JHFFS How to: Selecting the Right Fly Line Taper

JHFFS How to: Selecting the Right Fly Line Taper

JHFFS How to: Selecting the Right Fly Line Taper

JHFFS Education

So, you’ve got your new rod, you know what line weight you need, all that’s left is to pick which style of taper you want your line to have.  With so many options available from companies like Rio, Orvis, Scientific Angler, Air Flo, Cortland, Sunray, and Teeny I want to discuss the purpose behind different tapers and help you decide which line is right FOR YOU.

What is a tapered fly line?

First, let’s define the purpose of a taper in general.  Before fly lines were tapered, they were simply level line.  This meant that the fly line was equal in both mass and diameter from tip to tail and offered no additional benefits compared to the tapered lines we use today.  With advancements in manufacturing techniques, we started seeing lines that were purpose built with tapers.  These lines are aimed at giving casters an additional advantage through reshaping the line’s mass profile.  Each tapered section has a specific effect on the cast and all have to work together to achieve a balanced cast.  The front taper is responsible for presentation.  The longer the front taper is on a line the more delicate your presentation will be.  Rear tapers and the belly of your line work together to provide a balance between loop control and shootability.

Today, there is a tapered design for every situation an angler may encounter.  This brings up the question “which taper is best”, and like all fly-fishing questions, does not have a definitive answer.  Although it would be nice to drive around in a mobile fly shop with two rod vaults housing an arsenal of rods, most of us need a more realistic solution.  The better approach would be to look at the style of fishing you prefer most and then choose a line that best fits those needs.

Classic Tapers:

Now that we understand the purpose of tapered lines, let’s start with the two classic tapers on the market.  The double taper (DT) and weight forward (WF) designs are what all other taper styles stem from.  The image below is condensed to show how the line’s mass is tapered through its entirety.  It is important to remember that this is simply a condensed image and is only meant to give you an overview of the line.  To fully understand how the fly line will perform, it is necessary to look at how long the tapered sections truly measure.  But before we dive into the measured effects, let’s take a look at the differences in taper profile.

Double taper vs weight forward. Digital image. Luremefish. 25 January 2019, https://luremefish.com/how-to-choose-a-fly-line/.

Starting with the DT, we can see that its profile is as the name implies, “doubled”.  The tip and tail of a DT fly line are exact mirrors of each other.  If you were to cut the line in half, you would be left with two identical sections whereas, with a WF line, you would be left with a tapered section (the head) and a level section (running line).  Once again, as the name implies, the WF’s line mass is shifted to the front and completes its tapered section within the first half of the fly line.

Based on your preferred style of fishing, one of these lines will be more advantageous than the other.  With a WF line, the focus is on helping anglers add distance to their cast.  The front head builds momentum while the lighter, thinner running line is able to smoothly shoot out after making your final casting stroke.  The disadvantage of this design is that it cuts down on the amount of fishable line you may need if you want to manipulate your flies at a distance.  For example, if I were in a situation that required a 70-foot cast, it would be very beneficial to have a WF line to help reach my target quickly.  However, once my fly has landed, there is very little I would be able to do in terms of line management.  Mending and even setting the hook has now become a much more difficult task as I am left trying to manipulate the heavy, thick head on the water with the lighter, thinner running line in my rod.

With a DT the focus is placed on providing the angler with as much fishable line as possible.  The belly of a DT continues from the front taper at the tip to the rear taper at the tail.  The angler now has more mass in the second half of their line allowing for better line management and manipulation at distance.  The longer belly will also help roll casts turn over at greater distances.  The disadvantage with this line is in reaching far targets.  It will be more difficult and will take more casting strokes to reach a target at distance than it would with a WF line.  To sum things up, WF lines help anglers reach distant targets quickly and easily while DT lines provide anglers with more fishable line to control drifts at a distance.

What style taper is right for you?

To best answer this question, we have to consider multiple factors.  First, what species of fish are you after?  Based on the type of fish you’re chasing, there is an average distance you will need to cast.  For saltwater applications, you will need a WF line that can quickly shoot out to distant fast-moving fish.  If you’re chasing freshwater fish, it might be more beneficial to have a DT line that will provide better loop control, mendability at distance, and a more delicate presentation.

