Welcome to Fly fishing and Fly Tying magazine's website, once you register, you'll gain access to the Blogs, Forum and Shop.

If you cannot register successfully, contact us.

Member Login

Lost your password?

Search This Site

The floating vote

By Magnus Angus

Magnus Angus takes a look at the range of floating lines on offer today and compares their relative attributes

The lines:

  • Rio Gold

    Rio Gold

    Colour: Moss/gold
    Line length: 100ft
    Head length: 48.5ft
    Front taper: 6ft
    Belly type: Level
    Rear taper: 19ft
    Loops: Welded tip and backing loop
    Price: £59.99
    From: Rio stockists
    Comments: Words like ’smooth’ and ‘sophisticated’ come to mind. Loading increases smoothly as the line lengthens, Rio’s figures for the Gold line put it at the upper limit of its line class, 193gr for 30ft, and I see no reason to complain. Loops are precise and turn-over nicely, I need to flick the rod to make them pop or punch over, I can use a long leader with the Gold but maybe not a weighted one. When conditions were favourable distance casting was very good, the long rear-taper allows long carry, however, distance suffered in a blustery wind more than lines with shorter or beefier heads.

  • Rio T1

    Rio T1

    Colour: Grey dun
    Line length: 82ft
    Head length: 44ft
    Front taper: 7ft
    Belly type: Forward weighted
    Rear taper: 6ft
    Loops: Welded
    Price: £39.99
    From: Rio stockists
    Comments: Going by profile the T1 is sort of little brother to Rio’s Grand line (see right). There’s very similar shape and dimensions but it is significantly shorter. The T1 comes with some confusion: on the box Rio states the T1 is, like the Grand, overweight to help load powerful modern rods but, the figures on Guide Flyfishing’s website state a #7 T1 is the correct weight (185gr) for its line-class. From casting I agree with the box; this line feels heavy.
    The rod loads quickly, maybe slightly less sense of urgency than the Grand. Loops are controlled and turn-over with some ‘pop’ so leaders straighten well, suits large flies and long or weighted leaders. Roll casts well. Total line length makes the T1 less handy than it could be at distance. I see no reason this should be 82ft rather than a conventional 90ft.

  • Rio Grand

    Rio Grand

    Colour: Pale green/light yellow
    Line length: 100ft
    Head length: 43.2ft
    Front taper: 7.5ft
    Belly type: Forward weighted
    Rear taper: 7ft
    Loops: Welded tip and backing loops
    Price: £59.99
    From: Rio stockists
    Comments: It’s been a long time since I cast a Grand and this line surprised me. The rod loads quickly, the head feels heavy. Rio states the Grand is overweight by a half line-weight. Turnover is very positive without being undisciplined, this line can handle heavy flies or chunky leaders.
    Weight and head shape make this an eager line, tugging at the line hand – really wants to go. That punch and vigour made some of the lighter more subtle lines seem positively sedate. Shoots freely and distance is only limited by the length of the line. Roll and Spey casts surprisingly well.

  • Orvis Wonderline Power Taper

    Orvis Wonderline Power Taper

    Colour: Yellow
    Line length: 90ft
    Head length: Approx 44.5ft
    Belly type: Level
    Loops: Welded
    Price: £59.99
    Comments: Orvis doesn’t give complete specifications. However, it does mention the Powertaper is a half weight heavy. It’s easily the slickest line in this group, slightly hard in my hand, some initial coil memory which cast out. Loading is not brutal – in fact it’s nice and progressive, even if the head is a fraction heavier than some.
    Casting short, loops are neat and the tip turns over easily. Casting longer, head-length and running line allow fairly long carry and this line shoots very well thanks to that slick, hard coating.
    One of the long casting lines, distance was limited by line length. Roll and Spey casts well. The short front taper gives punchy turnover, fine for long or weighted leaders.

  • Greys Platinum

    Greys Platinum

    Colour: Heron grey
    Line length: 90ft (27.4m)
    Head length: N/A
    Belly type: Level
    Loops: No
    Price: £39.99
    Comments: Again, published details differ from the pack. 29m long on Greys website, and again no dimensions other than length. This is a smooth, supple line. It feels a little dry, and needs a touch of line dressing. Loads the rod gradually and smoothly.
    Loops are tight as the line lengthens, and straighten neatly – not a line that wants to kick over. Feels true to line class so overhead casting feels exact, roll and Spey casting is OK. Casting long leaders or casting for accuracy seem to suit this line – a lot! It can handle large or weighted flies but not what I’d choose it for.

