Monofilament or Fluorocarbon?

 So many choices! Photo: Kyle Shea

While fluorocarbon leader and tippet materials are no longer a new discovery in the fishing scene, lots of us are still uncertain of the difference between newer fluorocarbon and traditional nylon monofilament. If you are in this category, before stocking up on tippet spools for the coming season, keep reading and we’ll try to clear up the differences between the two.

First off, don’t be fooled by the substantially higher price tag on fluorocarbon materials when compared to monofilament. Many anglers reach for fluorocarbon under the assumption that because it is more expensive, it is a superior choice of line. While there are many superior qualities of fluorocarbon, both fluorocarbon and monofilament have their place depending on the situation. The higher price of fluorocarbon is as much a result of the manufacturing process as it is the “fishing value.” When comparing leader and tippet materials, there are a few qualities that are of utmost importance – read on.

The visibility, or better put, the “invisibility” of fluorocarbon line is most likely the best selling point of fluorocarbon when compared to standard nylon monofilament line. The light refractive index of fluorocarbon is very similar to that of fresh water (much more so than monofilament). In other words, when placed in water, it is less visible than monofilament.
Not convinced? You can see for yourself. Take strands of equal diameter of both fluorocarbon and monofilament and dip them in a glass of water. Notice the difference in transparency of the materials in water.

When talking about strength, there are several dimensions to consider. In the short term, fluorocarbon is a much harder material than monofilament. This results in higher abrasion resistance that is useful in situations such as nymphing or fishing around heavy structure. Also, most fluorocarbon line is thinner in diameter than monofilament line of the same breaking strength. However, this is not always the case from company to company.
Fluorocarbon is also non-permeable to water and therefore does not absorb water throughout the fishing day. This may not seem like a big deal but most do not realize how much water nylon monofilament actually absorbs throughout the day. Over time, this causes monofilament to weaken.

Over the long term, fluorocarbon is extremely resistant to the elements as well, unlike monofilament. Overtime, U.V. rays, rain and humidity, and extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) can cause monofilament to break down and lose strength. Fluorocarbon is much more resistant to these conditions over the long term. For most of us, these conditions are the norm during a fishing day. This is worth considering before pulling out that dusty tippet spool you bought on sale two years ago.

On that note: due to the fact that fluorocarbon does not break down very readily, please take care when disposing of it. Any pieces clipped off and thrown into the river will be there for a very, very long time.

For you trout fisherman out there, the density of your leader material is actually very important. Fluorocarbon is actually denser than water. In other words, it sinks. This is great when dredging the bottom with nymphs or stripping streamers. However, if dead drifting or skating flies on the surface, this is the last thing you want. Nylon monofilament on the other hand actually suspends in water. If fishing dries, especially in very small sizes, monofilament is a clear winner here.

Most anglers are aware that monofilament is a relatively “stretchy” material. Just grab your leader from both ends and pull; you will see it stretch. While a certain degree of stretch is advantageous to help absorb the shock while fighting a fish, less stretch results in higher sensitivity for detecting those subtle takes. Fluorocarbon is said to have less stretch than most nylon monofilaments, however there has been some debate among differing manufacturers.

Knotability is often overlooked by anglers when selecting a leader or tippet material, but it is very important. The knot is always the weakest link in your setup and therefore it is important to choose a material that knots well.
Nylon monofilament is far superior here as it is suppler than fluorocarbon. For this reason, nylon monofilament is often the choice when tying big game leaders that require extremely large diameter lines. Due to the stiffness of fluorocarbon, knots do not always seat as easy and must be coaxed into lying just right. Take your time when tying knots into fluorocarbon materials and ensure the knot seats correctly to avoid knot slippage or breakage.

While fluorocarbon seems to have a great deal of advantages over tradition monofilament, there are certain situations where the extra cost is not necessary. Evaluate what situations best fit you and buy accordingly. Also, it is important to mention that not all materials are created equal. Fluorocarbon or monofilament is often times very different between competing manufacturers.


Understanding Fly Line Profiles

Fly Line Profile

Fly Line Profiles. Photo: Hatch Outdoors.

Choosing the best fly line for your angling pursuits is the most important consideration of any fly rod setup. Contrary to popular belief, the fly line is the most ‘technically driven’ piece of equipment. Yes, more so than your high modulus graphite or sealed carbon fiber disc drags. There are a wide range of fly lines available today to target nearly every fishing scenario, but for many anglers out there, choosing one can be a bit overwhelming.