Next, consider the style and types of flies you will be fishing with.  For example, if you mainly fish streamers, you may want a WF line with an aggressive front head that will help you turn over large flies on longer casts.  The disadvantages of running line are also less important since you will be retrieving your flies rather than letting them drift and you will be strip setting rather than lift setting.  The running line on a WF will perform just fine with this style of retrieve and hook set.

If your focus is on fishing with nymphs or dry flies, it will be much more advantageous to have a DT line that can deliver delicate casts while providing you with more fishable line to help manage longer drifts.  You may also want a DT line to help deliver frequent roll casts, especially with nymph setups.

When I fish for trout, I enjoy changing tactics throughout the season and find most of my fish within a 30-foot range.  This means I rarely benefit from the use of running line on a WF.  I prefer DT lines because not only can I present delicate casts but I can also roll cast easier, mend longer amounts of line, and set the hook on further drifts all thanks to the full belly of a DT.  FOR ME, having the ability to control my line at distance is more important than the ease of casting my line to distance.

As a happy medium, you could also look for WF lines that have a long rear taper.  The longer the rear taper is, the more control you will have at distance.  Analyzing the types of fishing situations you encounter most is the best way to determine which style of line is best for you.

Specialty Tapers:

Now that we understand the advantages and disadvantages of DT and WF fly lines, let’s take a closer look at some specialty tapers.  It is much more common to see different WF variations than it is to see DT variations.  This is because most specialty lines focus on longer casts with different size flies while also providing an appropriate level of delicacy based on the target species.  Let’s look at some different saltwater WF designs by Rio to get a better comparison.

Bonefish Taper. Digital Image. RioProducts. NA, https://www.rioproducts.com/products/bonefish


Tarpon Taper. Digital Image. RioProducts. NA, https://www.rioproducts.com/products/tarpon

The top image shows the profile and measured sections of a bonefish specific line while the bottom shows a tarpon specific line.  Nothing will replace actual test casting, but by using the information provided we can get a sense of how these lines will perform.

Starting with the bonefish line, we see that it has a total head length of 49’6”.  This tells us that we have a longer head tapered over a greater distance to help the caster maintain better loop control while also providing a more delicate presentation.  The body remains smooth until reaching the front taper, which again, helps with loop control for smaller flies rather than focusing on turn over power for bigger flies.  Finally, the front taper is 6’6”, an additional 1’6” compared to the tarpon line to again help deliver a more delicate presentation.

Looking at the Tarpon line, we see a shorter more aggressive head at 39’6”.  The focus of this line is on power and the ability to turn over big flies at distance.  The rear taper ramps up to a short aggressive body which measures 13’6” to help quickly punch large flies out to fast moving fish even in windy conditions.  This power ramps back down as it transitions into the front body and finally the front taper which are both aimed at slowing down the casting loop for a delicate final delivery.

Even though both lines are WF designs, by understanding the purpose behind their different tapers, we can better utilize their intended capabilities.  The tarpon line aims to help anglers punch out large flies in as few false casts as possible while the bonefish line is focused on providing anglers with better loop control to present smaller flies with more delicacy.


With so many different fly line tapers available for so many different applications, it makes sense why there is no definitive answer to “which fly line taper is best?”.  There is only what is best for you and your needs.  Whether your looking for a line that provides better loop control and mendability, or a line that’s going to punch through heavy winds and turn over flies the size of your socks, there is a tapered design to help you get the job done.  By understanding the purpose behind these tapers, you are much more prepared to choose the right fly line for you.


Works Cited:

  1. Double taper vs weight forward. Digital image. Luremefish. 25 January 2019, https://luremefish.com/how-to-choose-a-fly-line/.
  2. Bonefish Taper. Digital Image. RioProducts. NA, https://www.rioproducts.com/products/bonefish
  3. Tarpon Taper. Digital Image. RioProducts. NA, https://www.rioproducts.com/products/tarpon

New Jackson Hole Fly Fishing Class for 2019: 3-Day Trout School

Jackson Hole Fly FIshing School

Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School is proud to introduce our 3-Day Trout School for the summer of 2019. This comprehensive trout school is a custom 3-day experience that enables guests to enjoy a variety of fishing situations with our award-winning team of instructors, all while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Snake River and surrounding area. Students will hone their skills through a progressive curriculum that enables guests to experience the best trout streams of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The JHFFS Schoolhouse is located on the world-famous Snake River and is the perfect classroom setting for all fly fishing ability levels.

