The Fly Line Nerd Out – Part 2: Weight Forward Tapers

Welcome back to the Fly Line Nerd Out! If you missed part one follow the link below to catch up:

In this installment of nerding out on fly lines we will discuss different weight-forward tapers. Its another popular topic when it comes to a fly line conversation and will help you consider all the options when it comes to buying the proper fly line. This article is based on both fact and opinion so take it with a grain of salt, in fact, always do that with the outdoor industry. In this article you will find a variety of tapers being discussed including: all-around, nymph, distance and/or competition, compact shooting heads, short belly, and streamer tapers. Depending on the manufacturers some of these tapers can be crossed-over, may even do the same job, or be a similar design.



To get started we’ll go over all-around or what some companies call a “general” taper. Essentially the idea with this type of taper is giving the line advantages when it comes to throwing a variety of flies. A general taper is designed to turn over long dry fly leaders, deliver nymphs, and at the same time still chuck a streamer. These “do-it-all” tapers are becoming more popular and really can do the job for almost any freshwater application. The taper on the below line you can see has a moderate front and rear taper to maintain stability but still allows for a delicate presentation. This line also has a slightly extended head length and good size belly to allow for distance casting. At the same time most of these all-around style lines still have a slightly condensed taper or head to allow the punching of bigger flies out onto the water. Its all about a good balance to help any angler throw a variety of flies in various situations.



The next and most common line used among anglers is some type of trout taper or delicate delivery style taper depending on the manufacturer. Most anglers fishing for trout will go with some type of weight forward trout taper as it works great for a variety of rods and flies. I would say most trout tapers can still be somewhat of an all-around line but there are still some lines designed to provide a much more delicate or stealthy presentation. One of my favorites is the Super-DRI Bandit from Airflo(pictured below).

First of all the taper on this line allows for a much nicer cast at longer distances because of the shorter front and longer rear taper then your typical all-around line. The rear taper allows the angler a stable cast at longer distances for those picky fish. If your making technical casts with longer leaders this is a great fly line. My favorite feature of this line is the twelve feet of camo bands on the front that break up the profile both in the air and on the water. I did some experimenting with this line to some of my favorite picky fish in Idaho using shorter leaders to see their reaction. I was surprised to see I could throw shorter leaders to what I thought were the pickiest of trout. Normally casting to a feeder in the far lane wasn’t an option because you’d line another group, but those ones didn’t seem to notice the camo bandit tip which made for a much more productive day. This line excels at dead-drifting dry flies, mending, and is easy on the pick-up which is perfect for chasing trout.



Next up is one that doesn’t get much hype but can perform some unique casts. The short belly taper is great for single hand spey and roll casting. These lines tend to be a half-size or full-size heavy from most manufactures which increases its ability to deliver heavier fly rigs or streamers. This style of taper has a very short head design with a long handling or running line. Basically this line has the ability to set a really nice anchor which is the reason why its wonderful for single hand spey, roll casting, and weighted flies.

Short belly tapers are a good transition into nymph lines which is where were headed. As I stated at the beginning a lot of these tapers have some cross-over especially depending on the manufacturer and angler. This is simply my version/opinion hence its my nerd-out so don’t take it too seriously. Nymph tapers are obviously best suited for nymphing. Firstly, when it comes to nymphing the anglers who are into competitions tend to have their own versions called “competition nymph” lines.  The nymph line most of us might use or even “Anadro” line certain manufactures like to say have their differences. Most competition nymph lines are thin and level to provide sensitivity. These lines are designed specifically for people who like to European nymph and usually come in a floating and intermediate version.



Anglers around the globe enjoy nymphing but aren’t always looking for that competition style line. For those still looking to primarily nymph there are other lines like the one below that are best suited for throwing multi fly rigs with an indicator.

These lines have an aggressive front taper and extended rear taper which allows anglers the ability to better cast heavy rigs and control their line/drift. With a long rear taper these lines are great for mending. The Nypmh/Indicator line from Airflo pictured above has a larger tip diameter then most lines to help turnover those heavy nymph rigs and provide additional distance when needed.



