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Thread: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

  1. #1
    turbineblade Guest

    Default fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    Hi -- I know Ard and I got onto this subject a while back and I've been thinking about it lately.

    What colors are trout capable of seeing regarding a fly line at the water surface? (floating lines)

    Are brighter lines just as easy for the fish to see as they are for *me to see?

    For my own comparison:

    I have a Rio Trout LT in 6-weight which has a dark green (low vis) head and I like the fly line, though it is undoutedly harder for me to see at all times in the thick wooded areas I tend to fish.

    I also have a Rio mainstream DT line 6-weight in kind of a neon green color that is very visible (hi vis) much like the typical bright yellow fly lines.

    Both lines cast great and have pretty similar casting/fishing properties -- but the hi vis line is by far more easy to see in all the conditions I I tend to spool it up more as a result. I like being able to easily see where my cast is going and old habits are hard to break. Can I just extend my leader length and keep the line away from the fish? I almost think this might be better for me - I hate struggling to see my line.

    What's your take on this? I realize that the fate of fishing is not resting on this subject, but it is interesting to me.

  2. #2

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    I would say the color of the shadow that any line on the surface creates.

    Any line, no matter the color, will create a shadow in the water and will have some sort of contrast between the luminosity of the sky and the fly line. Until we make glowing fly lines that equal the light intensity of mother nature, we will not have a perfect invisible line
    Less likey, more green dots

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    quiet corner, ct

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    Guest1 (diverDan) and I both had strong but opposing opinions on this and went through it a couple of time.
    Give it a search.

    Dan's opinion was his own.
    I got my information from a study published in the book The Trout and the Fly by Brian Clarke and John Goddard.
    A book every trout fisherman should read.
    The simpler the outfit, the more skill it takes to manage it, and the more pleasure one gets in his achievements.” --- Horace Kephart

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  6. #4
    turbineblade Guest

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    Quote Originally Posted by Rip Tide View Post
    Guest1 (diverDan) and I both had strong but opposing opinions on this and went through it a couple of time.
    Give it a search.

    Dan's opinion was his own.
    I got my information from a study published in the book The Trout and the Fly by Brian Clarke and John Goddard.
    A book every trout fisherman should read.
    I see -- this one's been beaten to death. I wish I could lock the thread.

    Nothing to see here folks! Move along --

  7. #5

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    I have got to express my opinion. I replied to this very question on another BB with a series of replies to several other posters. I wish I could post that URL but I cannot so here is my side of the discussion:

    Here's my opinion.

    I use lines that are the color of the surroundings because I believe they spook fewer fish.

    When the line is in the air, you can see the color of the line from below. Light is reflected up from below and especially over water. If you think about it, that is why we wear polarized glasses, because so much light is reflected off the surface. I believe bright non natural colors are easier for the fish to see than lines that are the color of the surroundings.

    I use green line because I am most often casting against a green background. If I am casting correctly and not directly over the fish, it will see my line, if at all against the green of the trees. If I am casting over fish that I don't now about, the green line is better than an optic orange or yellow high vis line.

    When the line is on the water, they do cast a shadow and they do look darker from below. But even then, I think high vis lines are more visible than green.



    I think the fly line color in that situation depends on whether you are fishing a sinking line or a floating line.

    As you know, with a sinking line, you want a relatively short leader and that theoretically makes the color and transparency of the fly line more important than if you are fishing a floating line. With a floating line, not only is the line further away from the fish, but when the fish is looking at ahead at the streamer, the fly line is out of his area of concentration. I think the fish may still see the line, but it is less likely to be noticed since it is at another level from the streamer.

    So with a floating line, I would fish the color of the sky or the foliage. But with a sinking line or sink tip, I'd go for a clear tip line in clear water just like salt water fly fishers. I think in salt water, clear tip fly lines spook fewer fish and that tells me that is the way to go in clear fresh water as well.

    I don't know if I am correct, but logic tells me to go with the above choices.


    Truthfully, I really don't get what the deal is about needing a high viz line.

    When dry fly fishing, I'm looking at at my fly. I try to make in-the-air mends when needed and I don't need to see the line to do that. It is done more by feel than sight. If you are looking at the line for how and when to start an in-the-air mend, you will be too late to make the mend.

    I can think of only two circumstances when seeing the line can help.

    The first is to mend the line on the water. Most of the time, I don't need a high viz line because I make an on-the-water mend as soon as the line hits the water, and I am feeding line into the mend closer to me.

    If you have mended in the air correctly, there is no need to mend near the far end of the fly line. I've found that mending the end of the fly line most often takes slack out of the leader and shortens the drag free drift. Seeing the line far out at the tip really is a non issue.

