The oildressed silk line was in universal use for threequarters of a century, until it was replaced by the modern plasticcoated fly lines which consist of a plaited Dacron core with a coating of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). For sinking fly lines, the PVC is impregnated with powdered metal, the quantity used determining the rate at which the line sinks through the water.

A wide variety of line is now available, identified by a code known as the AFTM system. This code tells you the kind of taper the line has, the weight of the first 30ft of the line, and whether the line is a floating or a sinking one.

Socalled ‘level lines’ are of the same thickness all along their length; they are little used and their only merit is that they are cheap. They are designated by the letter L.

Double taper lines ‘Double taper lines’, designated DT, have both their ends tapered for more than 10ft, giving a fine end which falls more lightly on the water. The idea of a double taper is that when one end is worn, you can reverse the line on your reel and use the other. These lines usually come in lengths of 90ft. ‘Forward taper lines’, otherwise known as ‘weightforward’ (WF) resemble the first 30ft or so of a double taper with 40ft of very fine fly line attached. (In fact there is no actual attachment, both core and coating are continuous.) This allows more line to be ‘shot’ through the rings when casting. Lines are now available with the first, heavier part longer than 30ft. These are called ‘long belly lines’. ‘Shooting heads’ are similar in principle to ‘forward taper lines’, but instead of the fine shooting line being a continuation of the PVCcoated fly line, it consists of nylon monofilament attached to the fly line by a special knot. This allows even more line to be ‘shot’ in casting, and as the fly line is usually cut from a double taper, shooting heads are much cheaper than either double or forward taper lines.

Shooting heads

Good tackle shops will usually sell halves or ‘double tapers’ for making shooting heads, which will need a further reduction in length, usually to 3036ft.

All these lines can be of different floating or sinking qualities. There are floaters, slow sinkers, medium sinkers and fast sinkers, as well as floating lines with sinking tips. They are all available in a range of weights, numbered 3 to 12. The more powerful your rod, the heavier the line it will need.

When you buy a rod you will find that its maker has specified what size line it will carry. Remember that this refers to 30ft of line in the air. If your rod has a recommendation of No 7 line, that means it will work nicely when you are switching 30ft of line in the air.

For dry fly and nymph fishing, floating lines are used: the sinking lines are mainly for lake and reservoir fishing when wet flies and lures of various kinds are needed. Slow sinkers sink at a rate of about I ft in 7 seconds: medium sinkers 1ft in 5 seconds: fast sinkers, or as they are sometimes called, ‘HiD’ lines sink about 1ft in 3 seconds. By counting the seconds after casting, you can decide how deep you allow your line to sink before starting the retrieve.

Backing line

For most kinds of fly fishing, your fly line needs backing: that is, some monofilament or braided, uncoated line is wound on to the reel first, and then the coated fly line is attached to it. Flattened monofilament of about 25 lb b.s., or special nylon sold for backing purposes, is cheaper than braided backing, and easier to connect to fly lines.