Which Single hand Fly Line is the Best?

Posted by on July 28, 2018 . 2 Comments.

The amount of Fly Lines out on the market today is huge. No wonder many of us are struggling to find out which line is best. The balance between a rod and line is vital! A fly fishing line can make or break a set after all!

It is difficult to buy and test 'all' lines as fly fisherman, but also the financial aspect of purchasing a whole bunch of different lines comes into play. Reading this article is not only interesting for anyone who wants to know more about lines and flycasting. But it will save you money in the long run!

A lot has changed when it comes to fly lines in recent years. The Tapers have become more and more sophisticated and manufacturers go to great lengths to produce the 'best' lines. This is mainly reflected in the number of lines made for specific circumstances. A special line for fishing with the dry fly for Trout, a Redfish line or a line for large and strong Tarpon is common these days and we all understand that these lines are not suitable for the same purpose.

What many people also do not understand is that a fly line has to be produced with great precision! The difference between a #5 and a #6 fly line in weight is about the same as the weight of a business card, divided over 30ft! This is the reason that quality lines are made by only a few manufacturers in the World. The dirt-cheap lines from Asia do not meet these tolerances. This is not a criticism, but just a fact that we all have to deal with. So be aware of this and if something is too good to be true... well... you understand where this is going.

When we look for an all-round fly line as an example, or a new sinking line, we have a huge choice. My first tip is to find a flyshop with experience who can provide you with good and honest advice! This may sound obvious, but there is a difference between offering a line from a manufacturer with good marketing. Or actually test dozens of lines to find out the differences between all of them. Just to discover whether one line is actually different or better than the other. Only by testing lines ourselves can we, as retailers, provide you with good advice based on something more than just reading something that is printed on the box by the manufacturer.

The team at Qflyshop has tested a lot of fly lines over the years, from brands like RIO, Guideline, Cortland, Airflo etc. But also lines from manufacturers that we do or did not carry ourselves. With the aim to find out which lines are the best in combination with various rods with different actions. But also to see which lines perform better in terms of durability and which are better for very specific purposes. Presenting a small midge with precision is of course very different in comparison with casting large Pike streamers all day long.

For those who do not want to read on and just want to know which lines stood out from the rest, here the results of our tests.

All Round Floating Line:

Dry Fly / Presentation:

Guideline Fario, Guideline Fario DT Float, RIO Light Line


RIO Pike/MuskyGuideline Pike Line


Guideline Control+,Airflo Super Dri Xceed WF


Guideline Coastal, Guideline Control+

Lake / Big River, Floating line: 

Guideline High Water Evolve


Airflo Sixth SenseGuideline Coastal, Guideline ULS

Trout Resevoir:

FloatingGuideline FarioSinkingGuideline ULSAirflo Sixth Sense

Single Hand Spey:

Guideline ULS, RIO SIngle Hand Spey


RIO Directcore Bonefish, Airflo Bonefish


Do you have questions regarding your own fishing? let us know and send us an e-mail with at least the following information. Fishing rod (brand + type), type of fishing you want to use the line for. Think of fish species, type of fly, streamer, nymph, dry flies or just all-round usage, short distance or long distance presentation and any specific wishes you might have.


But what exactly determines which fly line is best? This can not be linked to just a few parameters or testing with a system with scores for certain categories. What is evident is that the person who performs the test must  be able to flycast properly, small loops, double hauling and being able to control the loop and line. But when we as a shop give advice to the customer, we have to take into account his or her capabilities. In addition to a good rod-line set-up, it is always important for the individual fisherman to take casting lessons from someone who really understands what he or she is talking about and with the talent to teach. Learn to flycast might not be very easy, but unlearning casting errors is much more difficult!

