Free International Shipping over $500, Free Domestic Shipping over $150
Vail Valley Anglers
Fly Line 101
Fly Fishing Education

Fly Lines 101


In the order of importance, I feel that the fly line come in second only to the fly rod. The fly line is an extremely important piece of equipment that often gets overlooked and abused. A great fly line can make a mediocre rod feel like a premium one. The technology that is involved in modern fly lines increase the slickness, durability, and the floatability of the line. I will breakdown some of terminology and try to make sense of the wide world of fly lines.

Matching a Rod with a Line

The place to start when looking for a new line is figuring out what rod you are planning on pairing it with. This is very easy to figure out. If you have a five weight rod, you will be in the market for a five weight line. The weight of the line needs to match the weight of the rod for it to function at peak performance.

With modern, fast action rods, some fly line companies have weighted their lines a bit heavy to be able to load the stiffer rod. When shopping for a new line, be sure you know what type of flex your rod is rated. If you’re unsure, bring it into the fly shop and the staff there should be able to help pair a line with the style of rod you intend on using.

Reading the Labels

Fly lines are labeled in a easy to read code if you know what it means. WF5F stands for Weight Forward, 5 weight, Floating line. Weight Forward means that the majority of the weight in the line is at the front end or shooting end of the line. Makes it easy to load and cast the line. 5 weight is the weight of the line to be match with the weight of the rod. Lastly, Floating indicates that the line floats rather than sinks. This helps to keep the line visible and give dry flies a great presentation.

You might come across some fly lines that are marked DT. This stands for Double Taper which means that the front and back end of the line have the same tapered width, while the middle of the line has a slightly wider width. These lines are great for delicate presentations with dry flies. The other benefit of a double taper line is you can use the back end of the line when the frontend gets old. One drawback to DT lines is that they can be difficult to cast in wind.

Floating versus Sinking

A floating fly line is the most popular and versatile fly line on the market. A floating line is designed to float and it does not sink unless the line is weighed down. If an angler can own only one fly line, a floating one is the best bet.

A sinking line, obviously, sinks. These lines completely sink in the water. How fast it sinks (known as it sink rate) depends on the sink rate of the line. Some lines sink very fast, others very slow. The major idea here is the the entire fly line will sink and will sink at a uniform rate. Sink rates are rated in fps (feet per second) and will be noted on the line’s box. These lines are best used in big, deep lakes or saltwater.

On a sink-tip fly line (hybrid of a float and sink line), only the first 10 to 30 feet of the fly line sinks and the rest of the line floats. The purpose of this line is to allow for fishing nymphs and streamers in the columns of rivers where the current is moderately fast. These lines also excel when the water is high during run-off.

Speciality Lines

In the past ten years fly line companies have been creating lines for every species and technique possible. There are lines that are designed for slow, soft action fiberglass and bamboo rods that are ultra lightweight and easier to cast with the rods. Indicator lines that are focused on making nymphing effortless. Many species of fish, such as pike/musky, smallmouth bass, bonefish, tarpon and permit, all have their own dedicated fly line to make casting a piece of cake. Whatever or however you are trying to fish, there is a line to make it fun and painless.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into fly lines and it takes some knowledge to figure out which one will work best for you. You can always stop by the local fly shop and have them help you match a line to your favorite rod. Remember, the fly line is the second only to the rod in the importance of your gear, so don’t skimp on the line. Get yourself a quality fly line and see why it is so important.

Ray Kyle is the Shop Supervisor and a Guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at (970)926-0900 or

View and comment on this blog
How to Buy your First Raft
Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

How to Buy your First Raft


Buying Your First Boat

You can only call your buddies and invite yourself on their boat so many times. You can only buy so many 12 packs of beer before you start thinking about buying your our boat. The process of buying your first fishing raft is both exciting and tedious. You want to make sure you get what you want and need out of your boat. There are a number of different choices that need to be made in the boat buying process. I just went through the process of putting together my first fishing raft and I will go over some of the decisions that you’ll have to make.


The first thing I decided on was what length raft I wanted. Whitewater rafts tend to be bigger and wider to help push through some large waves with a crew of paddlers. Fishing rafts are typically smaller to help get down tighter rivers and are more maneuverable. These rafts are 10-13 feet long, compared to the 15-18 foot length that are commonly found in your whitewater set ups. I opted for a 13 foot boat so that I had some extra room for gear if I wanted to do a multi day float.


A massive difference between a whitewater raft and a fishing raft is the fishing frame that replaces the thwarts or rubber cross sections. The fishing frame usually features a front and rear seat for anglers and a middle row seat for the guide or rower. There’s also lean bars or thigh bars to help stabilize the anglers in the front and back while they are standing up and casting. Some rigs will also have casting platforms near the floor of the boat to assist with standing. There are typically bays or open spots in the frame to accommodate coolers or drop bags for storage.


One other big difference between the whitewater and fishing set up is that most fishing rigs will have an anchor system. While it is illegal for you to anchor in private water, you can definitely drop anchor on stretches of public water. This is ideal for re-rigging without having to pull all the way over to the bank of the river. It’s also very useful for when you want to stop and nymph a run. Most frames will have a spot or system where you can rig an anchor and make it streamline and hopefully snag-free.

Oar Length

Selecting oar length is usually dependent on the length of the raft you chose. The average length is nine feet from the end of the hand to the tip of the oar blade. Counterbalanced shafts paired with floating oar blades help with the fatigue while you are rowing. Oar rights are a helpful tool for beginner rowers, as they get your blades in the correct position to make the most out of each row.

Important Accessories

The list of accessories is endless. Some people like to take the minimalist approach and not clutter their boat with bells and whistles, while other want to pimp their boat out to the max. I think a cooler and a drop bag is a great place to start. A good throw bag, repair kit and pump are some of the must-haves you need. You can also get cup holders, stripping baskets, fly patches, waterproof lock boxes and rod holders are all handy accessories that aren’t as necessary.

Lifejackets or PFD (personal floatation devices) are 100% a necessity when floating any river. This is a no brainer and should be something that you have even before you consider purchasing your own boat. They come in a wide variety of designs and fits. It’s very crucial that you get a PFD that fits properly and comfortably so that you can wear it all day. They even make fishing specific PFDs that come with extra pockets for fly boxes and other fishing needs.


When you get all of the parts for you boat and get it all put together, you’ll need something to take it from your house to the river. This is what a good trailer is for. Raft trailers come in all shapes and sizes, however there are a few things to look for when shopping for one. Rollers on the end of the trailer really help to get the boat out of the water and onto the trailer. It is also really nice to have a hand winch to crank your boat up the trailer bed. A spare tire is required by law as well as having the trailer registered to the state with its own license plate. Annual maintenance on the bearings and axle will lengthen the life of the trailer.

There are a lot of little parts that go into putting together a fishing raft however after this article I hope you have a better grasp of all that is involved. It is an investment that pays back in days of fun on the rivers that flow throughout the West. A bad day on the river is always better than a good day in the office. If you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of rowing or want to get your Colorado row certification, we do a Oar Certification Class in the spring. More details can be found on our website or feel free to give us a call at the shop.

Ray Kyle is the Shop Supervisor and a Guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at (970)926-0900 or

View and comment on this blog