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Understanding Fly Line Weight

June 24, 2021

From the rod to the fly, and everywhere in between, there are several components to a fly fishing outfit ‒ and the weight of your fly line is one of them.

Fly line weight matters because it determines what you fish for and the success of your casts. However, fly lines come in a variety of weights, and beginners don’t always understand the nuances of choosing the appropriate fly line weight.

You can’t cast properly with the wrong fly line weight. Wild Water Fly Fishing is here to break down everything you need to know about fly line weight. Let’s get started!

Fly Line Weight & Rods

Every fly rod is built to work best with a specific line weight. Each rod blank will specify the line weight that the rod is designed to use. Our most popular rod, the ax56-090-4, specifies a line weight of 5/6 on the blank. Because the line weight should match the rod’s specifications, you would want to use a 5 or 6 weight line on the ax56-090-4 rod.

Why Does Fly Line Weight Determine the Fish You Catch?

Your fly line weight must also align with the size and type of the fly you use ‒ because, ultimately, your fly determines the fish you catch and the rod you use. In other words, your fly line weight and the type and size of your fly need to work in harmony to optimize your cast and help you catch the fish you’re targeting.

Let’s say you’re targeting large trout, which will require a large streamer. A heavier fly line weight will give you more control of your cast with the large streamer. A lighter fly line, on the other hand, would make it difficult to cast a big heavy streamer. The weight of a fly line carries the fly. The bigger the fly, the more weight you need to throw it out to the fish.

On the flip side, if you’re targeting smaller fish with a small and feathery fly, a lighter fly line will enhance the cast and presentation and land on the water more gently (as opposed to a heavier fly line, which would slam into the water and potentially scare fish away.) If you are fishing in clear shallow water, a smaller line weight is best for making less of a disturbance on the water’s surface.

What’s the Best Line Weight for Beginners?

At Wild Water Fly Fishing, we start new anglers out with a 5/6 fly fishing starter package that features a reel with a WF 5 fly line. This is a great outfit to use for catching small trout, small bass, or panfish.

If you’re going to only fish in small streams, we recommend a 7’ rod with a ¾ weight. This package features a reel with a WF 3 line.

Fly Line Weight: The Basics

Lines range from 00 to 12 weight. The bigger the number, the heavier the line. Most people use lines between 3 and 10 weight.

General rule of thumb: Use a light line when you want a delicate fly presentation. The light line will avoid disturbing the surface of the water and scaring the fish.

Heavier fly lines have larger numbers, and they’re necessary for catching bigger and more powerful fish in larger bodies of water, including saltwater, with heavy or bulky flies and streamers. Heavy fly lines are best for longer casts and bigger flies.

Next, we’ll break down fly line weights and describe the type of fish you can target with each.

Fly Line Weight 00-4: Panfish & Small Trout

Panfish and small trout are the primary fish you can target with a fly line weight of 3-5. Typically, fishing with fly line weights of 3-5 is best in small, gentle streams. As you move into fly line weights of 5-6, you can start to target medium-sized trout in small to mid-range streams.

Fly Line Weight 5 & 6: Average Trout & Small Bass

If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended you start with a fly line weight of 5 or 6. Making short casts with a light outfit can be challenging for beginners, so a weight of 5 is the sweet spot for catching small fish as you get accustomed to casting.

As you become more experienced, you can graduate to a fly line weight of 5 or 6. These are considered the everyman’s fly line weight, and they’re ideal for casting in faster-moving bodies of water.

You can catch virtually any size trout with a fly line weight of 5 or 6. If you’re targeting large trout, it’s recommended to go with a heavier 6 line. You can also target small and medium-sized bass.

Fly Line Weight 7 & 8+: Large Bass, Salmon, & Saltwater Fish

Once you start moving into more powerful bodies of water, like the ocean, you’ll need a heavier fly line. A fly line weight of 7 or 8 will help you target large bass and large trout. Fly line weights of 8 or higher will help you target large salmon, big steelhead, and powerful saltwater fish.

Have Questions About Fly Line Weight?

Understanding fly line weight will come to you in time as you practice and gain confidence in your casting. If you have any additional questions about fly line weight, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You can also stay tuned to our blog for more fly fishing tips, tricks, and information!