Fly Line Reviews

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Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio Smallstream fly line in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio Smallstream Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

Essentially a short-belly line: 14ft front taper, 7ft belly, 3ft rear taper. So this has a very short belly but the head length (24ft) is of course the more important measurement. This is a short-head line, designed to optimise fishing at short range. The short head also matches shorter rods rather well - and, of course, shorter fly-rods are typically used when fishing at short range. This feels smooth, supple and very limp indeed. I used the #5 version on rods rated #5, and which I tend to match with #5 lines. As with any unfamiliar line it takes a little time to adjust, to find the length of carry which suits shooting, to find the sort of punch needed to make a leader turn smoothly. I fiddle with leaders, adjust lengths and diameters, until I like the arrangement.

This is an unassuming line, nothing is dramatic. Turnover is smooth and relatively gentle. This seems to ask for modest length leaders and fine tippets. The length and weight of the head seems to me to suit the rods I tried, this is not trying to pack the head-weight of a #5 line into a shorter head - so my rod is nimble.

Extend the head to the rear taper, with a leader I am aiming at targets around 30 feet (10 metres) from my toes. The fly floats down. Cast shorter, and again the fly touches the target. Then longer, go for about 50ft: with a 'normal' WF line there would be no need to shoot line to that range. With the Smallstream I'd be false-casting with about 20ft of running line beyond the tip-ring. Not good practice. Actually you can cast the Smallstream that way, but it's a lot easier and casting is more accurate if you get used to the head length, find the sweet spot and shoot the rest of the line.

Looking at the design of this tiny head, most of the mass is towards the tip of my rod. On shorter rods this roll-casts nicely and on a 9ft rod that weight distribution seems to make the line pretty stable in the air, turnover is smooth and consistent.

A floating line for fishing close, for casting close, for accuracy and delicate presentation. The Barrio Smallstream is available in five line-weights, WF1F to WF5F.

Very good value!

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of Barrio fly reels in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio Fly Reels

By Magnus Angus

Two sizes here, LA34 and LA56, the codes suggest the line sizes for each. These weigh 182g and 199g which is substantial for their line classes, however the line capacity on both these reels is fairly generous.

In my hand these feel solid, nothing wiggles or rattles. The spool moves freely and silently spinning 'line-inwards' and silently and smoothly 'line-outwards'. Both are set up for left handed winding. Adjusted to a fishing resistance the drag is very smooth indeed, no hesitation against the drag, just buttery smooth.

Barrio reels are made in Germany. Mike Barrio and Ralf Vosseler work together on the specification, the reels are made in Germany by Vosseler - to a very high standard indeed.

Looking at the spool porting and the design of the back of this reel there are obvious hints of Vosseler reels, and internally, the small sealed drag-unit is well proven and feels highly refined.

Easy enough to account for the weight, these both have full-caged bodies - unusual on reels of this size. The frame and spool are machined from bar-stock, both feels solid, rigid - I can think of reel makers who would cut away significantly more metal, making a lighter but less rigid reel. The machining and finish is excellent, very precise, then the metal was properly smoothed and prepared for hard anodising - so these feel and look very smooth. Oh, and I can use these reels in saltwater! ( Still working on why I want a #3/4 saltwater reel - and I do! )

To remove the spool, push through the open back and the spool pops out. I've seen reels with this mechanism for a few years now and still find it a little odd - but it works well and replaces maybe a dozen parts with a groove and a ring.

The drag adjusts in clicks, the range ( throw ) from fully off to as tight as I can go is exceptionally long, I really can tune this drag to just the resistance I want. The tight end of the drag range is far more than matches the fish that I would expect these reels to meet. Switching drag is a matter of removing the drag cover and reverse a bearing - needs a screwdriver and a clean table.

Visually, these are modest reels, but don't let that fool you, simple looks belie their quality.

Photo captions:
"Modest looks - quality reels"
"Full frame body - heavier and more expensive - more rigid, makes the reel far more durable. Very unusual in a reel at this price."

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio GT90 in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio GT90 Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

Some time back we featured the Barrio Outcast. After a name change, that fly line became the GT140. I described that 140ft line as ambitious - I doubt many of us need lines that long. However, there is a niche, and GT140s have gained a following amongst keen and competitive casters.

The GT90 is more or less a shorter version of the 140. The front taper is a few feet shorter, the short belly is shorter and the running line is tapered. Put it another way, the GT90 is a different line using the same basic idea of a short belly and exaggerated rear taper.

