In the world of saltwater fly fishing, much attention is focused on the importance of the fly rod. A fly rod is the most expensive tackle investment a fly fisherman will make, so countless hours are spent mulling over which brand, weight, action, and finish is best. But a good fly rod is only one part of the equation. Another component of a saltwater fly fishing outfit, one that is often undervalued, is the fly line. A good fly line compliments the rod and makes it possible for anglers to connect with strike zones under a wide variety of conditions.
But with so many different lines available... which is the right choice? I have narrowed my arsenal down to three lines I consider essential- the weight forward floating, the intermediate sinking, and the fast sinking. I use these lines frequently along the Texas Coast (and elsewhere) and each has its place for targeting fish at different depths and at different times of the year. Let's take a closer look at each line.
Weight Forward Floating Lines
Nearly every saltwater angler begins his/her career outfitted with a weight forward floating line. These lines are ideal for targeting shallow water redfish, or canvassing shallow open stretches of water with blind casts. My favorite lines in this category include the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Saltwater and Redfish series of lines. The SA Saltwater line has a long head and slender belly. It loads the rod gradually, and makes accurate long distance casts in the wind. The SA Redfish line has a short head which loads the rod quickly for rapid punchy casts at close targets. Both lines have relatively firm textures, are highly durable, and perform well in warm weather.
Another line I like is the Cortland 444 Tropic Plus Lazer line. I have used this line for many years. The 444 Tropic Plus Lazer Line is an extremely stiff fly line designed specifically for hot weather. It shoots well and resists tangles even in oppressive temperatures. It is a workhorse line that is strictly designed for warm weather fishing.
The other types of lines I use are sinking lines. Unfortunately, many anglers have never tried a sinking line. It's a shame because the ability of these lines to go deep opens up countless opportunities for saltwater fishermen. There are many different types of sinking lines available. I generally prefer the level or "steady sink" lines as opposed to sinking tip lines (which are really more akin to integrated shooting lines) and I use both intermediate and fast sinking versions of these lines.
Intermediate Sinking Lines
Intermediate sinking line sinks very slowly about 1-2 inches per second (IPS). They are a perfect choice for the surf because they slip below the churning waves allowing anglers to maintain straight-line contact with their flies. They are also a great choice for fishing secondary channels and guts or working shallow reefs and structure where a steady, level presentation is desired. My favorite intermediate sinking line is the Scientific Anglers Clear Intermediate Bonefish line. I love this line! It casts well, has a pebbled finish that feels good on your fingers, and it is very durable.
Fast Sinking Lines
The second group of sinking lines I use are the fast sinking lines. Fast sinking lines don't mess around. They get a fly down quick- between 5-7 IPS. These lines are perfect for working channels and jetty edges, where strong current is present, or when sending flies to deep open water structure. My favorite fast sinking lines are the Cortland 444 SL Type 6 Steady Sink line, or the Scientific Anglers Striped Bass Type 4 fast sinking line. Either of these lines does a great job of getting flies deep.
At first, you will find sinking lines cumbersome. They tangle easily and require a full retrieve between casts. Also, a stripping basket or bucket is required to effectively control and shoot these lines. But after you get used to them they're actually easier to cast than floating lines. The big benefit though, is that they enable you to reach places floating lines can't reach.
Remember – a good fly line compliments the rod, accommodates the fly, and allows an angler to adapt to his targets whether they are near or far, shallow or deep. And although it is not reflected in the dollar signs, the right fly line often plays a bigger role in successful fishing than the rod.