We look at different factors when testing the lines. The most important thing is how the line behaves in the air and how it lands on the water or presents the fly. A Guideline Control+ is really an incredibly capable line, for the beginner but also for the expert who simply wants to cast and fish with very little effort. Ideal for Resevoir fishing, Carp, Seatrout etc. But it is not adequate for presenting a small size #20 dry fly on the Hemsila in order to seduce a large wild brown trout. So we always have to look at the individual and the fishing for which we want to use the line.

In the past we mainly fished with a DT or a double taper. Ideal because you could use the line on two sides. Always take the line from the reel to prevent it from kinking too much though. Nowadays it is thought that a DT line has virtually no taper or weight in front of the line. For that we have the weight forward (WF) right? That statement is not entirely correct. A DT does have a taper, in fact, comparable to that of a WF. A WF has a thinner running line and can therefore be easier to cast with and shoot more line. The disadvantage is that we can only use the WF line on one side.

Length, weight, taper and material all affect how these lines behaves. Of course, there is also the influence of the rod (action) and more importantly the fly caster himself. Everyone has their own capabilities when it comes to casting and that is completely fine. For many fisheries, it is not even that important to be able to cast accurately and/or far. But if you have ever stood on the flats, casting to a large solitary and tailing Bonefish with a strong side wind or had the need to present a dry fly with precision against a vegetated bank, you understand very quickly that being able to make a good cast is a must. Taking everything into account there are many variables to take into consideration. So if you thought that there is one miracle line that is better than all others, I'll have to disappoint you I'm afraid. For this reason it is important to make an informed choice and not just a line with an exciting story printed on the cardboard or a nice box for show.

What also plays a role is the AFTMA standard, AFTMA which stands for Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers. In short they have tried to introduce a standard. Maybe you think, atma #4 rod then I just need a aftma #4 line and I'm good to go... unfortunately this is not so simple nowadays. Not only do the various rods differ from each other despite having the same aftma designation. Even the lines do not all fall within the set weight limits. The weight is measured in grains on the first 10yards / 30ft / 9.14m (minus the tip). This measuring method is not perfect, taper has so much influence that a line with a heavier weight can feel lighter as a line that is actually lighter when we weigh it. I know ... it does not get any easier does it!

This short video breaks down and simplifies the fly fishing industry fly line standard, known as the "AFTMA standard". This is a very informative film for anglers that want to delve a little deeper in to the subtleties of the way a fly line loads a fly rod.

The rod needs a certain weight to load (bend) the rod. Too little and the rod does not load well (does not bend enough) and will not perform optimally and the angler will receive little feedback about what the rod does. Too much line weight and the rod will overload. As a result, the rod bends too much, the loops will become larger and the set will not perform optimally. Many beginners often get the advice to take a line rated a aftma class heavier. In my opinion this is not always the best advice. Of course some rods simply cast better with a class heavier line. But this is difficult to feel for someone who really does not know enough to make an informed decision. Yes, you feel the rod loading. But that way you never learn to cast the right way based on technique instead of power and you will never get the best out of your equipment.

If you go up one line weight just for the soul purpose of casting with little effort? Then you could opt for a Shootinghead type line. These are not made to achieve maximum distance as some of us think, but to cast quickly and effortless with just one or two false casts. Ideal during competitions for example or a specific type of fishing where you make cast after cast all day long, like for example Coastal Seatrout fishing. We had several people casting with a Guideline Control+ line during the last Dutch FlyFair. Everyone was very surprised how nice and easy this line casts. The combination of a Douglas DHF or SKY #6 weight rod and a Guideline Control + #6 line is magical!

The simple fact is that the combination of line and rod is extremely important. If this is not balanced properly, then it does not work well together. To test this kind of things you have to try different lines with different rods. Maybe an idea for the next flyfishing club event? Have everyone bring their favorite rods and lines and test them together. I am sure that you, like us, will be surprised by the results!

Are you looking for a new fly line? contact us for good advice, based on tests, experiences and facts, we are happy to help!

Tags: fly fishing lines, fly lines, which line Last update: August 18, 2018


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