3 Fly Lines for the Texas Coast
By Casey R. Smartt
In the world of saltwater fly fishing, much attention is focused on the importance of the fly rod. A fly rod is usually the most expensive tackle investment a fly fisherman will make, so countless hours are spent mulling over which brand, weight, action, and finish is best. But a good fly rod is only one part of the equation. A second component of a saltwater fly fishing outfit, one that is often undervalued, is the fly line.
There are three basic types of fly lines that I use frequently along the Texas Coast. I consider each to be essential for targeting fish at different depths and at different times of the year. Let’s take a look at these lines.
Weight Forward Floating Lines
Nearly every saltwater angler begins his/her career outfitted with a weight forward floating line. These lines are ideal for targeting shallow water redfish or canvassing shallow open stretches of water with blind casts. My favorite lines in this category include the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Saltwater line and the Cortland Crystal PE line. The SA Saltwater line has a long head and slender belly. It loads the rod gradually, and makes accurate long distance casts in the wind. Cortland’s new Crystal PE line is a clear floating polyethylene line. I really like the slick smooth feel of this line. Crystal PE is a tropic line, good for hot weather fishing and it gets too stiff to handle when the temperature drops. Folks that are new to clear fly lines should keep in mind it can be tough to gauge the distance of a cast, especially during low light conditions. Another line I like is the Cortland 444 Tropic Plus Lazer line. I have used this line for many years. The 444 Tropic Plus Lazer Line is an extremely stiff fly line designed specifically for hot weather and warm water. It shoots well and resists tangles even in oppressive heat. It is a workhorse line that is strictly designed for warm weather fishing.
The next type of lines I use are the sinking lines. Unfortunately, many anglers don’t even own a sinking line. It’s a shame because these lines open up countless opportunities for coastal fishermen. There are many different types of sinking lines available. I generally prefer the level or steady sink variety as opposed to the sinking tip lines (which are really more akin to integrated shooting lines). I use both the intermediate and fast sinking varieties of this line.
Intermediate Sinking Lines
Intermediate sinking line sinks very slowly… about 1-2 inches per second (IPS). Intermediate lines are a perfect choice for the surf, where they slip below the churning sloshing waves enabling anglers to maintain steady straight-line contact with their flies. They are also a great choice for fishing secondary channels and guts, or working shallow reefs and structure where a steady, level presentation is desired. My favorite intermediate sinking line for warm weather fishing is the Scientific Anglers Clear Intermediate Bonefish line. I love this line! It has a nice long taper suited for long casts and a pebbled finish that feels good on your fingers. The Bonefish Line is fairly stiff and resists tangles very well even in hot weather. Some anglers find it difficult to get used to casting a clear line like the SA Bonefish Line. It does take some practice to learn to gauge distance when casting this line, but I have never found it to be a problem and I think the benefits of a clear line far outweigh the burdens.
Fast Sinking Lines
The second group of sinking lines I use are the fast sinking lines. Fast sinking lines don’t mess around. They get a fly down quick, somewhere between 5-7 IPS. These lines are perfect for working channels and jetty edges, where strong current is present, or when sending flies to deep open water structure. My favorite fast sinking lines are the Cortland 444 SL Type 6 Steady Sink line, the Scientific Anglers Professional Series Type 6 fast sinking line, and the Scientific Anglers Streamer Express integrated sinking tip line. All of these lines do a great job of getting flies deep.
At first, you will find sinking lines cumbersome. They tangle easily and require a full retrieve between casts. Also, a stripping basket or bucket is required to effectively control and shoot these lines. But after you get used to them they’re actually easier to cast than floating lines. The big benefit though, is that they enable you to reach places floating lines can’t reach.
Remember- a good fly line compliments the rod, accommodates the fly, and allows an angler to adapt to his targets whether they are near or far, shallow or deep. And although it is not reflected in the dollar signs, the right fly line often plays a bigger role in successful fishing than the rod.