Fishing The Fly Forum

Mike Barrio

Fly Line Weight Standards
« on: 31/12/2020 at 18:49 »
Fly Line Weight Standards

The AFFTA, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, creates and maintains industry standards to help manufacturers and retailers provide customers with well matched equipment and components.

For me, having internationally recognised standards is crucial to customer understanding and enjoyment of their fly fishing tackle and sport. An important point of reference which brings together fishing tackle from different manufacturers.

If we buy a fly rod rated as a #6 weight and a fly line rated as a #6 weight, they should always cast reasonably well. On a personal level, to suit our individual taste, we might find that we prefer a line weight heavier or a line weight lighter but as a starting point we need some sort of basic standard to enable us to make that choice.

Here are the AFFTA line weight standards for single handed casting rods in more detail, the weight specifications are measured at 30 feet ( 9.144 metres ) minus level tip and have an upper and lower limit recommendation.



A little history:

Back in the days when all fly lines were made of silk, it was common practice for anglers to match their lines to their rods by size rather than weight. You might have chosen a .04 inch diameter line for your rod, or a .055 inch diameter line for example and there was also a recognised range of size standards, line classifications within the range being known by letters from the alphabet.

Modern PVC or plastic fly lines started to appear around 1950, the early ones were simply a PVC coating over a tapered braided line or core, but by the mid 1950s, variable coating thickness processes were being developed and these could be applied over a level core. Manufacturing over a level core saved time and money and the days of labour intensive tapered braided cores were pretty much over by 1960.

Modern plastic fly lines opened a new can of worms, the historic size or diameter line standards were no longer working and fly fishers were having major problems choosing the right line for their rods.

From what I have read over the years, I think we should probably thank Myron Gregory for the solution to the problem and for the line weight standards that we still use today. Myron was a keen fly fisher and a keen tournament caster, his tournament casting experience would almost certainly have led him down the path of designing and building his own lines and heads through trial and error . and at some stage in that journey, it must have dawned on him that line weight and weight distribution was the key.

Myron openly discussed and shared his concept and a number of well known names from the fly line manufacturing world, rod makers and fishing magazine writers were involved in the refinement of his proposals.

In 1960 the then AFTMA standards committee ( American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association ) evaluated and adopted the proposed new Line Weight Standards.


Ian Grubb

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #1 on: 06/02/2021 at 16:59 »
We have fly line standards. AFTMA or similar.
Manufacturers state the line weight, eg AFTMA 6,  on their packaging but very often the lines do not comply to the standard. ie the weight in grains is outside the standard tolerance boundaries.
This is misrepresentation.
It seems there is noone to ensure standard compliance.
The customer is the looser. He does not get what he has been led to expect.
 :z10

Hamish Young

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #2 on: 06/02/2021 at 21:20 »
We have fly line standards. AFTMA or similar.
Manufacturers state the line weight, eg AFTMA 6,  on their packaging but very often the lines do not comply to the standard. ie the weight in grains is outside the standard tolerance boundaries.
This is misrepresentation.
It seems there is noone to ensure standard compliance.
The customer is the looser. He does not get what he has been led to expect.
 :z10
If a manufacturer states what the grain window for their line is (on the packaging or online) that's not misrepresentation.
It's also like comparing horses and donkeys, some fly lines are thoroughbreds, some are plodders. The line weight standards were a good start when they came out, but arguably they are a tad too conservative for many of the fly line designs of today.