On a 'normal' WF line, the rear taper smoothes a change from thicker, heavier line to lighter, thinner running line. Lines which suddenly jump from thick to thin line, i.e. shooting heads, have great shooting characteristics but they don't make it easy to false cast with more than a few yards of running line beyond the rod tip. Too much, and the line gets out of shape and out of control; too little and the head bumps the tip ring when we haul. A 'standard' WF line, with a head of around 40ft, makes it easier to carry a few yards of running line and smoothes that jump. However, I can still go beyond what that WF line will let me carry. I can still get things out of shape because the running line is too thin.

The slow rear taper on the Barrio GT lines allows me to carry more line, but for the same long carry used with a long- belly line the total weight I'm casting is less. The long rear taper means when space is limited and I need to false cast shorter and shoot more; this shoots better than a long belly, pretty much as well as that imaginary standard WF line.

It's my long-winded way of saying this is a nice line to cast. As with the GT140 this handles nicely: very smooth surface; almost limp so little or no coil-memory and it feels supple when I retrieve. Mike Barrio decided to call this shade of pale olive 'Mushy Pea' ... visible enough in the air for me to see well but, hopefully, not so loud it'll scare those shy fly fishers who get spooked by anything but olive fly lines.

If the GT140 was designed as a distance line which fishes well, the GT90 was intended to be a fishing line which we can throw for distance. In my opinion, it hits the mark, casting short, the GT90 loads my rod well. As I lengthen it, the loading increases slowly and predictably making it easy to stay in control. Shoot is good once the belly is outside the tip and gets better as I carry more line; the limit there seems to be the length of my rod and my skill as a caster. Turnover is 'punchy' so my leader straightens consistently and, this being a floating line, the GT90 floats predictably. This is not an ultra-high floating line and after some time - as with just about all floating fly-lines - the tip seems to get soaked and floats slightly less well.

An excellent 'all-around' floating fly line at a very reasonable price!

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio SLX in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio SLX Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

Interesting profile, the SLX diagram shows a 24.5ft front taper to a 4ft belly, followed by a short (4.5ft) rear taper with an 'additional' 12.5ft taper behind the head. The blurb lists the head length as 33ft which I think is right because that 'additional' taper acts more like the handling line I might put between a shooting head and thin shooting line.

So, I have a fly line with a fairly short head by contemporary WF standards. That long front taper means this is set so more of the weight is near the rod tip. The general head shape reminds me of Wulff Triangle Tapers and is almost the mirror opposite of Barrio's GT lines.

At 33ft this line weighs 12grams, so at the AFTM standard 30ft this 5-weight weighs approximately 10.9grams; therefore, technically, this is a #6 line. I can almost hear one or two purists grinding their teeth at this point, however, the simple fact is that 10.9g and 12g are well within the range of mass I normally cast with DT or long-belly #5 lines. In fact, with a DT5 if I false-cast 60ft of fly line, which I often do, the line in the air weighs more than 18grams. So, while this #5 line is overweight, actually a #6, it suits the rods I normally match with DT5 or long belly WF5 lines.

Put the SLX on a rod and it takes a short time to get used to how this behaves. The head section is pale-ish olive to cream running line, the contrast there is too slight for me, in dim light I can't see the colour change coming. I can have the same line with an orange head, visible but loud, maybe I'll just get out a marker pen. This head length feels tidy, with a 9ft rod this feels handy and responsive. Casting overhead if I don't look and find the head, I automatically want to carry a little more, it'll take some discipline to break that bad habit. My maximum carry has the handling line just outside the tip, that yielded my maximum distances. Pull back a few yards so the rear taper is at the tip and the SLX is a lovely exact line. This turns over positively, loops tend to be tight and/or tighten as they travel. Then try a few roll casts and, arguably, the SLX comes into its own.

This rear weighted form of head is common among so-called Spey lines for good reason. With the leader and tip of the fly-line on water, I have most of the weight close to the rod tip, when I make my casting stroke my rod moves the heaviest portion of the head, which then drags the lighter part behind it. No surprises the SLX is an excellent line for roll and Spey-casting.

As I became used to the SLX, the head length and how the taper loads the rod, the simple usefulness of this line really began to shine. As this line disciplines me I false-cast less extravagant lengths, for a change I actually want to know where the rear of the head is. With a flick I can roll the head, co-ordinate that with a haul and I can shoot line. Lift the head and it shoots freely. The tip turns a decent length of a muscular tapered-leader very neatly, in fact turnover seems to take care of itself. Hmm, off the top of my head I can think of only two characteristics where a long-belly line (DT or WF) may have an edge - pick-up and brute distance.

