Fly line color [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Fly line color

12-01-2000, 04:30 AM
I am thinking of asking for the Airflo 400g fly line for Xmas. The one thing that is a concern is the color of · running line which is orange. Any thoughts on this? Do you think this color would spook the fish·? And why would they choose orange for a color is beyond me.

12-01-2000, 05:37 AM
I, for one believe why put a leader on a line? Leaders are usually 6 to 9 feet long, this means that the fly is 5 feet or more from the line, and I do not believe that the fish can connect the fly to the line. Having a running line of color doesn't matter as about the only time you see it is when you have on a decent fish. It also helps one to know the location of the line, keep it away from propsor be able to know the direction that it is running. Just My opinion. I use to fish in gin clear water for trout, and I can never remember seeing a trout shy away from an orange or yellow floating line 7, or 8 foot away from the fly.

i'm so outta here
12-01-2000, 06:53 AM
Remember that most animals do not see color, so what appears garrish to us, most likely appears as an off shade of white to the fish. Hunter's orange is seldom an issue when hunting (though I wouldn't know through direct experience). I think color matters to fish more for the UV and IR bands they reflect. For example, bees are attracted to the color blue not for its blueness but for reflections of waves higher in the spectrum; waves that we can't see.

Aside from this, I agree with Art. A bright color ~36 feet away from the fly is not going to have much of an effect. The one exception I can think of is flats fishing, but then a 400 grain line would be of little practical value there.

12-01-2000, 10:13 AM
I just read an article in the September "On The Water" Magazine about how fish see. They stated that surface fish (above 50 Meters) see color very well. In fact, many of these fish have more (& more sensitive) cones than humans. Cones are to see color & Rods are for contrast (i.e., black & white). Deeper dwelling (& some nocturnal) fish have mostly Rods & few (if any) Cones, so they see high contrast B&W. Finally, the key is the way surface fishes eyes are shaped & how they focus. Prey (bait) fish have evolved so they can see far better than close, to avoid preditors. On the other hand, Preditor fish have evolved so that they can see better close in to strike at their prey & they use there other senses (smell & hearing) to detect prey at a distance.

So, the "Reader's Digest" answer is, colored fly line should not be a major factor.

I'm no expert, but I just read this article, so it's still fresh in my head.

i'm so outta here
12-01-2000, 11:29 AM
Greg - that article was probably written in the interest of the fishing industry. I tend to believe the researchers and scientists. WHOI has this to say on the subject:


<font size="3">Can fish distinguish color?</font><!--3-->

Most fish are colorblind, despite the opinion of many
sportfishermen. Fish can see color shadings, reflected
light, shape, and movement, which probably accounts
for the acceptance or rejection of artificial lures used
by fishermen.

<!--http--><a href="" target="_blank"></a><!--url-->

Think about it. In about 80% of the lures and flies I see out there colors are there to attract fishermen, not fish.

Nathan Smith
12-01-2000, 11:43 AM
I don't know what fish see All I know it that more times then I can count changing the color of my fly has changed how the fisher where bitting. Al for the line I have a suggestion. The Rio Deep Sea is my favorite of all time. It has a 25ft sink tip (dark blue) and the rest of the line is opaque/grey. It shoots like a cannon and is a great color.

12-01-2000, 12:53 PM
Wow, aint science a wonderful thing? Here's one of the hits I got from "Encyclopædia Britannica Online" ( by doing a search on "fish vision"

Sense organs
from salmoniform

Because vision is important in the life of a trout, the eyes are well developed; the retina possesses both rods (for vision in dim light) and cones (for perceiving more acute images and for colour vision). The sense of smell is also highly developed.

Talk about your contradictions!

i'm so outta here
12-01-2000, 02:35 PM
Greg - you have to look at it on a per species basis. (I'm not sure a 400 grain line has any bearing on trout). The mere presence of cones in the retina does not alone indicate that a species has color sight. There are four distinct conal pigments that, depending on their concentration and dispersal in the retinal wall, determine how well color is perceived.

<!--http--><a href="" target="_blank">another resource</a><!--url--> -- only reef fish can see the full color spectrum.

