If there is anything that can confuse beginning fly anglers quickly about fly lines, it will be the taper of the fly line. There are a number of different tapers in a fly line, all of which are designed for differing uses and situations. Moreover, the tapers of a fly line are generally identified on a box of fly line in a rather strange way for people not familiar with how tapers are identified. For a person new to fly fishing, attempting to decipher what kind of fly line taper you are looking at can be a rather confusing experience. Happily, fly line taper isn't that hard to figure out once you get the basics down, so let's get started exploring fly line taper.
Fly Line Taper Explained
First, though, what is fly line taper, anyway? As mentioned, in fly fishing, the weight of the fly line is what allows for casting. Unlike in spin fishing, where the weight of the lure pulls out the line behind it when cast, in fly fishing, the weight of the fly line (combined with the action of the fly rod) is what propels the fly out onto the water.
Tapers are essentially adjustments to the fly line that make the fly line cast easier and better in particular situations. You see, most fly lines are not "level" - that is, the fly line will not weigh the same or be of uniform thickness throughout its length. Instead, fine adjustments are often made on the fly line that either increase its weight or width in key sections of the fly line. These adjustments to the fly line greatly facilitate casting and line control. These adjustments made to the fly line are lumped together and are known as fly line taper. In essence, the type of taper a fly line has describes the types of adjustments done to the fly line to make casting easier and line control better.
Different Types of Fly Line Tapers
There are quite a few fly line tapers available. The available fly line tapers include:
· Level Taper
· Double Taper
· Weight Forward Taper
· Shooting Taper
Each of these different types of fly line tapers will be described below. When reading all of this, just remember that the taper of a fly line simply describes the types of enhancements made to the fly line to make casting and line control easier and more effective. Also do try to remember the abbreviations of each taper. The abbreviations for the fly line taper are what are shown on the fly line boxes that you can buy. If you don't remember the abbreviations when shopping around for fly line, you may end up getting the wrong type!
The Level Taper (L)
Level taper fly lines are the easiest to understand and the least used in the sport of fly fishing. A fly line that has a level taper, in essence, has no taper! You see, a level taper fly line is of uniform weight and width for its entire length.
While at first blush a level taper fly line would seem ideal for fly fishing, in practice, much better lines are available. Level taper fly lines, while they float extremely well due to their even weight and width, are much more difficult to cast and control than other fly line tapers. And, since the weight of the fly line is even throughout, the fly line has a tendency to make kind of a racket when it hits the water. About the only plus side of this is that level tapered fly lines - when you can find them - are probably the least expensive fly lines available since no fancy processes go into making them better. Beginner anglers should stay well away from level taper fly lines as they are more difficult to cast than other tapers.
The Double Taper (DT)
A double taper fly line is a fly line that is heavy and thicker middle section, and then gradually loses both width and weight the closer it gets to the end of the fly line. What is important to remember about double taper fly line is that it is balanced - both ends of the fly line weigh the same and each end gradually increases in width and weight the closer it gets to the middle section of the fly line at an equal rate.
For example, at double taper fly line is 90 feet long. In the first 15 feet of the fly line (the end closest to the fly), the fly line increases both in width and weight as it travels towards the middle of the line. Upon reaching 15, the fly line reaches the middle section of the fly line - which is the maximum width and weight of the fly line. This middle section of the fly line continues for 60 feet, with the same weight and width. Then, in the final 15 feet of fly line (the end closest to the reel), the fly line begins to lose both width and weight at the same rate it was gained on the other end of the fly line.
Double taper fly lines use to be the most popular fly line, especially for trout fishing. The light taper on the front of the fly line allows for the fly line to land on the water without creating a spectacle, and the weighted middle of the fly line allows for solid general fly casting. The double taper line is also excellent for casting using either S casts or the roll cast, as the weight in the middle of the fly line makes this easier. The double taper fly line also allows it to be "reversed". Should the front of the fly line begin to wear out, all you need to do is to turn the fly line around.
However, the double taper fly line, while still popular, has lost ground to the weight-forward taper. This taper is described next.
The Weight Forward Taper (WF)
The weight forward taper fly line is the most popular fly line on the market today - as well as being the most expensive.
A fly line that has a weight forward taper has extra weight and width built into the first 30 feet of the fly line, although some specialized lines extend or shorten this taper. The rest of the fly line will then be level, of equal weight and width for the remainder of the fly lines length. The advantages of a weight forward fly line include longer casts, the casting of larger flies and more effective casts in windy conditions.
One thing to remember - because extra weight and width are on one end of the fly line, it is crucial that the line be put on correctly. You want the extra weight and width of the fly line to be on the end of the fly line, not tied onto the reel! A weight forward taper fly line also cannot be reversed in the event the end of the line becomes cracked or damaged.
For beginner anglers, weight forward fly lines are the recommended fly line to get. They are easier to cast than other fly lines, allowing for better control and longer casts. Additionally, weight forward fly lines are always used when casting things like bass bugs and streamers - in short, heavy things.
The Shooting Taper (ST)
Shooting taper fly lines were initially designed for fly casting distance tournaments, which should tell you about their function. A shooting taper fly line is a specialized fly line that is heavily weighted on the first 20 feet of fly line. Then, the remainder of the fly line is of a uniform thickness and weight, but is much thinner than a traditional weight-forward fly line. The combination of extra weight and width of the first 20 feet of fly line, combined with a thinner line for the remaining length of the fly line, which reduces air resistance and drag on the fly rod guide, can greatly increase casting distance in the hands of an experienced angler.
Unfortunately, shooting tapers, while they are great for making very long casts, lack the delicacy needed for general all-around fly fishing. The line, due to the weight on the front of the line, can make a racket when it hits the water. Moreover, control of the fly line is not easy - especially for new anglers. Finally, since the back end of the fly line is thinner than standard fly line, it has a nasty tendency to coil and get knotted up. To avoid this, many anglers use a stripping basket.
For beginner anglers, a shooting taper fly line is not recommended. While a shooting taper fly line works very well in the hands of an experienced anglers who needs to make very long distance casts and fly fish in high winds.
Summary of Fly Line Taper
In summary, fly line taper is an expression of the types of adjustments made to the fly line to make casting and control of the fly line easier and more effective. There are four primary taper of a fly line that you need to know: The Weight Forward Taper (WF), the Double Taper (DT), the Level Taper (L) and the Shooting Taper (ST). For most fly fishing situations, and especially for beginner anglers, a weight-forward fly line will generally be the best choice of fly line taper to use.
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