The Best Fishing Line For Trout: What The Guides Use

Use the best fishing line for trout to catch big brown trout like this.

In this article, I will discuss the best fishing line for trout fishing and why I and other trout guides only use premium fishing lines. Learn which sizes and types of fishing lines are best with different methods for fishing trout in rivers and lakes.

The best fishing line for trout fishing on small streams for newer anglers is the 6-pound Suffix Elite monofilament line, but there are times when 6-pound or 8-pound line is a better option. For more advanced anglers fluorocarbon and braided lines might be a better option depending on the method.

Monofilament lines are used by most river anglers and are used by fishing guides that use multiple methods with one rod, but for specific methods such as casting lures, jig fishing, or trolling, lines like fluorocarbon lines or braided lines will have some advantages over mono. All lines have pros and cons to them, let’s find out what line is best for you.

UPDATE: May 13, 2022. 3 NEW LINES ADDED

The 3 Best Trout Lines

The 3 best trout lines are Monofilament, Fluorocarbon, and Braided lines, and each one has advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of water you are fishing and the type of method that you are using.

On my fishing reels that I use for only casting lures in lakes or in rivers, I like to use braided lines for a number of reasons which I will discuss below.

Many skilled anglers and guides will prefer a quality fluorocarbon line when casting lures in rivers or when using methods like Drift Fishing or bottom bouncing?

On the reels that I use when I am float fishing for trout in rivers, I prefer and only use a premium monofilament line and I will discuss the benefits of monofilament below and which ones are best. If you want to learn how to catch more trout, check out my page on float fishing for trout.

When I am using reels that I use for multiple methods, instead of changing lines, I always prefer a premium monofilament fishing line for trout fishing which is why I often recommend mono over all other lines.

Is Mono The Best Line For Trout Fishing?

The best fishing line for trout is 4 pound Monofilament.
Monofilament lines are the best lines to use when fishing for trout using multiple methods and when using bait.

The monofilament line is the most used fishing line by trout anglers and by trout guides. Mono is the most used line because the monofilament line works well with most methods used for trout fishing which makes it the most versatile and easy to use.

When I use a mono line for trout fishing with both bait and with lures, I find that it always works best with a good fluorocarbon leader setup.

I still believe that most of the time float fishing is one of the most productive methods for catching trout in rivers especially if you use the right leader setup. The trout fishing leader setup that I use and teach my clients works better than most other leaders that I have tried.

The major benefits of mono are:

  • It is sold everywhere
  • It works well on all reels
  • It works well with all trout fishing methods
  • It also comes in many colors (see below which is best)
  • It comes in all the needed sizes for fishing trout
  • It’s the least expensive of all the fishing lines

However, not all monofilament lines are created equal and some are cheap and not very good while other mono lines are excellent for trout fishing. There are also some disadvantages to Monofilament lines.

The Best Monofilament Line For Trout Fishing

You must use a good monofilament line for trout fishing if you want to be able to fish well with mono. The best monofilament lines for trout fishing are premium lines or what I call performance lines and I will discuss the advantages of these lines and the disadvantages to the cheap lines.

If you want the best fishing lines for trout that are made from premium mono these are the best that I have used. I will also discuss the best sizes below this.

Sufix Elite line is one of the best lines for trout fishing

Sufix Elite

This is my favorite all-around mono line for trout and steelhead fishing with spinning reels.

I know many river anglers and other guides that also really like this line.

It works great on any type of fishing reel and for all methods.

The key features are

  • Superior strength, handing, and durability
  • J7 Micro Resin process
  • Slick line for farther casts
  • Exclusive G2 precision winding
Raven Mianline is one of the best lines for float fishing for trout

Raven Main Line Monofilament Line

This is my favorite line when float fishing for trout. I use it on my spinning reels and on my Centerpin reels.

It’s widely used by other trout anglers and by many fishing guides.

Key Feature Are:

  • 1/8 lb. spool (length varies by pound test)
  • Excellent abrasion resistance
  • High breaking strength
  • High buoyancy
  • Good for float fishing applications
Damyl Tectan Line is one of the best lines for trout fishing

DAM Damyl Tectan Superior Monofilament Line

A very well-rated line that is very supple with a UV coating to make it last longer.

This is a great line for trout fishing but is also well-liked by lake guys and for other species.