Fred Hay

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #3 on: 07/02/2021 at 09:54 »
I tend side with Ian on this discussion and feel that many anglers are not necessarily  being misled but don't realise that  every line has a different profile which has to be matched to  the rod action and the anglers ability/casting style.
 A few years ago  I spent a small fortune in trying to match a line to a new rod I'd bought - initially all I had was the manufacturers AFTM rating which was #10 (plus the other miriad of info of grain weights etc) and that it was a fast action (Hardy Zintec 15ft). I already had #10 weight lines which I though would be OK but not a chance as my 'old' lines were all double taper and I just couldn't get the rod to load properly and started to look at purchasing various lines - weight forward, shooting heads, skagit etc etc. plus multiple tips/polyleaders and eventually settled for a Rio Outbound #10/11 which seemed to give me best performance.
But ... every time I purchased a line and it didn't perform then there was no way the the seller was going to replace the line as it didn't suit  and at circa 70 a pop it was an expensive learning curve.
Years ago if you purchased a line to match a rod it was either a level line or a double taper and if the rod was #7 then you purchased a #7 line and all was well, away you went to overhead cast with your single hand rod ...... none of this multitude of casting style that have sprung up in the last twenty or so years.
But the rod actions and line profiles are vastly different and it is minefield so I can sympathise with Ian and his argument.
Thankfully when dealing with Mike, you can either ask his experience/recommendation on which line would suit your particular application and he will do his best to suggest the line weight and profile you need 'before you buy' and just serves as a reminder of the fantastic service provided by Barrio Fly Lines.
Other manufactuers/suppliers unfortunately are not so attentive and I feel are more interested in the sale rather than ensuring that the customer actually gets what he needs to match his rod and casting style.
Rant over .....

Ian Grubb

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #4 on: 07/02/2021 at 12:33 »
If a fly line does not comply with the AFTMA standard it should not be labelled as such. SIMPLE

The subjective comments regarding horses, donkeys, thoroughbreds, plodders, line tapers and profiles are not relevant. They are not part of the standard.

If the AFTMA system is considered too conservative then something else should be used.


Magnus Angus

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #5 on: 07/02/2021 at 15:54 »
AFTMA is defunct, the Industry Standard is/are now published by AFFTA https://affta.org/page/IndustryStandards

For single handed rods I tend to agree that if a line does not comply with the line standard it should not be labeled using the AFFTA line class. That should apply both where a line falls outside AFFTA manufacturing standard (less common) and where it is intentionally manufactured to be outside the line class. Thing is there are no line police, just a set of industry standards which makers can abide by.

Have a look at the Spey Line Weights - that was an attempt to be more detailed and exact and to my mind show just how complicated this all is - trying to cater for four head lengths. The advantage of working on Spey lines is there is a good chance the same length, or similar length, of line will be outside the tip each time it is cast. Single handed rods not so much - we might be false-casting 10ft or 70ft of fly line on rods which, to my mind, should be capable of casting well with 10ft or 70ft of fly line.

Magnus

Ian Grubb

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #6 on: 10/02/2021 at 12:57 »
I am pleased to read that Magnus tends to agree with my view that fly lines should comply with the stated standard.
I have had several bad experiences where the lines were so much heavier than the standard I disregarded them.
Maybe Magnus could refer to some objective evidence of which lies have been outside the standard and by how much.

Hamish Young

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #7 on: 11/02/2021 at 14:38 »
Mike referenced the AFFTA standards at the start of the thread and Magnus has repeated the content link, there are grain windows for every line rating. For some lines that's quite a small difference in those first 30' but for others it's more marked - so any standard is a guide, not a rule book.

Magnus makes a fair point about the complex nature of 'Spey' line weights and the complications of applying a standard to lines that - arguably - all do the same thing, but in a different way or are designed to serve a very specific purpose. I actually think of all fly lines in that way (so not just the lines for double handers) and if you go into my single handed line armoury you'll find lines (customised and conventional) that are all there to fulfil a specific function - from home made skagits to long taper full fly lines.
Each fulfils a function and each may be cast (for example) on a #7wt rod, but that doesn't mean the lines all conform to a standard which strives to achieve the impossible. Does that make all the lines #7wts :? No. Are some of them lighter in the first 30' :? Yes. Heavier :?  Also yes, notably the skagits  :wink

Line types and choice are so diverse that compliance with (what I consider) an aspirational set of standards is difficult at best. I do think that fly line manufacturers should provide the customer and the retailer with as much in depth information as possible on what their lines are intended to do and what the weight characteristics are; not only for the benefit of the fishing/casting geek but also for the angler who simply wants to buy a replacement line or a whole balanced that works.

I don't want to get drawn into further metaphors to try and describe my thinking here - the horse and donkey was probably enough  :! - and I say again that the manufacturers should declare the intended line function and optimally the grain window/manufacturers tolerances.

Because there are so many niche lines out there it's all too easy to go down the rabbit warrens on the topic of line and rod ratings and it's equally possible to come out more perplexed than when you went in. But for me  it would be amusing to apply a mechanism similar to that adopted by AFFTA on standardising 'Spey' lines and apply that to the single handed line standard.

