Fly line identification?

Started by Rancanfish, July 15, 2020, 03:40:54 PM

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I mean identifying the type line from visual inspection.  I purchased several used fly reels to match my new to me rods, and they came with fly line installed.

Is it only possible to find out what kind (as in weight forward, DT, etc) is on the reel by going out and throwing them?

Sorry for the silly question, but my fly brain is still developing. 
I woke today and suddenly nothing happened.


Ooh,  I promised to do a fly line primer earlier.   Just the nudge that I needed.   :) :)

Look how the line tapers at both ends.  A double taper is identical at both ends. You can put them on the reel in either direction.   Starts out skinny, and once the line reaches maximum diameter, it stays fat until tapering down to the other tip.

Most other lines will be weight forward.   Skinny at the tip,  then fatter, then back to skinny for the rest of the line to the end that ties to the  backing. Weight forwards cannot be reversed).

Integrated head/ running lines (sort of a factory version of a permanently affixed shooting head), are more or less weight forward lines, except  the line past the head is no good for casting, so you can't aerilize a bunch of it  (you shoot it out at the end of the cast). These lines are usually two color with a very skinny running line.

Occasionally you will run into some oddballs like level lines and full sinking lines,but these are uncommon nowadays.

On sinking vs. intermediate vs. floating,  just give it the float test  :).   Most modern sinking lines  will have a intermediate or floating running line.  The heads will be dark (gray, brown, black).  For river and some flats fishing there are sink-tip lines, where just the first 5-15 feet will be intermediate or sinking, with the rest of the line usually being a floater.

An intermediate is just a very slow sinking line.  Most, but not all intermediate lines are intermediate for the full length.   Most sinking lines have an intermediate running line and the color change, mentioned above.

For floaters and intermediates, if you put the first thirty feet on a scale, and translate the weight to grains,  and then look up the grain weight to line weight tables online, you will find out what the line number is.  If the head tapers fairly quickly to a thinner running (AKA shooting) shooting line, it is designed to be able to shoot lots of line on the cast).  Lines that taper more slowly  back to a running line can be recast with up to 60 ft or so of line out without stripping in a bunch of line first. This  can be useful for sight fishing in flats or lakes (double tapers can do this too,  but with the thicker middle section, will not cast as far).

And there are cold, warm, and hot temperaturature ratings.   Hot lines will have stiff coils indoors, that will soften up if you put the line on a hot deck.   Cold weather/water lines will generally be less coiled indoors, but will get gummy  on a hot deck, and the line will get limp.  Gummy lines are damaged easily and pick up dirt.  Lines that are too limp or too stiff will tangle  when shooting on the cast.  Warm is in between, and usually works well enough in all but the most extreme situations.   Once you have seen a few, it is usually to pretty easy to make an accurate guess of which is which just by looking at them.

 For sinking head lines, the grain weight itself is more important, as you usually need something above the rod's line rating.   Modern sinking lines are labeled by the grain weight, not the line number.  For a 10 weight, you will probably want something between 350 and 550 grains when using a fast sinker.  Only weigh the colored head portion of the sinking line, not the first thirty feet.

Some line manufacturers use a 1-4 rating for how fast a sinking  head sinks.  1 is the slowest, 4 is the fastest.  For a given length, a higher grain weight will sink faster.  Some sinking head lines have no taper on the head (level head).  These are intended to be cut to length to get the grain weight that you want.  As long as the cut down head is longer than about 26 feet and shorter than about 34 feet, it should cast OK.  These lines are usually designated by the grain length per foot of the head portion.  A T-14 sinking head line is 14 grains per foot (the T designates Tungsten powder is used for weighting).  You can buy this stuff by the foot, and splice it onto to an old fly line with a trashed head, or even make a shooting head out of it.

It is a bit tricky to identify a line's manufacturer/model by appearance, as there are lots of rebrands and copies out there.

The cast test can be a bit deceiving.  I have a 14 weigh with a very soft tip, and it will cast an eight weight line OK,  but the line is too small to carry a big bluewater fly.   The size of the line is important for loading the rod, and for carrying the fly.   If you are starting out, having a properly matched outfit will make things much easier.  Better to start with a known quantity first, and then try it on your rod.

If these are used lines, check for cracking.  The cores of fly lines usually stretch more than the coatings, and the coatings dry out over time. So either by pulling on fish, or just sitting around, the coatings crack and then start falling off.  Once there are any visible cracks in the line, the coating will start coming off when you fish it pretty  quickly.    Cracks usually first appear sound the section that shoots through the guides most,  usually somewhere around the 20-40 mark.  Fly lines are treated as a  consumable.

Now you know more about fly lines than 99% of the fly fishers out there :)



Good question and a very good primer on fly lines.



Yes sir,,,,,,,,, :D if it's a 5wt reel it should have 5wt line on it and you're rod should be a 5wt,,,,, :D or if you have a 7wt rod you should put a 7wt reel on it,,,,just match you rod and reel together and try it out,,,,, ;D


If ever a line already spooled up needs a id. mark, it's flyline. You probably looked already, but I used to put a sticker on the inside of my spools.
Fishing tackle is an art form and all fish caught on the right tackle are"Gfish"!


