Fly Line Color - Does it Matter?
by Bill Leuchten
Does the color of the fly line make a difference in the successful pursuit of wary fish? This has to be among the top 3 questions asked at my shop. I have found that there is much more discussion about the subject than research, so I can only offer my opinion on these points of discussion.

My first experience with one of the new stealthy clear lines was in the Florida Keys, when after missing a bonefish my guide made me switch to a colored line because he had no reference point as to where my fly was. Normally, you can see a brightly colored line and make a good judgment as to where the fly is. Once my guide was able to see the line, and thus able to spot my fly, he could detect a take much more easily, resulting in more hook-ups. This benefit outweighed any advantage gained by using a transparent line.

Guides in New Zealand are notorious for requesting their clients to use muted or dark colored lines; the argument for this being that an unnatural color will spook a wary fish. Although they would know better than anyone, I am of the belief that either a natural or unnatural color will spook any fish if it is moving unnaturally and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any movement overhead will spook fish regardless of the color, as fish are not prejudiced. So, will a dark colored line be less visible overhead than a brightly colored one? Hold one up and see. (see photo) I think you will find that against a light sky, the dark flyline shows up much more. Now if you hold one up against a background other than the sky like a cliff or some trees the result will be different. A camo line will blend in better, and I can see the possibility of a fly line blending into a background and never even being noticed by a fish. But I still find it difficult to believe that the fish will react to a specific color in most instances. Movement is movement.

The key to not spooking fish is to cast outside their lines of vision. Although this is easier said than done, any angler that can achieve this can get away with using a brightly colored line and this can ultimately enhance their ability to see the line. And a visible line is advantageous, especially when detecting strikes while nymphing.