Lines & Leaders

After the Rod and Reel, the Fly Line is the next important piece of tackle. It is responsible for providing the inertia needed to propel the fly when casting. It is the weight of the Fly Line that is used to load the Rod with energy during the back-cast. On the forward cast that energy is restored to the line as it unloads from the Rod and smoothly transitions that energy as it dissipates near the end of the cast. Historically anglers have used many items to create fly lines. The Earliest was made of woven horse hair and others were made of silk. Considering that these were the best items available in the early years it was very hard to keep a sustained float. The lines would have to be treated or dressed with silicone in order to make them float for longer periods of time. In addition, these lines would have to be dried to increase there longevity. This made the fly line a high maintenance item for many years.
As technology allowed the use of synthetic materials came about to revolutionize the sport once again. This use of technology has ultimately cumulated in synthetic core lines coated with a soft PVC outer coating. The best part of this combination is that they are all floating materials. This combined with the fact that they are smooth and do no longer consist of woven materials lends itself to less maintenance. Probably the only real maintenance with today’s fly lines is that hey do need to be cleaned periodically to remove films that collect from your days on the water.
Today, there are standards in effect by fly fishing manufacturers that ensures that the specifications of one line manufacturers will closely resemble another’s. This will allow any fisherman to replace any fly line with one from another manufacturer. This was not always the case. When the new synthetic lines came out there was no standard in place and it was rather difficult for the average fishermen to match the correct line weight with their rod. This was corrected in the early sixties by the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association. This group installed a standard that using a measurement of the first thirty feet of the fly line. This number ranges from 1 t 15 and the common sizes for the manufacturing community are 3 to 12. The higher weight and lower weights are available but are considered to be custom in nature. With the weight specification established it was also necessary to provide a line type designation. This specification is handle by a letter or two to describe the type or line or the type of taper it has. The common ones are:’
Weight Forward
Double Taper
Sinking Tip
Level Taper
Triangle Taper
Bass Bug Taper
Shooting Head
As mentioned above, there are a number of fly line types. Each of these types are used to enhance the presentation of the fly in particular fishing situations. The first to discuss is the Double Taper(DT) line. The Double Taper takes its name because both ends of the line taper down to a smaller diameter than the middle part of the line. The taper will range anywhere from 20 to 30 feet from one end then the diameter of the line will be set for about 40 to 50 feet and then the line will taper back down t match the other ends diameter. The reason this fly line is produced is to provided the angler with a fly line that can be used and then when the end is ready for replacement tone would simple turn the fly line around to get the same amount of use as the other end. It was developed after the line makers realized that the taper would give a delicate presentation for dry flies. It was logical that he unused portion of the line would be thought of after that. The next taper is probably he most commonly used. It is the Weight Forward Taper(WF). This line is designed with more material at one end to help the caster make better use of the energy in the cast. This type of taper is associated with longer casts and the ability to overcome high wind conditions. it is also the line of choice for neophyte anglers in that it is easier load the rod due to the extra weight. The Level taper is a line that has no taper whatsoever. Due to its evenness throughout it does not perform as well as the weight forward although some anglers do prefer this type of line when fishing spring creeks. The Triangle Taper line is similar to the Weight Forward style. It also ha a weighted front end but it is variable. Shorter tapers are sought after for their ability to turn over large flies such as those used for bass fishing or wind resistant flies in saltwater fishing. The longer lengths are sought after for salmon and steelhead rigs. The Bass Bug Taper is a special type of weight forward fly line with a short front taper that allows large bugs with excessive wind resistance to turn over. The final taper is known as the Shooting Head. Shooting heads are essentially two lines fused together. Towards the reel end of the rig is a tapered line similar to the weigh forward type. It then is fused to a thin diameter level line or tapered line depending on style. The Shooting head is well known to allow increased casting distance but at a price. The line is very difficult to control once it is in the water and for that reason its applications are limited. Some cases in fly fishing call for line that sinks. There are a number of sinking lines on the market that will sink to predetermined levels at predetermined rates. The most common type is known as the Sinking Tip. Sinking Tip lines will commonly sink fro 1 to 6 feet per second in the water and are easily picked up for the back cast. There are also new systems available that attach sink tip sections of varying lengths to a standard floating fly line. This allows for versatility and and doesn’t call for changing the line completely to do some deep water fishing.
Now that we have a basic understanding of fly lines there is one more line to be aware of. Backing. Backing serves two main purposes. It is used to fill the void that would be on the reel if the fisherman only put the fly line on it. Second, it allows extra run capability for the big fish. The appropriate amount of backing should be readily available form any manufactures specifications. Common amounts for freshwater reels is around 100 yards while for saltwater situations it is more like two or three hundred yards.
Leaders also play a critical role in the fly caster’s rig. The leader has three main sections. The butt, the body, and the tippet. Today’s mono-filament leaders are created with a taper so that the butt is much larger in diameter than the tippet section. Traditionalist still insist that it is necessary and aesthetically pure to construct leaders from different diameter mono-filaments. This is an important skill to master but with the products available today it is becoming obsolete except among purists. The purpose of he leader is to attach the fly to the fly line. It is very fine at the end which helps in the presentation of the fly. The butt section, the thickest, is attached to the fly line. The body’s function is to further distribute the energy left in the cast as it get close to the end. The finer the body the less energy it takes to roll the leader over and thus present the fly. The fine end of the tippet attaches to the fly. The leader’s tippet is also another piece of tackle that has been regulated by the fly tackle manufacturers. They come in a number of sizes and will always have the same diameters. However, it is worth note that the pound-test rating may vary between manufacturers.