An Expert Guide to Rio Fly Line

Published on 03/20/2023 · 12 min readLooking for a new fly line? Read on as Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith breaks down everything you need to know when shopping for a Rio fly line!
Joseph Smith, Fly Fishing Expert
By Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith

Photo by Joseph Smith

So, you have purchased your new fly rod and chosen your reel. Maybe you’ve upgraded your trout rod and reel. So now it's time to pick out your fly line. This important decision may determine how well all your equipment performs together. Rio has been manufacturing quality fly fishing lines since 1990. They build a line for just about every imaginable situation. This article will break down the more popular lines and shed some insight into the features you should look for when choosing your next Rio fly fishing line.

As an avid fly fisherman, I luckily have a pond in my backyard exactly two minutes from my fly-tying bench. If there is open water, I will fish just about every day. I grew up fishing the fabled streams of Pennsylvania, and have been fly fishing my entire life in various parts of the country and abroad—chasing both fresh and saltwater fish. Fishing is my life, so the gear I use is a passion of mine. For the most part, I usually spool Rio fly lines on my reels. Whether it is a floating line on a trout set up, or an intermediate sink line used in the Florida Keys, I use a Rio line.

On a personal note, I derive great pleasure in teaching fly fishing to others. There is nothing more rewarding than fishing with family and friends and seeing their success. I would love to pass my knowledge on and help start your passion for fly fishing, as well.

Who Is Rio Fly Lines?

Rio is a name you have likely encountered in the fly-fishing community. In 1990, Jim and Kitty Vincent founded the company in the mountains of Idaho. And since that time, Rio Fly Fishing products have been built by anglers for anglers. That’s why they are still headquartered in Idaho, and are continually driven by that same ethos.

The Importance of a Fly Line

Photo by Joseph Smith

Your ability to master fly casting is often predicated on the quality and action of the fly rod you are using. To get the most out of your rod's action, the rod should be matched to the correct fly line weight. A quality fly line will not only be the correct line weight, but it will accentuate the action of your rod—making casting more efficient and accurate; your flies will be presented more delicately, your dead drifts will be easier to create, and swinging streamers will appear as fleeing baitfish.

A fly line consists of two components: a core and a coating. While the coating is important for reducing friction—resulting in better and farther casts—the core contributes three important functions. These are: providing the strength of a fly line, controlling how much stretch there is in the line, and influencing how stiff the line is. A low-stretch core is important for increased sensitivity and quicker hook sets.

What to Consider When Buying a Rio Fly Line

In order to find the right Rio fly line to meet your needs, ask yourself the following questions:

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Quality Fly Line?

A good fly line should cost around $100. And an entry-level fly line will be a little less. You can save money, however, by not choosing a fly line with a welded loop at the ends. This makes fast rigging of a reel setup more time consuming and requires novice anglers to learn even more knots. Durability and friction, which reduces fly-line coatings, are also sacrificed with these budget lines.

What Conditions Will I Be Fishing?

Photo by Joseph Smith

Next to cost, this is the next most important consideration. Cold water anglers chasing steelhead will want a line with a different core that remains stiff in cold temperatures; fish it in warm water conditions, and the line becomes sticky and casts like well-cooked spaghetti.

Conversely, saltwater anglers fishing tropical flats need a tropical core to not only resist wilting but remain supple enough to fish. A cold water core in this setting would result in the line remaining in coils, causing unnecessary fouling and tangles.

Pike and bass fishers may require larger shooting heads to turn over larger poppers, or sink tips to drop flies deeper in the water column. Ultralight anglers catching trout in Pennsylvania’s limestone creeks will want delicate tapers to daintily present small flies to wary trout. And anglers throwing hoppers to the far bank while floating in Montana will need compact heads for quick shots.

What Taper Do I Need?

Fly lines come in different tapers, or where the weight is located on the line. The sweet spot of a fly line is where the weight loads the rod and is often determined by the taper. For most fishing situations, a weight-forward taper is ideal. This allows anglers to fish a variety of flies—such as dries, nymphs, and streamers—as well as aiding in loading fast-action rods.

