Why braid is the best line for trout fishing

Types of braids, and why Superline is the best.

There are hundreds of different fishing lines available, and braid is no exception. Most brands have several variations. But, not all braids and created equal, and not all play nicely with spinning gear. In fact, most braids do not work well with spinning equipment and can result in wind knots and line twist. Conventional braids were designed for overhead reels and bottom fishing.

Fireline is the best braid to use when fishing for trout
Freshly spooled new yellow fireline

Fused Gelspun is a braid category made for spinning reels. Commonly known as superlines. The pioneer and most well known brand is Berkely Fireline.

Fused gelspun is more user friendly than traditional braid. The outer coating makes the line smooth and stiffer than woven braid. It performs more like mono. While maintaining near zero stretch and a much thinner diameter. It really is an exceptional line for spin fishing.

Casting with fireline is casting with a high performance line. It glides off the spool like a rocket. New anglers, and some old-timers more accustomed to slower casting spinning reels can be caught off guard by line velocity during the cast.

Casting requires fineese, a short smooth flick and fireline will glide off the spool. With practice, casting fireline will be no problem. In nearly twenty years of spinning, I never had a wind knot in fireline. I have also been entirely free of line twist despite never using a swivel.

Some things to keep in mind

One downside with gelspun, and especially fireline is that the advertised break strain is rarely correct. It always massively over tests. I used to say 6lb fireline breaks at 6kg (13lb), over double the rated amount. It offers some peace of mind, that it will never break under test. It is always safe to use slightly lighter line than usually recommended. So if you usually spin with 6lb nylon, it will be safe to use 4lb fireline and still have strength to spare.

While Fireline might cast like nylon, its knot strength more resembles braid. So take care when tying knots. When tying a knot in braid complete more rotations to achieve the same knot strength.

A very capable alternative to Berkely Fireline is Sufix Fuse, it shares many of the same characteristics.

Superline advantages over monofilament

Many trout fishermen still fish with nylon or other monofilaments. So how do the two lines compare?

  • Superlines are a lot more sensitive. Very easy to feel every vibration, bump or strike.
  • Zero-stretch. Superlines have next to no stretch, so ever jerk or sweep with the rod is immediately reflected in the lure. Be careful, avoid striking too hard, the zero stretch can easily rip a lure away from a trout.
  • Long casts. The thin diameter makes long casts a breeze, changing to superline is the easiest way to increase casting distance. For more advice on casting further check my previous written article.
  • Floats. Superlines are very buoyant. This allows for easier line management. Making it easier to avoid snags and underwater obstacles, especially when slack lining. It is surprising how often a buoyant line comes in useful when fishing floating jerkbaits or a float / bobber around obstacles.
  • Longevity. Superlines are very UV stable. If stored in a cool, dark and dry environment superline can remain on a reel for years without breaking down or loosing strength.

Advantages of monofilament over Superlines

Nylon and florocarbons still have advantages.

  • Price. A spool full of nylon is significantly cheaper than fireline. There is no need to buy even more line to use for leaders.
  • Knot strength. Knots in nylon are simply stronger and simpler to tie.
  • No need for scissors. In a pinch, we can bite through nylon with our teeth. No need for fancy, and somewhat pricey braid scissors or clippers.
  • No leader. There is no need to tie on a leader, fewer knots and fewer complications.
  • Easy. Nylon is easy and smooth to cast. Easy for children and beginners to learn with. The risk of line cuts is also very low.
  • Abrasion resistance. While not a big issue, monofilament lines are more abrasion resistant. Line damage is also easier to detect.

Make sure your rod and reel are rated for Superlines

Some entry level rods and reel can get damaged by braid and superline. The extra thin diameter cuts groves into the cheap aluminium guides. Sometimes it can even cut straight through. Soft line rollers can on reels and can also develop grooves. This should not be an issue with most premium reel brands, for suggestions check my reel buying guide.

Avoid using braid or superline with rods that use aluminium guides. Fortunately, most trout rods now use guides with ceramic inserts or hardened aluminium / titanium which are tough enough to avoid damage.

Why using 30lb braid is a bad idea.

I was watching a YouTube video earlier today, and the host was promoting using 30lb braid for trout fishing. This is a bad idea and I will explain why below.

Using braid allows for longer casts. That is because is has a much thinner diameter than monofilament. If I look at the advertised diameter of a typical 6lb nylon, Say Stern Original. It’s 0.22mm across, very thin. While 6lb fireline is 0.15mm, So about 30% thinner. But lets compare 30lb fireline instead, that has a diameter of 0.38mm. Even wider than the nylon, that means 30lb braid would not offer any casting distance advantage over the monofilament we typically use in trout fishing.

This thicker braid, is also less sensitive than thinner braid. While still an improvement over nylon, you are sacrificing sensitivity for no good reason.

Another disadvantage is that thicker braid results in thicker knots. Including the joining knot between braid and leader. Every time you cast that larger knot is going to rattle through the guides, increasing resistance and reducing distance. For optimal, smooth casts the thinner, more low-profile the knot the better.