Students will cover many topics over the course of 3 days with a fun combination of classroom time and fishing time. Each student will experience a variety of fishing situations, including guided walk wade fishing and drift boat fishing. Hone your fly fishing skills with us in the beauty of the Tetons!

Topics Include:

  • Entomology lessons
  • Matching-the-hatch and fly selection
  • Fly casting instruction from roll casting to double hauling
  • Video Analysis
  • Essential knot tying, line, leader, rigging
  • Stream tactics, fishing casts, fishing technique
  • Stream dynamics and trout behavior
  • Walk wade fly fishing with professional guidance
  • Drift boat fly fishing with professional guidance

What’s Included:

  • The latest in fly fishing equipment including the latest Orvis fly rods, reels, waders and wading boots.
  • Professional guidance and instruction
  • Daily transportation to and from your hotel
  • Private water access to the Snake River
  • Stream-side lunches and beverages
  • Flies for the day and sling pack to hold all fishing accessories
  • 20% discount to Orvis

Book the 3-Day Trout School or Contact Us here!


Jackson Hole Fishing Report (05/18/2018):

Fishing Adventures, Fishing Tips, JHFFS News

Water Flows:

Snake River Canyon – 13,200 CFS

Pacific Creek – 1,760 CFS

Buffalo Fork – 2,380 CFS

Green River – 2,220 CFS

South Fork – 16,000 CFS


Upcoming Weather:

Saturday – 36 °/61 °, PM Thunderstorms, 80% chance of rain

Sunday –  36 °/65 °, Partly Cloudy, 20% chance of rain

Monday – 36 °/70 °, Partly Cloudy, 20% chance of rain

Tuesday – 38 °/71 °, Partly Cloudy, 20% chance of rain

Wednesday – 38 °/66 °, PM Thunderstorms, 40% chance of rain

Thursday – 39 °/66 °, Isolated Thunderstorms, 30% chance of rain

Friday – 38 °/69 °, Isolated Thunderstorms, 30% chance of rain


On the water:

Hatches – Midges, Caddis, Little Black Stone, Skwala


Fly Selection:

Wet – Zebra Midge, San Juan Worm, Small Pat’s Rubber Leg, Mop Fly

Dry – RS2 Midge, Birchell’s Hatching Midge, Skwala, Black and Brown Caddis

Streamer – Heavy Sculpzilla, Drunk and Disorderly, JJ Special, Kreelex


Guide Report:

We are well into our runoff season limiting the available water to fish.  If you are trying to stay close to town, the only place to find clean water on the Snake is from Jackson Lake Dam down to Pacific Creek.  Fishing midge patterns or flashy streamers has been working well with some fish coming up for the occasional dry.  Heading south to the Green River will be everyone’s go to during this time and doing so can produce some of the biggest fish all year.  Small San Juan worms in a burgundy color have proven to be very effective during the prime window right when flows begin to drop and the river starts to clear.

Jackson Hole Fishing Report (04/17/18)

Fishing Adventures, Fishing Tips, JHFFS News

Water Flows:

Snake River Canyon –  4,350 CFS

Pacific Creek –  146 CFS

Buffalo Fork –  263 CFS

Green River @ Warren Bridge – 381 CFS

South Fork Nr Irwin –  18,800 CFS


Upcoming Weather:

Wednesday 04/18/18 – 25°/46°, Mostly Sunny, 10% chance of rain

Thursday 04/19/18 – 30°/52°, Mostly Cloudy, 0% chance of rain

Friday 04/20/18 – 31°/59°, Sunny, 0% chance of rain

Saturday 04/21/18 – 32°/57°, Sunny, 0% chance of rain

Sunday 04/22/18 – 35°/56°, Sunny, 0% chance of rain

Monday 04/23/18 – 35°/57°, Cloudy, 20% chance of rain


On the Water:

Hatches – Midge, BWO Baetis, Skwala, Little Black Stone


Fly Selection:

Wet – Zebra Midge, Higa’s S.O.S, Flash Back Baetis,  Small Pat’s Rubber Leg

Dry – RS2 Midge, Birchell’s Hatching Midge, Griffith’s Gnat, BWO Emerger, Skwala, Black Caddis

