May 8, 2016

The Lake Line Shootout!

Feel lost in a sea of lake lines?

There comes a time when things need to be broken down and analyzed.  Sometimes the choices in fishing and life can be totally overwhelming. While preparing for our annual desert lake fishing extravaganza I was having a hard time choosing which lines to bring.  If I work at a shop and felt that way, anyone who doesn't work in a fly shop would certainly be feeling the same way or even more distraught.  

Decisions, decisions...  Let me help you avoid the lake line conundrum.

My goal in this article is to give you recommendations for lake lines from each of our major companies: Rio, Airflo, and Scientific Anglers.  Each company (Thanks Georgie, Eric and Garry!) was kind enough to supply me with an assortment of lines to cover most any lake situation you might encounter, from floating to fast full sink. 

Here is the starting lineup!

Rio InTouch Trout LT WF5
Rio Gold WF6
SA Mastery SBT WF5

Rio InTouch Camolux WF5
Airflo Camo WF6
Airflo Ridge Clear Delta Slow Intermediate WF6/7
SA Sonar Stillwater WF6

Rio InTouch Deep 6 WF6
Airflo Sixth Sense Sink 7 WF6/7
SA Sonar Titan Int/Type3/Type 5 WF7

It's hard work, but somebody's got to do it!

Killer Callibaetis Hatch = Pure Fun

Floating lines:

I use the floating lines primarily for chironomid/bobber and dry flies in lake fishing scenarios.  I fished a Winston LT 8'9" 5wt, a Winston WT 9' 6wt  and a Winston Boron IIIx 9' 5wt for these lines.

Rio InTouch Trout LT WF5

Rio describes this line as " The ultimate line for delicate presentation", which I think is fairly accurate, though I believe they are limiting themselves as it can do much more than that, especially on softer rods.  This line has the braided low stretch ConnectCore.


The Rio Trout line has always been one of my favorites.  The new InTouch is no exception.  This is an excellent all around trout line, especially on less fast rods like Winstons, Loomis LPs and even the Sage Ones.  It has an elongated taper that turns over nicely and will present small flies really well.  It will also handle nymphs and smaller streamers with ease.  I fished this line a lot both with chironomid/bobber rigs and with dries (midges and Callibaetis).  This line helped me take advantage of the killer Callibaetis hatch we ran into, and the low stretch core definitely helped me hook some long distance fish that I would have probably missed with a "regular" line.  If you are unfamiliar with the ConnectCore, it has minimal (4%) stretch, while other Rio lines have up to 22% stretch at breaking point.


It certainly handled the dry flies better than the bobber rig, but never was it so bad that I didn't want to use it for that technique.  It is also the rod I switched back and forth from midge larvae/pupae to dry flies throughout the day, so it was important that it do both.  This line gets heavy on long casts too, which for a fast rod is no problem, but on slower rods, like my Winston LT and WT, it is too much weight.  That being said, on shorter casts, it is butter.  It is super delicate on my softer rods, and any rod for that matter.

Rio Gold WF6

Rio proclaims this line as "The ultimate all around floating line for trout"  and I would have to agree. 


This has been my go to floating lake line for a long while now.  It casts beautifully, especially on longer casts that are the norm on lakes.  It handles nymph rigs better than the Trout LT too, with some sacrifice in delicate presentation.


It doesn't cast short distances particularly well.  It is clunky at those short casts, with dry flies especially.

Scientific Anglers Mastery SBT WF5

The is SA's "Short Belly Taper" line.   A pretty unique short head taper for delivering flies at short to medium range and made to turn over weighted flies but will lighten up with long leaders for delicate presentations.  This line has a braided multifilament core.


This was the sleeper line of the group and one I wouldn't have considered for lake fishing had Garry our SA rep not recommended it.  The beauty of this line becomes apparent when you put a long leader and 2 or 3 chironomids on the end.  It has such a short head that it can turn over super long leaders which essentially add to the front taper.  I was able to turn over a 15ft leader with 3 midges and a bobber.  Pretty remarkable!