  • UV-protective surface treatment
  • Low visibility
  • Low memorySuperior abrasion resistant
  • Parallel winding
  • Medium elongation

Other Great Mono Lines For Trout Fishing

  • River Line: The Ande Premium Line is a very popular and well-liked line used by river anglers. Guys will use this for both float fishing and for lures or other methods.
  • General Purpose: Not what I would consider a premium line, but it is an old standard, used by thousands of river anglers, it’s cheap, and is still a decent line is Trilene XL.
  • For Wooded and Rocky Rivers: The P-Line CXX X-Tra Strong Monofilament Line is a good line to consider when fishing in rivers with lots of snags and when a little extra strength is required.

One of the disadvantages of mono is that it can have line memory which makes casting difficult. Line memory creates line coils when it comes off the smaller spinning reel spools and that can affect the way the line goes through the guides and the way it sits on the water. Line memory and line coils can cause problems.

A picture showing the line memory in fishing line
Line memory in mono lines can be a big problem. You can sometimes fix this by stretching the line. Try tying the line to a stationary object like a tree and then closing the bail with a tight drag and then walk back 100 feet or more with the line under tension.

Cheap lines are the worst for line memory and line twist, and that can also cause more tangles and problems, so avoid cheap lines. Cheaper lines that are also thick are even worse.

Good lines like the Suffix Elite line are much better and are lines that I would consider as a performance fishing line or as they call it a premium fishing line.

Performance type monofilaments will help you cast better and they will help you catch more fish when compared to cheap crappy lines because they perform better allowing for better hook sets, stronger knots, less memory and they go on the reel better with less line twist.

I find that performance lines can also offer features like being limper or stiffer, or they will be stronger at a thinner diameter which is exactly what you want when you are fishing for line shy trout.

Some of these performance lines can also have UV coatings to make the lines last longer, some will have less stretch and some are slick for better casting.

How To Straighten Fishing Line

Even good fishing lines can have some line memory if left for a long time or if left for too long in the sun or if it’s exposed to heat.

The easiest method to straighten the monofilament fishing line is to stretch it by tying it to something stationary and then walk back about 1.5 times the length you could normally cast and then pull or stretch the line.

Just be careful not to pull too hard or it could break the line near the reel and you will lose a lot of line. This method often works on good quality lines but not so good on cheap lines.

How Long Does Monofilament Line last

Monofilament that is stored indoors and out of direct sunlight will last about 3 years. How I test my mono is I will tie my best knot onto a large hook and I will pull it to test how strong the knot is. If it’s hard to break it’s still good, but if it breaks easily, it’s time to recycle it.

Some local tackle shops will take back your old line for recycling.

What Pound Line For Trout

A huge brown trout caught using light line
A huge brown trout like this can be caught using a line as light as 4-pound test but that doesn’t mean you should go that light.

Many of my clients want to know what pound line for trout is best and this is what I tell them. The right pound line for trout will depend on the size of the water that you fish and the size of the trout you might catch. You will need a different pound line in rivers than you will need in lakes.

What Pound Line For Trout In Rivers

Small trout creek fishing

The best pound line for trout fishing in rivers is 6-pound test which is a good all-around line for bait and for lures. If you are only fishing small creeks, 4-pound line is best. 8-pound line is best for trout fishing in big rivers where the trout can use the current to run far.

You can use a lighter line when river fishing because you can often walk up or down the river and the trout really don’t have anywhere to go. On huge rives with big currents, the trout can utilize the current and go far at a fast pace so you will need a heavier line. Just remember your weakest link because a very heavy line might bend hooks or break leaders.

Chances are you will be fishing for line shy trout and a good fluorocarbon leader that is lighter than your mainline will likely be required. The pound test for trout that is best when you are using leaders will depend on your leader size.

You don’t want to use a 4-pound line with a 6 pound leader. Your mainline which is the line on your reel, should always be slightly heavier than your leader so the line is more likely to break at the hook instead of up the line somewhere.

When fishing lures in rivers, the key is to get the lure down, have it work properly, and to cover the water well. I discuss all of this in my article, Trout Fishing With Lures.

What lb Test For Trout In Lakes?

When fishing in lakes with lures you will want an 8-pound line so that you don’t risk losing your lures on big fish that run far.

When lake fishing I prefer to use a braided line with a 3 or 4-pound fluorocarbon leader so the fish don’t see the line. With a braided line, it can be very strong while being 2 to 4 times thinner than a monofilament line. I tend you use a braided line that is around 10 to 20-pound breaking strength but that means it could be as thin as 4 to 6lb mono.

I will discuss braided lines for trout below.

