Understanding Lines and Grain Weights

Lines...What a topic!

Fly lines are getting even more complex with the newer coating and core materials, yet the way to identify what rods they can be used on and which basic rules are needing to be followed or understood is what the following paragraphs will help along the way.

For the past few years the most interesting and least understood developments in fly fishing is within Line Design and Grain weights, leaving many grasping for air, trying to comprehend what all this really means.
To completely understand line weights in relationship to modern graphite fly rods is actually a simple thing; but as we all know what might be simple is also complex.
Here is One idea that is easy to follow...most of us have a 5 Weight  fly rod; likley 9', and Graphite. Often we will overline it with a Number 6 fly line( 160 grains); following this practice will permit casters to feel the rod loading deeper more quickly. A sensation felt especially if the caster is utilizing a good casting style. Here is the goods on this. Fly lines are rated according to their physical weight, suggested to be along the first 30' of the line; behind the front taper (often not followed). The front taper being different for many disciplines  such as Double taper, weight forward, delicate presentation, shooting head and so on. This is also relavent to all categories of line densities..floating, slow sink, Intermediate, Fast Sink and more. But please note here...most weight Forward lines are weight measured for their first 30' including tapers simply because more WF lines have short front tapers. This makes things a bit easier for the manufactures and fly fishers alike.

For small stream and creek  fly fishers the need to carry more than 30' of fly line isn't even an option.  However,  for the vast majority of fly fishers the need to carry in excess of 60' is the real deal. "Oh my goodness" I can't carry that much grain weight. I'll break the rod!!"..of course we know this to be  nonsense. If calculations are correctly made, you would likely be carrying between 240-260 grains, this would apply to the most popular fly line being the weight froward. For those using a  double taper line you would be carrying slightly more. And yes the fly rod will handle this well if of fair quality and if casting is done with a smooth rhythm. Weight Forward Shooting heads push the envelope , compacting  the grain weights into head lengths from 36-45', yes thats correct,they take the overall grain weight from the first 60' and design it into the short head length. This applies to Single ,Switch and Spey Rods..

Since the mid Nineties, the popularity of Spey casting has shot out like a rocket, causing such change that often times it feels as if it were  the computer world instead of a sport . So it is high time to get the facts out to the groups needing to understand this more thoroughly and not embedding interests groups into mass hysteria about having a Magic Bullet!  This is of course good for the merchants that don't really care but not so for the consumer that not only buys too many lines but also is inundated with Bargains on EBAY AND ON FISHING FORUM BUY AND SELLS.. These lines are not understood and often wrong only to be passed on repeatedly.

Make sure to click on the other pages under this heading; we will have a full section on recommended lines, weights and styles along with comparisons relating to rod make-up and quality/type. 

Line Cores
..all fly lines use a coating over some kind of Core material. The now most popular core materials being used by good line manufacturers is a braided Nylon core, basically the same materials used in the making of braided loops...there may be some variations in break strength but generally strong 25 to 45 lb.break strength

The next most popular core material is  Monofilamernt.  Unfortunately , coatings don't adhere too well to this core material  and there is a tendency in cooler climates for the core to coil excessively. The good side of mono-corelines is in their use with tropics or warm water lines. Warm water conditions will soften the core  enough to stabilize a non-sag line in these conditions whereas a braided core line will sag like wet spagetti.

However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this page; what might seem simple may be complex. We now see more non-stretch cores coming into popularity especially for large preditor lines where line stretch is a bad thing.  and of course this will lead to what we consider the main ingredient..the coating!

Fly Line Coatings..there are likely more on their way but we generally consider Polyurethane, PVC and Polyethelene as the Three main coating materials. Of course there are degrees of stabilizers,inhibitors,lubricants and much more than meets the eyes..but for us this will do. Density , high float,self lubricating,....................................

The Table below will give you an ovesight into the various grain weights for single handed rods. There is a slight degree of tolerance with these to allow for manufacturing deficiencies.  We will use the Weight Forward specifications to remain impartial and not really focus on the varying degrees of tolerances.

Spey Rods..

those wonderful tools that we have so much fun with ..OR DON"T! This seems to be the truth..without going into casting related data and how to's .Line match with Two Handers is critical if you are looking for good results for your efforts.

