The Best Fishing Line for Fly Fishing 

When fly fishing, you can’t use a conventional fishing setup. You need a lightweight artificial fly as well as the proper fishing line. You can select between so many different types of fly fishing lines, like sinking or floating, colored or clear, tapered and weighted-forward. Which is the best fishing line for fly fishing?

For fly fishing success, use a weight-forward floating line. The weight-forward line is thicker and then becomes thinner and is regarded as more user-friendly. If you’re fishing with a leader line as part of your fly fishing setup, then pick a colored line. 

If you’re looking for more information on which fishing line to use when fly fishing, you’ve come to the right place. First, we’ll delve deeper into the types of fly fishing lines and when to use each, as they all have their place. Then we’ll suggest our favorite fly fishing lines, so keep reading! 

best fishing line for fly fishing

How to Choose the Right Fly Fishing Line

When plunking, float fishing, or drift fishing, you usually select between a monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided fishing line. The nuances of fly fishing though require you to use a different fishing line known as a fly line.

A fly line is weighted to allow the fly lure to land out in the water almost effortlessly. As we touched on in the intro, you can select from a myriad of fly fishing line types. In this section, we’ll discuss those types and when each is appropriate.

Check out our Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks Page for Tons of Great Tips!


A fly fishing line is going to have weight on one side or the other. The weight-forward fly fishing line has more weight nearer the tip and for 10 feet out, and then it becomes skinnier after that but maintains a uniform thickness.  

A tapered fly fishing line is the opposite of a weight-forward line.

If you’re fishing with teeny-tiny flies, use a tapered rather than a weight-forward line. We’d also recommend that if you’re in a delicate fishing situation as well as when your fly weighs less than usual. 

You can also use a tapered line for short-distance casting. Due to the weight distribution of these lines, long-distance casting is a struggle.

A weight-forward line is considered more beginner-friendly since you can cast it forward easier. You also get long-distance casting, but a weight-forward line is a lot less delicate.  

There are variations on both tapered and weight-forward fly fishing lines to consider. The shooting taper is in the same vein as a weight-forward line. Up to 20 feet of this line are heavier, then the line is uniformly skinny for the rest of the line. 

You can cast a fly out even further with a shooting taper than you can a weight-forward line. On those very windy days, this might be the type of fly fishing line you want.

A level taper is a type of tapered fishing line that’s more buoyant. What you get in flotation though, you lose in control.

Finally, the double taper is another variation on the tapered fishing line. Up to 15 feet of the line is wider and thicker than usual while another 60 feet is uniform. Then the last 15 feet of the fly fishing line is skinnier and lighter, hence why this line is called the double taper.

Sinking or Floating 

Depending on your preferences, you can shop for a fly fishing line that sinks or floats. 

A sinking fly fishing line is a dense fishing line that’s best for sub-surface angling. You won’t get as much use out of this line unless you’re fishing in a fast-flowing body of water or a deep river or lake. 

Once it goes underwater and your fly disappears as well, it’s hard to move the fly with the precision that you’re used to when it sits atop the water. That said, for nymphs, a sinking line is a good option. 

Many anglers prefer a floating fly fishing line. You can do sub-surface fishing with a semi-wet fly or stick to fishing only on the surface of the water. That versatility makes a floating fishing line the more natural pick. 

You have a third option technically, and it’s the intermediate line. These fly fishing lines are a cross between a floating and sinking line. They’re denser than floating fly fishing lines but aren’t as dense as a sinking line is. 

If you need to go fishing moderately deep in the water column or when you’re in a sunken, weedy, or shallow body of water such as a lake, an intermediate line is the most useful. 


The weight of a fly fishing line is not something to be selected at random. The weight of the line and the weight of your fly rod must be the same. If the two weights are lopsided, then you won’t be able to cast far or well. 

Now, a weight-forward line is not a weight class for fly fishing lines. Rather, it’s considered the line shape, as is a tapered fly fishing line.

Instead, fly fishing lines are categorized by at least 12 weight classes. Here is which weight class you should use depending on the fish species you want to catch:

  • Small trout, crappies, and panfish – fly line weight classes 1 through 3
  • Large trout – fly line weight class 4
  • Small pike, small bass, and large trout – fly line weight class 5
  • Small pike, small bass, and walleye – fly line weight class 6
  • Pike, steelhead, and bass – fly line weight class 7
  • Large pike, musky, and salmon – fly line weight classes 8 through 12 

Color or Clear

Color or no color? That is the question. 

As you shop around for a fly fishing line, you’ll discover that almost all of it is colored. Since the fishing line settles on the surface when in use in most instances, you don’t have to stress about the hue so much. 

When used as part of a leader line, a colorful fly fishing line is a perfectly acceptable part of your rig. You’ll be able to clearly see your line, especially if you select a Day-Glo color. 

Plus, some colored fly fishing lines change color according to the distance marked, which is really handy for planning your flies.

You can also fish with a clear fly fishing line, which you can use should you forego a leader when fly fishing. 

