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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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February 01, 2015

Not All Fly Lines Are Created Equal ~ Not By A Long Shot

by Bob Banfelder

Through the years I have tried many fly lines. Trial and error is one way to ascertain which fly line is best for you and—more specifically—your rod. However, that approach would be a counterproductive proposition because quality fly lines are costly. You cannot try before you buy one fly line after the other until you are satisfied. What are you left to do? You could of course, and you should, visit your local fly-fishing pro shop to inquire about a particular line that you have in mind or one that the proprietor recommends for a specific application. The problem here is that you will probably be handed a shopkeeper's fly line already spooled and dedicated to a particular reel suited to a specific rod solely for the purpose of demonstration, not necessarily the best fly line for the business at hand. Once again, what to do?

I wish I could tell you, precisely, what fly line for a particular rod would best suit your individual needs. The fact is I can't. Not without first knowing the answer to at least half a dozen questions. Otherwise, the right church, wrong pew type of scenario would likely prevail. The simple reason being is that line selection can be complicated in that there are a myriad of variables to consider, which tend to compound matters and therefore cloud reasoning.

Of course, there are certain guidelines to follow, and professional fly shop personnel will certainly steer you in the right direction. For example, your fly rod will indicate what weight line to use. The problem is that not all rods and lines are created equal. Then again, there are rules of thumb. "Go up two line weights; especially with that shooting head," you'll hear folks suggest. "That Redington rod can handle it." Huh! Is that well-meaning person aware that you're casting a looped component five-foot slow-sink mini-tip, a twelve-foot intermediate section, or perhaps a twenty- to thirty-foot integrated speed-cast shooting taper? Are the terms shooting heads, sinking shooting-heads, and traditional shooting or speed-cast tapers used interchangeably? Should they be? Do the grain weights of fly lines accurately correspond to their sink rates in inches per second? Is the timing and casting technique employed with lengthy sinking lines or speed-sink/floating lines the same as with conventional weight-forward floating lines? Should I even bother with level or double-taper fly lines in saltwater applications? The answers to those six questions are, respectively: probably not; quite often; no; no; no; and lastly (in my opinion), absolutely not.

Keep in mind a single truth, and you'll begin to understand the complexity of the above. There is no industry standard in matching the grain weight of fly lines to unilaterally correspond with its sink rate. Each manufacturer applies its own rating system—at best, placing a particular line within a category to cover a range of rod weights. For example, a Teeny TS-Series 450 sinking line has a sink rate of 8 ips (inches per second). That translates into the sinking portion of the line; in other words, the first 30 feet, weighing 450 grains, covering a range of rod weights from 9 through 12. Realize too, that it's the density (compactness) of that sinking section that dictates sink rate—not overall weight.

Can we somehow muddle through this mass of confounding information, bringing all this murky business of lengths and weights of line out into the light? Is it possible? It is, indeed, and we're going to deal with that in a moment. First, if you're new at this game, forget all about the vast variety of fly lines out there from which to choose. It's simply mind-boggling. For openers, focus on matching a weight-forward fly line to what the rod manufacturer states. Just focus. Do not buy anything just yet. Next, determine where in the water column you want to be. For example, are you fishing a streamer fly in shallow water? Fine. Consider a two- or three-foot leader attached to a weight-forward 8 floating line, abbreviated as WF-8-F, to match your 8-weight rod. Wish to fish several feet farther down in the water column? Great. Move up the scale to an intermediate sink-rate line, a fast sink-rate line, or an extra fast sink-rate line determined by inches per second. Select a name brand line such as Rio, Teeny, Orvis, Scientific Anglers, or Cortland.

Want to add distance as well as get down into the water column where the fish generally are? Fantastic. Assuming that you've had some fly-casting indoctrination and realize that shooting tapers (full sink or speed-sink/floating sinking lines) are executed differently than conventional weight-forward floating lines, let us move up the scale in terms of both line and rod weight to an intermediate Teeny Series T-400 24-foot sinking/58-foot floating section with a sink rate of 8 ips. You are now covered quite nicely for bass, blues, weakfish, false albacore, et cetera. Why the Teeny T-400? Three answers, basically. One: because the 10-weight is right in the middle of the recommended rating for rod weights of 8 through 12. Two: because I have worked with a T-300; that is, one down from the T-400—the T-300 still within the recommended 7- through 10- weight rods; a great line for a lighter 8- or 9-weight rod. Three: because I worked with a T-500—one up from the T-400—the T-500 still within the recommended 9- through 14-weight rods; a great line for a heavier 11- or 12-weight rod.