Finally, the rods, and reels we use for trout fishing are designed for ultralight styles of fishing. The drags are optimized for 2-8lb lines. The rods bend profile are optimized for 2-8lb lines. 30Lb line totally exceeds all the design parameters of the reels and rods we are using. Sure, experienced fishermen know not too over tighten the drag, allow it to slow not stop the line. But too many fishermen love to max tighten their drag, and brute force the trout in. Sooner or later, this amount of strain is going to result in premature equipment failure.

Arguments for using heavy weight braid when trout fishing

Heavy braids get recommended for lightweight spinning applications primary to avoid issues with line twist, tangles, wind knots and tip wraps. Thicker 30lb braid is much more controllable.

These tangles and wind knots are a real problem. But 30lb braid is not the best solution. Most braids are not designed for spinning reels or frequent casting. When fishermen use these braids on a spinning reel they experience the above issues. But, there are Spinning reel compatible braids. These braids, made from Gelspun do not suffer from the same issues. The reason why fishermen use 30lb braid, is because they are using the wrong type of line.

Another common argument, is that there is big fish in the lake and they want to be prepared. While the 30lb line is strong enough to winch in big fish, the rest of the setup is not. If they try to winch in the big fish, chances are the leader, split rings, hooks or even the rod will fail. 30Lb braid does not make landing a big fish on ultralight gear significantly easier.

What type of leader Nylon or florocarbon?

When fishing for trout, and you want to maximize the number of fish caught. A leader must be used.

There are two main types of line used for leaders, these are nylon and fluorocarbon. There is copolymers which are nylon fluorocarbon combinations.

Basically, it does not matter what type of leader you use. They all work and perform similarly. So if you already own some line of around 6lb it will be fine to use for trout fishing. But, I will still go into more details below.

Transparency in water

Fluorocarbon is advertised as being next to invisible in the water. There is some truth to this claim. It’s refraction rating, in other words how light bends through it is very comparable to water.

But, I will argue that the difference in transparency between floro and nylon is not enough to deter trout from striking, and there is certainly more to visibility than just refraction. There is also reflection, that is how the light bounces off it. I have seen no evidence that fluorocarbon reflects light any better than monofilament.

Finally, and I personally consider this a big one. It is the shadow which the line casts across the water. This, is what I suspect spooks most fish. With the sun above, both types of line can cast a shadow, but with the line diameter of only around 0.22mm the shadow it casts is rather thin.

I have been fly fishing for years, mono floats (or sinks slower than flouro). It is my first choice for tiny dry flies. When trout zone in on a miniscule size 20 Twilight Beauty, gently floating atop a crystal clear pool they completely ignore the nylon tippet. In my experience mono tippets do not deter trout when fly fishing, why would it deter trout when pulling a lure with one hundred times the bulk of a dry fly.

The only time, where the lower transparency of fluorocarbon might makes a difference is when targeting very wary fish, in crystal clear still water combined with bright direct sunlight. But for 99% of trout fishing, I am not convinced it makes a difference.

Difference in Abrasion resistance

So much advertisement claims that fluorocarbon has been abrasion resistance. This is probably not true. I have seen enough head to head comparisons where fluorocarbon breaks first in abrasion tests compared with monofilaments.

When trout fishing abrasion resistance it not a large consideration. While brown trout are smart and fight dirty, but freshwater fishing is simply not abrasive enough environment for the extra resistance to really matter. Smooth scales cover trout bodies, not sandpaper skin like many marine species. Trout teeth are also not a concern. In many years of trout fishing, a trout has never bitten me off. Even when fishing 2lb nylon which seems slightly thicker than hair abrasion is not a big issue. Again, in my opinion this is a draw.

Knot Strength

Nylon has much stronger knot strength than fluorocarbon, knots are generally the weakest point in our fishing setup. So stronger knots mean fewer lost fish. If you take care, and tie good quality knots the difference is insignificant so another draw between the two types of line.

Nylon floats, floro sinks

Nylon sinks slower than fluorocarbon. This is true, and that is why many fly fishermen use nylon tippets for fishing dry flies but switch over to fluorocarbon when nymph fishing. But, the difference in buoyancy between the two types of line is insignificant compared with the mass of the lures we typically fish. If you are fish flies behind a float, then this is one spinfishing situation where line type might makes a difference.

Do I even need a leader when fishing with braid?

Some fishermen tie their lures directly to their braided mainline, this is not a good idea. While it is still possible to catch trout tying directly to braid, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Below I will outline the four main advantages using a leader offers.

  • That is because braid is clearly more visible in the water so easier for the trout to see. It does not take much to convince a wary fish not to strike.
  • Braid also lacks the abrasion resistance of monofilament lines. So every time that cunning old brown trout rubs against a rock or fallen branches the chance that braid will snap is greater than monofilament.
  • Finally, braid the thin diameter of braid is much more likely to cut unprotected fingers, and even the skin of a trout. A thicker monofilament leader is kinder all round.
  • Braid lacks the knot strength of monofilament, and knots are trickier to tie. Whenever I spinfish, I frequently change my lures. Tying knots in nylon is simply faster.

I should give some time to the counterarguments. The first is simplicity, by tying straight to the braid you simply need less gear. No need to carry a spool of monofilament with you, and there is one fewer knot which could fail.

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