Rob Kolakowski photo

Marking fly line


 Modifying your new fly line out of the box will help improve your casting.

You could take the simple approach and tie on your fly line and go fishing, but making some preparations ahead of time will make things easier when on the water.

Most lines are tapered and knowing where the line tapers can help improve the performance of your line and casting. For example a weight forward type fly line consists of a head and running line. The thin running line does not transfer energy well to the larger diameter head. Your casting can suffer greatly if the head is far outside the rod tip. Knowing where the head tapers into the running line will help a lot. On top of this there are several other modifications that will aid in your casting. The following is the process I go through to get a line ready for fishing.

First take the fly line spool out of the box and unroll the line onto the floor. Stick a pencil in the hole of the spool and pull the line off with the other hand causing the spool to turn. If you lay the spool on a table and pull the line off the side you will end up with some nightmarish twists in your line. Make sure you do it the first way I mentioned. Spread the line out across the floor so that it does not tangle. Next give your line a good stretch to get all the coils out from being on the spool for a long time. Do this by working your way down the line from one end to the other.

The next thing I do is cut back the front taper so that it makes the fly line more aggressive where it attaches to the leader. Sometimes cutting up to three or four feet. There is no hard and fast rule on this. I cut back enough fly line so that it does a good job of turning over a stout leader and big fly. Cut a little at a time and see how it casts. A lot of people think a delicate line is better for certain species, but I’m convinced an aggressive line is best in all situations and all species. The reason is that it is more versatile. With a delicate line you can only cast small flies well. With and aggressive line and short stout leader you can cast big flies easily. All you need to do for a delicate presentation with small flies is make your leader longer. You can make the leader much more delicate than a fly line will ever be. So with a short aggressive front taper on a fly line all you need to do is adjust your leader length to fish a wide variety of flies. Some lines are good out of the box, but for most I shorten the front taper.

After cutting back the front taper make loops in both ends of the fly line. Some lines already come with loops. With loops in the ends of the line you can easily change leaders or change the fly line on your spool. Make the loops by folding over the fly line onto itself and use 10 pound mono and a nail knot or two to secure the loop. The mono will bite into the fly line coating and the loop will be strong. You can see what the loop looks like in the photo where it attaches to the leader.

Next mark the line with a permanent marker. Roll the line as you make the mark so it is visible all around. The first mark is made near the end of the line by the leader. If you end up with a lot of lines this mark will remind you what type of line you have. My line in the photo is a weight forward 9 weight. So near the end of the line I make a dash followed by 4 dots. The dash represents the number five and each dot represents the number one. So a dash and four dots equals nine for a nine weight line. You can also use the same marks to tell you how the line is tapered. For a weight forward put the long dash toward the leader. This tells you the head or mass is toward the front of the line. On a double taper line the mass is spread throughout the middle of the line. Put the long dash toward the middle of the line.

The next mark is for a weight forward line. Make some sort of mark where the back of the head tapers down to the running line. Make it long enough so that you can see it easily. A foot long mark or a series of marks that add up to a foot or more are easily seen when your stripping in line. When you are making long casts with a weight forward line you will need to retrieve the head back to the rod tip in order to cast the line. This mark will tell you where to stop and make your next cast. Another thing that helps mark this sweet spot for casting is an indicator bump on the running line. You can feel it run under your index finger when stripping line. You will then know the back of the head is at the rod tip and you can make the cast. Make a nail knot with 10lb or less mono about one rod length from the mark you made for the back of the head. Measure from the mark toward the running line and place the knot there. The idea is to have the knot run through your finger at the same time the mark on the head is reaching the rod tip. This gives you two indicators that tell you the sweet spot for casting a long line. Some line manufacturers are now using different colors in their lines to mark the head and some are even installing the indicator bump that you can feel.

A double taper line is the same diameter throughout except that the two ends are tapered. There is no transition from head to running line to mark. You could still mark the sweet spot in the mid section that makes for a good long cast. This spot will allow you to generate good line speed without overloading the rod.

The last thing to do before you put the line on the spool is let the marker dry overnight and then wipe off the excess. This will help keep the marker from bleeding into the rest of the line. Sometimes the color bleed is inevitable depending on how the line is made and what it is exposed to. I just live with it and freshen up my marks once in a while. Maybe someday all lines will come marked and make our lives easier.

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