I'm tempted to say the SLX makes casting easier, but that's maybe a slight exaggeration. However, turnover is so consistent it might just be. It's certainly an excellent, versatile, fishing line which I'd happily fish on rivers and stillwaters for trout, and in heavier sizes for sea trout.

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio SLXi intermediate fly line in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio SLXi Intermediate Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

Both samples are WF7F lines. The pale olive line sinks at "approx 1.0 to 1.5 ips ( inches per second )", the pale brown line is a little more dense and sinks a fraction faster at "approx 2.5 to 3.0 ips". Visually, these are interesting lines, both are slightly translucent, soft colours, camouflage colours which, to my mind, suit sub-surface fishing. PVC lines are coloured with pigment, reduce the proportion of pigment and you get this highly attractive translucence.

Reading the description, I picked up that these have a monofilament core, I know these are PVC lines which can be supple and Barrio lines are usually supple, but mono core fly lines tend to show a bit of coil memory. On the spool these feel slick, very slick indeed. In my hand they feel supple, strip line off the reel onto the ground and there is no sign of coil memory whatsoever - these are exceptionally limp intermediates.

The head of the WF line is based on the Barrio SLX profile. Described as 'rear weighted' the SLX has a modest rear taper, a short level belly then the head tapers to the tip. Versions of that profile are well established, that taper describes most modern WF salmon lines and a good number of trout lines. The advantages are that the bulk of the line, more of the line mass, is near the tip of my rod. The head on these SLXi is listed as about 33ft which is comparatively compact. On my rod I was not limited by the head length at all. For roll and Spey casting I found the rear taper and the SLXi performs beautifully. Casting overhead, the running line has enough mass and 'body' to let me throw a very long back-cast - far more than 33ft - which helps me throw a long forward cast.

This is not a true distance line, but it casts long very well indeed. The fact that the head shape suits roll and Spey casts makes this a friendly line at short range - even on a powerful/stiff rod. I formed the impression that these lines cut through air well, I could reduce rod effort and look for nice loops. I'd describe the turnover as 'punchy', fit a thin leader and the tip kicks over, fit a tapered leader or a thick-butt to a long stepped leader and the energy in that kick becomes exactly what I need to straighten leader and tippet. ( That 'punch' is about the tip thickness more than the rate of taper. )

So, excellent handling and first class casting characteristics. While I was out with these I had a small internal debate going about which line I would own ( if not both! )? In short, the slower sinking pale olive line won. My default lines float, replace those with a slow intermediate and it cuts through wind a fraction better, then gets down under the water surface where it is not being blown into a belly, so my flies are not being dragged about, and I have a sporting chance of feeling a bite. If I lived near bigger stillwaters I suspect my choice might have been more difficult.

Excellent lines, UK made and designed, very reasonably priced.

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio GT125 in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio GT125 Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

I want to say this is a long-belly line but it isn't; this has a long head with a fairly short belly. That probably sounds like I'm being pedantic, but hopefully it suggests the terms we use when talking about fly lines are not always handy. The head dimensions for the GT125 are: 10ft front taper and tip; 22ft belly; 41ft rear taper. That gives a total head length of 74ft - certainly a long head in a line which is 125ft long. This is certainly a long fly line.

This is a 6-weight line, the dimensions used to classify a #6 line are extremely simple, almost primitive really, the front 30ft should weigh close to 160 grains or 10.4 grams. Beyond 30ft fly line makers can, according to the standard, do whatever they like - of course they don't do whatever, but the line standard is not why they don't.

Casting, this line starts like a conventional #6, with a familiar rod in my hand it feels like a 'normal' #6 line, I get to 32ft outside the tip ring, actually a good bit longer than 32ft, and this could be a 6-weight DT or conventional WF floating line. Then, assuming I can false-cast a long line that extravagant rear taper does all it can to help me, so the mass of line builds up slowly, the taper smoothing waves and wiggles from my rod helping me carry a long, long line, more than I can handle with my more conventional WF lines. To my mind the length of this line and the rear taper means it is designed for casting a full WF floating line as far as possible - at times!

The front end of the GT125 serves the needs of fishing pretty well, loops turn over smoothly and cleanly. At short and medium range I'd say the turnover seemed sweet and accurate rather than punchy, most likely down to the diameter of the tip. For 'normal' leaders, e.g. monofilament, that makes for a fine fishing line, for sink tips I'd want to cut the front taper a little. For fishers who work on their casting, who can carry a long line and like to carry a long line and throw a floating WF line as far as possible this is pretty close to ideal.

Exceptional value!