A dry-fly angler fishing small North Carolina streams, however, may desire a double taper for subtler presentations. Double-taper lines tend to keep the weight more in the belly of the line, thereby allowing smaller flies with finer tippets to gently turn over and land on the water. This allows for subtler presentations and is popular with dry-fly anglers.

The Different Types of Rio Fly Lines

Photo by Joseph Smith

Rio makes many different fly lines, and some are designed for very specific fishing conditions. For simplification, I have chosen some of the more popular fly lines and broken them down into different categories. If you do require a more specific fly line, Rio has a fly line selector app that is available for both iOS and droid phones.

Trout Lines

As most fly fishermen are trout anglers, it makes the most sense to focus on these lines. And because most trout anglers use floating lines, I will stick with these. Though sinking lines and sinking tip lines are available. If you have questions about these lines, feel free to reach out to me or another Curated Fly Fishing Expert for free, customized advice. Benefits:

  • Designed for colder waters that trout live in
  • Many different options at different price points
  • These rods cast different styles of flies, such as dry flies, nymphs, and streamers

Be Aware:

  • These are freshwater lines and will not perform in saltwater
  • In warm-water fishing conditions, these lines may become sticky and not cast well
  • May not be ideal for specific fishing styles such as European nymph fishing
  • Budget options may sacrifice welded loop ends or may not have the same total length

Rio Gold The Rio Gold is one of the brand’s most popular trout lines. It is an all-around trout line that will work for most fishing conditions. It features Slickcast technology to reduce friction, and a long head and back taper for increased loop stability (essential for accurate and long casting) and line control.

Rio Grand Designed a full line size heavier for easier loading of faster-action fly rods, the Rio Grand features a shorter head with most of the weight at the front, which allows for easier casting of larger flies. Beginner anglers will feel the line loading the rod easier for better casting. This line, though, may not be the best for medium- or slow-action rods.

Rio Perception The Rio Perception features a short head length for quicker rod loading. It’s built to cast on smaller streams or from a boat, and casts best on medium to medium-fast action rods. It is not designed for distance casting.

Rio Avid The Rio Avid is a mid-level fly line available in two tapers: Grand for larger flies where a powerful turnover is required; and Gold for smaller flies and more delicate presentations. It also features Rio’s Slickcast technology to reduce friction.

Rio Mainstream The Rio Mainstream is an entry-level fly line. It is slightly heavier with a forward-loaded head to assist beginning anglers with casting. It is only 80 feet in length, features a simpler taper than other fly lines, and only has a welded loop on the leader end. It also does not feature color changes to assist with distance and head markings.

Others Types of Rio Fly Lines

Because Rio makes so many types of fly lines, this section will cover some of the more popular ones apart from their trout lines. Benefits:

  • These lines are designed for unique functions
  • Can be fished in different temperatures depending on the line's core construction
  • Different line heads can affect casting differently

Be Aware:

  • These lines may be designed for warm water fishing applications
  • The heads of these fly lines may require a faster-action rod for efficient casting

Rio Intouch Outbound Short

Photo by Marshall McDougal

The Intouch Outbound Short features an aggressive front-taper designed to cast large flies through heavy winds and quick loading for swift shots at cruising fish. The slickcast coating allows this to be used in both saltwater and freshwater. This line is overweighted to work best with fast-action rods.

Rio Versitip The Versitip features Rio’s low-stretch Connectcore technology for increased sensitivity and quicker hook sets. There are four 15ft changeable tips of different sink rates, which allows anglers to fish different water column depths all with the same line. Further, welded loops at all ends makes for easy line and tip changes. Novice anglers should keep in mind that at the tip to line interchange, they may notice a hinge effect when casting.

Premier Tarpon Clear Tip The Premier Tarpon Clear Tip offers 10 feet of floating clear tip for stealthy presentations and use of shorter leaders. Its tarpon taper design turns over typical large tarpon flies with ease. And it’s built on a strong, medium-stiff core which will not wilt in the heat.