Most fly line companies provide fly line profiles, not to be confused with tapers (i.e. weight forward, double taper, etc.), for each fly line available. Line profiles are nothing more than a schematic of the line, highlighting the lengths of different sections of varying diameters, densities, textures and so on. They can be a great tool when selecting a fly line, but the role of each section of line is not often understood. Therefore, we thought we’d provide a rundown of the most common components found in fly line profiles and how they affect the performance of a line.

In a typical ‘weight forward’ fly line profile, you can expect to see some, or all of the following components..

  • 30 ft. Weight: Just what it says, the 30 ft. weight is the weight of the first 30 feet of line measured in ‘grains.’ It’s what dictates the line’s appropriate line weight (i.e. 5 wt., 6wt., and so on). Why 30 feet? At 30 feet, both weight forward and double taper lines of the same ‘line weight’ should weigh the same, allowing for some consistency when matching lines to rods from varying manufacturers. However, there is an accepted degree of error in line weights, and some lines can vary from 1/2 to even 3/4 of a line size within the same ‘weight.’ Therefore, knowing the 30 ft. weight can be helpful in matching a line to your specific needs.
  • Tip: The tip of the fly line is nothing more than a short level section to which the leader is attached. In the past, the tip was used to extend the life of the line by providing a section that can be trimmed after attaching a leader, without cutting into the taper of the fly line. With the popularity of welded loops however, the tip of the fly line is not as important today as it was before, and thus doesn’t need to be as long.
  • Front Taper: The tapered section connecting the body to the tip of the line, the front taper determines how energy is dissipated from the line to the leader. A long gradual front taper allows for more delicate and accurate casts, while a short aggressive front taper lends itself to better turnover when casting heavy flies or casting into the wind, although is less accurate. Choose accordingly.
  • Belly (Body): The belly, or body, of the line is the portion of the line with the widest diameter. It is where the majority of the energy is carried throughout the cast. The longer the belly of the line, the greater distance potential. The shorter the belly, the easier it is to load the rod quickly for shorter casts. Choose your belly length based on the distance you fish to most often.
  • Rear (Back) Taper: The tapered section connecting the belly of the line to the running line, the rear taper is an underrated portion of the fly line. A long rear taper allows for greater control of the fly line over longer distances by creating a smooth transfer of energy. A shorter rear taper creates a quicker transition to the thin running line, allowing for greater distances when shooting line. Both have their advantages depending for the type of fishing at hand!
  • Head: The head of the fly line is the section comprised of the front taper, belly, and rear taper. The length of the head determines the amount of line that can be effectively carried in the air while casting. The longer the head, the longer casting potential. However, more false casts are necessary to lengthen the amount of line being carried in the air, which can be difficult for some casters. The shorter the head, the less false casts needed to load the rod before shooting line, and is easier for casters of all abilities.
  • Running Line: The thin, level line comprising the back end of the fly line, the running line provides a low friction segment designed to send the head as far as possible when shooting line using weight forward or shooting taper fly lines. Unless you’re planning on boosting casts around the 100 foot range, the length of running line is not overly important.

Determine what you need out of your fly line and use the principles above to find the line that best fits your needs!

Education Excellence Award

Frangos and fishEducation Excellence Award – Dino Frangos

Awarded to individuals or clubs that have made outstanding contributions in teaching one or more elements of our sport to others. Elements such as fly fishing basics, fly casting, fly tying, rod building, or advanced fishing techniques. Dr. Dino Frangos is a native of Wyoming and retired urologist from Mobile, AL. He’s been a member of the Gulf Coast Fly Fishing School, and through the school and other venues has taught over a thousand folks how to fly cast.

A longtime FFI Certified Casting Instructor, in 2013 he was certified a Master Casting Instructor (MCI). And in 2021, he met the requirements to become a Level 1 Examiner for testing and certification in the CCI program. In addition to teaching and instruction, Dino has written numerous articles on flycasting, including the FFI Casting Publication, The Loop. A few of his articles have been invaluable to those pursuing the Master Casting Instruction (MCI) certification. Dino has volunteered for casting instruction at various events, including most recently at the FFI Gulf Coast Classic in Gulf Shores.

The GCFFS instructors have got it going!