I spend hundreds of days guiding for Steelhead and I get to try a lot of my client’s fly rods and fly lines so based on my experience with dozens of good and bad fly lines I’m going to reveal the best fly lines for Steelhead that I and other guides recommend.
I also discussed the best fly lines for steelhead with a few top steelhead guides to get their feedback.
The best fly lines for steelhead are high floating lines that are supple in cold water and can be mended easily and allow you to cast out indicators and streamers with ease. The best steelhead fly lines are the SA Anadro, the Rio RIO InTouch, and the Cortland Salmon Steelhead Line.
So which one is best for you?
The best fly line for steelhead will depend on your preferred method of fly fishing for steelhead and the rivers that you fish.
Some anglers like to use indicators, some will Euro nymph for steelhead, and some will prefer to cast streamers or swing flies for steelhead, and some will do it all. There are plenty of specialty fly lines for each of these methods, and there are also some good multi-purpose fly lines available.
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The Best Fly Lines For Steelhead And Why?
I use fly lines for steelhead that are suitable for fishing in cold water and in very cold air temperatures like you might find when fishing in late fall to early spring.
Some fly lines are meant for warm climates and therefore may not work as well in colder water.
I have experienced some fly lines that become too stiff when the temperatures are near freezing and they will leave coils in the line and which can cause more tangles or even knots in the fly line.
A long-bellied fly line is often a good idea when choosing a steelhead fly line. Long-belly means the head section of the line is longer and extends into the middle portion more so than a standard weight forward fly line. The head section is thicker and heavier and this aids in casting.
This longer head section helps with casting bigger flies and turning over indicators and weights. It also aids in mending and roll casting with indicators which for me as a guide that teaches a lot of new anglers is a good thing. Mending at a further distance is much easier with a heavier midsection.
The steelhead fly lines that I mentioned above are all designed for steelhead fishing by experts who fish for steelhead in all types of conditions. For this reason, I believe that their experience and expertise makes them the best fly lines for steelhead. However, I have used many other fly lines that worked great for Steelhead.
In fact, long before these companies started making species-specific fly lines, guys like me just used standard multi-purpose fly lines and they worked.
The benefit to the species-specific fly lines made for steelhead is that they will all have plenty of mass built into the head and middle sections where they need it to help you cast, mend, and fish better. For me as a guide, this is better for teaching and for new steelhead anglers.
Is A General Purpose Fly Line Good For Steelhead
You could use a standard fly line if you are the type of angler that wants to use the same line for summer fishing and for cold water fishing.
I do this all the time because my clients will often come out with their own rods and fly reels and they want to use them so we make do with what they have.
In my experience, most general-purpose fly lines will work for steelhead fishing. Only a few times have I had lines that coil too much or get repeated tangles and we could not use them. Some lines just do not work well in very cold water and often it’s either very cheap lines or lines designed to be stiffer in warmer water.
The downside to a general-purpose fly line is they are not designed to cast big indicators and leaders with weight and this can make it difficult for some anglers. Personally, I think the fly rod and length of the rod are more important and will help with casting more than the fly line does.
However, the right rod combined with the best steelhead fly line will just make things so much easier for you.
Best Steelhead Fly Lines For Different Methods
There are many different methods for fishing steelhead in rivers. Most anglers use nymphing methods with indicators while some like to cast streamers and swing flies for steelhead.
Some lines tend to work better than others depending on the method.
Best All-Purpose Steelhead Fly Lines
Steelhead Fly Lines For Nymphing
The Rio InTouch Trout/Steelhead Indicator line is designed for steelhead anglers that like to use indicators when nymphing.
This line has a larger front taper that helps in turning over indicators, weights, and big nymphs.
It also has a long body and back taper to make mending the line at longer distances much easier.
The Rio InTouch Steelhead indicator Line is a preferred line of many steelhead river guides because it’s easier for their clients to use and makes learning the art of nymphing for steelhead easier.
Another good line for steelhead fishing on big rivers is the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Anadro Fly Line which is similar in design to the Rio InTouch line and it might be even better, however, it is usually a more expensive line.
Steelhead Fly Line For Euro Nymphing
When euro nymphing for steelhead around the great lakes region, I will either use a Mono-Rig attached to any steelhead fly line or I will use the 5wt Rio Euro Nymph Shorty fly line.
The Euro Nymph Shorty fly line is a twenty foot fly line head that is thin and light. This thin light line prevents line sag from your rod tip to the water and it prevents sagging of the fly line in the guides, especially between the reel and the first guide.
My preferred Euro Nymphing rig for steelhead is to use a Mono-Rig setup using the OPST Pure Skagit Lazar Line instead of mono.
I use the 30-pound Lazar Line which I attach directly to my standard steelhead fly line using a loop-to-loop connection or and nail knot connection.
Because you already have a full reel of fly line you may only be able to get 30 or 60 feet of the Lazar line on the reel and this is usually plenty of line. I usually only use 50 feet. On the other end, I add my Euro nymphing leader which I show you on my page Euro Nymphing For Steelhead.
You can also use the standard mono-rig set-up, which for some anglers is simply a 20 or 30-pound mono line that can be 20 to 40 feet long. The mono also does not sag and for advanced anglers, it can allow you to cast around 40 feet with no fly line and just a weighted nymph or two.
For the Mon-Rig, many anglers will use 20 to 30-pound Maxima Chameleon Monofilament Leader Material.
Steelhead Line For Streamer Fishing
To be honest, when using streamers on a single-hand fly rod I just use streamer lines meant for trout. If I am casting and stripping in my streamer I prefer these lines over general-purpose fly lines and over other steelhead lines. I like the RIO’s Premier Streamer Fly Line, AIRFLO Kelly Galloup’s, or the AIRFLO Streamer Max
If I am mostly swinging my streamer fly then I like the RIO Products InTouch Salmon/Steelhead Fly Line.
Spey Fishing For Steelhead
Spey fishing is a whole other type of fly fishing and it uses very different types of fly lines, so if Spey fishing is what you are interested in check out my article Spey Fishing For Steelhead: Best Setup And Tactics For Great Lakes
The Best Fly Lines For Steelhead Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed this article on the best fly lines for steelhead and it gave you some insight into the right steelhead fly line for you.
If you have any questions or comments or tips on the best steelhead fly lines, let me know in the comments sections below.