How to Care for Fly Line

Caring for your fly line is as important as picking expensive new replacement fly line. Right? It is for us.

I have to assume that there are those among us who have lots of room for fishing tackle. I am being sarcastic, in case you do not have another inch of space and have to give stuff away in order to get new stuff you really want.

Each rod has lots of space around it, spinning rods equipped for catching live baits with Sabiki rigs are far enough away from anything containing even one thread of cloth so as to avoid those amazing tangles and hookups (not the good kind, either), and flyline is laid out its full length, never to rest in a coil.

how to pick fly fishing line

Flylines aren't that much different than finely-braided nylon inside the equivalent of a soft PVC pipe. Nylon wrapped with PVC tends to remember its shape. Loop it around a reel fairly tightly, and it remembers the shape of the reel. Adding to the issue of shape memory is that cold flyline is stiffer than warm flyline. If you take a fresh flyline out of the box in Key West in the summer, it unfolds a lot straighter than if you take the same line out of a box outside Anchorage Alaska. Flyline remembers its shape; those of you that use long rods most of the time call it "memory." Colder line has more memory than warm line; in warmer climates, line still remembers its shape, but the warmth lets it 'relax' more quickly. Casting a flyline is hard enough when it's soft and warm; soft and warm means straight and flat on the forward and backcasts.

Fly Rods

Softness isn't something imparted by temperature alone; manufacturers actually make lines more suitable to colder waters and colder air -- so-called 'trout lines' come to mind. Their cores and the PVC wrapping that keeps them from getting wet are manufactured of softer materials to accomodate for the colder air where the fish are found. Using softer core and cover materials reduces the memory (but still fail to completely eliminate it). Lines made for cooler water perform poorly under tropical conditions; they lay far too soft and often tangle. Torpedo tapers sold to fisherman who want to reach a spooky 22-lb. redfish on the flats at the mouth of Tampa Bay aren't suited for reaching steelhead. Lines built to catch redfish or snook in Charlotte Harbor are built stiffer than Steelhead Streamer line.

With an increasing percentage of our Contributing Guides coming from places as far away -- in distances and climate -- as Long Island, British Columbia, North Carolina, the Keys, and New Jersey, the need to pick flyline appropriate for what you're gonna use it for is more important than ever. Think enough about catching 20-lb. fish on flyrods in cold water in cold places, and some percentage of our readership will end up on airplanes with flyrods.

When we first started this site, we were thinking Tampa Bay, and New Port Richey, and Charlotte Harbor -- but when Captain Scott Moore appeared in our second-ever Picture-of-the-Week, holding a Silver Trout weighing more than 20-pounds and catty-corner to the flyrod he had in the other arm (and an ice-capped mountain in the background that looked strangely unlike any flat we've ever fished in Charlotte), we realized that TheOnlineFisherman wasn't only about fishing the Bay and surrounding environs; it was about fishing. Period. As important as fly fishing has become in the Bay area, it's been 10 times more popular in 10 thousands more 'secret spots' than we've ever dreamt of.

Do it by hand?

Looking at available fly lines doesn't show a cold weather category -- although calling a product 'Tarpon' might indicate to the buyer that the weather forecast for the days you're going to target the species isn't going to include sleet. Know, though, that if you see the picture of a musky on one box and a rainbow trout on another weight of the same line, it's built to function better under chillier conditions, while a tarpon or bonefish on the box for a weight forward tells you -- up front -- that it's built for warm water and warm air. Both will perform as designed, and not so well under opposing conditions.

Scientific Anglers Mastery

Moving on, flyline remembers the last position it was in, but casts much easier if it's straightened out. There are two ways you can effectively stretch line. First, you can tie a crab or shrimp or streamer onto a perfectly-tied leader, cast it close to the boat (10 feet or less is most effective; you have to stretch the first 30 feet or so to start throwing perfect casts) and hook a 12-lb. or 15-lb. redfish. From setting the hook to fighting the copper bull, you'll be stretching that flyline. And you're not likely to break the line; even light trout line is the equivalent of 12-15 lb. test, and tarpon lines measure more like a 40-lb.

On the other hand, if you're good at fishing, but not that good, do it by hand. Pull out about three feet or so of the line, and stretch it in your hand. There are afficianados that say this ruins the line, but in most fly fisher's experience, this isn't the case. Something you DO have to keep in mind is that when you're stretching that line, it's essentially lying down on the deck of your boat in an 'upside down' pile, and can tangle. Make a few 'false' casts to load the line before you actually start the real cast.

People that argue against stretching fly line do so because they feel that stretching the line damages the coating. But fly line (most, anyway) will stretch as much as 30% before it breaks; the coating stretches at the same time as the core. If it didn't, any stretch would ruin any line.

There are two parts of the line, though, and understanding that will help you better understand the copy of stretching line to reduce its memory. Manufactures have a broad range of new products available that you might think would make wonderful flyline; high tech fibers have come a long way in the last ten years. But stretch is a major factor, and the newer materials are designed to do exactly the opposite to what a flyline needs. They don't stretch.

Flylines are better than ever, but the issue of memory has yet to really be addressed. Lines come off spools or out of boxes knowing full well where they've been since you last used them. Properly stretching a line and straightening it prior to casting those perfect double-hauls is a good idea, whatever species you're chasing, and however cold (or hot) it might be the day of the hunt.

Lastly, we are about to start providing our Flyfishing section a dramatically expanded content library.

"Make sure you keep that flyline in your house.  "The changes in humidity and temperature in your garage compared to your house can literally ruin a flyline."

I think I'll start small :) And get that flyline out of the garage.


The Online Fisherman

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