This is not an all around floating lake line.  It struggles with longer casts and normal length leaders and dry flies.  It is a specialty line really, which is not a bad thing, but when looking at your setups it is important to know it's limitations.

Intermediate Lines:
Buggers fished on intermediate lines are so money!

Intermediate sinking lines are my go to for most lake fishing scenarios.  If you are going to have one line for lakes fishing, make it an intermediate.  I use these for everything from Callibaetis and damsel nymphs to buggers and streamers.  I fished these lines on my Winston WT 9' 6wt, a Sage ONE 9' 6wt, and a Sage XP 9' 6wt.

Rio InTouch Camolux WF6

This is Rio's go-to intermediate InTouch line and is the only low-stretch intermediate line that we tested. 


Great line to cast and fish.  Shoots like crazy and can make quick accurate casts with little effort.  Handles the wind beautifully.  The InTouch core does indeed increase strike sensitivity and helps you hook fish faster with less missed fish.  Though the least transparent if the intermediate lines I tested, the fish didn't seem to care at all, even in the clearest lakes.  I think the broken camo coloration works well and looks good in many different water turbitities.  This line was easily my favorite intermediate line of the bunch.


There is some amount of stiffness and memory in the coating.  There are times where your line will knot up if not handled properly.  The use of a stripping apron or basket will certainly help, and it was never so bad that it made me curse.

There is a "hang tag" that is a one inch section of tubing/heat shrink on the line twenty feet or so from the end of the line that indicates when to pick it up and re-cast or fish the "hang".  I think the hang tag could be better implemented if it was part if the line as opposed to glued over the line.  It wasn't as annoying as with the Rio full sink, but there were a few times where I thought I had a bite when I stripped it through the guides and I have little doubt that it does affect the sink rate of that section of line to some degree.

Airflo Camo WF6

Airflo recommends this intermediate line for fishing in weed beds for spooky fish.  It has a very supple camo mono core and has an elongated delta taper.


This was a real hopeful for me.  I like the camo/clear look and the delta taper sounded appealing.  This line was the most supple of all of the intermediate lines I tested.  It was easy to handle and strip.  I primarily fished this line with buggers, Callibaetis nymphs and leaches.  This line really excelled when you needed to make long casts and have a more delicate presentation.  We ran into a lot of rising fish that wanted nothing to do with any of our dry fly offerings but would take a well presented mayfly nymph.  This line certainly helped with that.  In very cold clear conditions this should be your line of choice.


The delta taper is not a quick casting line.  It takes 2-4 back casts to get the taper to a point where you can make a reasonable cast and turn over the fly.  So the caveat with this line is that it is not for tight quarters or quick casting scenarios.  It also struggles a bit in the wind, again because of the elongated front taper delta design.  Once you get the head outside of the rod tip it works better in the wind, but as anyone who fishes in the wind knows: more backcasts = you're going to have a bad time.  The coating on this intermediate was also the stickiest of the intermediates I tested, though not nearly as bad as the clear "goo" lines of old, when dry the line stuck a bit in the guides and fingers.  When wet though, it shot very well.

Airflo Ridge Clear Delta Slow Intermediate WF6/7

Airflo recommends this line for clear water lakes and for making longer presentations to wary fish.  It has a mono core and their ridged coating along with their elongated delta taper.


This line performs well in very similar scenarios as the Camo line above.  It has the same delta taper, but is built with a clear ridged coating.  I didn't find the ridge line to be that noticeable and didn't think about it much while fishing it.  The line shot fine and handled well.  The slow intermediate sink rate was really nice for fish that were hanging in very shallow water as you could work a fly slow enough without getting hung in the weeds.


The cons on this Airflo line are pretty much identical to those of the Airflo Camo.  The delta taper has it's limits and does not work very well in close quarters, windy days, or for quick one backcast presentations.  I found there was a bit more stiffness in this line as compared to the supple Camo line. This line takes up a large amount of space on a reel because of the long delta taper and ridge coating. If you are switching lines out often, it requires you to remove some backing from your reel compared to a typical floating line.