The last taper I’m going to reference can be one of the most fun to throw – streamer and/or compact shooting heads. The reason I throw those into the same category is streamer lines are essentially just compact shooting heads built to throw heavy flies. These lines are usually a half-size to two sizes heavy according to industry standards. Basically, you might buy a 5WT streamer line but in all reality,  it weighs as much as a 5.5WT or even 7WT line. If your throwing big flies or dealing with heavy winds this taper is the best option. Pictured below is what I would consider your standard streamer style taper. It has a shorter-rear taper and longer running line to cover distance with ease.

These streamer tapers have short powerful heads to offer excellent turnover of bigger flies. By far my favorite streamer line is the Streamer-Max Short from Airflo(pictured below). If you enjoy tossing big streamers from a boat or getting big baitfish down to hungry bass this is an exceptional line.

This taper has a powerful tip and aggressive taper as you can see in the above picture. I’ve thrown some of best double-hauls on larger rivers in Idaho with this line just because of its ability to load a rod and carry running line. This Airflo line has a serious sink tip with an intermediate running line making it great for bigger rivers, heavy flows, and stillwater.

There you have it, the above information should give you a broad idea when it comes to designs and tapers of fly line. We could go even deeper into this deep and dark rabbit hole so stay tuned for the next nerd-out. For now, to help get a better understanding of fly lines I’ve rallied up another perspective. Friend and former co-worker Morgan gives us his opinion for better reflection on this nerd-out:

“Fly lines, simply put, are the most important piece of the core gear trifecta; rods, reels and lines. It does not matter how nice your rods and reels are if you fly line is old, dirty or cracked. With so many fly lines on the market it is extremely easy to feel overwhelmed while searching for the line to compliment that nice new (or old) rod you just picked up.

There are many different factors to consider while searching for the perfect line but the first two fly line characteristics I consider are A) the taper, and B) the weight.

Those little diagrams on the back of fly line boxes have actual valuable information, who would have thought!? Those diagrams break down the taper of the fly line, which will help you decide if that line matches your intended use. The front taper, the rear taper, the belly and the overall head length of the fly line will impact it’s performance. There are WF lines (weight forward) and DT lines (double taper) and each option can have varying tapers. I generally prefer weight forward lines with longer front and rear tapers. The way the weight of the line is distributed throughout the head of the fly line impacts it’s feel and performance as well.

You just match a 5wt line to 5wt rod right? Wrong. Every rod has it’s own unique action/feel or personality as I like to call it. Pairing a properly weighted line to a specific rod can bring that rod to life. For example, as I accumulated a few rods I began to use my first high quality 5wt less and less even though it was my nicest rod. Looking back, I do not believe I had a properly weighted line paired with that rod and it resulted in a wonky feeling cast.

Over the years, I have developed fishing preferences and my lines began to match those preferences. Some may call me a purist or elitist but I got into fly fishing to cast dry flies plain and simple. Obviously, I’ve taken a liking to other styles of fishing such as streamer fishing and swinging flies but it’s hard to beat watching a cleanly drifted dry fly get eaten. That is what I imagine when I think of fly fishing so I started using lines that promote clean presentations, smooth casts and the ability to mend and maintain proper drifts. My rod preferences, trout-wise, also reflected that preference. Any time I use a 5wt or lighter rod, they are deep loading softer rods. Even some of my larger rods would be considered slow compared to other rods on the market. These slower rods don’t require as much weight in the line to properly load them so I tend to use true to weight line when pairing them with my rods. Very rarely do I use a half weight heavy line while fishing for trout. The lines I use also tend to have longer tapers to promote that presentation and line control I’m looking for.

These preferences also hold true when it comes to my spey lines. Skagit lines are absolutely the easiest two-handed lines to learn on and to throw heavy flies and tips, and I do cast them when the conditions require that style of fishing, however, I generally prefer the logner and lighter scandi options while swinging. They are incredibly smooth casting lines compared to the clunky Skagit heads and I find myself fishing smaller steelhead patterns that don’t require a lot of weight to move them.

I could talk about fly lines all day if I had the time and this description hardly scratches the surface when it comes to all the options out there but if you consider the weight and taper of the fly lines available and what you’ll be fishing for, you can find the perfect line. With that being said, fly shop employee’s geek out on this stuff, they are happy to “nerd out” with you and help you pair the right line with your rod.”


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