    You should be watching your fly and not the line. The mends should be more or less automatic. If you are just learning to mend, then a high viz fly line helps because you need the visual feedback, but as you gain more experience, I don't think so. Look at your fly so you don't miss a strike.

    When nymphing, it helps to see the end of the fly line when you are fishing without the standard strike indicator with a nymph or emerger. In that situation, I use the greased leader technique to see the leader. If you can see the leader, there is not need to concentrate on the line. The leader will telegraph a strike before the end of the fly line will. If you have a low viz fly line that you can't see and feel you must see the end of the line, use a bit of strike putty on the butt of the leader.

    For sinking lines, you are most often retrieving the fly and you will feel the strike. So why do you need to see the line?

    To those of you that fish at dusk or just after dark, what bothers you the most about low visibility? How many of you say, "I wish I could just see my line and I'd catch more fish"? Not me. I wish I could see the fly better.

    If the line is easier for you to see, it will generally be easier for the fish to see. Given the choice, I will choose the line that spooks fewer fish. Or to put the question another way; if you had only two choices - a near invisible fly line or a high vis fly line, which would you choose? Your answer to that question should tell you whether to use a high vis or low vis fly line.


    It is the false cast over the trout, not the line on the water that I am worried about. You can avoid a casting shadow by not casting over the trout you are fishing to, but what about the fish you don't know about?

    Secondly, the deeper a fish is holding, the larger the the trout's window. We fish from our knees and wear dull colored shirts to keep the fish from seeing us at the edge of his window, but we think that the fish won't notice a bright fly line that is much higher going through the air. It doesn't make sense to me dress dull and to stay low but to then use a bright fly line.

    I was fishing once in Colorado on the South Platte. It was getting near dusk and a pod of rainbows was feeding in shallow clear water. I crept up on my knees and slowly raised my rod up to cast, and the fish spooked. I never got off a cast. Just the tip of the rod in the corner of the window spooked these fish. Situations like this made me a believer that visibility matters

    Who of us, that fish for wary fish, has not spooked a fish from an area that we were false casting over? My belief is that lines that are the color of the background are more difficult for the fish to see.

    If you rarely fish in these conditions, by all means use whatever line you want.


    I think we all learn from our experiences. It is difficult to believe that fly line color is important if you've never experienced spooking a fish you didn't know about. So I don't think fly line color is or should be important to everyone. It all depends on where and how you fish.

    Similarly, if fly line color is not important to you, don't disbelieve the fact that there are places where it is important. Don't believe that because other factors like a stealthy approach are important, that negates the fact that fly line color is also a concern. It is similar to the discussions about presentation. Someone will say factor "X" is important, and another person will say factor "Z" is more important, as if that negates factor "X".

    Our success depends on multiple independent factors. Think of it as the concept of the weakest link in a chain. The amount of weight you can lift depends on the weakest link and not the strongest. Whether you catch that fish depends not on what you do right but on what you do wrong.

    Said another way, you need to do everything right for the situation. In some places you can get away with things you cannot do in other places


    "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought"..........Szent-Gyorgy

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Western Montana

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    First, before reading any of the responses, I ask you if you think it makes a difference?

    You're the one fishing the two different colored lines in the same weight, most likely to the same fish. Do you notice catching more fish with one line over the other?

    It's a good question, I'm not trying to get down on you asking at all, or for the conversation, but with a simple comparison like this I think it would be so great to read a post that states: Line color does not make a difference, or Drab line color spooks less fish ...

    You could be the one answering the next time this question is inevitably asked. Because frankly, none of us have fish eyes so none of us can answer the question difinitively.

    Carry on.

    ---------- Post added at 10:26 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:20 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Rip Tide View Post
    Dan's opinion was his own.
    A truer statement has not been uttered. And his opinion was usually correct!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rip Tide View Post
    I got my information from a study published in the book The Trout and the Fly by Brian Clarke and John Goddard.
    Thanks, I just finished my tactics for brown trout fishing book last night, I need another.

  9. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Strathroy, Ontario, Canada

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    mmmmm...I don`t know about all this.

    To me relative to this topic, it comes down this....`Placebo Effect`!

    IF what I am using feels `fishy`, I`ll fish ět` (whatever it is) hard. If I don`t believe in in, I won`t. This includes all manner of tackle from rod to fly and all things in between. Its the way I am.

    There is so much more to this discussion and from others suggested already...which is either founded in science...or is not. All can be explained....though shadows and predator response of the fish always will rate high...and shadow is a silhoette so keep that in mind when positioning (hence the main reason you fish on your knees - i don`t -...not to hide the colour of your cloths but to minimize your shadow-casting profile).