  • Snowbee XS Two Colour

    Snowbee XS Two Colour

    Colour: Ivory/blue
    Line length: 90ft (27.4m)
    Head length: 43ft
    Front taper: 8.5ft
    Belly type: Level
    Rear taper: 11ft
    Loops: Braided
    Price: £49.00
    Comments: Something of a modern British classic. Smooth, supple line, slightly dry surface, Snowbee supply silicon Line-Slick with their lines and it makes the XS a lot slicker.
    Loads the rod progressively, weight feels about right for line-class, possibly a shade heavy – but the rod likes it. Loops are smooth with a slight ‘pop’ when they turn-over. Seems to me the enduring strength of the XS is it does all the jobs we expect of a floating line pretty well – turning a long leader; decent distance; easy medium distance roll casts, etc.

  • Snowbee XS Extreme Distance

    Snowbee XS Extreme Distance

    Colour: Ivory/Peach
    Line length: 150ft
    Head length: 60ft
    Front taper: 8ft
    Rear taper: 15ft
    Belly type: Level
    Loops: Braided
    Price: £49
    Comments: In the hand, smooth, supple, exactly like an XS – a pink XS! The head is far longer than the standard XS so the load on the rod continues building with carry until the full 60ft head is out. Double-hauling is a must. I’d hesitate before putting this line on a rod less than 10ft and would want a powerful #7 rod, or possibly an #8! Then let fly! With me driving, this was the longest casting line in this group. Turnover at long range was inconsistent – likely my fault! Casting short this performs very much like the standard WF XS, over 40ft like a DT XS, then over 60ft it comes into its own when shooting for distance. In that middle 40-60ft range the XSED felt heavy, made my rod feel a little dull – reminding me why I use WF lines.

  • Snowbee XS-Plus XS-tra Distance

    Snowbee XS-Plus XS-tra Distance

    Colour: Green/Orange
    Line length: 120ft
    Head length: 40ft
    Belly type: Level
    Loops: Braided
    Price: £47
    Comments: Vivid, visible line. A new more bouyant coating, still supple, slightly dry feel – again cured with Line-Slick. Few details for the head but this feels like the front and rear tapers are fairly short and I’d say the head is slightly heavy for line-class. Loads the rod easily, loops are punchy, turnover is positive – a line that wants to shoot!
    Almost handles like a shooting head, the rear taper allows fair ‘overhang’ but I reached better distances by slightly reducing the length I was false casting. Distances were long, consistently long, and turnover at distance was very good indeed.

  • Cortland Precision Platinum Dynatip

    Cortland Precision Platinum Dynatip

    Colour: Sage/White tip
    Line length: 90ft
    Head length: 50ft
    Front taper: 8ft
    Rear taper: 25ft
    Belly type: Level
    Loops: Welded
    Price: £59.99
    Comments: A supple, slick line, it feels like a #7 on the rod. Load increases gradually, loops are tight, turnover is exact – the line just goes straight. My casting with this line seemed exceptionally accurate. Then get the head moving and the whole line shoots without drama. Lovely! The line roll casts well enough but lacks the weight I want for Spey-casting. Not my first choice when I need punch for heavy leaders of big flies. But this seems to me to bring out the best in a light modern rod.

  • Barrio GT90

    Barrio GT90

    Colour: Green
    Line length: 90ft
    Head length: 90ft
    Front taper: 10ft
    Rear taper: 60ft
    Belly type: Level
    Loops: No
    Price: £24.00
    Comments: This challenges how we classify lines. 10ft front taper, 20ft belly and the remainder of the line is rear taper. Smooth, supple, loads the rod quickly, seems a little heavier than class to me. Handles well at short and medium range, turnover is positive, punchy when I want.
    Continues to handle well as I lengthen line. That dramatic rear taper means I can false cast a very long line, almost the whole line, or I can shoot from pretty much any point after the belly.
    Distance is only limited by the length of the line, turnover at range is excellent. This line Spey casts pretty well, but don’t go too far into the rear taper.

  • Hardy Mach

    Hardy Mach

    Colour: Blue/Sunrise
    Line length: 105ft
    Head length: 50ft
    Front taper: 12ft
    Rear taper: 13ft
    Belly type: Forward weighted
    Loops: Welded
    Price: £54.99
    Comments: This is a smooth, slick line. A very nice line. Initially loads the rod quickly, moves through the rings very easily. It feels true to line class so loops are narrow because the rod is not loading too deeply. Turnover is clean, loops simply straighten, not easy to make this one kick over: not ideal for heavy stuff but lays out a team of flies very well and accurate short to medium casts.
    Short roll casts seem fine but as the line gets longer roll casts stalled.
    The second longest casting line in this group, the long head allows long carry and the slick coating shoots beautifully. Consistent distance and deals with wind pretty well.

