5 Best Fly Lines For Steelhead Of 2024: What Top Guides Use

Using the best fly lines for steelhead will help you catch steelhead like this fresh silver steelhead

I spend hundreds of days guiding for Steelhead so I get to try a lot of my client’s fly rods and fly lines. I have tried dozens of good fly lines and a few bad fly lines. I’m going to reveal the best steelhead fly lines that I and other guides recommend.

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.

These lines include:

The best fly line for steelhead for you 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 use Euro nymph methods to catch steelhead, 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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Best Fly Lines For Steelhead For Different Methods

A reel full of fly line for steelhead

There are many different methods for fly fishing steelhead in rivers. Most anglers use nymphing methods with indicators, while some like to cast streamers and swing flies for steelhead.

Get the fly line that matches your method of steelhead fishing.

1. Rio Elite Salmon/Steelhead Fly Line

One of the best all-purpose single-hand steelhead fly lines that I used all last season is the RIO Specialty Series Elite Salmon/Steelhead Fly Line.

This line cast indicators and weights very well even with multiple flies, and it mended easily even at longer distances.

It was also good for streamers.

I highly recommend this line.

2. Steelhead Fly Lines For Nymphing

Steelhead Fly Lines

The Rio InTouch Trout/Steelhead Indicator line is designed for steelhead anglers who 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.

NOTE: This line is in limited quantities as I believe it has been replaced by the Elite Series lines seen below.

3. Rio Elite Indicator Lines

This is the Rio Indicator line, which is a good fly line for steelhead.

The Rio Elite Switch Indicator, the Rio Elite Indicator line, and the Rio Elite Xtreme Indicator lines are built with the purpose of chucking indicators and since many of my guide trips for steelhead are using indicators, I’ve been able to extensively test out these lines in all conditions.

Made with ultra-low stretch core for minimum stretch and better performance.

Includes RIOS SlickCast technology.

I use these lines in the seven-weight and eight-weight sizes, but nine-weight is also available.

4. SA Amplitude Anadro Indicator Fly Line

This is the SA Amplitude Anadro Indicator Fly Line which is a good fly line for steelhead fishing with indicators.

Another good line for steelhead fishing on big rivers is the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Anadro Fly Line, which I have used when nymphing for steelhead.

It feels and functions like other steelhead lines; however, I did like this line slightly better than the Rio Indicator line.

5. SA Amplitude MXP Textured Fly Line

Another line to consider in seven and eight-weight sizes is the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Textured MPX Fly Line.

This is a multi-purpose fly line that is good for casting nymphs and streamers and is good in moderate to cold water.

6. Cortland Salmon Steelhead Fly Line: Best Budget Line

I have used this line on a few rods that my clients have brought out. It casts and mends indicators and weight very well, and floats high, which makes mending easier.

It’s also one of the less expensive steelhead fly lines, so I recommend it for guys on a tighter budget.

Which Steelhead Fly Line And Why?

I use fly lines for steelhead that are suitable for fishing in cold water and in very cold air temperatures because that is when the bulk of my steelhead guiding takes place.

Some fly lines are meant for warm climates and 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, which can cause more tangles or even knots in the fly line and even makes the line unusable.

Best Line Tapers For Steelhead

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 larger flies and turning over indicators and weights.

It also aids in mending and roll casting with indicators, which is best for new anglers.

Pro Tip: 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 make them the best steelhead fly lines.

However, I have used many other fly lines that worked great for Steelhead.

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

Fall Steelhead fishing with Dylan at mr_sandy_pond
Our team Photographer Dylan with a nice chrome fall steelhead. See more from Dylan by clicking on the link.

You could use a standard fly line if you are the type of angler who wants to use the same line for summer fishing and 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.

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.

Steelhead Fly Line For Euro Nymphing

OPST Pure Skagit Lazar Line

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.

High rod fishing
Jordan from A Perfect Drift Guide Company nymphing for steelhead.

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

Fly fishing for beginners usually starts with casting
Beginners often think fly fishing start with casts like this, but the standard overhead cast is not always required to catch lots of fish.

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 Steelhead Fly Lines Conclusion

If you have any questions, comments, or tips on the best steelhead fly lines, let me know in the comments sections below.

Tight Lines,


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