The most commonly used line for trout fishing is monofilament or nylon. Typically 4 or 6lb. Experience fishermen might go as low as 2lb when targeting small trout in tiny water. Anglers targeting trophy trout or steelheads might go as high as 12lb.
A rough guide is to use line no weaker than half the weight of the fish you are expecting to catch. So if the biggest fish you expect to catch is 6lb. Then you can usually get away with 4lb line. Because water suspends the trout during the fight, the line does not have to ‘carry’ the entire weight of the fish. So it is possible to catch fish which weigh massively more than the breaking strain of the line you are using.
If you want to save time and skip the explanations. Then a good first line to use is 6lb Stern Original monofilament. This was my first line, and it is an excellent fishing line to learn to catch trout with. Stern Original is a well proven, very forgiving monofilament with excellent knot strength. With experience, you can try other brands and different breaking strains.
Buy your line based on diameter rather than breaking strain
When choosing which line to use, I suggest basing your decision on line diameter rather than breaking strain. It trends to be a more accurate indicator of line strength, than the breaking strain written on the package.
A 6lb line, should be no thicker than 0.009″ (0.23mm), while a 4lb line should be around 0.008″ (0.20mm). True 2lb lines are rare, but they typically have a diameter of around 0.005″ (0.12mm).
If you buy a 0.01″ line, such as Berkley Trilene XT, you can be assured it will break at quite a bit over the advertised 6lb. It will also be that much more visible to the trout, and the extra thickness will undoubtedly increase resistance reducing casting distance.
I have tested the breaking strain of quite a few lines over the years, and I can tell you. That the much thinner Sunline Super Natural breaks very close to the advertised breaking strain, while most other brands over test by quite some margin.
Dimensions of various trout lines
|6lb||6lb||4lb||4lb||2lb||2lb||Country of Manufacture|
|Sunline Super Natural||0.008||0.205||0.006||0.165||Japan|
|Stren Original||0.009||0.23||0.008||0.2||United States|
|Berkley Trilenle XL||0.009||0.23||0.008||0.2||0.005||0.12||United States|
|Berkley Trilene XT||0.01||0.25||0.008||0.2||United States|
|Stren Magnathin||0.008||0.2||0.007||0.17||United States|
|Trout Magnet SOS||0.01||0.25||0.008||0.2||0.06||0.16||China|
What is the best monofilament line for trout fishing?
There are many good monofilaments on the market, they are probably only outnumbered by the low quality ones.
The line you fish with is one of the most important parts of your fishing setup. It is what connects your ‘lure’ with the reel. It has to survive getting cast, and winding back in hundreds of times. It will rub against rocks, branches, and even the fish itself. While it might be tempting, fishing line is not a place to save a few dollars on an inferior product.
Lines we recommend for trout fishing
Stren original is great value for money and is among. It is the cheapest line I recommend but one of the best. A 330yd spool costs little more than $7. This monofilament line has been around for decades and it has barley changed. Just a great fishing line.
It casts well, has good abrasion resistance and reliable knot strength. All round a good solid dependable line which is still made in the United States. It was the first trout line I ever fished with and I still rate it among the best. Available in 4, 6lb and higher breaking strains.
Berkley Trilene XL is another well proven trout line, from the same parent company as Stren original. It is not surprising that the line is just as good. I have filled countless spools with trilene over the years and it never disappoints. Trilene Xl is available in 2lb, 4lb, 6lb and higher breaking strain making it ideal for trout fishing.
There is also Trilene XT. These two lines are very similar, but Trilene XT seems to be coated in an abrasive resistant layer. This makes XT more durable, but also stiffer. Which means weaker knots and potentially more memory. I use XT for sharks, because they have sandpaper for skin, stick with Trielene XL for trout.
Sufix Elite. This line has very similar characteristics as Trilene XL, it has very low memory and is a nice forgiving line to fish. Some anglers rate it as stronger and with better abrasion resistance than Trilene XL but that is to be expected due to the slightly thicker diameter. If anything, go slightly lighter when spooling with Elite. Available in 4lb, 6lb and stronger breaking strains.
Sufix Siege. This is a high performance mono, it is stiffer than most monofilament. In theory allow for longer casts, but on the water any difference is hard to notice. Abrasion resistance is good. Knot strength is good, but due to the stiffer characteristics more care needs to be taken to make sure knots are correctly tighten. Available in 4lb, 6lb and stronger breaking strains.
