The fly line box.

This article will help you to more specifically pick a range of fly lines you should bring on a fishing trip depending on which river you’re fishing and it’s size. It is not very much fun to see the river changing during a fishing trip, for then to realise that you’re missing that one fly line that would be best for those conditions. I have experienced this a few times, and it is always annoying to find myself in that situation. Because of this, my “fly line box” contains a vast range of fly lines. Different river conditions that might face you include:

• High and cold river
• High and relatively warm river (summer flood)
• Medium water levels with varying temperatures
• Low and warm river
• Low and relatively cool river

As you can see, the conditions can be very different, and we know that salmon behaviour is directly controlled by water temperature and river levels. After all, it is the fly line that brings the fly out into the river and down to the salmon, in terms of depth.

My best advice!
What I experience most often is that the fishermen on the salmon river do not bring sinking lines that are heavy enough. For most people, bringing a sink2/sink3 is a stretch. When asked about this I reply that the sink3/sink4 line and heavier are the ones I use the least, but they are by far the most important fly lines I own. When the river suddenly rises and becomes higher than it has been for a while, you will just lack a suitable fly line that will maintain your fishing efficiency. Thus, it is very comforting/important to be able to dig out a heavier sinking line in this situation….and keep on fishing. In other words: make sure you bring the heavier sinking lines too.

The different rivers:
Some rivers are typical grilse rivers, small in size, whereas others are mid-sized or large salmon rivers in terms of water levels. The size of rivers varies a lot in this country, a big difference is whether the river is regulated or not. If the river is regulated it will not experience very big fluctuations in water levels due to a minimum obligatory water level, ensuring that the river cannot become lower than this particular water level. Non-regulated rivers will always become much smaller, or extremely high in some situations, as all the rain will go straight into the river.



Two examples: (remember this!)
1) On “my” river, the Gaula, I often use a line called the floating/sink3 line when the river is at a “summer level”, this line would often be too heavy for a small salmon river, where a floating/sink1 line would be better suited in terms of not getting the fly caught on the river bottom. During the same conditions on the river Namsen, a floating/sink5 line would work better in terms of the fishing theories I have for choosing float/sinking lines during such conditions. When the spring flood is occurring, a sinking line heavier than a sink2/sink3 will often be the better solution, as when the snow melting gets going the Gaula will become huge. This river is not regulated, and therefore I sometimes flyfish at water levels exceeding 400 cubic meters per second. During similar conditions on the river Orkla, the s2.s3 line would be sufficient for most places, as this river is regulated so that much of the water gets collected in the reservoirs, and the river remains more stable.

2) Local knowledge and fishing experience are a couple of key words; have you been fishing on the same river, in the same area, and on the same beat, you will more often succeed with catching a salmon during different river conditions with regards to water levels and water temperature, by selecting the right fly line.

3 categories of fly lines.
Sinking lines: Are the best lines for fishing a high river, be it a spring flood or a summer flood. Thee lines will completely sink through the water, ensuring that the fly gets down in the water layers, and the fly will fish slower through the current = a very effective strategy for fishing high rivers. A spring flood holds water that is colder than that of a summer flood, as the spring flod is created by snow melt, whereas the summer floods are created by rain water. Thus, a sinking line for spring flood fishing should be heavier than the line used for summer flood fishing, due to the difference in water temperature and the resulting difference in salmon behaviour.


Float/sinking lines: Are very good fly lines during a variety of conditions. For example: during spring fishing on a small salmon river, the floating/sink3 line can be perfect, in a mid-sized river in the same conditions, the Guideline Streamdip line (floating/sink5) is the fly line to go for! Thus, even on the smaller rivers, these fly lines will make your fishing more effective, especially when the water is high. The special feature of these lines is that the part closest to your reel is floating, whereas the part closest to the fly is sinking, which makes them perfect for more shallow rivers. I cannot use these lines during the Gaula spring flood, as the floating part of the line makes the fly drift towards the surface, making the “date” between salmon and fly too swift on the big rivers. On large salmon rivers, when the water is at a medium level, the float/sinking lines will be very effective for catching fish, and then the choice will be between a floating/sink3 and a floating/sink5 line, depending on how large your river is. On the same river during low summer water levels, depending on it being regulated or not, the choice will be between floating/sink1 and floating/sink3, depending on the character of the river where you fish, be it shallow and swift, or deep and slow. The most effective fishing method I use for summer water levels and spooky salmon (especially when going for big salmon), is to fish the fly deep and fast, something only the float/sinking lines can help you with. The line that has given me the highest average weight from the river Gaula when the river is low is the floating/sink3 line.

Floating lines: I only fish floating lines when fishing very small salmon flies or imitations such as nymphs or dry flies (both classic and modern variants).

Small salmon rivers.
Spring flood:
Floating/sink 5 or floating/sink3, depending on how large the flood is.

Medium water levels:
Floating/sink3 and floating/sink1, it is important to have an alternative if fishing in different areas of the river.

Summer floods:

Low water:
Floating/sink1 and floating line.

Medium sized river.
Spring flood:
S2/S3 and S1/S2, depending on the size of the flood.

Medium water levels:
Floating/sink5 and floating/sink3, it is good to have an alternative in terms of depth and the speed of the current on the beat you are fishing.

Summer floods:
Floating/sink3 and floating/sink1, depending on the size of the flood and how coloured the river becomes.

Low water:
Floating/sink1 and floating line.

Large salmon rivers.
Spring flood:
S3/S4 and S2/S3; but it would not be wrong to include a spare line in S4/S5 in your fly line box.

Medium water levels:
Floating/sink5, floating/sink3 and S1/S2.

Summer floods:
Floating/sink5 and floating/sink3, depending on the size of the flood and how coloured the river becomes.

Low water:
Floating/sink3, floating/sink1 and floating line.

As you can see, the number of fly lines I recommend increase exponentially with the size of the river on which you fish, due to the variations being larger, also depending on whether the river is regulated or not. Also bear in mind that the length of the leader must be adjusted according to the speed of the current and depth, see my article on “Leaders” in the menu “Fishing equipment”.

“Strange” currents.
Some currents have different speeds in terms of the holding spot of the salmon and the spot from where you fish. This is most often recognized by the current being faster between you and the “hot spot”, thus the fly will often not fish properly over the spot where the salmon will hold. In these situations, you should use a line called Streamline, this line is designed in the opposite way of “normal” sinking fly lines. This means that the heaviest part of the fly line is located at the back of the line, and the lightest part is at the front. This ensures that the heavier back part of the line will slow down the speed of the line in the fast current closest to you, so that the lighter front part (intermediate sinking rate) will fisg perfectly over the holding spot of the salmon.

Related articles:
Salmon behaviour in relation to water temperature and river level.
Is it the fly line or the fly that catch salmon?

It is not only the choice of fly that is important!

Jan Erik.

jørem vald namsen

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