Fly line is that colored stuff you see gracefully drifting through the air from the rod tip to the surface of the water (in time). I’ve used 3 different brands of line so I won’t try to tell you what brands are good and what aren’t, but line, like most gear, seems to be one of those things where you get what you pay for. A cheaper line will work, but you may notice that it starts to sink as it takes on water sooner than a more expensive line. Line care also plays into this, though.
There are at least three different types of line on the market—level, weight forward, and double taper:
- Level lines are the same thickness the entire length of the line and are typically the cheapest but the hardest to cast.
- Weight forward lines have a thicker section toward the front of the line which adds weight and makes the rod easier to load. This is typically credited with allowing longer casts, although I’ve read many articles that suggest most fishing is done in close ranges where weight forward lines don’t help much.
- Double taper lines are thickest at the center and taper identically toward the ends. A double taper line is said to be nicer for more delicate flies on smaller streams. I read a book that suggested cutting a double taper line in half if you’re only going to be making short casts, which is what I did for my small stream setup. This limits your castable distance, but it’s been working for me and I still have the other half as a backup.
The 2 kinds I’ve used are the weight forward and the double taper varieties. Specifically, I have a 5 weight- weight forward line from Albright fly fishing, a 5 weight double taper line from the Hook and Hackle Company, and a 4 weight double taper line from Rio.
Fly line backing is used in conjunction with the fly line, and acts as the connection between the fly line and the spool. It’s mostly used as “filler” to keep your line close to the edge of the spool, but will come in handy if you hook a big Brown that really takes off (or so I hear). Again, there are all different brands and prices, but I’ve chosen inexpensive backing for my reels, to no misfortune yet. Make sure you check your reel to see how much backing should be used with that particular spool.
My recommendation for fly line would be to spend between $20-$40 on your first line, and buy one that that most closely matches the type of fishing you’ll be doing based on the descriptions above and elsewhere. If you have a yard or parking lot that you’re going to be practicing in, don’t but an expensive line because it’s going to get worn out pretty quick. I’ve spent less than $40 on any one of my fly lines and as long as I treat them with line dressing and floatant (like MUCILIN) between trips, I am yet to notice any performing better than another.