Lest We Forget: In Praise of Double Tapers

trout fishing
Double Tapers: Still the best line for trout fishing?

by Scott Sadil

It’s funny what we can forget.

During the dozen or so years I taught wannabe fly fishers the rudiments of the sport, I always sang the praises of double-tapered lines.

They cast easily, float beautifully, mend elegantly and smoothly.

And, because most effective trout fishing, where we usually begin, takes place – or should take place – within several rod lengths from the rod tip, requiring casts with only the forward portion of your line, you can eventually swap ends of a double-tapered line and start all over with what’s essentially a brand-new line.

Since beginner fly fishers are often a little blown away by the cost of jumping into the sport, my students liked the promise of these apparent future savings.

Yet like so many other anglers, especially those with careers that stretch back deep into the prior century, I drifted away from double tapers and fell into the habit of fishing weight-forward lines, because – well, I’m not sure why.

The simplest explanation might be the shared assumption that you can cast a weight-forward line farther – and we all like the idea that, need be, we can deliver an eighty-foot cast to a big rainbow sipping caddis flies falling from the alders and drifting into the scum line at the top of the famous Mother Dog eddy.

The popularity of weight-forward lines, many of which now sport shorter or more “aggressive” forward tapers, might also have something to do with the popularity of fast-action rods, those that can deliver casts into the next time zone but often have little to offer in the way of benefits for the actual trouting most of us do.

These and other loopy line notions bubbled up into my thoughts last season when I got my hands on a new weight-forward trout line that features the latest space-age technology, promising to slip through my guides as though images in a dream.

One problem: it worked as well as advertised.

I ended up talking about my concerns with the manufacturer’s head rep.  

“Great line,” I told him. “Casts beautifully. But when I’m fishing streamers while wading, or swinging wet flies far downstream, it’s so easy to cast the entire head, you end up trying to mend the running line.”

The rep, as famous as anyone in the sport, offered a reply: “In my opinion you cannot beat a double taper line. No WF (weight forward line) has a head anywhere near as long and I use nothing but DT’s for almost all my trout fishing.”


The famous angler continued: “No way would I use a WF line when I sometimes need to pick up a cast having just laid it down. I hate stripping running line back to do that! Give me a DT every day.”

Should have known.

Exactly as I told my students twenty years ago.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil taught his two sons to fly fish without any explanation why.