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Level Fly Lines - Anyone Use Them?


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#1 xvigauge

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:02 AM

I have used level fly lines since I was a kid. I don't use them exclusively as I also use double tapered and weight forward lines. But, I have several vintage reels spooled with different weights of level line. I haven't looked for any in stores for a long time, but I would suppose they would be hard to find. I know level fly line is still made but I don't remember which companies still carry them. I'm sure there is not much of a demand for it. I find most of my level lines on the auction sites as slightly used or as NOS, and there are always dozens of them from which to choose and for very good prices. I have some by Scientific Anglers, Cortland, Gladding, and a few others. I have also obtained several that were on some of the vintage reels I have purchased. Many of those lines are worn out and useless, but some are very serviceable. 

 

Now, about fishing and casting with them. If one is dry fly fishing on gin clear streams for spooky trout, then he/she should probably not use a level line. Lines with a front taper allows a gentler presentation of the fly and will provide more strikes and be less likely to spook a fish. But for just about every other fishing situation level lines work just fine. I have found them to be easy to cast and I can get all the distance I need, which for the small streams I fish is not much. When I lived in Florida and fished the flats around Sarasota Bay, I used a vintage Scientific Anglers System 8 fiberglass rod and a SA Wet Cell 9 weight level sinking line. That line with that rod would cast a mile and with little effort. Caught lots of sea trout, redfish, snook and ladyfish with that rig.

 

Why are level lines pretty much now out of fashion? I believe it is marketing. Several years ago, in the 1960's I believe, the Orvis Company convinced fly fishermen that they needed weight forward lines. I have nothing against Orvis as I believe they are a great company and they sell great products. I have several Orvis reels and bamboo rods. From then on, weight forward was the way to go and even double tapered lines took a back seat to the WF lines. Now there are new WF lines that are very "specialized" for special fishing situations. The advertising hype on them have caused them to sell and sell well at ridiculously high prices; not because we need them but because we think we need them.

 

Another reason I like level lines is cost. I can buy new or nearly new level lines from auction sites for a fraction of what the new WF lines cost. I mean like less than $10 (sometimes a little more) as opposed to $60 or more for WF lines. And I am talking good quality from known makers, not the cheap over seas stuff. The level lines work for me though YMMV. Remember it is your rod and your reel and your fishing situation so use the lines you like. There are many many lines from which to choose, but you might want to give level lines a try.

Joe



#2 mikechell

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:09 AM

Most of the lines I fish with are $9.00 lines off E-Bay. 

They are listed as WF lines, but the tapers are barely noticeable when I slide it through my hands.  I bought some more expensive lines from Gander Mountain when they went out of business.  Paid 6 to 10 bucks for them.  The tapers on those are more evident.

 

Basically, I figure I am fishing level lines when I am using the 9 dollar lines.

 

I don't recognize and true differences between the two.  My distances are similar, if not exactly the same.


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#3 SilverCreek

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 10:57 AM



I have used level fly lines since I was a kid. I don't use them exclusively as I also use double tapered and weight forward lines. But, I have several vintage reels spooled with different weights of level line. 

 

Now, about fishing and casting with them. If one is dry fly fishing on gin clear streams for spooky trout, then he/she should probably not use a level line. Lines with a front taper allows a gentler presentation of the fly and will provide more strikes and be less likely to spook a fish. But for just about every other fishing situation level lines work just fine. I have found them to be easy to cast and I can get all the distance I need, which for the small streams I fish is not much. When I lived in Florida and fished the flats around Sarasota Bay, I used a vintage Scientific Anglers System 8 fiberglass rod and a SA Wet Cell 9 weight level sinking line. That line with that rod would cast a mile and with little effort. Caught lots of sea trout, redfish, snook and ladyfish with that rig.

 

Why are level lines pretty much now out of fashion? I believe it is marketing. Several years ago, in the 1960's I believe, the Orvis Company convinced fly fishermen that they needed weight forward lines. I have nothing against Orvis as I believe they are a great company and they sell great products. I have several Orvis reels and bamboo rods. From then on, weight forward was the way to go and even double tapered lines took a back seat to the WF lines. Now there are new WF lines that are very "specialized" for special fishing situations. The advertising hype on them have caused them to sell and sell well at ridiculously high prices; not because we need them but because we think we need them.