Here is the AFTM table for grains to line number:

1 gram = 15.43 grains.

weigh the first 30 feet.

Technically, the first six inch to a foot foot or so of the tip that is not tapered (and is expected to be slowly consumed as you tie on new leader butt sections) is not supposed to be part of the 30  foot section, but from a practical standpoint, it doesn't make enough of a difference if you are just weighing the line to identify the line number.

Delving a bit deeper than Randy's original question:

I neglected to mention in my previous post that some manufacturers label  some intermediate lines as they would a sinking head line.   The lines are either labeled by grain weight of the head, or a line number that is  often below  what the AFTM number would be.  For example, a Rio Outbound short labeled as an eight weight, would actually weigh out as an AFTM ten weight.  But it will cast properly on an eight weight rod.  

The AFTM formula  does not take into account the amount of line intended to be past the rod tip, or the density of the line, both of which affect how the line will load the rod.    The line companies are starting to "make up" the line number instead of using the actual AFTM formula, in order to get a better chance  of matching to the right rod (a hack), or simply listing a grain weight for the head portion -this works pretty well.   Once you decide  that you like the 350 grain intermediate brand x on your favorite ten weight rod, the 350 grain brand y intermediate will probably be the right size.  IMHO,  you are often better off you are by going with the grain weight of the head section instead of the AFTM formula.

It is all a bit of a mess.  Even using the exact same brand/ model line,  you may want to overline (use a higher AFTM line  number than the rod label specifies) if your have to make short casts quickly with a heavy fly, or underline if you need to make long casts  with a light fly on windy days.  And it is easier to cast  an overlined rod you are not a good caster, and not able to carry much line outside the rod.  It seems to me that as the price point drops, the line number on the rod  label drops down a bit as well.  An entry level rod labeled as a 10 weight might actually be more of a 9 weight or even a 8 weight in the  hands of a proficient caster.



Man that answered that.  Thanks for the replies.  I can't wait to get retired and try all this out.
I woke today and suddenly nothing happened.


This could be an excuse to buy more rods of varying weights. You have the lines now you gotta find the right rod for each!
Didn't see a measurement thing. That is, a standard DT has a 30' taper, 30' level, then 30' taper at the other end. What about a standard weight forward line? Do the tapers vary? I once had a floating "triangle taper" with a 40' taper.
Fishing tackle is an art form and all fish caught on the right tackle are"Gfish"!


Quote from: Rancanfish on July 17, 2020, 02:22:56 PM
Man that answered that.  Thanks for the replies.  I can't wait to get retired and try all this out.
Sorry :)

Fly lines are a big  unnecessary mess.  But that helps keep the price up :)

Quote from: Gfish on July 18, 2020, 03:55:40 AM
This could be an excuse to buy more rods of varying weights. You have the lines now you gotta find the right rod for each!

You got that right!    And heaven forbid that you cast a tarpon line at a redfish ::)  A lot of this  junk is just about selling more lines (and rods, and reels)

Didn't see a measurement thing. That is, a standard DT has a 30' taper, 30' level, then 30' taper at the other end. What about a standard weight forward line? Do the tapers vary? I once had a floating "triangle taper" with a 40' taper.

The head can be any length, it does not change the AFTM classification which is  30 ft, no matter what the design is.

Don't know the history as to why they settled on 30 feet.

30 feet is sort of an average for a head section length-  a bit more than 3X of the typical rod length seems to be the generic sweet spot.  But head sections can range from the mid 20s to the mid 40s.  The longer heads tend to be better for distance casting, but also  tend to require more expertise. For saltwater fishing, the very short head weight forwards with extra weight concentrated toward the tip are becoming quite popular.   I hate them (more like throwing a rock than casting a line), but I am in a fairly small minority.

As mentioned before, the thinner the running line, the better it is for shooting but the less useful it is for casting, so some floating lines taper off the head more slowly (usually called the transition) to allow you to lift ia longer section  off the water and recast without stripping in.

Some lines concentrate more weight (and diameter) toward the the tip to help the line carry larger flies and  to help prevent the line from dumping (piling up instead of laying out flat) when shooting a longer cast.  But these type of lines do not land as quietly.

The Triangle Taper lines from Wulff have a very simple taper.  Most weight forwards have a sort of larger diameter belly section (which may be tapered), and then a faster taper at both ends of the head.  But the TT has no specific belly,  The front diameter progresses evenly until maximum diameter is reached, and then the longer back taper progresses evenly back down until the running line diameter is reached. Somehow Wuff managed to get a patent for this  ??? .   Nevertheless, the TT's are some of my favorite lines and work well in a variety of situations. especially if the flies are not too heavy.    They will cast well with a short or long amount of line past the tip.  If I could find them on sale more often, I would use them more :)

If you go to the web site for most fly line makers (except Wulff). you  can find a diagram that illustrates the taper for each fly line model.