What are the Components of a Fly Line

Making the transition from fishing with spin casting rod and reel and then to a baitcasting rod and reel it just seemed logical to move toward the mystique and ultimate angler’s choice of using a fly rod and reel to bring me full circle in the world of fishing. One thing I learned is to start with the basics like Fly fishing line. What are the Components of a Fly line?

A fly fishing line isn’t one piece of monofilament or braided line kept on one spool, like a standard fishing line.

It includes several different pieces:

  • the leader
  • the tippet
  • the fly line
  • the Backing

At the end of the line is the leader and tippet, which are thin lines that the fish can’t see.


There are two main styles of fly lines: weight forward and presentation (or double taper) lines. There’s also a full sink, sink tip, and lines for different species with attributes to target fish in the water columns they are likely to be in.

What are the Components of a Fly Line


Fly Line

The fly line is the heavier, sometimes a colorful line connected to the backing with an Albright knot. This will give it the weight of the momentum, and the fly line gives the cast the direction it needs to be sent to a target.

Most fly lines are weight forward (marked WF on the packaging), with a heavier and thicker line for the first 10 yards, with a uniform remaining length.  Having weight at the front of the line allows for a more precise cast.

The Fly line has density options, sinking (S)  or floating (F)What you’re fishing for and the type of fly you’re using will dictate your own choice. A floating line can be a colorful yellow, green, or orange so it’s easy to see on the water.

A sinking line should be dark brown or black so as not to spook the fish. Most trout fishing will use floating lines, and weight can be added to the leader when going with a nymph or other wet fly. On its package, the fly line is coded in a taper-weight-density format.

Fly Line Backing

Fly line backing is a line that extends the total length of line on your fly fishing reel. Usually made from Dacron, backing is mostly bought in 12-lb to 30-lb breaking strength. Backing spools come in lengths from 50 yards to 1000 yards.

Fly line backing is a term used in fly fishing that refers to a thin but very strong component of line that is secured directly to the arbor of a fly reel and to the back end of a fly line to give an insurance policy of sorts on the fly angler’s otherwise limited tackle when hooking, playing, and landing fast or strong game fish.

Backing should be attached directly to the arbor of the fly reel’s spool using one of a few overhand knots. Wind the appropriate amount of backing on the reel using a motorized rigging tool or a manual line winder. When rigging a reel or spool with fly line backing, it is especially important that the backing be wound evenly about the arbor to prevent slipping of the backing during long runs that create heavy friction inside the spooled material.


An infographic breaking down the order of fly line. From the reel, it goes from backing to fly line to leader to tippet.

Fly Line Leader

The leader in fly fishing is a line (typically monofilament or fluorocarbon) attached at the end of your fly line that presents your fly to the fish. It aids in the transfer of energy from the fly line, turning over your flies while you are casting.

The thick-ended butt of the leader is connected to the fly line via a Nail knot. The function of the leader is to transition from the weightier, thick backing to the lighter, clear tippet that will present the fly and catch your fish.

The tippet starts thicker and steps down by tying narrower and narrower leaders until you’re on the fly, or using a tapered leader that comes in one length of narrowing line.

The taper should be gradual, to maintain an efficient and composed lay of the line, and evenly transfer the force of the cast, keeping the line straight to the target. Typically, the leader length for novice anglers is between eight and nine feet, about the length of the rod.


How long does Fishing Line Last?

Monofilament line has an average life of 2-3 years
Fluorocarbon lines can last 5-7 years
Braided line can last up to 10 years +

Spooled mono & fluoro lines become brittle over time & weaken when exposed to saltwater, ………………………………………………………….. Read more



What are the Characteristics of a Fishing Line?

Fishing lines generally resemble a long, ultra-thin rope, with important attributes including length, material, weight, & thickness. Other factors relevant to certain fishing environments include:
Breaking strength,
Knot strength,
UV resistance
Castability ..…………………………………………………………………………………….. Read more



The tippet acts as a supportive bridge between the tip of the leader and the fly, providing an utterly invisible line that fish won’t notice. It can be built out of monofilament material or fluorocarbon. But unlike the leader, the tippet isn’t tapered. In other words, the tippet is lighter than the leader.

There are two main purposes for them. The first purpose is to connect your thick and brightly colored fly lines that are used for casting, without scaring the fish away. The second purpose is to help complete that transfer of energy you’ve built up in the fly line when you cast.

The tippet is the “tip” of the leader. Tippets are tied directly to the fly, and they’re usually much shorter than the leader. If you don’t use a tippet, you’ll lose length from your leader whenever you have to cut a fly loose. Tippet also allows for greater precision when presenting the fly.


What is the best fishing line for saltwater?

Monofilament is considered the best saltwater fishing line for most applications:

Green & blue colors
30-40 pound test
Mono is thin
Strong & subtle has a greater width-to-pound test
Has good knot strength
Low memory ………………………………………………………………………………………………. Read more



JimGalloway Author/Editor


Reference: Outdoors-How to Match the Hatch: A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing Success



Recent Posts