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Sinking Tip Fly Lines

Updated on June 2, 2013

What Properties Make a Floating Line Attractive?

A floating line is visible to the fly fisher and helps the fisher locate the fly. The fly line does not have to be retrieved since it leaves the fly in place, at least in still water. Floating lines are easy to cast because they are light.

A sinking tip fly line on a spool.
A sinking tip fly line on a spool.

What Is a Sinking Tip Fly Line?

Fly lines fall into two broad categories. They are either floating or sinking lines. Floating lines float on the top of the water's surface for the entire length of the line, while sinking lines sink into the water for the entire length of the line. As the name implies for the sinking tip line, the tip of the line (first ten to 20 feet) sinks, while the remaining portion of the line floats. A sinking tip fly line takes advantage of the properties of both the floating and sinking lines.

What Properties Make a Sinking Line Attractive?

Sinking lines have metal particles mixed in them so that the line sinks. Sinking lines are dark or clear so that the fish cannot see them well. They are thinner and since they do not suspend on the water's surface, they slip into the water leaving very little surface disturbance, hence reducing the risk of spooking the fish. They sink to a uniform depth. Based on the speed of your retrieve, you can control the depth of the fly. In short, you can target the location of the fish in the water column.

Three transitions of a sinking tip fly line.  Top: orange floating line, Middle: brown sinking line and orange floating line melded, Bottom: brown sinking line.
Three transitions of a sinking tip fly line. Top: orange floating line, Middle: brown sinking line and orange floating line melded, Bottom: brown sinking line.

The Sinking Tip - The Best of Both Lines

The sinking tip combines the benefits of both lines. The tip does not disturb the water's surface, yet the floating portion of the line gives you some indication of where the fly is. The sinking tip places the fly line through the water column. When you stop the retrieve, the fly line pulls the fly down through the water column, at least to the depth of the sinking tip. Unlike an entire sinking line, when you retrieve a sinking tip fly line, the line pulls the fly back up the water column to where the fly line is floating. The faster the retrieve, the father up the water column the fly moves. This up and down movement of the fly through the water column does not require you to have a constant retrieve as with an all sinking line. You can have some very long pauses and if the depth of the water is deeper than your sinking tip, you can stop the retrieve entirely.

But Wait! There Are Costs

Melding two different types of fly line into one line comes with a cost. Two of them are pretty significant. First, the weight distribution of the fly line is awkward. The sinking portion (tip) is much heavier than the floating portion, so casting is off balance and difficult. The maximum casting distance is shorter, about 1/4 shorter than with a weight-forward floating line. The second cost is that the line is hinged where the floating line meets the sinking line, even though the two are melded together for several feet. This results in the line sagging and making it difficult to detect when a fish is striking at your fly. The third cost is less critical for most people. The line will only sink as deep as the sinking tip is long. If you are fishing deep water, the fly may not reach your desired depth.

Is the Sinking Tip Line Right for You?

If you are fishing moderately deep water - ten to fifteen feet, and the species of fish you are fishing for tends to strike hard, and distance is not critical, a sinking tip line is worth considering.

Bass on Sinking Tip Fly Line

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