Unfortunately, experimentation between rod and line weight is the only way to personify precision. Joining a fly-fishing club, too, where you can ask questions is a good place to start. Clubs are an excellent way to glean information. Some clubs, prior to meetings, offer the opportunity to receive professional casting instruction—many times at no charge—from a certified casting instructor. Here, you have more of an opportunity to try before you buy.

With regard to shooting tapers, especially for beginners, why purchase Teeny fly lines over another brand—initially? Answer: In part, because Jim Teeny, president of Teeny Incorporated, is the innovator of integrating the floating section to the sinking portion of the line. All one piece. No knots. No splicing. No hinging. Two colors determine the line's sweet spot; the perfect balancing point. There is no guesswork in determining when to shoot the line. When the second color extends approximately one foot past the rod tip, it's the magic moment. And when it comes to cutting the wind, which is the bane of many a saltwater fly-fisherman, shooting this type of line through a blow is simply a breeze. The lines mentioned above retail from $48 to $65. Check Teeny's Web site, www. jimteeny. com, for more information and great videos.

Although Teeny carries a wide assortment of fly lines—both single color and the two color system—for the beginner I'd suggest the two-color system for optimum casting results. Give yourself that added edge. I had purchased a couple of Teeny weight-forward 90-foot floating lines under their Supporting Project Healing Waters program: specifically a 5-weight and an 8-weight. The front section (sinking) is blue; the back section (floating) is gold. Those two lines are terrific. Also, I purchased a Teeny 60-foot First Cast 7 weight-forward floating fly line for Donna, along with a Teeny 90-foot 8 weight-forward floating fly line for moi. We use them both in fresh and saltwater. Fortunately, we have many fly rods with which to experiment. Again, trial and error are key factors. However, you can obtain near perfection by following the general rules of thumbs mentioned earlier.

A book on saltwater fly-fishing that I highly recommend is aptly titled Fly Fishing in Salt Water by Lefty Kreh. You want the latest edition, published by The Lyons Press ~ $19.95. It is an invaluable source for the new recruit as well as serving as a great reference book for the veteran. As it is a poor dog that can't wag its own tail, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my new book titled The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water, endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso, veteran fly fishermen. The book covers all aspects of both saltwater and freshwater fishing: Spinning, Baitcasting, Fly Casting; Rods, Reels, Lines, Leaders Tippets & Hooks; Fly-Tying Tools & Materials; Fly -Tying Recipes; Baitfish; Lethal Lures & Live Baits; Kayaking/Canoeing; Seafood Recipes; Smoking Fish.

For the intermediate to the more advanced fly-fishing angler, Rio fly lines are hard to beat. Think Rio, and the recent World Cup matches of 2014 may pop into your mind. Think ahead to 2016, and the Summer Olympics may conjure up the second largest city in Brazil, where the events are to be held in Rio de Janeiro. Ponder its name, and history buffs will be quick to tell you that Rio de Janeiro's English translation is "River of January," when on January 1st, 1502, Portuguese explorer Gasper de Lemos navigated into what he thought was the mouth of a rio (Portuguese word for river), which actually turned out to be the entrance to Guanabara Bay. As I'm not a spectator sport's enthusiast, RIO has a whole other meaning for me. Perhaps it was the same for Jim Vincent, founder of RIO, who had guided for anglers fishing the Rio Colorado in Costa Rica after noting similarities to a river in his home state of Idaho. Hence, the name RIO, which was firmly planted in Jim's mind as in mine.

Far Bank Enterprises is the parent company of Sage, Redington, and RIO fly-fishing products. RIO Products International is a manufacturer and distributor of high quality fly-fishing lines, leaders, and tippet material for over 20 years. RIO Gold WF8F (Weight Forward #8 Floating line) is one of 7 different lines sizes to choose from in the RIO Gold Freshwater Trout Series; that is, WF3F through WF9F. The combination color in that range is Melon/Gray Dun. Other colors offered are Moss/Gold, Orange, and Lumalux, a glow-in-the-dark color that can be charged with a bright light source. Consult RIO Products' website,, for not all colors are offered for the above-stated line sizes.