 

Another reason I like level lines is cost. I can buy new or nearly new level lines from auction sites for a fraction of what the new WF lines cost. I mean like less than $10 (sometimes a little more) as opposed to $60 or more for WF lines. And I am talking good quality from known makers, not the cheap over seas stuff. The level lines work for me though YMMV. Remember it is your rod and your reel and your fishing situation so use the lines you like. There are many many lines from which to choose, but you might want to give level lines a try.

Joe

 

Sinking level lines WERE more effective for fishing until density compensated sinking lines were developed. Without density compensation, as the fly line tapered there was less of the sinking material between the fly line core and the fly line coating. So the specific gravity (density) of the fly line DECREASED as the line tapered. This caused the belly of the line to sink faster than the fly line tip and the streamer was not at the same level as the rest of the fly line.

 

With density compensation, as the fly line tapers, the material between the core and the coating gets heavier and all parts of the fly line sinks at the same rate.

 

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48120940768_fd42beaf6e_o.jpg

 

 

Now there is no reason (other than cost) to buy a level sinking fly line.

 

Tapered fly line cast better because of the physics of the fly cast. Greater mass is always turning over less mass. This makes the cast more efficient. Also when the fly fisher lifts the sinking line out of the water for the next cast, it is easier to lift and cast a tapered sinking line both because of the decreased mass of the line and the decreased surface area and diameter that decreases water resistance that opposes the lifting of the line out of the water.

 

WF vs DT lines is a different issue. I have to disagree that WF lines were somehow forced upon fly fishers.

 

The history of WF fly lines shows that it was not Orvis or any other company that developed or convinced fly fishers that they needed WF lines. It was actually fly casters and fly fishermen who developed shooting heads by cutting double taper lines creating a tapered "head" and then tying a section of Amnesia Mono to the back end of the fly line to create a homemade shooting head, the forerunner of the commercial WF fly lines.

 

Charles Barfield, a fellow member of the Golden Gate Casting Club at the time, is credited with being the first fly rodder to use mono shooting line behind a head in actual fishing. Jim Green had built Charlie a typical shooting head around the time of the championships in 1946, and while Jim went to  Indianapolis, Charlie went steelhead fishing – probably on the Russian River, although I could never actually document it. His enthusiasm about this new shooting head combo for West Coast steelheading prodded others to try it, and mono shooting line became standard equipment for fall salmon and winter steelheading throughout the Pacific Northwest, where long casts are the rule rather than the exception."

 

https://flylifemagaz...shooting-heads/

 

The shooting head fulfilled a need for longer casts that were not possible with a DT line. As with the development of euronymphing thin level fly lines, it was fly fishers who created the "need" and the fly line companies answered that need. So it has been with wind cutter tapers, long heads, etc.

 

We all decide what to buy or not buy and how to fish. As far as I know, I was the one the bought all of my fly rods, reels, lines, etc.


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#4 xvigauge

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:48 AM

Nice post Doc. I read somewhere that the Orvis Company was largely responsible for the surge of interest in weight forward lines. I wish I could remember where it was as I just don't make up stuff. The oldest Orvis catalog I have is 1968 and all of their "combo" sets came with WF lines. That does nothing to verify my statement but I do find it interesting. You have to admit though that marketing, no matter who first started it, has a lot to do with what folks will buy. I think that the fly line companies have really gone overboard with all the "specialized" lines currently in vogue.

Joe



#5 tjm

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:50 AM

Level floating lines are fine for almost all freshwater fishing, only those who need to frequently cast 50-100' feet will really benefit from the WF ability to shoot line and a good home made leader can overcome the delicacy factor gained by the DT.

A classic DT  line has 6-8 feet of taper on each end to allow it to be reversed and the rest ~74' is level line.

I have never fished anywhere for bass, panfish, pickerel or trout that a cast longer than 50' was really necessary, meaning that with the 35-40' front taper and body of a WF I may need to "shoot" a whopping 10' minus of course the length of leader.

