Choosing a fly line for a 3wt or a 4wt fly rod can be difficult. Small stream fly rods allow anglers to present flies delicately, navigate brushy streams, and hike into remote fisheries. Creek fishing also encourages anglers to explore their local waters and puts an emphasis on exploration and adventure instead of trophy fish. Small water angling helps anglers slow down, enjoy the outdoors, and catch wild (and native) fish. 

If you’re excited about exploring a new brook or hiking up into the mountains in search of wild fish, choosing the right gear will improve the quality of your experience. We’ve already covered how to choose a fly rod for small stream fishing, so check out that post if you’re in the market for a 3wt or 4wt fly rod that’s designed for small water angling. If you’re wondering which fly line to partner with your favorite small stream rod, you’ve come to the right place. 

Trident Fly Fishing is a full-service fly shop. We spend a lot of time testing gear and writing reviews to give you all of the tools to make your next trip a success.  We are not a blog or a review site. 100% of our funding comes from your gear purchases, so if this blog post helps you on your next fly fishing adventure, please support us by buying your gear from us.

The Basics

First, choose a line that matches your fly rod. If you’re fishing a 2wt, choose a 2wt fly line. If you’re fishing a 3wt, pair that rod with a 3wt fly line. 

Most small stream angling is done in a cold, freshwater setting so choose a freshwater fly line that’s ideal for cold/moderate water temps. If you’re confused about which lines are made for cold water conditions and which lines are made for warm water conditions, read our article about water temps and lines here

When you’re targeting fish in small water, chances are the water isn’t very deep. Almost all small water scenarios necessitate a floating fly line, so start there. 

So we’ve narrowed down your choices. You should be considering a coldwater, freshwater, floating fly line that matches your rod weight. And if you want to be safe, a line with ‘creek’ or ‘trout’ in the name is a solid choice. If you’re considering a RIO Creek Line, Cortland 444 Classic Spring Creek Line, or a RIO InTouch Technical Trout Line, you’re on the right track. Rod action/build, water type, and fishing style also play a role in choosing the right fly line for your small stream rod. Here’s how it shakes out.

Rod Action/Build

You have a few different fly rod options when purchasing a small stream rod. A fast-action small stream rod like the Sage Dart should be lined differently than a moderate action fiberglass rod like the Scott F Series

If you’re fishing a fast action rod, choose a heavier line like the RIO Creek that loads the rod at close range. This line will allow you to throw streamers and small nymphs.

If you’re fishing a slow/moderate action fiberglass rod, a lighter line (and even a double taper) will encourage the best performance. RIO LightLine DT Fly Line is made specifically for these slower rods. 

Water Type

If you’re fishing a brushy creek that’s narrow and unforgiving, you probably won’t have a ton of backcasting room. For water that’s brushy, small, and narrow, choose a line like the Royal Wulff Triangle Taper. This line roll casts easily and can be turned over to present a fly delicately without carrying a lot of line in the air.

Carrying line in the air and landing a fly with accuracy is important in a small stream setting. Choose a line like the SA Amplitude Trout that features a longer taper and increased shooting capabilities. 

Similarly, if you’re hiking into a high mountain lake, a line that encourages accuracy at distance is important. This is especially true if you have a lot of backcasting room.

Fishing Style

There are also lines that are better for small streamers or heavier nymphs. Depending on your fishing style, choose a fly line that compliments your preferred method. If you need to roll cast a dry fly with delicacy and finesse, the Royal Wulff Triangle Taper is a great line choice. If you’re planning on turning over streamers, the RIO Creek Line may be a better option. 


Give us a call here at the shop at (888) 413-5211 or email us anytime at [email protected].