Streamer – Heavy Sculpzilla, Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow, JJ Special


Guide Report:

Water flows are changing rapidly and set to be increased for run off preparation as well as a gate exercise that will take place at the end of this month.  Fishing conditions are becoming more variable as more new water begins to change color and river flows continue to rise.  Getting away from town may be the best option with both the Henry’s Fork and Green River a short drive away.  For those interested in staying close to town, streamers have been finding success in deep water.  Throwing your streamer of choice on sink tip can offer plenty of reward, just be sure to get them low.  If you do find some clear water with rising fish, your best bet is still to go with small emerging baetis and midge patterns.  However, little black stones have been popping up along certain river banks which may justify throwing a small black caddis.  Additionally, there is always the chance of finding some skwala action if the water your fishing can make its way above that 42° mark.

Jackson Hole Fishing Report (04/04/18)

Fishing Adventures, Fishing Tips, JHFFS News

Water Flows:

Snake River Canyon – 1,980 CFS

Pacific Creek – 72 CFS

Buffalo Fork – 165 CFS

Green River – Ice

South Fork – 10,100 CFS


Upcoming Weather:

Wednesday – 45°, Overcast, 40% chance of rain and snow, 17mph SSW wind

Thursday – 45°, Mostly Cloudy, 60% chance of rain, 9mph S wind

Friday – 45°, Overcast, 70% chance of rain and snow, 6mph SSE wind

Saturday – 44°, Overcast, 90% chance of rain, 10mph SW wind

Sunday – 38°, Overcast, 80% chance of rain and snow, 12mph SW wind

Monday – 44°, Partly Cloudy, 20% chance of rain and snow, 7mph SSE wind

Tuesday – 50°, Mostly Cloudy, 20% chance of rain, 10mph SSW wind


On the Water:

Hatches – Midge, Baetis, Skwala


Fly Selection:

Wet – Zebra Midge, Higa’s S.O.S, Flash Back Baetis,  Pat’s Rubber Leg,

Dry – RS2 Midge, Birchell’s Hatching Midge, Griffith’s Gnat, Blue Wing Olive


Guide Report:

If you can brave the cold you might be surprised by what you find.  Our rivers offer some great fishing this time of year.  Those willing to throw on some extra layers to hit the water have been finding plenty of success with simple nymph rigs such as zebra midges paired with a small pat’s rubber leg.  Find yourself lucky enough to come across some rising fish in the afternoon and small midge patterns that you can barely see will be your best friend.  BUT… It’s always worth trying to stand out from the thousands of identical midges the fish are picking from.  Perhaps trying a couple sizes larger is all your willing to risk but you may find sending a BWO is a great way to get the attention of greedier fish.

Seasons of Fly Fishing in Jackson Hole

Tags: , , Fishing Adventures, Fishing Tips

July and August are not the only hot fishing months on the Upper Snake River in Jackson Hole.  If you want to avoid some crowds and get an early start to your fishing season the spring can provide the best fishing of the year.  A lot of the cutthroat will migrate into smaller tributaries for the summer months.  The average size of cutthroat is biggest in the spring and again in the fall when the fish move back to the main stem of the Snake.  Don’t rule out a spring or fall fishing trip on the Snake.

An abundant midge hatch in early March takes place as cutthroat rise to get in the action.  Video by Spencer Morton.

Time of Year-We are fortunate to have an abundance of fishing options from March to early November.  Check out some highlights from each Season below.