Here are three images of the same fish:" border="0">

<img src="

The first is how a creature with color vision sees it, the second is how a UV sensitive creature sees it, and the third
is how a color-blind creature sees it.

Orange could well be invisible to trout or stripers or whatever. So the question becomes, "How do [insert targeted species] see color?"

I couldn't find anything on stripers.

12-01-2000, 03:02 PM
Al, Very nice Article, let me pull a few pieces out.

"Shallow water fish species usually have three types of cones (red, blue, green) which allows them to see the wide spectrum range that available in shallow waters."

The article I read defined shallow water as less then 50 meters (pretty deep), so I would guess Stripers fall into that shallow water catagory. Next, RGB cones are what humans have, but certainly I would not expect Stripers with acorn sized brains to be able to Perceive color as humans do.

"Red and violet light are completely absorbed within the first few metres, whereas blue light can penetrate up to 100 metres in the same conditions."

This was also mentioned in the "On The Water" article. Have you ever noticed that under water pictures look funny? The above discussion is why. Someone wearing a Red dive suite will look like they're wearing a Grey dive suit at 30', beacuse the Red wavelengths can't get there to be absorbed. Kind of cool!

"To make a long story short, yes some fish see in colour. It is the shallow water fish species that see the greatest range of colour because it is only at shallower depths that the entire range of visible colour wavelengths are not yet absorbed by the water."

I think this is true of Stripers, but the big question is how do they actually percieve the colors that they see? Like Al's example of the blue tropical fish, how would that look different from a yellow tropical fish to a Stripers eye/brain?

12-01-2000, 04:42 PM
Based on my limited experience, unless you're lining fish, it doesn't matter. I caught a nice 28" fish in stage harbor, in about 1' of water blind casting my 325 grain QD.

Just a layman's opinion.


i'm so outta here
12-01-2000, 05:30 PM
Roop - I concur. Greg and I both caught fish at PI this year in about a foot of water with the 325 QD. At least we know brown doesn't spook them enough to turn their heads away from Juro's sand eel.

BTW, I've learned more about fish physiology from participating in this thread than a whole two seasons worth of direct experience.....

Greg - I don't buy into the idea that "shallow water" species include those with a habitat down to 50 meters. <!--http--><a href="" target="_blank">Pelagic species</a><!--url--> (tuna, billfish, sailfish, etc.) inhabit these depths and are definitely biased toward the UV end of the visible light spectrum. And the article supports that: "Red and violet light are completely absorbed within the first few meters" Striped bass spend most of their time in much deeper water than that and are primarily nocturnal which supports a mid depth vision:

There [are] <b>four</b> different types of cone pigments found in the eyes of fish, and each is sensitive to different wavelengths of light. Different types of fish
may have two to three different types of cones depending on where they live in the water column. Shallow water fish species usually have three types of cones (red, blue, green)
which allows them to see the wide spectrum range that available in shallow waters. <b>Marine fish living at moderate depths have cone pigments that are sensitive to blue and green light.</b>

So I might buy into the idea that stripers can see blue and green, but still have my doubts about red, yellow, and orange.

Bonito and Albies most definitely have the best vision of all the species we target, hence the need for a clear line.

So what does all this mean? Damn if I know, but one's thing for certain. I'm never going to sit down to the vise again without agonizing over color choice and arrangement.

12-01-2000, 05:32 PM
I have a National Geographic hardcover "The Fishes" that talks about how they concluded LM bass to have color identification / vision. I don't remember the criteria they used, but I believe that some species definitely have color recognition - like the salmonids and basses.

WHOI is pretty convincing but I assume they are talking about "fish" in the general sense, and they so say "most" fish.

Vision blows my mind. All that we see is merely a fabrication in our minds based on the stimulation of rod and cone cells by photons in the back membrance of our liquid filled, lens focused jelly filled orbs. What your brain fabricates is different than what my brain does - but nothing in life is more accepted as gospel than that which we both "see".

Photographs are only second to vision in that sense - although we are using the same system to re-experience the photons, we can hold the static image in front of friends and family at a gathering and we have complete, unquestionable faith that we are all "seeing" the same thing.