The Best Fluorocarbon Fishing Line For Trout

Fluorocarbon lines are arguably the best fishing lines for trout in rivers for certain methods and fluorocarbon definitely has its advantages as well as some disadvantages, but the really important thing with fluorocarbon is to buy the right one.

Cheap fluorocarbon lines cause a lot of problems and give fluorocarbon a bad name but it doesn’t need to be that way.

The primary advantage of fluorocarbon line is that it is the most invisible fishing line to the fish and it’s very abrasion-resistant which can be great if you are fishing around a lot of rocks or logs. It also tends to sink and has less stretch than monofilament which makes it the best fishing line for trout.

Since fluorocarbon line tends to sink it is good when fishing with lures, but I avoid it and do not recommend it when float fishing which I give reasons for below.

There are many advanced river anglers and river guides that love fluorocarbon lines for lure fishing or using jigs, and for methods like Drift Fishing or bottom bouncing,

If you do decide to use fluorocarbon line for trout fishing it is very important to use a high-end fluorocarbon line from a reputable brand. This way you will get a good line that casts well with the type of reel that you use.

The downside to fluorocarbon is that it can be stiff and it can cause problems on spinning reels, and because of that I usually do not usually recommend it to beginners or average anglers for their spinning reels.

Some anglers claim some fluorocarbon lines are stiff right out of the package and they have seen it practically jump off the spool of their spinning reels causing all kinds of problems. I have had clients have problems like this and it’s often it’s due to the line being, or they put it on wrong, or it’s just a low-quality fluorocarbon line that is not good for casting.

Another downside is that a high-quality fluorocarbon line can also be 2 to 3 times more expensive than mono lines.

However, some of the high-quality fluorocarbon lines are more supple and are good when using baitcasting reels and spinning reels.

Often, when using a fluorocarbon line, any slack in the cast or after the cast can cause problems on spinning reels.

One of the best fluorocarbon lines for baitcasting reels is Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon Line, so if you want to try a fluorocarbon line that actually works on bait cast reel then this is one of the best one.

The Seaguar company is well known for having the best quality fluorocarbon lines in the world and they are always a good choice.

The best fluorocarbon lines for spinning reels when fishing for trout are:

Due to the potential problems and the higher prices, also because it’s less versatile, and because you can easily use a fluorocarbon leader when fishing with monofilament lines, I do not use fluorocarbon as my main line on most of my spinning reels.

I would also never use a fluorocarbon line on any reel that I float fish with because it sinks and for float fishing you always want the part of the line above your float to be buoyant when float fishing. This way you can mend easier and you will have less line drag. You will also have a better hookset with a floating line when float fishing.

The Best Braided Fishing Line For Trout

I use braided lines like Power Pro, SpiderWire, or Fireline on my reels that I only use for casting lures in lakes and rivers. My favorite braided line has been Power Pro in the green color and I have been using it since around 2006.

I have also used braided lines when float fishing with spinning reels, baitcasting reels, and even with Centerpin reels, but you must use a good leader set up and know how to properly secure it to the reel.

Expert lure anglers and guides know that when fishing for trout in a river or lake with jagged rocks, or with lots of wood and sunken trees, you want to use fluorocarbon and not braid, because the braid will cut into the wood and you’ll get hung up. The sharper rocks can also cut through the braid.

The advantages to using braid when float fishing or bottom bouncing is:

  • No stretch so long hooksets are better
  • Most braided lines float which is great when float fishing
  • Braided line has very low or no memory
  • Braided line comes of the spool smoothly
  • Brained lines are extra strong for their diameter
  • Braided lines are more sensitive to help you detect strikes when you are bottom bouncing

The disadvantages of braided lines when float fishing:

  • You need a fluorocarbon leader or the trout will see the line.
  • Because there is no stretch, it is more common to break fish off on the hookset or when fishing with a leader
  • Braid is not as easy to tie knots with, you will need specials knots for braid
  • The float caps that hold the float to the line can break more often with a thin braided line.
  • Braided line can freeze in the winter because it can absorb water and freeze and even the entire spool can freeze solid if you dunk your reel into the water in below-freezing temperatures.
  • Not properly securing a braided line to a reel can cause the entire chuck of line to spin freely around the spool making it impossible to reel in. This can occur if you tie the braid directly to the spool without a mono backing or taping it to the spool.

Braiding lines are a great choice when fishing with lures because they are very thin while being double or triple the strength of mono or fluorocarbon lines.