The RIO Gold Weight Forward #8 Floating line is 100 feet long, consisting of two basic sections. The rear section of the line (running line) attaches to your backing. The length of its running line is 50.5 feet. That leaves a 49.5 foot length of front section, called the head. There's your 100 feet. It's the 49.5 feet with which I want you to concern yourself. The question is can you keep it, or most of it, in the air on your first or second false cast? If you are a beginner, this 49.5 foot head (weighing 315 grains) will likely be too much for you to handle. You need to select a line that you can handle comfortably.

Donna, whom many of you may have come to know through my extensive writings, selected a RIO Grand (not RIO Gold) Trout Series WF7F (Weight Forward Floating) line. Let's examine the basic difference between our two fly lines. Donna's line is also 100 feet long; however, its total head length is 43.2 feet, a difference of 6.3 feet, which translates into 21 grains less than mine as its total head weight is 294 grains. The point is that Donna can comfortably handle this fly line whereas my heavier line would be too much for her.

If you are a beginner, I strongly urge you to select a fly line (be it for freshwater or the suds) with a total head length of no more than a mid-thirty-foot range whether it is a weight forward line, full sinking line, floating/sinking mini tip, et cetera. Casting distance (which concerns many an angler) should be second to accuracy. Greater distance will positively follow through continued practice. Again, work with what you can comfortably handle before moving up to a longer, heavier head. Timing and technique is what it's all about.

The RIO Grand Trout Series fly lines are designed for modern, fast-action fly rods. Too, these weight-forward lines are designed with more weight distributed toward the front of the line in order to easily load the rod. The line incorporates their new MaxCast and MaxFloat Tip Technology. RIO's ultra-sophisticated line coating, and I'll quote, "actively repels water for higher floatation, longer casts and greater durability."

The RIO Gold Trout Series fly lines boasts, and I'll paraphrase, "a revolutionary taper design that offers incredible loop stability, a unique profile that allows a rod to load quickly and crisply, and a front taper design that delivers perfect presentation of flies ranging from sizes #22 to #2. The RIO Gold is the ultimate all round, floating line for the trout angler." I can cast that long 43.2 foot head-length, along with a fair amount of running line, like a breeze.

What I also like about RIO fly lines is that both ends have welded loops. No need to whip-finish and worry if your connections are secure or knot (yes, pun intended). $74.95 each for these and other top-quality sweetwater trout series fly lines is, well, sweet. There are 31 different fly lines in the RIO Gold and RIO Grand series from which to choose: that is, 19 and 12 selections, respectively. Therefore, all that glitters may indeed be both Grand and Gold. Reach for RIO and see for yourself. Additionally, there are many other fly lines from which to choose, serving several applications.

Rio's Saltwater Coldwater Series Outbound and Outbound Short fly lines are fantastic lines for delivering large and heavy flies long distances. The lines are designed to deeply load modern, fast-action rods. Too, RIO's XS technology (a reformulated conventional chemical combination) provides super-slick performance, making the line a breeze to cast. For Donna, I ordered the Outbound Short fly line with a 30-foot shooting head for the simple reason that she can handle it easier than my Outbound fly line with its 37.6-foot shooting head. They are both WF9 F/I (Intermediate) lines, 375 grains, 100-foot lengths, with sink-tip rates of 1.5- to 2-ips. The Coldwater Series is constructed with a distinctive coating to ensure that lines remains tangle free. A great deal at $79.99. Again, RIO's fly lines are looped and welded at both ends. Very nice.

So as not be accused of blatant advertising, I've pictured (below) several brands of fine fly lines that have served Donna and me well over the years. They are quality lines that offer the consumer a high level of performance at a price that won't send purchaser to the poorhouse. They have been put through the rigors of a marine environment, subjected to many a field test on numerous fishing trips by experts in the field as well as yours truly. They have been placed into the hands of veterans and novices alike. No, this account is not akin to a Consumer Reports so much as it is a serious attempt to narrow the playing field in selecting quality fly lines for the newcomer as well as the intermediate fly angler looking for today's added edge. Technology in this arena is growing by leaps and bounds.

Left: Teeny
Middle Top: Scientific Angler
Middle Center: Cortland
Middle Front: RIO
Right: Orvis

For those shying away from what they believe to be an arcane art, fly-fishing is as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. The information set forth is based on a single principle. KISS: Keep It Simple System. Once we start making things too complicated, we wind up omitting an important ingredient from the recipe of success, if not life in general. So let's not forget to factor in what fly-fishing is really all about. Fun. If we have to be convinced and told this twice, thrice or more times, then we must reinforce that solid principle by reminding ourselves and adhering to equation number two. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. I think you get the drift. The rewards of fly-fishing are phenomenal.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

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