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Selecting a Fly Line Weight

Currently under constructionA fly rod and line fulfills two main duties:

  1. To deliver a fly with minimum effort and distraction to a fish and
  2. To help retrieve a fish in once hooked.

It is easy to see how rod backbone is important in fulfilling both duties. A heavier rod is required to pull in a larger fish than a smaller fish. Likewise, a heavier rod is required to propel a larger or heavier fly than a smaller fly. As a loose rule, bigger fish required bigger flies - as an example: you don't cast #26 nymphs to Tarpon or #2/0 Bonito Candy to Brook Trout. For this reason, needed fly rod line weight (AFTM number) is closely associated with the target fish.

Both flies and fish come in a vast range of sizes and no hard rules to line size.The logical place to start is by considering the type of fish you will target. Here is a short guide of fish versus line weight that has been vetted by a number of very fine fishermen:

The AFTM number (American Fly-fishing Tackle Manufacturers) is used to match line weight against a rod. If you don't match you rod to your line you will really struggle to make a decent cast. The AFTM measures the weight of the first 10 yards of line, which is what most trout anglers will use to load up the rod before shooting the line. For trout rods it is a very useful number.

There are reasons to go with a lighter or heavier line. Dropping a line weight will benefit you with less splash on the water and spooking less fish. Another benefit is ease of casting leading to less fatique for the angler. Often you want cast as far with a lighter line. Also, fish on an undersized rod may be difficult to land. Fish fighting against an underpowered rod may exhaust themselves to their death - which we don't want. A overly heavy rod may easily deliver a fly but the presentation may be worse with more splash.

Many fly anglers will put one, sometimes even two, weight heavier line on a rod to soften or slow the cast -- i.e. 9 weight line on a stiff 8 weight rod. I have progressively done this as rods have got faster and I have gotten older.

Once weight is selected there are several other considerations. This includes line taper, sink/float rate, and color.

More valuable links to help you select a fly line size

Fly Casting - Fly rod selection for trout, salmon, pike, bonefish and steelhead fly fishing
Choose a fly rod line size3M Scientific Anglers - Putting Together a Balanced System

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