It's not often that we are able to separate reality from that which we draw in our minds.

In a remotely analogous way it's extremely difficult for us to conclude really what animals see, but presence of color-sensitive cells in the retina is a pretty good clue. The NGS tests were behavioral tests, I will read the chapter again and report on the scientific method used.

12-01-2000, 05:47 PM
Oh yeah... Line color:

I won't lay any colored line in the path of a cruising Monomoy cow. I've cast to a fish that came into view first far out there only to have two more come up on the flat between me and the fish. The two fish nearest to me swam around the fly line, they clearly saw it. That's the summer I went to clear.

You won't catch me using a sinktip that is anything less than stealthy for summer steelhead, in fact I use a pure floating line 99% of the time. I believe it works far better because only the leader and tippet is "intruding" in the fish's domain. Many long-time steelhead flyfishermen will attest that putting any visible fly line under the surface film turns the fish off. Over the years, I would have to agree based on anecdotal evidence. I fish sinktips to present "fly-first" to prevent any disturbance of a fish in it's lie.

To the points made earlier by Al, Roop and others - it depends on the presentation you need in the situation at hand. If you are sinking a line that will intrude in the comfort zone of big wary trophy fish, you'd be better off being clear or camoflaged. That being said I've always wanted a clear sinktip in a type IV." border="0" align="middle">

I've had blues bite off a sinktip near the loop on the backhalf of the head while fighting another blue, which is another thing to consider. Is is visible enough to eat? <img src="

IMHO - Dry line fishing for trout falls into the same category as dry line fishing for steelhead - what's floating is not nearly as much of a consideration as what is moving through the fish's lair. I'll bet that a flourescent sinking line would not fool as many trout as a weighted fly on a long leader and light tippet.

12-07-2000, 10:38 PM
An old timer once told me this:
To catch a fish, you need to think like a fish
To think like a fish you need to understand that fish do not think!
The moral of the story is that fish act/react. They are animals, living in the animal kingdom.
Their entire life is all about feeding, getting the maximum energy input for the least energy expended and avoiding predators.
Fly lines are not predators, so I suspect then that after 35+ years of experimenting with trout, steelies and Atlantics, fly line colour is not the issue, presentation and food like appearance are the key.
Juro's long sand eel pattern proved that last summer with the bass on the Rip Trip I was so fortunate to be part of.
I know very litlle about salt borne fishies but I did experiment one sumner about 5 years ago with trout.
I fished 40 consecutive days, at the same location and "tested" 21 various line colors, one each day for about 6 hours of casting dry lines, various sink tips and full sink lines.
Conclusion, they all did relatively well.

I then experimented with various leaders.

BIG difference, short leaders with streamers (as short as 6 inches) and progressively longer for the dries and back to shorter for wets/spinners, tippet size to match the fly size 5X being the smallest I used.

I then experimented with various patterns of the same fly at various stages, larvae, pupae/emergers, dry and spinner.

BIG Difference, the most accurate imitations did significantly better than the garden variety.

I then switched rivers and repeated the process.
I then went to several still waters (lakes) and repeated the process.

Overriding conclusion after close to 90 days of experimenting =
1- Presentation & accuracy of imitation
2- Presentation & accuracy
3- Presentation
At no time could I distinguish that line colour had any significant effect of the catch rate.
At the last Rip Trip, I used a 9Wt, level line, chocolate brown, full sink, type 3 and had a blast, no fluoro leaders either. Why? I just did not know any better! I firmly beleive that the fly (Juro's Bad A## Eel) did the trick for me and for the line type and colour I had. Others did equally well with different line colors and different flies and differnet leaders.
I might have done better if ?
Last comment:
Have fun experimenting and keep posting your experiences on the Board. Everyone will learn a little more and we all learn a lot more.

12-08-2000, 04:30 AM
I spoke to Ian at Airflo and he convinced me that in deep water the orange color line becomes a grey color. I am nøw reading an excellent must read book by David A Ross The Fisherman's Ocean and he*confirms the color issue. I highly recommend this book. It will give you knowledge by a oceanographer and most importanly a flyfisherman.