Level Fly Lines, A Second Look
"Don't waste your money on level fly lines. They are cheap and cumbersome." This is the common response you will read when reading fly line reviews. To some degree this is true, but for the seasoned fly fisher, a level line may supply the tactics you need for certain fishing.
Why Are Level Fly Lines Less Expensive?
Fly lines consist of two materials. Inside is the core, usually made of braided nylon. Outside is the coating, made of PVC, polyurethane, or polyethylene. The coating is applied to the core through a machine called an extruder. After the coating is applied to the core, the core/coating exits the machine. A level line does not require an adjustable orfice as the core with coating exits the machine. Tapered lines do require an adjustable orfice, so presumably a less technical machine is required to produce a level fly line.
What Is The Tactical Advantage Of A Level Line?
Concisely, a level line functions between a weight forward line and a double tapered line. In detail, a weight forward line has more weight near the end of the fly line. This translates to more energy at the end of the line. More energy at the end of the line results in the line shooting a farther distance. While the bonus of casting farther is realized by a weight forward line, the down side is that the heavier end of the line disturbs more surface water when it hits the water. This disturbance can scare the fish.
A double tapered line has more weight in the middle of the line and is tapered to a smaller diameter at the end of the line. There is more energy in the middle of the line, so the casting distance is less. However, because the line is smaller near the end, it disturbs less surface water. In fact, a double tapered line characteristically rolls out on the surface of the water and gently places the fly.
The level line functions between the weight forward line and the double tapered line. It has just enough weight to get more distance than a double tapered line, yet lacks the surface disturbance.
A Direct Application
I came upon this discovery by accident. I purchased one of the packaged fly rod kits and failed to note that it did not specify a weight forward line. I had already fished with the rod and line before discovering it to be a level line. I did not return it. Later, I placed a weight forward line on the same rod and noticed how much more surface noise the weight forward line made. The surface disturbance was enough that I saw swirls and eddies left by fleeing fish before the line hit the water. Not only was the level line less surface disturbing, it was thinner and less visible to the fish even before hitting the water.
Had I used a double tapered line, the heavier flies I used for larger bluegill would have made casting difficult because larger flies would be too heavy for the line. The level line handles larger flies nicely. Ultimately, when targeting these fish, I use the level line.