking lines are perfect for fishing off rocky ledges for stripers.
Be sure to match the right density fly line for the right situation which requires some forward planning.
What Weight Fly Line Should I Buy for Saltwater Fly Fishing?
You should match your fly line with the weight rod and saltwater fly reel you intend to use for a particular species.
An 8 weight set up is perfect for stripers, bones, and redfish. With an 8 wt line, long delicate casts with the smaller flies these fish eat are easy, but you will have enough power to handle the wind.
Permit, snook, triggerfish, and roosterfish should be fished with a 10 wt. The line is powerful enough to throw heavy and big flies long distances but still allows for quiet presentations.
If you are going after big fish like tarpon, GTs, and sailfish, a 12 wt is best. These have a stronger core so handle these larger crates and they are made to cast the big flies they like to eat.
Is the Length of a Fly Line Worth Thinking About?
Most saltwater fly lines are either 90 or 100 feet long, depending on the manufacturer. Length isn’t really something you need to be concerned about.
I don’t know many people who can cast 90 or 100 feet of fly line, and a fly line’s length isn’t going to affect this. Only practice can help you here.
The only thing to be aware of is leaving enough space for the fly line to fit on your reel. With a 100 ft fly line, you will need to put less backing on your reel to accommodate it compared to a 90 ft fly line.
Low Memory is Important
Fly lines, like all fishing lines, have memory. So, what does that mean?
When a line has a lot of memory it remembers the shape it was last in. This is usually the shape of your reel spool. A line with a lot of memory will stay coiled as it comes off the reel and this causes tangles, and a lot of frustration.
This is why it is important to find a fly line with little to no memory. The last thing you need is for a tangle to appear when you are casting to a fish.
Check the Core’s Breaking Strain
The core of a fly line comes with an lb breaking strain just like all fishing lines. This is usually around 30 lbs for most saltwater fly lines in the 7 to 10 wt bracket.
But, when it comes to 12 wt fly lines, you can find cores of 50, 80, and 100 lb breaking strains.
If you are going after serious saltwater species like GTs and tarpon, then choose a fly line with a core to match. A 50 to 80 lb core is usually enough.
Low Stretch is Very Useful
You will have read about low stretch a lot in my reviews and this is because it makes a big difference.
Low stretch provides more of a direct connection between you, the fly rod, and the fly line. This transfers more energy to the rod for more efficient casting. It also transfers more energy into your hook sets, helping you hook fish more consistently.
Once the fish is hooked, a low stretch line gives you more control in the fight, and a lot more lifting power if the fish is being stubborn a few feet under the surface. Get a fly line with low stretch, you won’t regret it.
The coating of a fly line is very important. It not only provides durability but also floatation, and it helps with casting too.
Look at what the coating provides. A lot of the newer lines featured above come with a slick coating which provides both durability and less friction for better casting.
These lines do come with a higher price tag, but the benefits are worth the money.
What Taper do I Need in Saltwater?
Almost every single saltwater fly line comes with a weight forward taper. This allows you to turn over big flies, create a lot of line speed, and therefore cast the longer distances needed.
Some of the fly lines featured come with a longer taper, like the Rio Elite Tarpon line. This makes picking up your line and recasting a lot easier.
Others come with a heavier front taper which makes quick short shots with heavy flies easier, something you need for striper fishing.
Try to match the taper with the fishing situation you are going to find yourself in. But, you will always be good with a weight forward taper if you don’t want to get too technical.
What is the best saltwater fly line for a beginner?
If you are just starting out saltwater fly fishing, you want a fly line that makes life easier. I would recommend the Rio Elite Flats Pro featured above.
The tri-color system shows you where on the line to start casting from. Its taper makes casting easy, and it comes with slick coating to ensure your casts go as far as possible.
How long does a saltwater fly line last?
How long a saltwater fly line lasts depends on how often you use it, what happens to it when you use it, and whether you look after it.
Generally speaking, 250 days of use is about all a saltwater fly line can handle due to the sun, salt, and strain it goes under catching fish.
Can I use a freshwater fly line in saltwater?
Yes, and no. If you want to fish in saltwater for just 2 days and don’t want to buy a new fly line, you might just get away with it. But, be sure to clean your fly line thoroughly after each use.
If you use a freshwater fly line consistently in saltwater, then it will fall apart. The coating is not made for heat or salt, and will degrade quickly.
Are expensive saltwater fly lines worth it?
In a word, yes. Expensive fly lines come with a special coating that makes them last longer. They also have a ton of extra features that help you catch more fish and that is worth the extra money in every case.
Saltwater fly lines have come a long way in recent years, and there is a lot to think about. Just make sure the one you choose matches the species, the environment, and makes life easy. That way, you’ll end up with the best saltwater fly line for you.
If you have any questions about saltwater fly lines, or have some stories to tell, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!