Line ratings

Line ratings

Viking Lars | Saturday, 16 February 2019

There is one standard in the manufacture of fly fishing gear - and that’s the AFFTA (AFTM) standard for the rating of flylines. There is no standard for anything else. Maybe one - the sizing of reel feet and reel seats. I remember even when I began flyfishing over 25 years ago, some reels had an odd sized reel foot and it wouldn’t properly fit your rod. I’m not even sure if it was the reel or the reel seat.

That issue seems to be over and done with - I can’t remember when I last saw, had or heard of a reel that didn’t sit well in any reel seat of any rod.

With fly lines however, it’s a completely different story. Just about every manufacturer seems to be abandoning the AFFTA-standard for rating flylines. The standard is simple. The first 30 feet of a flyline has to fall within a given weight limit (with a little leeway to both sides) and if it does, it’s a say 6-wt line.

The misunderstanding that often arises is that the AFFTA-standard is also a standard for the weight a fly rod casts. It’s not. Because everything on a flyline that comes after the 30 feet (and *many* lines have heads longer than 30 feet) is additional weight. I did a survey many years ago asking several manufacturers about the total head weight of one or more of the WF-lines they considered to be “standard fly lines”. The interesting result was that most lines corresponded quite well with the weight that most (scandinavians anyway) used on rods of the same rating. So of course the AFFTA-system has an impact on the way a rod handles a given line in the same rating.

When the Sage TCR came out, there was a lot of controversy because it was as stiff as it was, and that is wasn’t a five weight rod. Well, it was - and it was designed to carry a 5-wt line with a very long head, hence the stiffer rod to carry the heavier weight. The interesting part was, though, that the rod still performed extremely well with “standard” fly lines and even the same 12-gram shooting heads I used for other 5-wt rods. That con only be considered a design achievement.

The great advantage of this system is that with a  minimum of knowledge (or guidance), you can (or should be able to) pick up any rod and any line in the same rating, and they should perform well together.

An “early test” of the AFFTA-system came when very short-head WF-lines became popular, because how do you rate a line with a head shorter than the 30-foot standard used int he AFFTA-system? Well, you can only do that either by an absolute number (the weight of the head in grains or grams) or by putting on a number where the weight of the head determines, from the AFFTA-system, the rating of the line.

Now most manufacturers make lines that are completely outside the AFFTA-system. I can (almost) understand lines that are half a rating over, because in some way, a 7,5-weight doesn’t really make sense. As you can see in the PoD, there’s an 8 grain allowance to both sides, and if the line is half a rating overweight from the heavy end of that, then it’s closer to an 8 than a 7.

But as I said, half a rating heavy I can understand. But now you can find many lines that are consistently one rating heavier than what it says on the box, A planet are even two (or even more) heavier than what it says on the box. For heaven’s sake - that makes *no* sense what so ever. It’s not a problem casting “heavier” lines. All rods with within quite a large spectrum of line weights and it’s old world wisdom for instance to use a 7-wt line ofr your 6-wt rod if you’re only casting short casts, and especially with heavy or large flies. Why don’t they just recommend upping one or even two for different purposes?

Even Scientific Anglers, who has championed the AFFTA-system for decades are now doing this. Their Titan Taper is for instance “two rating heavier” through out the range. SA may also have started the whole debacle, as I believe they were the first with “half-rating-heavy-lines (Lefty Kreh Taper way back), but at least they are vocal about it. It’s in the open.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. I think the main problem is that it’s no longer predictable what you get in a flyline, and no one knows which lines were used in the design of fly rods any more. It just becomes more and more impossible to know what to expect.

The table came from this old entry on Sexyloops, and I think I’ll persuade Paul that we should do a large, proper coverage of this issue, involve manufacturers and let loose the dogs.

Have a great weekend,