Marketing is absolutely responsible for the popularity of WF lines, but it was competition casters  that created the lines and the desire of fly rod users to become spectacular casters that created the target for the marketers.

 

I use mostly DT lines because it makes leader construction easier, use WF lines when cheap is the key word because most cheap lines are WF and if I stand close enough to the water I won't know the difference- I won't get into that skinny part. I use level lines if they are available when bass or pan fishing. It is very rare for me to use any sinking line. but a few feet of level lead core spliced to any floating line will do the trick on those occasions.



#6 tjm

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:54 AM

As I recall the retailers, Orvis included got on the band wagon built by magazine writers. Orvis may have had better copywriters of paid for better ads and so become more visible in that race to sell. 



#7 steeldrifter

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 11:59 AM

I believe there is a lot of marketing behind certain things in fly fishing, but I don't feel fly line taper is one of them at all.

I've tried level line, actually started out using level line back almost 30 yrs ago and used it for the first few years of my fly fishing. I personally didn't care for it and did see a difference when I went to tapered lines.

 

I think it also has to do with what and where you fish as well as to if you find a big difference. Fishing on streams like the Au Sable where the trout are spooky as trout can get, a DT line does lay down with less splash than a level line because a DT line has 15' of thinner taper at each end. Also fishing small streams were you are roll casting you will notice a very big difference in the ability of a DT line to roll cast as compared to a level line which lacks a belly.

 

Also some rods cast better with a bit more grain weight from the first 35ft of line out from the tip because there is no actual rod wt "standard" in the industry. So it's easier to fine tune the cast / feel on rods with different lines. So sometimes you will find a WF line makes a faster rod feel better/easier to cast than a DT or level line would.

 

It's all about what works for you in your situation IMO more than anything.


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#8 xvigauge

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 12:35 PM

"Thanks to Orvis, which (good for them) knows how to sell stuff, nothing in fly fishing has been more over-rated as the norm than weight forward fly lines. Why would you sell someone a level line for $10 when you can sell them a WF for $50.? Why increase the costs of variant production and inventory by having DT lines available when you can streamline to WF as the do all line? So about the 1970s, Orvis began touting WF lines as most suitable, and the fly-fishing world followed."

 

The above paragraph, not written by me, but by someone on another forum is what I was thinking about. This guy, who is pretty knowledgeable and experienced wrote it so I just assumed it was correct. It may be correct or it may not be correct, but I (and a few others) believe that Orvis did have a lot to do with promoting the popularity of WF lines even if they were not the first to promote it, and that was not necessarily a bad thing.

Joe



#9 steeldrifter

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:11 PM

I honestly do not know when/who started WF lines, but that's actually not the thing I was trying to say. My point was that there is a big difference between marking hype, and the promotion of a product that actually does work. WF, DT, Rocket taper, those all do have their differences that can be felt and noticed in certain situations so there is no hype in that.

 

There for sure is hype in fly fishing. I mean do we really need a "Tactical floatant holder" biggrin.png  But line tapers do make a difference for those that use them in the situations they were made for. I'm not sure who said the above you quoted, not that it matters, he may be very knowledgeable, but I completely disagree with what he said about lines. And this comes from a guy that is not even a fan of Orvis, I usually avoid their stuff most the time just because of overpricing and over hyping. But my exp with lines is that the taper does make a big difference if you use it in the proper setting it was made for.


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#10 whatfly

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:33 PM

My understanding is that among the Euronymphing crowd, the level line (or a REALLY gradually tapered line that is close enough) is popular but then, they do not do that much casting.  Having thrown level lines, I really doubt their demise was the result of dishonest marketing.  Better technology prevailed.  If you fish a limited number of venues, and you never have to cast that far, and typically use lighter bugs, the old level line probably serves.  I personally see no advantage to them versus my DT and WF lines, however, but YMMV.  Tapering lines to improve distance and presentation is one of the better advances over the years in my mind, although I too am aghast at the price of a new line these days, and have abandoned the major vendors for the most part.

 

I once attended a talk by a well known fly fishing personality/author who spent an hour haranguing the audience about how everything we used in fly fishing was the result of an evil conspiracy and we should never have stopped using fiberglass rods, Red Ball rubber/canvas waders, and DT lines.  Very entertaining talk, from a very experienced angler, but one could do nothing but shake one's head in bemusement afterwards.