Thinner braided lines get the lure down faster, the hook sets are solid due to no stretch and braided lines can often cast farther.

The downside to braided lines is that the fish may see the line if you tie it directly to the lure so you may require a 18-inch to 36-inch section of 8 to 12-pound fluorocarbon leader. I use this method all the time.

Leaders – Do You Need Them?

A leader is simply an added section of line that goes on the end of the fishing line. This is where you tie on your bait or lure and it is a good idea.

When it comes to trout fishing, wire leaders are bad! Anytime I see an angler with a wire leader on while fishing for trout I know that guy has very little chance of catching any sizable trout unless he’s using a fast lure.

Leaders for trout fishing are primarily made from Fluorocarbon. The purpose of a leader is to hide the thicker mainline from fish’s sight and/or to help with abrasion from rocks or wood.

The leader can be the same size as the mainline that you are using or it can be slightly lighter. Almost never will my leader be stronger than my mainline.

I almost always use a leader when fishing for trout in rivers and lakes.

Best Lines For Different Types Of Reels

Some fishing lines work better on different types of reels than others but the truth is you should put whatever line on your reel that suits your situation.

Spinning reels work best well when spooled with monofilament lines however if left on too long and not used the mono can have bad memory and therefore line twist.

Braided line, and Copolymer lines also work well on spinning reels.

Few fluorocarbon lines work well on spinning reels and bad fluorocarbon lines can cause all kinds of problems on spinning reels so stick with the ones I recommend.

Baitcasting reels work well with almost all types of lines including fluorocarbon lines.

Best Line For Centerpin Reels

The two best lines for Centerpin reels are mono like the Raven Mainline mentioned above or braided line like Power Pro.

I never use fluorocarbon lines on a Centerpin reel because they are heavy and they sink which causes all kinds of problems with mending and hook sets. See my page on the best lines for Centerpin fishing where I list all my tested and proven lines.

The Best Fishing Line For Trout In Rivers

There’s a reason why the best trout line is different for river fishing versus lake fishing is because of the different methods used and because of all the rocks and logs found in many rivers.

The best fishing line for trout in rivers will depend on the method that you are using but if I was to choose only one type of fishing line it would be a good quality monofilament line that is great with all methods of river fishing.

What Is The Best Fishing Line For Trout In Clear Water

You can have clear water in both lakes and rivers and to be honest with you, there are other factors listed above that will determine the best line in clear water and I would recommend sticking to that.

As an example, in clear water lakes when trolling, the best line is braid, but only if you use a long fluorocarbon leader.

But in any water with lots of wood, sunken trees, or sharp rocks, the best line would be fluorocarbon.

When float fishing in clear water, mono is still the best line to use, just make sure you also have a good fluorocarbon leader.

What Is The Best Fishing Line For Trout In Dirty Water

You will often see the water of a river get dirty after a rain. So what is the best line for trout in dirty water? Since having a stealthy line is not an issue, the real answer is any line will work in dirty water but the line you should use depends on the method you are using and if it’s rocky and wooded or not.

What Is The Best Line For Trolling For Trout?

You could use any of the lines mentioned above for trolling for trout. Most anglers still use monofilament when trolling for trout and that is ok, but Fluorocarbon and braided lines are often the better lines for trolling for trout.

The extra thin diameter on the braided lines will help get your lures deeper and provide you with a more solid hook set with zero stretch. For this reason, braided lines are the best lines for trolling for trout.

However, braided lines are more visible to the trout so always add a 2 to 6 foot fluorocarbon leader to them.

A fluorocarbon line is also a good option due to less stretch and is more invisible to the fish.

Does Line Color Matter?

The simple answer is yes, the color of your fishing line does matter simply because some colors can be seen by the fish easier than other colors. I recommend that the section of the line that is near to the bait or lure should be clear or green or that you use a leader.

The line near the bait should not be yellow, orange, or colored at all.

However, if you have read my articles on float fishing you will see that I do recommend bright colored lines, in fact, that is mostly what I use when guiding and fishing but I always use a 3 to 5 foot or longer fluorocarbon leader.

The reason I use colored lines is that colored lines provide anglers with the advantage of being able to see the line out of the water which helps the angler get a better presentation.

I also use a 3 to 4 foot long fluorocarbon leader if I’m using brightly colored lines when casting lures for trout or steelhead, or when bottom bouncing. I simply attach the leader to the line using a Triple Surgeons know, Double Uni Knot, A Tippet ring, or a micro swivel.

Is Copolymer Line Good For Trout Fishing?