SA Sonar Stillwater WF6

This is the only truly "clear" line in the bunch I tested.  SA recommends it for windy conditions and stealthy presentations.  It has a stiff mono core.


When stretched out and untangled this line shoots like a laser.  It makes quick and effortless casts.  The line is very sensitive due to it's stiff core and coating.  I rarely missed a fish.  The all clear line may be an added help in spooky fish/ultra clear water situations, though the jury is still out on this hypothesis.  All of us in the shop are in agreement that line color matters very little and that presentation is far more important.


Well I hate to dog on it, but the curse factor was very high with this line.  The monofilament core and stiff coating make this line nearly unmanageable in cold water.  I had to re-stretch the line every time I reeled in, and the times the line snarled outnumbered the times that it didn't.  It was a major bummer, especially when I felt how good the line could cast when it didn't knot up.  I am going to try this line again in the heat of the summer as I think it will be an absolute awesome warm/tropical line.  I am thinking carp and bonefish...  I unfortunately can't recommend this line for cold water use.

Sinking lines:

Casting and trolling deep weed edges with a sinking line
 is a killer midday technique

These are the deep water fishing lines.  In the heat of the summer you need to get down to the fish, and they will generally move up and down vertically in the water column as the day progresses.  These lines are designed to help you find that zone and stay in it.  You can fish just about anything on a full sinking line, but I find buggers, streamers, and larger nymphs to be the most effective.  I fished these lines on a Sage ONE 9' 6wt, a Sage XP 9' 6wt, and a Winston BIIIx 9' 7wt.

Rio InTouch Deep 6 WF6

This is one member of Rio's extensive InTouch Sinking Line series.  It has their braided low stretch ConnectCore, a hang tag marker and a 30ft WF head.


Very easy casting full sinker.  A couple back casts and let her fly!  Sinks fast and keep a nice straight line to the fly with the density compensation.  An overall very good full sinking lake line.


The hang tag.  **ATTENTION RIO**  Please find a better way to mark the line.  The idea is there, but the raised hang tag seems to alter the sink rate and creates a slightly buoyant spot that does seem alter the presentation and defeats the purpose of density compensation.

Airflo Sixth Sense Sink 7 WF6/7

This is one of Airflo's storied Sixth Sense series lines.  It has their low stretch Power Core and has a very unique marking system at 10', 20' and rear taper (40ish').  This line again has their delta taper and is the only line without any welded loops in the group.


Sinks like a rock.  Great density compensation.  The line markers are color indicators that tell you when you're at 10', 20' and around 40' (rear taper).  I immediately found myself using the line markers both in casting and during the retrieve or troll.  You could instantly know when you are far enough in to pickup and cast, but more importantly I could duplicate fishing depth by let the line out to certain distance.  This is an incredible tool for lake fishing, and I will be adding a type 3 into my arsenal to compliment the type 7 dredger.


All type 7 lines are weird to cast.  They are super heavy and a bit awkward.  You will find that less is more when casting this line.  just get a good backcast loaded and let it fly.  A welded loop should be added to this line too.  It was the only sinking line or intermediate line I tested without one.  Not a big deal, but certainly convenient.

SA Sonar Titan Int/Type3/Type 5 WF7

This line is part of SA's SONAR series of sinking lines and has their Titan taper as well as a triple density design that has a type 5 tip, type 3 mid section and intermediate running line.  It also has a braided multifilament core.


The best casting full sinking line I have every used!  The triple density sink rates really give you a straight line presentation and certainly help with line management and in casting ease.  The Mastery texturing is not annoying and I have no doubt that it helps with line shooting and durability.  I could cast the entire line if I wanted to.  Throws big flies much better than the other full sinking lines too, but I fished a #10 bugger and smaller Callibaetis nymphs on it with no problem.  The triple density also give you 3 color ques, which, like the Airflo sixth sense, is a huge asset to lake fishing and depth control.