Warmwater Predator The Warmwater Predator is just that, a short, powerful front taper to cast large and heavy flies. Its low-stretch DirectCore works best in warm-water situations, and its SureFire tricolored measuring system increases accuracy and distance control. Beware, in cold water, this line will have increased line memory, resulting in coiling and tangles

Features to Look For in Rio Fly Lines

These unique features make Rio fly lines standout from others.

Line Core

Connectcore plus and Connectcore are Rio's low-stretch line cores that allow for increased sensitivity and quicker hook sets. Direct core is designed to perform in tropical temperatures so that the line can maintain its stiffness and cast effectively.

Slickcast

This durable coating produces the least amount of friction. It allows the line to cast through the guides with higher line speeds for unprecedented and easy distance. Plus, the slick coating also allows anglers to fish more effectively, as line slides out of the guides with less friction for extended, drag-free drifts.

Obvious Color Change and Markings in the Line

Color changes allow for easy identification of line length cast for more accurate casting and to aid in fighting fish (assess how much line is left on the spool). The hang point—or the point where a sinking tip changes into a floating line—can also be easily identified to assist with line retrieval. The loading point, or location of the line that most efficiently loads the rod, can be identified to make casting more efficient, and the easy line ID is clearly marked on the line itself, so anglers know the line weight and model with a quick glance.

Welded Loops

Welded loops at both ends of the fly line allow for easy loop-to-loop line attachment to backing and leaders, making line changes quick and easy.

Choosing the Right Line

Photo by Joseph Smith

To help illustrate how this technical information applies to you, here are a few examples of different anglers and their specific needs, with gear recommendations to match.

Hank: A Grandfather Passing Fishing onto the Next Generation

Hank is a seasoned fly fisher in Wyoming, where he vacations with his family. He is set with his own gear, but he is looking for a line to go with an entry-level set up he is creating for his grandchildren to fish with. Features Hank should look for

  • Easily castable, with reliable accuracy and distance for beginning fly fishers
  • Budget friendly
  • Floating line, as this will be primarily used for fishing trout

Line examples include: Rio Avid and Rio Mainstream

Elizabeth: An Experienced Trout Angler

Elizabeth is an avid fly angler who has been fishing for many years. Recently, she purchased an Orvis Battenkill Click and Pawl fly reel and is looking for a line to use while stalking wild trout on small streams. Features Elizabeth should look for

  • Since Elizabeth will be fishing a variety of techniques, an all-purpose fly line is desired
  • Since these trout will spook easily, accurate casting is essential, as she will often only have one shot. A line that can quickly load and turn over flies is a must
  • As Elizabeth will be primarily fishing small streams or from a drift boat, distance is not a factor

Line examples include: Rio Gold and Rio Perception

Tony: A Denizen of the Flats

Photo by Joseph Smith

Tony is an angler who loves to prowl salt flats in search of the grand slam. When not on the flats, he frequents Mangrove backwaters chasing tarpon and snook. He recently updated his rod and reel with an Orvis Helios 3D and an Orvis Mirage, and wants a line for the set up.

Features Tony should look for

  • High winds often plague the flats. Cruising fish often only allow for one shot. Tony needs a line that will load his rod swiftly for quick shots and can cast accurately with distance—even in high winds
  • As this is a warm-water fishery, Tony will need a line that is built with a core to fish best at these temperatures
  • Tony will primarily be casting larger baitfish and shrimp patterns and will need a line that can turn these flies over

Line examples include: Premier Tarpon Clear Tip, and Warmwater Predator

Connect With a Real Expert

Rio makes high-quality fly-fishing lines that fill just about every fly-fishing niche. With multiple offerings, beginning and advanced anglers will be able to find a line that suits their fishing style. If you have questions or need help selecting a fly line or any other gear as you head out to your favorite fishing hole, please reach out to me or another Curated Fly Fishing Expert for free, customized advice. We would love to help. Tight Lines!

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