Fly Line Selection

Deep into Fly Line Selection | A Headhunters Passion

I was fishing Montana’s Missouri River this last month with Luca Troiani of Sweetgrass Rods. He of course had a full quiver of Sweetgrass Bamboo Rods. You know the shop. The bamboo craftsmen, Jerry Kustich & Glenn Bracket were once associated with Winston Rod Co. Now, are out on their own building awesome bamboo products in Twin Bridges Montana. Luca is one of the rod builders…who loves to fish!

Luca was visiting the Missouri River and I had the opportunity to fish with him for a few days. He had brought a few bamboo rods and was getting out of Twin Bridges for a spell.

This spring John Arnold and I were shooting some media for Sweetgrass we noticed the stack of RIO’s competitors fly lines in the shop. John asked if they liked the competitor’s line on the bamboo rods and the answer was, “We have always thrown their Double Taper  line on these rods. Do other fly lines work on bamboo rods?”

That was the stumper. “Do other fly lines work on bamboo rods?” The next question of course was “Have you fellas tried other fly lines on these rods?” “Well not really” was the return comment. “This line seems to cast just fine.” And it does. It does cast just fine. But…is it the perfect marriage?

I have always been a fly line freak. Certainly more now as I become more excited about fly fishing while maturing, aging, or becoming simply mad. I was a Double Taper fan for a long, long time. Too long. Right up until the creation of the RIO Gold. I was not the guy who bought DT lines to use them twice. You ever try flipping around a fly line? I have…I just liked the presentation qualities of a double taper. You could also carry a bunch of line in the air because the body was the thickest part of the line. The WF’s of the day had skinny, tangly, running lines behind the head waiting for you to uncork a long, legendary cast before winding itself into an impossible mess!

The RIO Gold changed my mind about fly lines. Here was a line that was not a Double Taper, and not an overly aggressive Weight Forward Taper.

The Gold is a weight forward fly line with a progressive taper. A front taper of 5.5’ a mid sized 23’ body and a gentle rear taper that casts easy at close range. The long head length of 47’ lets you carry a nice amount of line, just a like double taper, with controllability at distance.

I always thought it was the perfect gateway line for those ready to break into the new and dynamic world of modern fly lines!

Since that moment of awakening I have been a big fan of trying as many different fly lines on any given rod as I can. If you are familiar with this obsession, finding the right line for the tool, then you know the feeling. The feeling you get when you have the right line on the rod. The rod suddenly has more personality. You can feel it load. You can sense when the fly line has nearly straightened on your back cast…the rod has just been unlocked, awakened, re-born. It is truly alive!


My favorite response is “That fly rod has personality.” My least favorite response is “They all cast about the same. Right?”



I have heard many times when speaking about 2 Handed Rods that there is no bad rods, just bad line matching. I feel the same way about single handed rods. The right line does make all the difference.

So here we were, on the Missouri River fishing with Luca, his quiver of Bamboo rods, and a pile of reels with a number of different fly lines. My plan was to introduce Luca to many different fly lines and tapers.

And we did just that. Luca was surprised at the difference that each line would create. A vastly different feel for each fly line. Each fly line will change the personality of a rod. Some lines slowed the load and some accelerated the load. Some felt heavy while others way too light. It is fun trying different lines on any given rod.

I cannot believe that some folks are content with old, dated, fly line technology.


I believe, while I am not a line maker, that the difference in lines today and yesterday is the difference between an old rotary phone and today’s ultra-techy modern iPhones. The design, durability, and castablility of todays fly lines is quite impressive.



I for one am not content with fly lines of yesteryear, or the improper fly line match.

Luca enjoyed our experience with different fly lines on the Bamboo jewels from Sweetgrass Rods. “Wow.” “OK, I get this.” “Oh, I don’t like this one.” All comments made throughout the two days on the Missouri River. We tried fly lines from RIO, Cortland, and Airflo. Some worked well and others did not. Also true with Fiberglass and Graphite rods. Some lines get along with the fly rod just fine, others do not.

Try different fly lines on your rod. You may like a line that is a line size heavy. A common tool of the past 20 years, but is losing popularity because the advent of current fly line technology and design.

You may like a line size light too? A Double Taper still carries water for specific applications and rod types. Shoot, even the Double Taper has received a face lift with the RIO TROUT LT DT. A longer front and rear taper of 29’. The traditional front and rear tapers were about 11’. Time does not stop, even with bamboo rods, and neither does fly line development.

But what if you have never tried a new, or different fly line. Some fly shops have demo fly lines to try before you buy. Other fly shops have a fly line guarantee. If you don’t like the fly line, trade it in and get the right line for the rod. I endorse the former, and the latter. Reputable fly shops will get you the right product for your rod.

The value of a fly line is if the line allows you to execute your game plan. Do you like to creep up behind fish and execute short precise casts? Or will you shotgun out long hopper casts towards the bank? Will you need an intermediate sink top to achieve the proper depth, the depth of the fish? Or do you want an easy casting fly line for all disciplines. Knowing your focus will help you find the right fly line.

Too many anglers just put on any fly line. I encourage you to become familiar with the large selection of fly lines available to the angler today. You can have a line for Redfish, for Carp, and for sipping trout. Why not have the right line for the task at hand. Fly line manufacturers today are pressing forward to provide more options for the angler. No longer do you have to settle for a generic fly line that works on everything. A 5 weight fly line will work on a 5 weight fly rod. But why settle for mediocrity.

Go out and find the line that gives your rod, “Personality!”

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  • So true! A $70 line can make an old rod feel like an $800 rod.

  • Thanks for this great insight!
    It IS indeed a forrest of trees thats called the line selection these days.

    Also don’t cast a line on a rod, cast it on YOUR rod to see what it does to you.
    Not an easy task since you can’t test it side by side with many lines, not even at a fly shop…

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