Photograph by Steve Barnett

Friday, 15 October 2010

Facts and...


Fishing with nymphs, lures, spiders, traditional wets, Czech nymphs, buzzers, blobs and other things are not really my strengths. I have a go at some of them now and then but not enough to offer solid advice on any of these methods, or the equipment needed for them. However, for forty one years now I have certainly immersed myself in every little detail of dry fly fishing. Hence the brass neck to make a blog called... Dry Fly 'Expert'!


Drab, brown fly lines ARE best for dry fly fishing!


“But a fly line on the water would be harder for the fish to see if it was the colour of the sky!”

“I like a white line because I can see it move if I get a take!”

“I catch fish and I use a line that is sky blue pink with yellow dots on!”

And so on...

Let me explain why I am adamant that a line in a drab, brown colour IS BEST FOR DRY FLY FISHING!

It matters most of all during the casting process. Dry fly fishing demands frequent false casting. When the line is in the air, passing to and fro in the cast, if it is a pale colour it brightens its surroundings as it moves. In some circumstances this can be measured with a good quality light meter as used by traditional photographers, its needle moves as the line passes through its field of view. Trout can detect such changes. The line need not be seen by the trout but it will notice the change to the light made as the line passes by and very likely will cease rising. A drab, brown line makes no such noticeable change and so the trout is not put off its meal at the surface.

Yes this is a nit picking detail but it is an important one. Yes you might be able to catch fish with a pale coloured line but consider this...

You have worked hard, made a considerable investment in time and money to get leave to fish. Bought tackle and clothes.  Learnt how to use it all.  Now here you are, hiding in the margin and you have carefully worked your way into position to get a better view of that “fish of a lifetime” rising a few yards up stream of you. Yes, the fish is bigger than you first thought and it looks to be in immaculate condition. It is rising and you have identified the flies it is eating. Brilliant! You just happen to have some perfect fakes of this fly in your box. You tuck yourself down and carefully change the fly to the type you have spotted. Everything is just right. The fish is rising four or five times a minute. Now is your chance to make that cast...

Why risk letting any of the tiniest details work against you?

Frederick the Great of Prussia once observed that “Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains.”

Stopping your fly line from signalling to the fish that things are not normal is a pain worth taking.

Regular Rod


  1. I like this post. What about just making sure that you do not line the fish so it only sees your leader?

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  2. You are absolutely right! Not lining the fish is very important. However, on its own, it is not enough. The line colour makes such a difference to the light as it passes through its surroundings that fish notice the brightening of the light and this can stop them feeding.

    In dry fly fishing we make so many more false casts than we do in any other method that we are risking spooking the fish everytime we cast. This risk can be reduced by using a drab, matte finished, dark brown line.

    We still need to take all the other precautions not to spook the fish, every detail has to be attended to. Add fly line colour to those details and it puts our chances of success just that bit higher and now and it can make a big difference in our favour.

  3. I can totally relate to this. When I first became a riverkeeper, the family who owned the estate(mad keen dry fly anglers) all used brown floaters. I hadn't seen them before but quickly became convinced the colour was best and made a big difference. When you have the fish of a lifetime in front of you, you may as well have all the advantages at your desposal.

  4. Over the years, you must have seen many anglers using all the different colours of fly line that are available. Putting you on the spot, have you noticed any difference between bright versus dull lines?

  5. Although I don’t feel the same sense of disguise is needed for rolled nymph, ALL my dryfly fishing is carried out with, at worst mucky dark olive and at best, good quality dark brown lines. Along with sharp hooks, it is the factor that is most overlooked by a great many anglers.

  6. I've seen the lines in action and they do make a difference. On the Derwent earlier this year a friend and I stood up on the bank watching, you could hardly see the line as Regular Rod cast. If we couldn't see the line then the trout couldn't either. Some 3 dozen fish came to the fly in a couple of hours,I didn't fare nearly as well, but my line was somewhat more visible!

  7. If you look also at Frank Williams advert on the Fly fishing forum you will see another problem that hasnt been resolved by tackle makers; rod flash. High gloss rods are the kiss of death on the summer river with the sun high in the sky.

  8. 35 years ago John Neville worked with a tackle maker to bring out a coarse fishing rod called the "John Neville All Rounder" It was like a Bruce and Walker Trotter but with a lighter test curve. I've got one and it really is very versatile for trotting, ledgering, catching small and large fish. The rods were quite different in appearance from anything that had been seen before in the tackle shops being matte black all over except for the cork handle. Nothing shiny anywhere. The project was abandoned because the company's sales reps refused to show it to retailers as they firmly believed that anglers only wanted to buy shiny rods.

    If a tackle company today introduced a rod that was as conspicuous as a long thin burnt stick would anglers buy it?

    I've banged on for years to anyone who will listen about the need to avoid flashy tackle and to use matte, dark brown floating lines when dry fly fishing. In despite of the evidence that it really does make a difference there are folk who still think it is only a matter of personal preference. Surely personal preference would be to avoid scaring the fish at all costs?

  9. You know all this debate has got me thinking. Let's say folk believe me (and so they should). Where do they go to get the items I recommend? Even the rods presented as matte finish have got shiny bits on them. Getting a top quality, no compromise fly line intended to be perfect for dry fly fishing is impossible as each offering seems to have some compromise in either colour, finish, taper design or structure. I'm due to get myself some more flylines made up soon so maybe it is time to come up with something to let others practice what I preach? Stuff should not be shiny and today we can explain that to each other over the world wide web. Perhaps if the web had been available to all the anglers 35 years ago we would all be using matte finished gear by now and shiny stuff would be the exception?


  11. Yes, please indicate what line you use. Here in the States, the only dark lines I can find are intermediate or sinking lines.

  12. Well the lines I have been using are brown lines I had made by Cortland about ten years ago. These have now just about been used up and I need some more. So I have decided to get some lines made now entirely to my specification with the best colour, the best taper and made with the best materials. The next post above gives a little bit more detail but in a few weeks I will be able to give you a much better suggestion than I can right now. Can you wait a few weeks?