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio Mallard in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio Mallard Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

Design by committee is not always a good idea but when it works it yields products that ordinary consumers want. Fishery owner Mike Barrio brought together a small group of local anglers and a leading UK line maker. The idea was to produce a reasonably priced fly-line in a style reasonably normal anglers will want.

The Mallard is smooth and supple, with no significant coil memory. I'm told the colour is vanilla - pale cream/yellow - which works well; visible in low light but not so bright it'll frighten the horses.

Measurements for head length and tapers are not given but the head seems to me to be 'normal' - around 11 yards (33ft). Fine running-line follows the taper from the belly which is relatively short. That makes it easy to tell when the head is fully up there but does slightly restrict the amount of line one can carry. At the front the taper seems about 6ft and the tip is slender.

The Mallard loads a rod very predictably and when one finds the head length it's a very easy line. Without shooting, turnover and presentation are excellent. Shooting for distance? Let go and it flies. Although this is a WF line - which some folk wrongly take to mean a distance line - I think it's fair to say the Mallard was not designed primarily with distance in mind. The head and rear taper configuration means this is easily capable of presenting flies at 90ft. Had I felt more comfortable carrying a longer line it would've thrown farther.

Presentation was a primary design concern. Many of the people involved in this project are fans of furled leaders so I tried level leader, tapered nylon and a leader made of furled butt and tippet section. Obviously, it casts with all three leader types, however, having been a tapered nylon user for many years I'm taking another looked at furled leaders - much smoother than tapered nylon. IMHO level leaders suck!

Thanks to the fine tip the Mallard is capable of very controlled delivery. With a really heavy (thick-butt) tapered-leader I found myself wanting more oomph - cutting back the relatively long fine tip sorted that.

On water the Mallard lives up to its name, the belly is positively buoyant. The line tip floats well enough, that bit of any line is always the least buoyant part of any line so it's as expected.

Excellent line - super value!

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of the Barrio Mallard in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio Mallard DT Fly Line

By Magnus Angus

Weight forward lines dominate the fly line sales. That said, I know a fair number of regular fly fishers who have switched to DT lines and love 'em. We probably all know the differences - DT is one long belly with a taper at each end - WF is a shorter belly with thin running line at the back and front taper at the pointy end. We're told that DT lines offer better presentation while WF lines are 'for distance'.

Mike Barrio's lines are smooth and supple. The cream coating sits nicely on water and is visible without being lurid. Compared to a WF line I really can't say presentation was any different at short range. Then comes the end of the WF head.

From the moment that head reached the tip ring, I seem to have more control with the DT. With the WF I need to shoot line, with the DT I simply aerialise more. As the loop reaches the end of the WF line, if I've judged it right the whole lot straightens and falls. With the DT it does seem easier to make more consistent turnover - I'd guess because I'm shooting little or nothing most of the time. Start roll casting and again, when the WF head is all out I need to switch cast, the DT keeps on going. Where mends and curves are part of the game, at longer distances the DT has distinct advantage.

These are inexpensive lines but feel great, float well and fish very well indeed.

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of Barrio Troutcast Copolymer Tippet in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio Troutcast Copolymer Tippet

By Magnus Angus

Made in Europe, 50-metre tippet spools. Troutcast is clear monofilament, the finish seems more satin than glittering gloss.

The list diameters seem right - according to my clumsy digital caliper. I have two samples here, 0.18mm (6.24lb or 2.83kg BS) and 0.14 (4.31lb or 1.96kg BS), diameters and strengths match the co-polymer tippet I normally use.

Troutcast feels stiffer than some of my odd collection of tippets, not as bristling as fluorocarbon. Tying two lengths together this seems like a 'dry' mono, knots need to be lubricated before being tightened - pulled dry this does not snug down well. Knot strength seems good and consistent.

Nice stuff - good price. Troutcast is available in 8 diameters, from 0.28mm to 0.12mm (roughly 3lb to 14lb BS).

Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine

Review of Barrio Line Care in Fly Fishing & Fly Tying Magazine

Barrio Line Care

By Magnus Angus

Silicon based line treatment. This stuff helps a fly line float, the silicon in the compound should also preserve the PVC on a fly line.

When this came in I went through the recommended cleaning regime for Barrio floating fly lines with Mike Barrio. Drag the line through a wet cloth or tissue. If the line is very grimy add a few drops of soap ( not detergent ) to the wet cloth. Rub the applicator on the block of line care, fold the pad over the line and drag the line through. Let the line dry for half an hour or more. Pull the line through a clean cloth or tissue.

Barrio Line Care leaves a fly line slick and slippery, improves float and shoot.