We’ve all been there. Sat for hours, not a single fish showing on the surface. Where could they be?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Deep down on the bottom.
A floating line just isn’t going to cut it. You will have to take the fly to the fish and to do that, you will need the best sinking fly line.
I’ve taken a look at a few great fly lines that will work well, and I’m going to tell you what areas are worth considering when buying.
Table of Contents
- Stuck for Time? – Sinking Fly Line Quick Guide
- Top 5 Best Sinking Fly Lines 2023
- How to Choose a Sinking Fly Line
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Stuck for Time? – Sinking Fly Line Quick Guide
Sinking fly lines are pretty straightforward. If you’ve seen my article on the best floating lines, you’ll already be well in the picture.
If not, here are the things you need to consider.
I’ll start simple.
If you can’t get the line out to the fish or can’t present your fly correctly, it doesn’t matter how ‘good’ your line is.
You will need a line that is easy to cast with a nice finish.
Depending on your venue, you might need to consider your options.
A fast current or very deep water will require a line that sinks quickly. Conversely, shallow or slow-moving water might need a line that is steadier in its sink rate.
Look for the rating in IPS, which stands for inches per second.
Line Size and Rod Pairing
This one’s interesting. You aren’t going to find a sinking line under #4WT. Try and fit a heavier sinking line to a too-light rod, and you will end up with one thing and one thing only…
I’ll explain more in my detailed guide below.
Let’s face it, this might be the determining factor.
Here’s my advice. Get the best you can afford.
The best rod and reel in the world, from the best brand, can’t outperform a poor quality line. If you have a cheap setup or fish infrequently, you might not notice the difference. But it would be a shame to invest in a beautiful rod and reel combo, only to be let down by your line.
Ok, with the above in mind, let’s take a look at a few good options…
Top 5 Best Sinking Fly Lines 2023
How to Choose a Sinking Fly Line
Alright. The world of fly lines is far more complex than it first seems. There are numbers and letters all over the place, and fishing is hard enough without the jargon.
I want to make it easy for you.
Here’s a handy guide to give you all the information you need on choosing the best sinking fly line.
Choose the Right Weight
Notice anything about the above list of sinking fly lines?
Not a single one goes lighter than a #4wt!
Sinking fly lines are a lot heavier than their floating counterparts. This is obviously going to put stress on your rod.
Add into the mix that you might have 30ft of the line under the water, and that’s a lot of weight to be hauling up whenever you pull back to start your cast.
Here’s a simple truth.
Lighter fly rods aren’t made for that. The answer is to avoid going too heavy with your line weight. You won’t get away with using a Wt#4 sinking line with a #3 rod. It just isn’t going to happen.
And by that, I mean… You will break your rod.
If you think you might want to use a sinking fly line, make sure you get a rod that can handle it. #5wt rods are a great compromise as you can fish floating lines too, and they work in any venue.
Full Sink or Sinking Tip?
There’s an element of personal preference here, but how you fish is largely dictated by where you fish.
If you are fishing in 40 feet of water and the trout are on the bottom, you won’t see much joy with a sink tip. It simply won’t reach them. In that case, a full sink is going to be your best bet.
If your local ‘spot’ is only 15 feet deep, using a fast sinking high-density fly line is probably overkill. You simply won’t need to be getting down to the bottom so quickly.
Both a sinking tip and a full sink will allow you to reach the fish… I just go for an intermediate, full sink line for my money, then I’m covered from the top of the water down to the bottom.
Inches per second?
Sounds a bit technical?
Trust me, it’s easy. This is a measure often given as the acronym ‘IPS’. It is a measure of how fast the line descends through the water column.
Here’s an easy rule of thumb to remember.
If it’s a big number, say, above 6, it’s the fastest sinking fly line.
But what to go for?
Here, do yourself a favor and make life easy. A 3 or 4 IPS line will cover you for 90% of the subsurface fishing you do. You’ll normally find that lines rated in this range are also a good weight to pair with most mid-ranged rods.
The line is actually one of the most important parts of your setup.
After all, it keeps you connected to the fish. In fly fishing, there are also other things to consider.
Like the ease of casting and presentation, your line plays a massive part in this. And here is why I’m talking about quality. One word…
Cheap lines suffer from memory. This is where they take on a certain shape. If it is anything other than straight, you aren’t fishing effectively.
Higher quality lines are made from compounds that resist memory.
If you don’t know what ‘memory’ is on a line, here’s a real quick video guide that explains it:
If you didn’t know already, your flies aren’t tied directly to the fly line. They are attached to a leader.
Ideally, you want a fly line with a leader loop to make life easy when down on the water.
It isn’t a deal-breaker, however, if you need to learn how to tie your own, here’s a quick video guide:
Color is important when choosing a sinking fly line.
Unlike with floating fly lines, you are literally going to be dragging it past the fish’s nose! For that reason, dull colors are the order of the day. I particularly like drab greens and greys. I find that these spook the fish least.
I get asked about sinking fly lines a lot. Here are some things people often want to know.
What is sinking fly line used for?
Sinking fly lines are generally used for sub-surface fishing. You can use a floating line, but if the fish are deep down in the water, it can be hard to reach them. You could try using a long leader, but that becomes pretty unmanageable for casting (especially in strong winds).
The answer is a sinking fly line. The entire line will sink down through the water column. It is actually a really effective way to fish. If you know how fast your line sinks per second, you can count in your head. This is a great technique to find out what depth the fish are feeding at.
In 90% of cases, you’ll use a sinking fly line with a lure, streamer, or nymph.
How do I choose a sinking fly line?
The first place to check which line you need is to look on or near your rod handle. You’ll be able to identify which weight line you need (and if your rod is heavy enough to accommodate a sinking line).
From there, you need to think about where and how you want to fish. This will dictate the sink rate of your line.
From there, you can focus on budget and will need to search for the right line, fitting the above criteria, at a price that you consider great value.
A word to the wise… Get the best fly line that you can afford. It may seem like great economy to pick up a $9 brand, but you will notice a vast decrease in performance.
Cheaper’ no name’ fly lines tend to perform poorly when casting, are less strong, and are much more prone to getting ‘memory’. Not fun when you are trying to enjoy yourself.
How do I store a fly line?
Here’s the thing about sinking fly line.
It gets wet (like, duh).
Over time, being kept cold and wet can damage it. Further to this, fly lines don’t take kindly to being wrapped up tight on a spool over winter.
The best way to store fly line for extended periods is to hang it in loose coils on a peg or hook. If you don’t want to spool it back on every time, it might be time to invest in a reel with a large arbor.
These styles of reels are becoming ever more popular. They put less pressure on the line and actually make it easier to cast too.
How do you cast a full sinking fly line?
If you’ve picked a good sinking fly line, there is little difference in casting technique. You might find it slightly heavier than your normal floating fly line. All that said, if you pick a quality line from a well-known manufacturer, the difference is really minimal.
I fly fish for all sorts of species. If you like bass, I’ve got an article on the best bass fly lines right here.
With a sinking line and a floating line, you’ll be well equipped to catch whatever the conditions.
Fishing with a sinking line can often mean the difference between catching something decent and a ‘blank’ day.
Stick to my buying guide above and consider some of my suggestions. With brands such as ‘Rio’, you can be sure that they are the best sinking fly lines around.
Do you catch bigger on floating or sinking? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for tips to up my game!