Fly fishers buy more floating lines than any other density. In the UK, we also buy more #7 rods and lines than any other line-class. We use them for trout fishing on reservoirs from boats and banks, on smaller stillwaters, on rivers for sea trout, and they probably land the occasional grilse and a few pike along the way. When I pick up a 7-weight outfit it means I want a line that can handle windy conditions, that can lay out a long leader and a team of flies, that can turn over a couple of big bushy flies, that can roll or Spey cast a small sea-trout double or tube. Not all on the same day perhaps, but I have some idea what type of fishing I intend, and what I expect from a line.

In general, I want controlled positive turnover and I expect a line to shoot well. For a team of wets or buzzers, or small nymphs I want a line to lay the leader straight, I need control over the casting-loop size so I don’t tangle the leader too often. I may be casting to sighted fish so I want accuracy and easy change of distance and direction. For river fishing, I pay more attention to how quickly a line loads the rod because casts will probably be shorter. How a line roll and Spey casts matters more on a river than fishing from a boat or the bank of a loch simply because I use that group of casts more on running water.

That list of needs is by no means complete, but it suggests some of the different requirements, the different characteristics we seek from lines. So, inevitably, when asked if a specific line is any good I have to reply, “For what?”

While working with this group of lines, differences in line-weight became quite noticeable. I used the same rod throughout, a light, powerful, fast-actioned 10ft rod. Nevertheless, a couple of the heavier lines had me wondering if I needed something beefier. The makers of several lines in the group say they make their lines heavier than the line standard to suit modern, powerful faster rods. That makes no sense to me whatsoever. If I want a heavier line on my 7-weight I take an #8 line and there are times when I do that deliberately because I know I want easier (ie quicker) loading for medium to short range casts or I expect to use a lot of roll or Spey casts. Similarly, I might opt for a softer rod and standard #7 lines. (Oh, and I didn’t invest several-hundred pounds in a top class stiff fast seven-weight rod so line makers could turn it into an eight-weight ‘on the fly!’)

Specialist lines are becoming far more common, however, the majority of lines in this group are really general purpose lines which can do what I expect from a #7 well enough. If that sounds like damning with faint praise it’s not meant that way. For general fishing I much prefer a line that can be relied on to do its best in all situations.

These are all floating lines and all floated well. The Cortland Dynatip has the most buoyant tip but none sank while I was using them. It was impossible to use the lines long enough to find which tips, if any, begin sinking after months of fishing, Similarly, the coating on all PVC coated fly-lines will eventually crack and break down, but that takes more time than was available to me.

Several of the lines have welded loops on their tips and a couple at the end of their running line. To my mind welded loops are initailly handy but wear out fairly quickly. Snowbee supply braided loops with their lines, again handy and they don’t wear out. Personally, I don’t use braided loops on floating lines because they add weight and bulk at the fine end of the line and braided nylon sinks. For these lines I looped leaders to welded loops and nail-knotted leaders to lines without loops.

Changing lines regularly during fishing days and casting sessions proved more interesting than I expected. Differences became more distinct and similarities meant some lines blurred into others. My preferences began to play a striking part with this group. I had to consciously remove the Cortland Dynatip and Hardy Mach from my rod, closely followed by the Rio Gold, and spend more time with other lines – those three lines seem to suit me very well! I enjoyed the sense of control and the ease with which I could lift and recast those lines. If forced to choose just one, I’d probably have the Dynatip.

In terms of price, the Barrio GT90 is the best value line in this group, a radical modern design which casts and fishes very well indeed. It’s easy to overlook a couple of super all-round lines. The Snowbee XS and Greys Platinum are simply good, unassuming competent lines, both felt true to line-class both simply get on with their jobs.

Of the more specialised lines, the Rio Grand stands out as a muscular line for situations needing a bit of punch, whereas the slightly lurid Snowbee XS-Plus offers quick distance from a relatively modest backcast, although not so easy to lift a long line from water.


Industry standards
Modern fly line standards were set by the AFTMA (American Fishing Tackle Manufacture’s Association) and are now maintained by the AFFTA (American Fly Fishing Trade Association).

The standards for lines intended for single-handed rods, double-handed rods (Spey Line Standard) and Reel Foot dimensions are available online: www.affta.com/member-services/industry-standards/

Back to top

Search the site