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Why Textured fly lines? Fly line surfaces that promise long distance.

Fly lines come in dozens of "shapes" (tapers), 16 sizes (weights) and in colors galore. But there are only a few cores on which they are built--braided nylon, braided monofilament and singlestrand mono. The core determines a line's stiffness, which has some bearing on how well the line casts. But the characteristic that you notice most, because you feel it, is the coating. Some lines have a smooth, slick surface, some are rough or bumpy. Some have ridges.

All types have been touted to be best for cutting down on distance-robbing friction. Not long ago, the school of thought was slick was superior. Every line maker added either external or internal lubricants (some of which did not last long at all). Such coating lubricants are in use today, with examples being Scientific Anglers' AST (Advanced Shooting Technology), Rio's Xtreme Slickness Technology and Royal Wulff's J3. Most fly line companies also produce topical dressings to keep lines shooting nicely once the newness wears off.

Recently, there has been a shift in thinking, resulting in a new crop of floating (and some intermediate sinking) lines with surfaces ranging from pebbly to ridged to downright rough as sandpaper. Such surfaces decrease the surface area that contacts a flyrod guide (and the surface of your forefinger and thumb) while the line is in motion, resulting in extra distance with less effort.

When I first fly fished in salt water (the mid to late '70s), Scientific Anglers (SA) came out with a floating line, the Bonefish Taper, that had a bumpy running line that I at first questioned. It was a stiff-core line, and dull gray as I recall, and it felt strange to the touch compared to the "glossy" smooth lines that dominated the shelves. However I liked it right off, but mostly because it held up in the heat. It made a little buzz through the guides, but it shot real well. It may not have dawned on me right away that the bumpy surface was the reason.

I have come to prefer bumpy line surfaces to the slick types. In the heat of a Florida summer, far too many smooth-surface lines, no matter how stiff a core they are built on, simply get too sticky or "tacky" for my taste. They tend to cling to my finger and thumb, and I imagine to my guides as well. I assume they pick up more dirt on a boat deck, which quickly cuts down on casting distance. Other than the aforementioned SA Bonefish Taper floating line, I have long fished Cortland's Tropic Plus lines (now labeled Precision Tropic Plus). The Cortland coating is hard and stiff to stand up to tropical conditions, but what I like most is the "pebbly" nature of the coating in the shooting section. It just seems to buzz through the guides better than most.


During summer, I split my time between snook fishing the surf and night fishing at bridges. My favorite line in both fisheries is a clear, intermediate sinking line. At last check, all major flyline companies offer them, and as is the case with floating lines, you can choose between smooth and bumpy surfaces. I much prefer the bumpy types, which I call buzz lines for the sound they produce in the guides, such as SA's intermediate Tarpon Taper. When fishing for snook, I use a 9-weight, and over-line it with a 10-weight Tarpon Taper. When tarpon enter the surf in September during the peak of the fall bait run, I sometimes fish a 10-weight rod with an 11-weight Tarpon Taper. That allows me to shoot for distance, but more importantly, load the rod easily for short shots to fish feeding close by in the trough. On the hottest days, the surface of this line does not get sticky. But I do find I have to be more diligent about stretching this line before fishing, due to its stiff mono core. Keep in mind it is the braided monofilament core that translates the bumpy feel through the outer coating, or sheath. As a plus, the buzz can be heard on the boat in pitch dark, so you know when your partner is casting.


The Airflo Ridge Bonefish line is unique in that it has ridges, or small channels running along its length, which decreases the line surface contact with guides. According to the manufacturer, the surface ridges fill with water, lubricating le line on each cast. I fished this polyurethane line recently and found it to be quiet when shooting though the guides, suggesting how little friction is being produced.

Arguably the biggest departure from smooth fly lines is SA's Sharkskin line. I will admit that at first, I was not crazy about the texture, which is like the finest grain sandpaper (but reportedly not abrasive). The loud sound it makes in the guides was disconcerting at first, but after a bit more fishing, I appreciated the ease with which it shoots through the guides. Be warned that it will abrade the skin of your stripping finger when you are continuously casting for hours. Many anglers are using a stripping guard to prevent this. For a fairly hard-surfaced floating line, it has little memory, and does not get sticky at all in hot weather.

The claim that Sharkskin excels for distance casting is based on its unique surface texture. The proprietary diamond-shaped pattern decreases the line's contact with a fly rod's guides. This pattern also allows it to sit higher on the water's surface, allowing the angler to make pickups much easier.

According to Scientific Anglers, "The micro-texture greatly increases the upward meniscus force through a combination of the water's interaction with the new surface and the trapping of air into the valleys of the texture. The result is an over 200 percent improvement in resistance of the line to be forced into the water ... effectively improving 'floatation' of the line significantly beyond anything that can be achieved through the addition of glass bubbles or surface chemistries."

Like an insect's feet, the tiny diamonds on the line "alter the meniscus force balance." That means improved floatation as well as water shedding and self-cleaning abilities. SA is now offering the Sharkskin surface on a few slow-sinking intermediate lines as well.

Sharkskin too abrasive for your fingers? The new Scientific Anglers Mastery Textured Series lines have a "golf ball dimple" pattern which decreases surface contact with guides and is reportedly much less abrasive to the touch. They are available in various floating series lines in weights 6 through 12 weight, and the Coastal Express sink-tip lines in 250- and 350-grain weights.
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Title Annotation:FLY FISHING
Author:Conner, Mike
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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