Skip to main content Skip to main content

Mark Your Line

What size? How far? Here's how to be sure.

Shown here and at top is author's 30-foot mark; time to lift fly for next cast. Also shown at top: double bars for 60 feet, and bar plus two dashes for No. 7 line.

One day the following conversation took place in my boat:

Fly angler: “How long is that cast?”

Me: “About 40 feet.”

Fly angler: “How long is that cast?”

Me: “About 50 feet.”

Et cetera, et cetera. It was not a terribly interesting exchange from my perspective.

If the fly line had been marked there wouldn't have been any guesswork, and he wouldn't have needed to ask. The fly line itself would have told him all he wanted to know.

By using a yardstick, a couple of permanent markers, and investing ten minutes of time, you can add some extremely useful information to your fly line. The information will help you for the life of the line.

If you only own one fly line, it's easy to remember what size it is. When you own a dozen or more rods and maybe twice that many lines you need a way to remember which line is what weight, so you know what size the line is on that reel you haven't touched in a year.

The system is simple, and requires nothing more than a permanent Sharpie marker. Think of it as a simplified fly fisher's version of Morse code. A long dash equals five on the line weight scale. A single dot equals one on the line weight scale.

For a 4-weight line you would mark four dots all the way around the line somewhere near the line to leader connection.

For an 8-weight line you would mark one dash and three dots, again all the way around the line. The truly obsessed do this at each end at the line, although this seems excessive to me.

You need to do this as soon as you put the line on the reel. If you don't it won't get done. Currently, three fly lines sit used but unmarked on my line shelf. I have no idea what size they are, and may as well throw them away.

Now, as long as you have the marker out, why don't you turn your line into a ruler?

Measure out 30 feet of line. Take a permanent marker and make a mark about five or six inches long on the line, all the way around, at that 30 foot mark.

Measure out a second 30 feet. Make two marks of two or three inches each with a one inch space between them at 60 feet.

The truly obsessed will make a third mark at 90 feet but again, this seems excessive to me.

If you do this you will find that that 30-foot mark in particular will help your fishing quite a bit. Most rods fully load with 40 feet of line out. You'll find that when that 30-foot mark makes its way out of the rod tip you will be ready to shoot the line. It's a wonderful visual aid.

>Most rods are fully loaded with about 40 feet of line out. When that 30-foot mark makes its way out of the rod tip, you'll be ready to shoot the line.

You will also find when stripping the fly that when the 30-foot mark touches your hand it's a good time to lift the fly out of the water to make your next cast (assuming it's a floating line). Ordinarily one false cast is all it takes to get the mark back out of the rod. Because it eliminates guesswork it makes the whole cast/retrieve process much more efficient.

When the double mark lands ten feet from the rod tip you know you have made an 80-foot cast: seventy feet of fly line, 10 feet of leader. So in addition to making your casting more efficient, it also teaches you to accurately gauge distances.

We all live to see the backing. After it goes out, you need to get it back in again. You know when the line hits the rod that the fish is out there about 110 feet. Once some fly line is wound on the reel again, you can't really tell any more how far away the fish is. If the line is marked, you know exactly. Again, no guesswork is involved.

Marking your line will improve your fishing, and might even save you money. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2012

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now