Small Streams: Fly Line Economics

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When it comes to small stream fishing, don’t worry so much about your line.

Depending on who you ask, your fly line is either one of the most important or one of the least important pieces of your rig. When it comes to fishing small streams and creeks, I’ll gladly say that it’s certainly the least important.

WF Floating Fly LineThe small stream scenario

I often fish local small streams or sections of slightly larger rivers where the entire width is only 12-20 feet. Casting is difficult, getting the right position is difficult and presenting a fly good enough to fool a trout can often be tricky.

When the average width of the water you’re on is 20 feet, fly line selection becomes irrelevant. Your typical cast is probably going to get about 8-10 feet of line out the tip of the rod. Depending on your leader and tippet lengths (and fly rod length), very little line is actually in play in this type of situation.

The line is really doing nothing more than giving me the ability to actually get a fly to the target.

The economics of it all

When I’m fishing in this type of scenario, which I often am, I’m using a simple $39 RIO WF floating line. Sure, that $75 Trout LT line is awesome, but it doesn’t provide any advantage or added performance over its $39 counterpart in the small stream scenario.

Even a $39 line is overkill for the scenario if you ask me. I’d be just as happy with a $20-$25 bulk produced, no-name WF line, as long as it’s a line from any decent manufacturer. This is an area where you can really save some money while not impacting the overall performance of your rig.

You simply need something good enough to get the fly to its destination. In this scenario, a $20 fly line and an $80 fly line are both going to get you there, with little difference. In other situations, like bigger rivers or different techniques, line plays an important role. In the small stream trout scheme of things, your fly line just simply doesn’t matter nearly as much.

Focus on presentation

Honestly, in the small stream scenario, any decent fly line is going to work. Rather than being so concerned about your line or that $450 rod you just bought, be much more attentive of your presentation. Focus more on your leader/tippet lengths and getting those perfect drifts that you need.

Small stream fishing is all about stealth presentation and proper technique. What you use to present that technique isn’t nearly as important as how you present that technique.


Cory Perry
I'm a husband, father and fly fishing geek living in Greenville, SC. I'm down with slinging flies, tying flies and spending every minute I can enjoying the vast outdoors with my family and friends.

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