H

Mike Barrio

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #8 on: 11/02/2021 at 21:43 »
It's an interesting topic  :z12

Some might be surprised to know that I would be somewhat uncomfortable about using words like 'precise', 'comply' and 'precision' in any fly line description. I might be quite happy to do that with a CNC machined alloy fly reel, but gravity feeding liquid plastic onto a moving piece of string is not in the same league I'm afraid, no matter how good the computers and gadgets are that we might use to control the process.

I have worked with more than one fly line manufacturer/factory. We can take great care in the initial set up of a run of lines, making sure that the first few lines are coming off at exactly the right weight - But without any changes, on the same run, with exactly the same settings, an hour or so later, and they could be 10 to 15 grains lighter or heavier. Such is the nature of the process!

I usually use 'target' in a fly line description, as this is the reality of what we do, we target ( or try our best ) to get as close as we can to the given measurements or guidelines.

Now this is nothing new, even the original standards/guidelines had an upper and lower limit to account for the manufacturing difficulties of fly line precision ...... but I'm sure that the manufacturers quickly pointed out back in the day that these were not wide enough.
Why is the measurement 'minus the level tip'?  I wasn't there at the time, but I suspect that this was perhaps added as a 'get out of jail free card'. Have you ever tried to find, or remove, the level tip of a fly line? ... to be able to measure it accurately.

So, where does/did that leave us? Actually, it has worked pretty well for many years!
Anybody with a bit of fly casting experience up their sleeve will know that a fly rod performs pretty well with a fly line rated one weight higher or one rate lower than the rating on the rod. For a #6 rod for example, as long as the line has been targeted to be a #6 ( it might actually be a high #5 or a low #7 ) then the outfit will be reasonably well balanced and should cast and fish well.



Fly Rod Rating Standards/Guidelines?

Have you seen a chart of guidelines for rating a fly rod? Can you find one on the AFFTA website?
This may come as a bit of a surprise to some folk - but there are no industry standards/guidelines for rating fly rods!

Historically, fly rod manufacturers tried their rods out with a few lines, decided which suited the rod best, and therefore came up with the number to go on the rod as the rating - this worked 'reasonably well' for many years.



So what went wrong?

Problems started in the not too distant past, with the ever increasing need to sell more rods. Perceived customer trends suggested that customers wanted to fish lighter, yet equally or more powerful rods. The answer that many brands found, was to simply take a #7 rod and rate it as a #6! The customer was happy, they now fished a trendy, lighter '6' rod and it was powerful too.

Remember "anybody with a bit of fly casting experience up their sleeve" from higher up in the post? ..... Yes, they were happy and could cast the #7 rod well ( now called a #6 ) with a #6 line.

But what of those with less experience and ability? These new trendy rods didn't work so well for them.
If they had any experienced friends, hopefully these would have suggested getting a line weight heavier for their rod to help them.
If they didn't have any friends to help them, not a problem, going up a line weight was frequently suggested all over the internet.

If the trend had stopped there .... everything would have been OK.
Rod manufacturers making #7 rods, rating them as a #6, and customers fishing them with a #7  :z7



But it didn't :X1

Some fly line brands came up with new special lines for these new trendy rods ( following the example of the rod brands I guess ) and rather than trusting their customers to be clever enough to work out that a #7 line would suit their new rods and buying one accordingly ...... they confused matters even more by targeting a #6 line to actually be a #7 and writing #6 on the box!

So now we have rod manufacturers making #7 rods, rating them as a #6, and customers fishing them with a #7 line, which could possibly be one of the new special lines and actually an #8  :X1

Do you remember what I said further up about the manufacturing process? That targeted #8 may well be an #8.5.



Well that was a long post ... Congratulations to anybody that read it all the way through  :z16

Cheers
Mike




Hamish Young

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #9 on: 11/02/2021 at 22:18 »
I read it and you touched on something I thought of posting on (rods) but didn't, as its worse than lines  :X1 But.... its good to dust these things off once in a while  :z18

Mike Barrio

Re: Fly Line Weight Standards
« Reply #10 on: 11/02/2021 at 22:42 »
...... and you are right, these are single handed casting lines that we are talking about, double handed casting rods and lines are another ball game all together  :z4