Line Finish 

Now that we’ve made it to the finish line of this section (pun intended), we have to talk about the fly fishing line finish options you have at your disposal. 

Depending on whether your line is raw or finished, you can get smoother casting and easier retrievals. A slick finish will let you release as much fishing line as is required and won’t stick. 

Our 7 Favorite Fly Fishing Lines

You now know which type of fly fishing line you’re looking for, so you’re ready to start shopping. We gathered 7 of the most exemplary fly fishing lines available for your perusal. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Scientific Anglers AirCel Floating Line

The Scientific Anglers AirCel floating line is a synthetic braided multifilament core fly fishing line that’s available in a variety of line weights. 

Adept for throwing streamers, nymphs, and dry flies to lure in panfish, bass, and trout, the AirCel fishing line is suitable for fly fishing on lakes, rivers, and streams. 

Beloved for its durability and exceptional flotation, the AirCel floating line features a handling section bump that tells you precisely where to cast. The mid-length head of this line makes it versatile for all sorts of fishing situations.

Available in yellow, the Scientific Anglers AirCel floating line comes in weight classes 4 through 9. 

Rio Elite Gold Stick Cast Fly Line

Although it’s not the lowest-cost fly fishing line on the block, the Rio Elite Gold stick cast fly line truly does live up to its name. Anglers have gone so far to call this fly fishing line a gamechanger!

A tapered fishing line, Rio recommends the Elite Gold line for flies between #2 and #22 sizes when fishing on lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. 

The triple-colored line allows you to easily determine your line load as well as your casting distance. The included Easyrid line marking system with printed lines is another handy feature for keeping track of what you’re doing. 

The Elite Gold stick cast fly line includes MaxFloat Tip technology as well as ConnectCore Plus technology. Rio promises twice the floating distance with its fly-fishing line compared to the competitors. Even better, the diameter of the line doesn’t increase while it floats.

With SlackCast coating, the Elite Gold line exits your spool as smooth as butter for the easiest casting you might have ever done with a fly fishing line. 

You can buy the Rio Elite Gold slick cast fly line in weight classes 4 through 8. It’s only intended for freshwater use. 

Aventik Floating Fly Fishing Line 

Are you looking for a fly fishing line with low stretch that’s ultra-thin? You’ve found it in the Aventik floating fly fishing line.

This low-cost tapered line was computer-designed for the perfect amount of tapering for dead-drifting or high-sticking nymphs. The back taper is longer than most tapered fishing lines to encourage better fly control, mending, and roll casting.

Even air-resistant flies will cast out no problem when you use a fly fishing line like Aventik’s. The lack of stretch in the super-core material keeps the line sensitive so you know when you’ve got a bite. 

You can select a weight class for the Aventik floating fly fishing line up to 5. 

Cortland 444 Classic Double Taper Floating Fly Line

For easy handling, it doesn’t get much better than the Cortland 444 fly fishing line

This double-tapered line comes in peach so you can easily see it as it floats along the surface of the lake or river.

The welded front loop allows you to quickly rig the fly fishing line as your leader line. 

Do you like fishing in colder waters? Even when the temperatures are freezing, Cortland’s fly fishing line does not lose its suppleness. Its handling is also fantastic, winning this fishing line acclaim among anglers. 

You can buy the Cortland 444 Classic double taper floating fly line in weight classes 3 through 9. 

Rio Products Mainstream Series Saltwater Fly Line

Here’s another Rio fly fishing line, the Mainstream Series saltwater fly line

If you do most of your fly fishing in saltwater, you need this fishing line. It’s designed with a saltwater-resistant coating that won’t wear off easily. You’ll get excellent performance with this fishing line again and again. 

Recommended for short head lengths that are moderately heavy, you can catch trout and other bigger species that will be sure to make your fishing buddies jealous. 

Rio produces its Mainstream Series saltwater fly fishing line in Idaho. The fishing line undergoes testing and quality control to ensure it’s a reliable option for anglers.

The available weight options for the Rio Mainstream Series saltwater fly fishing line are 7 through 12. 

OPST Commando Smooth Skagit Shooting Head

One of the better tapered fly fishing lines without a doubt is the OPST Commando smooth integrated shooting head line.

If you don’t mind spending more money on a higher-quality tapered fly fishing line, you won’t be disappointed. The slick-coated running line has a thin diameter. Its taper is gradual and smooth. 

The orange-colored running line allows you to easily spot it against the blue head. OPST recommends this fly fishing line for nymph and dry fly fishing, especially with shorter casting distances. 

Cortland Euro Nymph Mono Core Fly Line 

Finally, we quite like the Cortland Euro nymph mono core fly line

A 90-foot fly fishing line in a color called Gecko Green, this fishing line has a very skinny diameter. Any nature of nymphing techniques is suitable to do when you have the Cortland line on your reel.

With less line sagging, the tapered line features a monofilament core for energy transference. 

Final Thoughts 

When fly fishing, you need a reliable, weighted fishing line that’s colorful, has a thin diameter, and is ultra-smooth for easy casting. We hope this post introduced you to your next fly fishing line! 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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