    IF there was a significant merit in line COLOUR could imply that fishers of old...were not successful...or at least, not as successful as they are now. If we consider a couple eyes are simple and may not have the ability to SEE colours...but spectrums of grey (or similar blues) and that light penetration and attenuation at even shallow depths (the reason why water is blue, for example) is such that colour doesn't matter even in shallow water...I have a hard time staying on the side of colour management as a positive use of my brain.

    Lets expand this...what the hell. Camoflage and hunting. Really? Its not so important to be a tree as it is to not cast a profile. Granted, a block of single colour...WHATEVER COLOUR THAT IS.....will be 'seen'. But a woodsman plaid wearing hunter or fisher will bag the big one as much as a Mossy Oak clad one. (don't get me started on the whole scent market ).

    As a former tackle salesman....there is more tackle designed to catch fishERMAN than there are to catch fish. Its marketing.

    Fish what you believe in...and fish it well. Do smart things...don't cast long shadows or move to fast....and you'll do just fine.

    I'm just sayin', is all.

    King Joe, the plaid-wearing fisherman/hunter, Outa Here!

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  11. #8

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    All's I gotta say is it must have been a knock down drag out Board of Directors meeting at SA and Cortland when the question of color came up for product marketing.

    Where did "peach" come from ?

    I recently made an online $20 grab for a DT floater and when the line showed up I said "geeezzz" was the color of an orange ice pop !
    I rigged it on a reel but I doubt it will make it out of my back yard. "new practice line".

    I like a white line...and sometimes they're hard to get because of all the marketing and I usually have to settle for green or yellow on the clearance table but that's just my choice. I ain't payin' $90 bucks for a fly line because it's a certain color.

  12. #9

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    I have a couple observations for silver creeks post. Most of the mending and casting techniques you mentioned as it relates to needing to see your flyline are fairly advanced techniques, which would mean this advise only applies to advanced line management. I think a fair portion of our readers are not necessarily in that realm and if a bright colored line aids them in general line manipulation, it will in fact, improve their effectiveness on the water.

    I also think a brighter line IS important when nymphing without an indicator (or at least a line that is clearly visible to the angler). Grease lining is a GREAT technique in spring creeks, but in large, broken water is nigh invisible and often sunk. This is when a highly visible line will be your strike indicator. Big fast water can play havoc on your line with crossing currents and multiple mending directions on a single drift. If theres good chop and riffle, your floating line can be taken under the surface by a braid and its nice if you can see that before its too deep to mend.

    I think it largely depends on where you mostly fish. is it clear, quiet water with pressured fish? or is it bigger broken water. We all know the former can be quite challenging and stealth is at a premium, at which point I would suggest you take every measure possible to go unnoticed by the fish. Which I believe would include a drab colored line.

    btw. theres a lot of chatter out there about clear lines reflecting sunlight and causing sun flashes during casting and retrieving. Ive seen a few photos of someone casting a clear line and from the right angle it looks like he's casting a lightning bolt. I personally love clear lines for Stillwater. but I do refer the camo, which has a mottled green tinted pattern
    Hand crafted wood fly boxes.

  13. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Beijing / Cincinnati, Ohio

    Default Re: fly line color - curious, don't want to argue

    Here is what I believe and follow in my fishing:
    1) Most streams / rivers have a bunch of debris floating on the surface, so I do not think that the shadow of the fly sitting in the meniscus is the biggest concern. Plus the opaque fly line on the surface generally drifts at the same velocity as the water current.
    2) Trout are more spooked by things / objects flying through the air so a bright orange fly line flying through the air on false casts becomes quite visible. The key here is the difference in the degree of light reflection coming from the fly line (due to its color) and the surrounding foliage. Dull green trees and bright Orange or Optic Yellow fly line colors reflect light differently.
    3) I hate bright fly lines and try to dye or purchase only muted colors for all my fishing.
    4) I have experienced the #1 and #2 scenarios on several occasions on both wild and stocked water. For instance, having the tip of my fly line floating over the trout's head in 12" of water did not interrupt the trouts kept on feeding. However the instant the trout noticed the same tip during a false abruptly changed its holding spot and sped downstream.

    I try to never have my fly line go over the trout I am targeting but it happens in some instances (lack of focus) after a long day of fishing. Plus even with dry flies I keep my false casts to 1 or 2 at the max. Keep the line well cleaned and it shoots pretty well even with 1 false cast.

    In order to create a invisible fly needs to match the refractive index of the polymers (materials) of the fly line to that of water (Physics 101). Light intensity has nothing to do with this.

    Just my multiple cents. Base on your decision on personal experience from the type of water & streamside surroundings in the areas you fish.

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