 

Regardless, fly fishing is about catching fish the way you want to, so whatever works for you.



#11 Jaydub

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 01:58 PM

WF and DT lines have distinct advantages; shootability, positive turnover and more delicate presentation. The opinion that their popularity is all marketing is just that, one persons opinion. 

 

The level lines used in Euro-nymphing are not like the general purpose level lines of the past. They are very thin and seem more like mono than plastic coated fly line. 



#12 SilverCreek

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 03:00 PM

In technical fly fishing, the importance of trout fishing tackle gradually decreases the further we get from the fly. The design of the leader is relatively more important than the fly line. Then the fly line relatively more important than the fly rod. The fly rod comes next and then the fly real is least important. Of course the angler is most important above all tackle, but as far as tackle goes, fly line is very important.

 

I buy fly line on sale, but I never buy off brands of fly line. My fly lines last for years and years. I am still using an 8(?) year old fly line on the main rod/reel I use for my local streams. I spend many hundreds of dollars on gas just driving locally in my car. I travel to Montana every year for 10 days of fishing. I wade fish Hebgen Lake for gulpers and long casts to rising fish are needed.

 

Am I going to use an off brand fly line to maybe $50 on a fly line that will last me years? Nope. If you never have the need for longer casts or the advantages of premium fly lines, I agree that cheaper lines are OK.

 

I agree with Whatfly, what you do is of course up to you.

 

As for me, I must be addicted to quality fly lines.

 

26997572007_8f37fa1c3d_o.jpg


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#13 tjm

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 03:46 PM

I fully agree that all the myriad tapers available today  do have some advantage for the niche they are designed for. I disagree with the idea that any of them are inherently better for all purposes than a simple level line. A lot of my or your or his preference has to do with what we are exposed to and the habits we acquire from those around us.

Cortland 444 DTF is  a classic widly used DT line- it has a front taper of 8' + 74' of level line  + rear taper of 8'

Since this line in WF also has 8' front taper +20' of level line then the rear taper,  it's safe to say that at 30' there could be very little difference in them

SA Mastery DT varies with DT3F having 5' front and rear to DT6F having 7' 3" + 75'6" of level line + 7' 3"

 

So in close with less than 8' of line out the level line has more mass in play to better turn over the leader and fly than either the DT or WF, it will have a slight bit more splash down than either. From 8' out to 82' the DT and the L will be just about equal and from 8' out ~30' the WF and the DT and the L will be about equal. It is only in the first 6-8' and again past the "head" that there is an appreciable difference. I use them interchangeably on the same rod with the same flies and only some adjustment of the leaders.  You can too. Remember that the AFTMA standards call for the first 30' of line to weigh the same regardless of taper and that the level line is "all belly" or "long long belly".

As I said above if you consistently need to cast more than 45-50 feet the WF has an advantage that increases as distance increases and this can even  be  improved on by using shorter heavier heads or lighter running line, I can see this in large rivers or the salt, or from a boat on a lake particularly with sinking heads.

 

I have not even looked at most of the specialty tapers available or done the math, but i will guess they each have a small window of application where they excel and that in the rest of the variables probably don't run much better or  worse than the basic tapers. 

 

This article doesn't look at level lines but does speak to the myths surrounding DT & WF. http://www.flyangler.../101/dtvswf.php

 

jmo, cheers



#14 tjm

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 04:11 PM

Quality and what determines it could be another discussion.  If made in the same factory by the same mechanics using the same plastic over the same core material is one taper or one color superior quality to the other 997 tapers and colors or brands produced there and why is it, or how can the color, label, or branding change the inherent quality?



#15 xvigauge

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Posted 24 June 2019 - 05:01 PM

viewtopic.php?p=55044#p55044

 

This is a link to where I saw the post regarding WF lines and Orvis involvement. I wasn't going to post it because I thought it might be against the rules to post a link to other forums, but Steve said it was OK. This is on the fiberglass fly rod forum. Scroll down to the 10th post on the thread.

Joe