  1. Late winter/Spring (February-May)Typically, the early Spring months provide cold mornings and evenings with some fantastic fishing in the warmer parts of the day. Starting around March, the trout are hungry after a long cold winter and are feeding aggressively with the first abundant bug hatches of the season (as seen in the video.)  Guests will have opportunities to nymph and throw dry flies in the spring.  With that said if we get a rare warm day in January or February, we have had successful wade trips in those winter months.  All of our bookings prior to April are weather dependent and we will happily reschedule your trip if weather does not cooperate.  One of the best times of year to fish the snake is the window between when the temps bump above 40 and before runoff starts.  The river will raise fast as the snow melts creating good opportunities to try some different water other than the upper Snake River.  Last year the river increased flows drastically around the beginning of June, more regularly runoff will start up in May.
  2. Early Summer(June-July) Depending on the snow pack from the winter this time of year usually provides peak flows on the Snake River.  When runoff is happening on the Snake our guides get excited about exploring still water, walk wade trips on smaller tributaries and floating options on other rivers.  This time of year, produced some of our most successful trips on Lewis Lake, wading the Firehole River, floating the Green River and many more.  This is the perfect time to book a walk wade trip to the Blackrock ranger district and explore some backcountry fishing options.
  3. Late Summer(August-September)- The Snake River really starts to come alive in Late summer, the river flows level out and the gin clear water returns.  With tons of different bugs hatching including various Mayflies, Caddis, and Stoneflies.  This is when anglers can throw big dry fly and terrestrial patterns and watch incredible top water eats.   The cutthroat trout aggressively take advantage of the wide variety of food in the river and do not hold back from aggressively attacking big flies on the surface.  The average size of the cutthroat will start to increase as some bigger fish move away from smaller tributaries and into the main stem of the Snake River.
  4. Fall(September-November) From mid-September to early November the snake shows its true colors as one of the best fall trout fisheries in the world.  The river continues to drop until it hits “winter flows” usually in October where it will stay until spring.  The leaves start to change colors providing incredible views of the surrounding area.  Big fish are around and preparing themselves for winter by feeding as much as possible.  This time of year, still provides great dry fly fishing and hatches in the warmer parts of the day.  The river begins to thin out again and solitude returns, the upper snake in the fall is second to none.

What type of Fly Fishing School should I book?

Tags: , Fishing Adventures

Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School provides a wide variety of schools to ensure the guests can achieve what they hoped to out of their experience.


1. Walk Wade Fly Fishing Schools

Walk Wade Fly Fishing SchoolWalking around the river bottom and fishing by foot provides a more hands on learning experience. The guest will work a little bit harder but also have the incredible experience of wading in flowing water. While walking in the river is it is easy to turn over rocks and see different aquatic insects, and you have the ability to give yourself plenty of space to work on casting techniques. Mobility is key with the walk wade, if you have younger or older guests in the group think about if moving around on uneven terrain would be enjoyable for them.  Walk Wade Schools will have access to our beautiful private School House on the Snake.

2. Floating Fly Fishing Schools

Fly-Fishing-Jackson-Wyoming-LearnonriverAll of our floating schools can take up to 6 guests either on a raft with a fishing frame or a comfortable oversized drift boat. The floating schools are geared more towards beginners or guests wanting to improve upon their skills and knowledge. Typically, the guide will pull off for instructing sessions on casting and entomology, and give guests the chance to fish from both the bank and boat. While floating two people can fish off the boat providing unique learning opportunities for the other guests spectating, we have found this is a great family environment.

3. Private Drift Boat Fly Fishing Schools

Drift Boat Fly Fishing SchoolA private drift boat can fit one to three guests and one guide. The guide will row you down the river, giving the guests seemingly endless new water to cast at. Typically, our experienced guests enjoy this option because it lets you get the most casts in and focuses on fishing. All experience levels will enjoy this trip of a lifetime. A half day float covers 7 miles of water and typically lasts 4-5 hours. Full day trips cover 13 miles and take 6-8 hours.  Full day enables guests to access water in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem allowing us to access the best fishing conditions available.

3. Private vs. Public Schools

Private schools with us ensure a closed group, public schools are open to the public and anyone can join in. If you are visiting the area with family or friends and would appreciate a private experience this is a great fit. Or if you want to ensure a full day of one-on-one guide instruction to help you get the most of your experience, this for you!  If you looking for a more affordable experience public schools can provide a fantastic group setting.

Ready to Book?  Book now online or give us a call so we can help find the right type of fly fishing school.

[email protected]


Why Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School?

Tags: , JHFFS News


Fly fishing is a lifelong pursuit of an almost unattainable perfection. Whether you’re looking for the perfect fly, the perfect fish or the perfect moment, we continually push our knowledge of the sport in order to achieve this dream that comes from underneath that log jam or around the river’s bend. It is these dreams that push a fly fisherman’s heart and soul into the reality that someday something magical could happen to you.

Welcome to the JHFFS experience, where fly fishing dreams begin with straightforward enjoyable instruction!

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