Which trout line for rivers?

13 min read


Don Stazicker tests 15 of the latest four-weights

THE FOUR-WEIGHT LINE IS the workhorse of river fishing for trout. A true all-rounder, it can provide delicacy and distance, propelling flies small and large with accuracy — as long as the angler has sufficient skill and has chosen a line with the right taper and weight for the job.

Identifying each line’s weight, taper and best application is the purpose of this test, but first it’s important to understand how a weight-forward line works.



A short sacrificial section at the front of the line. It prevents you cutting into and affecting the taper when attaching leaders.


The thickest, heaviest section of the line usually without any taper, it carries much of the cast’s energy and combined with the rear taper determines how much line can be handled outside of the rod tip both in the air and on the water.


A section of reducing diameter joining the belly to the running line. Long rear tapers give good loop stability during distance casting; short rear tapers make it easy to determine the optimum load point for casting the full head. Long rear tapers make it easier to match the line to the rod because the length of line in use can be easily varied; short rear tapers lack this versatility – once the head is outside of the rod tip there is little that can be done to increase the load as the running line has so little mass.


A section of reducing diameter that dissipates energy as the line unfurls, providing a gentle presentation. The front taper probably has the most influence on the line’s performance. Long front tapers have less mass and will gently deliver small light flies, while short front tapers have a more powerful delivery for heavy or wind-resistant flies. The weight of the fly-line still matters, though. Light lines will struggle to turn over very big or wind-resistant flies even with short front tapers. If you are routinely casting such flies, consider using a five- or six-weight line to make casting easier. Front taper and tip diameter are not the same. It is possible to have a long, gradual taper to a thick tip, or a short taper to a thin tip; the former will deliver the fly powerfully, and the latter more delicately. The greater the tip diameter the more energy is transmitted to the leader


The combined length of tip, front taper, belly and rear taper. Long casts are easiest when using the maximum length of head you can hold in the air with good form. Long heads are good for distance casting because the loop will take longer to unfurl and as a result t