To Clear up a bit of confusion,Spey Rod lengths begin at 11' and continue all the way up to an astounding 18'. Most modern rods start at 11'6" and continue to approximately 15'.  It seems that this range covers most situations for casters . Todays excellent rod blank materials develope awesome performance, is light in hand ,and can be well matched with a variety of new Spey lines found within this technical world.
To better understand this chapter you need to grasp that there are  3 basic Spey Rod Groupings. All of these rod types can crossover somewhat acceptably  to other casting styles but are best suited for their designed purpose.
Group One..Traditional
Group Two..Scandanavian
Group Three..Modern

In North America, often times when you try to understand the Spey Fishing trends related to geographic areas it reminds me of the weather patterns, some merging into others; Thunder storms in some areas with sun in others. So,lets say that the Thunder Storms are related to West Coast...big.loud and at times obnoxiously large, fast, loud waters with equally big, loud and smashing fish!  On the otherhand lets relate the East Coast to a more suptle,quieter slow moving River  with large fish laying in deep tea coloured pools being teased by the many insects that inhabit that area! What this really means  is "different Strokes for different regions" somewhat! So the needs of One area can overlap into the other but not be necessarily the "Ticket" to success.

Skagit  or Modern techniques

Lets break this down...since we are located on the West Coast we will start with the needs of much of this region of North America...Huge forests,deep Canyons, large Rivers, big fish,few insects,and plenty of decaying fish carcases providing nutrients  into these systems during High Water events. What this created was a need for 'Shorter" Spey Rods  that had the ability to deliver very heavy flies  with relative ease into the elements in order to have a chance at hooking into Mostly Steelhead and Chinook Salmon. Thus the Skagit style of Spey Casting and all that comes with it!  This style of Spey Casting  has revolutionized all fly fishing as we know it, across the board.

Like all things today, once we see a product evolve to popularity many companies jump onto the bandwagon and follow along. This journey that developes is often certainly misunderstood and incorrect  buy copycats.
So here is a grain weight window for Switch rods that is as accurate as it gets and can be utilized by most ,and I will say MOST cautiously.
Some of the newer companies have no idea and will simply grab at a hat and hope it fits.

Switch Rod Line stats

3wt 200 tolerances 180-230                                                                   
4wt 250   230-275  
5wt 300   250-325  
6wt 350   300-375  
7wt 400   350-425  
8wt 450   400-475  
9wt 500   475-550  
10wt 550   525-600  
11wt 600   575-650  
12wt 700   625-750  


Once you enter the world of Two Handed Fly Rod Casting many things will change.. a great and obvious observation is the significant ranges in line weights. But you really have to carefully understand that this range is simply there to accomodate the various casting techniques. For Example...Single Hand Overhead, Scandanavian, Skagit, Surf, Traditional Spey casts, and then modern. Now you see what I am referring to! As the word itself signifies, Switch..from One hand or Two Hand

A good and simple rule to follow is this..for any overhead casts needing reasonable excess distance  use the lower number, if you are considering  a distinct shorter stroke then the heavier line is required to load these rods deeper without compromising rod abilities and efficient re-coil and dampening. An overloaded rod will simply not re-coil efficiently and not react well to a serious overload. 

The need for a delicate presentation in most cases here on the West Coast is not a reality. The need to get down to the fish is the key factor followed by natural drift and then presentation.These same needs are present across the Planet but only at certain times, such as when fly fishing for "Black Salmon" or drop backs from over wintered Atlantic Salmon when water conditions are highish and somewhat coloured.

2wt 80    tolerances                  74 86
3wt 100   94 106
4wt 120   114 126
5wt 140   134 146
6wt 160   152 168
7wt 185   177 193
8wt 210   202 218
9wt 240   230 250
10wt 280   270 290
12wt 380   368 392
13wt 450      
14wt 500      
15wt 550      

  What One must really consider is the speed rating and quality  of their fly rod in deciding their best line matches. What does this mean....well now you get into a whole world of stuff!  Graphite..30 ton,35 ton,40 ton,45ton..this is the thickness and strength of the Graphite scrims...the higher the number the stronger the scrim...and then you get into the Nano resins and now the Graphene materials..Graphene is the strongest molecule we have ever discovered,,lightermstronger and more versatile is now possible..originally used in Military uses and Formula I venicles..stay tuned