Honestly, not really any cons other than maybe not the most delicate full sinker, but none of them really are.

Game time...
OK, so I have broken down most of my thoughts on each line for you.  Sometimes numbers help folks get a better handle on things so I came up with a totally subjective rating system for these lines.
Here are the breakdowns on each rating category:
The full arsenal

Color- This refers to line color, pattern, shade etc.  I rated the color mainly on how it helped me fish, not necessarily the color itself

Casting Ease- How hard you have to work to cast each line

Handling- How the line handles/coils/limpness/stripping etc

Short casts/Long casts- Pretty self explanatory. Short= 5-30ft Long= more than 30ft

Sensitivity- How easy it is to detect a strike or weeds/bottom

Versatility- How well the line works with multiple scenarios/techniques/flies

Shooting- How well the line shoots during casting

Fishyness- This is a misc. category, mainly to describe how well the line fishes in general.  Some lines integrate really well into your fishing program and some can hinder your intentions

So that's the tail of the tape.  Here are my conclusions and awards:

Lake fishing for trout certainly requires some specialty gear and unique techniques just as river fishing does.  Most likely your floating line will pull double duty, but if you are serious about lake fishing you need to get some intermediate and sinking lines.  With all the advances in fly lines in the last decade there are a multitude of excellent choices, and most any line will work pretty well.  That being said, here are my top choices...

Best Floating Lake Line:  RIO GOLD!  

           Though the ratings came out close, if I had to choose one, it would be the Rio Gold, and with the new InTouch version it would have rated higher than the Trout LT.  A killer all around floater for midging and dries!

Best Intermediate Lake Line:  Rio InTouch Camolux!  

          There are a lot of excellent lines in this category, but the Rio Camolux shines above the rest for pure fish catching mojo.  Easy to cast and deadly effective!

Best Sinking Lake Line:  Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan!

         The SA Sonar Titan is just awesome!  Very easy to cast and will handle anything.  The Airflo Sixth Sense is an excellent line as well, but has some of the limitations of traditional sinking lines.  The Titan taper is just so user friendly it's hard to beat.

Overall Best in Show:   ...  Rio InTouch Camolux!

Now let me preface this by saying that any real lake badger worth his/her salt should at minimum have a floating line setup and a sinking line setup at all times.  But if you are on a one line budget, or just want to dip your finger in for a taste of lake fishing, buy the Rio InTouch Camolux.   It is easy casting, easy handling, fish catching goodness. This line will help you put more fish in the net!

So there we have it.  Hopefully you have a better handle on the lake line options out there and can make an educated decision.  I also hope that this article might inspire you to try lake fishing for trout.  It is a totally unique experience and provides some interesting challenges not found in river fishing.  I find that spending some time before a trip to get things in order pays off in the end and not having to concern myself with my equipment while fishing makes for a more enjoyable fishing experience. The most important thing is that you have fun, and your gear shouldn't get in the way of that!

Get out there and explore!

Ryan Van Duzor
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist | Lover of Carp

Read More from the "Bearded Pescador"

"Fly Fish the World with Us"


  1. Thanks for the shootout review, my old "I-line" is getting pretty tired and I think I will take your review to heart.

    One silly question: I have a Rio Gold, a Scientific Anglers textured floater and a Wulff TT floater. Is there any floating line that consistently floats the best? I just got back from fishing the Big Hole and the Beaverhead where I had a hard time keeping my floating line floating (lines are all "newish" and kept clean).

    1. Thanks for the note.

      I find that the Rio and SA lines both float well but a good cleaning and wipe with Agent X for the Rio lines makes a big difference. I can't say for certain, but so far it seems that the Rio InTouch lines do float better than the standard lines, which makes sense given how well braided lines float. Tight lines! TBP


Stay up to date: Free Newsletter Sign Up

  © 'and' Mike Prine 2009-2014

Back to TOP