Copolymer line is very similar to monofilament except that the advantage to copolymer lines is better breaking strength, better knot strength, and less line stretch.

Copolymer lines tend to sink more which is a bit of a disadvantage for anglers that want to float fish and some copolymer lines are less supple, and copolymer lines are often more expensive. For these reasons, I don’t use copolymer lines.

However, if all you want to do is cast lures or even troll around a lake copolymer lines are a better option than mono, however, if that was all I was going to do, I would use a good braided line instead.

Lines For Everyone, Or Not

I realize there are some anglers and some guides out there that will disagree on what the best fishing line for trout is simply because they use a different line and they like it, or it works for them, and I’m ok with that.

There are also guys that put the line on wrong and experience lots of line twists and bird nests. Then there are those guys that can’t cast and also experience birds’ nests then they blame the line.

Then there are bad batches of line. I have used lines that are fantastic, and the next time I buy the line it’s weak and breaks easy.

I have also seen spools of line where the first or last 10 feet is weak or brittle but the rest of the line is great.

All these factors come into play when dealing with fishing lines which is why you will read reviews on one line and 100 guys love the line and say it’s fantastic and 5 other guys will tell you how horrible the line is, how bad it twists, or breaks.

You will also see on talk forums where 50 guys love and recommend a line, but someone else says it’s crap. You never know what the real reasons are why a line just does not work for that one person and I know you can’t please everyone. So try a line, see if you like it, and if it doesn’t work for you try another one.

Keep these things in mind and stick with tried and tested lines with great reputations like the ones I mentioned and don’t get mad at me if the line doesn’t work for you because all the lines I recommend are used by thousands of other trout anglers and they have been tested and proven to work.

Best Fishing Line For Trout Conclusion

I hope this article on the best fishing line for trout was helpful. If you have any comments, tips or questions let me know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,

Graham

11 Comments

  1. I was not able to see your mono to flourocarbon line set up. Please let me know the lenght for leader tied on the mono line. Thanks.

    1. Hey Shayne,

      I have just revised the article and added more info including a section on using leaders.

      To answer your question, I always use a 3 to a 5-foot fluorocarbon leader anytime that I use a colored line, braid, or even mono lines, and that goes for almost any method that I use when fishing for trout in a river.

      1. How does this work? Does the knot not get caught on the line guides when casting? This is my main concern when using a leader for trout. I would primarily be casting lures

        1. Hi Logan,

          For leaders for lures, a 12 to 24-inch piece of fluorocarbon leader attached to the mainline using a knot like a Uni-Uni knot is what I use. You should be able to reel the knot into the guides and cast without any issues or sticking, however, I tend to leave the knot out of the guides most of the time, which is not that hard to do with 16 to 24 inches of leader.

          Good Luck,

          Graham

          1. Excellent article – thanks for your time and advice.
            I’m a salt water fisherman , but getting back into trout fishing after 50 yrs ( retirement!); articles such as this are invaluable!

  2. Thanks for the great info – the leader concept is new to me and I was wondering, does the knot where you join the leader to the main line get caught in the eyelets of the rod when you cast? Do you need to leave the entire leader line hanging when you cast? Thanks

    1. Hi Charlie,

      If you are referring to the leader I use when casting lures or jigging, usually the knot will not stick too bad in the rod guides, and how much it sticks will depend on the type of knot that you use. A knot like a Double Uni Knot or a blood knot is fairly thin and won’t catch as much as some other knots. I also do try to keep my knot out of the rod guides as much as possible when I’m casting. Often this is not a problem with a 2 to 4-foot leader.

      Good luck,

      Graham

    2. I lake fish from the shore and use 6lb. P-Line – Halo. I use the slip sinker method with floating Glitter Powerbait by Berkley. 1st thing on the line is the slip sinker then a swivel. I use the same line for my leader which will change in length during the day due to water temp changes. Anywhere from 1ft – 3 ft leader, then a treble hook cause it holds the Powerbait the best. Berkley Glitter Powerbait Tequila Sunrise is my personal favorite. It has a couple of fake worms on the bottom of the Powerbait, like real Mexican Tequila!! Hilarious!! I hope this helps. Good fishing to you!!

  3. Great article, Graham.

    I have another question on the leader setup. I’m using the monofilament line, and want to incorporate a fluorocarbon leader, as you’ve suggested.

    Question: Would a 2mm tippet ring work well, or do you believe that a knot is preferable?

    Thanks,
    Austin

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