How much do fly line colors really matter?

By Kirk Deeter

There are many schools of thought on this one, and my own feelings have changed dramatically in the past few years.

On the one hand you can argue that there are about a thousand things that will spook trout in a run, and the color of your fly line ranks about 900. If you’re going to line ‘em, it doesn’t matter what color the line actually is.

A highly visible line might help you see and control your drift better, which many say is the number one factor that influences whether a trout will eat your fly or not in the first place.

On the other hand, what’s the downside of having a more natural color line that blends in with what a fish sees around it? We know fish do see colors. We also know that shadows and other anomalies overhead (like a bird flying… or your 32nd false cast before you finally lay the fly down) are most apt to spook trout so why not cover your bets?

The more I sight fish to trout in clear water, the firmer I land in the second school of thought. And I think the fly line companies are hearing that as well. You sure don’t see as many neon orange fly lines on the rack as you used to.

But what colors are best? Remember that a fish is looking up through the water, which is a completely different view than yours looking down into the water. I’ve been playing around with a number of colors lately, and I like tan, cream, light green, light brown, and gray. For all-around I like gray and light green best.

I have also been playing around with a “Covert Clear” line from Monic, which is a has a sky-blue core wrapped with a clear coating. It floats great, and I guess it matches up well with clear blue skies overhead. But since I find most of the best dry fly hatches that get trout looking up happen on cloudy and rainy days, I go with gray most often.

I suppose a lot of it also has to do with the waters you fish and the type of fishing you’re doing. A brown line might blend in better with those tannic brown waters, like the Pere Marquette in Michigan. And does it really matter what your fly line looks like if you’re throwing giant streamers downstream? Probably not. Better to focus on a line that’s actually made to handle the fly you’re throwing. But that’s another topic for another day…

Do you have a go-to fly line color?

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.