A quality fly line is easily one of the most important components to a successful fly fishing outfit. You can cast like a pro with an inexpensive fly rod and a great fly line. With the cost of a fly line approaching $130 you’ve got to ask how long does a fly line last?
The life expectancy of a fly line is directly related to use. Sun, Grim, Storage and Use all degrade a fly line. This isn’t exact, but if the line isn’t abused and reasonably maintained, it should last 250 “use days”. For a full time fly fishing guide, this might be a season or two. For the occasional fly fishers, this might be ten years.
I may have invented a new term: “Use Days”, but I think you understand what I’m saying. Fly Fishing for a full day would be considered one use day. The idea of this came from a Fly Fishing Guide (Kevin Morlock) that tested some fly line I was selling. I gave Kevin some line to try. It was an inexpensive imported line. Kevin responded that the line lasted about 200 days of fishing.
Premium Fly Lines will last longer. The technologies that go into a fly line like the highly recommended Scientific Anglers Amplitude Fly Line (Link to Check it Out on Amazon) are what enables them to state their fly line lasts 862% longer than the competition.
Does a Fly Line have a Shelf Life?
Most fly lines are made from PVC, which if you remember those old bench seats from the 80’s and older, tended to crack after extended exposure to the sun. Luckily, modern fly lines have plasticizers like phthalates to improve flexibility and UV stabilizers to reduce UV degradation.
If your fly line was manufactured after 2000 and the package has not been opened, the odds are the line will be fine. A quick inspection by stretching the line to remove the coil loops is all that is needed.
Will an Old Fly Line Break?
The strength of a fly line doesn’t come from the outer coating. All modern fly lines have a core that is wrapped in plastic. It’s the core that gives the fly line breaking strength. Most fly lines have a 30 pound breaking strength core, so as long as the fly line hasn’t been nicked “to the core” the line should retain all of its breaking strength.
Old fly lines that have cracks in the plastic coating can catch on the fly rod guides. This might not break the fly line, but if a fish is pulling out line there’s a good chance catching a guide will break the leader or tippet.
Why is My Floating Line Sinking?
Fly lines have two types of core materials. The first is a solid monofilament that is used in HOT saltwater environments where a stiffer line is desired. The second is a Braided Multifilament which excels in cooler water temperatures.
If a Braided Multifilament Core is exposed by a crack or cut, it can start to absorb water which will cause it to sink. Most often this happens at the tip of your floating line (the worst place possible) if you’ve clipped off a leader. A little trick is to dry the fly line in the sun, then apply fly tying head cement to the line tip where it’s been cut.
GUIDE RECOMMENDED TIP: If you need to tie a loop onto the end of your fly line, tie a “NAIL KNOT LOOP” Instructions can be found in this YouTube Video. – How to Tie a Nail Knot and MORE
When Should You Change Your Fly Line?
Fly lines do wear out… continuing to fish a line that’s cracked, sinking or the coils don’t lie flat will just frustrate you. I’ve tried to push a fly line for “a couple more trips” only to find myself trying to over-power my cast, which causes my cast to fall apart. If you’ve maintained your line with regular cleaning and treatments and notice you can’t seem to get as much casting distance, then it’s time to change it.
How to Make Your Fly Line Last Longer
Keep your Fly Line Out of the SUN
Of course your line is going to be exposed to the sun when you’re fishing. But the idea here is not to store your reel so that it’s exposed to the sun. I’ve seen this and you may have as well. You walk by a vehicle and a fly rod and reel are sitting on the dash. I completely understand the idea of having a fly rod rigged up and ready to go, but sunbaking your fly line will drastically reduce it’s life.
Fly Line Cleaning
I have a detailed article on cleaning line which you can read HERE. With water, soap and 5 minutes you can do a pretty good job cleaning your line.
Fly Line Treatment (dressing)
I don’t recommend using any homemade brews for treating and dressing fly lines. Years ago, I thought I could use my Plastics Engineering Degree to formulate my own a fly line dressing. The primary ingredient in fly dressing is silicone. My home brewed formula was really “slick”, but when I got the fly rod and line out the next spring the line had melted into a gooey mess.
Don’t Step on Your Fly Line
One of my first saltwater fly fishing trips the guide spread a small net out on the bow of his boat and said,”If your going to wear shoes on my boat: “STAY OFF THE NET””. At lunch he explained that he wasn’t worried about the net, but he was worried about grinding expensive fly line into the boat deck with my shoes. I learned on that trip how comfortable fishing in bare feet was. 😎
Rubbing the Frame When Stripping Off Fly Line
If you strip fly line off your reel by pulling it to the side or down, it has a good chance of rubbing against the reel frame which will cause you to wear off the coating. If you keep those line strips short and pull towards the stripping guide the problem will be solved.
GUIDE RECOMMENDED TIP: A trick Lefty Kreh wikipedia link popularized was to lay a small net on the deck of a boat to stop your fly line from getting tangled on boat accessories.
Stretching Fly Line So It Casts Farther
All plastics have memory. Plastics have large molecules that bend, this bending is called, in layman’s terms, “memory”.
Stretching to remove loops caused by being coiled onto a reel will increase casting distance, and make the fly line float higher.
Pulling 40 feet of fly line out and wrapping it around a SMOOTH post and pulling hard (remember fly line has a breaking strength of 30 lbs) is the quickest way of pulling out the memory. I’ve even just grabbed 4 or 5 feet of line between my hands and pulled, continuing this process for the first 20 feet or so.
Can I CUT My Fly Line?
Yes, as long as you are only cutting the first couple inches of the tip or the RUNNING LINE (Link to an article I wrote).
Most fly lines sold are a Weight Forward Taper (WF) this means that the taper of the tip section is highly designed for maximum casting efficiency. Altering the tip section by cutting a foot or more off will mess it up, and you’ll probably find yourself shopping for a new line.
I have cut the running line on my fly line. Many times 0-2 weight fly rod setups will have small reels with little capacity. In those cases, I’ll cut the running line and add backing to increase the reel capacity.
Do Fly Lines have Warranties
When something starts costs over a hundred bucks, you start thinking about warranties. I searched around and didn’t find anything that said “Unlimited Lifetime Warranty”. However, Scientific Anglers does advertise that their fly line with AST Plus technology used on AMPLITUDE (Link to Scientific Angler) lasts 862% longer than the closest three competitors.
Recycling Your Old Fly Line
Please don’t toss your old fly line into the trash. As a fly fisher person you’ve come to realize that trout live in some of the most beautiful places.
Recycle your line by making lanyards or tying loops to lash those hemostats to your fly fishing vest.