Maxima Ultragreen might just be one of the oldest monofilaments still on the market. This German made monofilament has been proven over decades of use. The green tinted line is almost invisible in the water. It is slightly soft with almost no memory and excellent knot strength. The diameter is thinner than most. It is available in 2lb, 3lb, 4lb, 5lb and 6lb.
Just to prove the pedigree of Maxima Ultragreen, I still know fly fishermen who use mainline spools of it for tying their leaders and tippets. If I had to fish 2lb line, I will be filling my spool with Ultragreen.
Platypus Classic is an Australian made line and is very popular in Oceania. From all feedback it is good line but I have never personally tried it, Available in 4lb and 6lb.
Trout Magnet SOS is a brand of monofilament marketed directly at trout fishermen. Over the last few years it has surge in popularity. It comes in only three breaking strains of 2, 4 and 6lb. Trout Magnet is very stealthy in clear water with good knot strength. If buying multiple spools, ordering directly from the trout magnet website can work out cheaper.
The 2lb trout magnet line is rather thick for it’s breaking strain and actually over tests by quite some margin. In my opinion it is not a true 2lb line.
Sunline Super Natural. This Japanese made line is made to very high specifications and unlike some of the other lines on this list it breaks at, rather than over its marketed breaking strain. Sunline Super Natural is a very consistent line, but is more expensive than most.
This line is quite well balanced. The line is slightly on the stiff side, resulting in good abrasion resistance but not at the expense of knot strength. Casts well, with pretty good memory. Available in 4lb, 6lb and higher. What brand of line should a beginner use?
Monofilament vs Fluorocarbon vs braid / superline mainlines
While this article predominantly discuses monofilaments. We need to touch upon the other line types used for fishing. These being florocarbons and braids.
For trout fishing, my favorite line is braided Superlines, such as fireline or sufix fuse. I have gone into a lot more detail why I favor superlines in an earlier article. I have summarize below why I consider fireline to be the best mainline for trout fishing.
- + Superline does not stretch, allowing every touch, bump and vibration to be felt.
- + Extremely thin diameter allowing for longer casts.
- + Superline has next to no memory, no need to worry about line twist.
- + Superline, unlike braid plays nicely with ultralight spinning reels even at low breaking strains
- – Thin superline can easily cut the skin.
- – Requires specalized knots.
- – It is very visible in the water, requires the use of a leader.
- – Requires tools to cut, we can not bite through it.
The case for and against Fluorocarbon
I spend a lot of time reading blogs and articles. To keep up to date with current and past trends in trout fishing. There are quite a few websites, some of questionable authenticity which sings the praises for trout fishing with Fluorocarbon mainlines.
I personally feel, Fluorocarbon has some serious drawbacks and few advantages when it comes to ultralight spin fishing. Let’s just start at the biggest negatives. Memory, and the resulting tangles, wind knots and eventual bird nests. Fluorocarbon, simply does not play nicely with ultralight spinning gear. It requires constant attention to prevent it exploding into a nest of tangle. It is simply too stiff for lightweight spin fishing.
Fluorocarbon also has much weaker knot strength, we are already fishing very light lines. This is not good news when the mainline is only 4lb.
I remember when many advertisements use to claim the ‘low stretch’ nature of Flurocarbon. This is simply not true. Fluro, stretches as much if not more than traditional nylons. To make matters even worse. When Fluro is overstretched, it does not rebound to its original dimensions. It stays stretched out… Do this too many times and it results in premature line breakage.
No rant against Fluorocarbon mainlines will be complete without referring to its number one claim to frame. That Fluorocarbon is nearly invisible in the water. To the human eye, that is true. Fluorocarbon is much tougher for us to see. But, in my experience trout simply do not care.
I have spent years fly fishing to trophy size brown trout in some of the clearest trout rivers around. These trout are veterans. They have seen all types of lines and presentations. When fishing for these trout, I do not think twice before tying on a dry fly and a few feet of nylon tippet. If my presentation is good, and there is no drag chances are the hungry trout will raise to the surface and gobble up my fly.
If a trout accepts a miniscule dry fly tied to a nylon tippet, there is no chance they will turn down a ‘gigantic’ spinner attached to a similar line. Now, I do use fluorocarbon when fly fishing, but only for nymphing and other presentations when I want the line to sink quickly.
Before I finish, I must quickly cover the advantages. It does have very good abrasion resistance. This is always nice, but a high abrasion resistant line is not a requirement for trout fishing. It also sinks rather than float. This characteristics makes it very useful for nymph fishing but it does not make much of a difference when spinning with lures.
Keep in mind, this is only discussing the use of fluorocarbon as a mainline, on ultralight spinning tackle. It is actually quite good as a dedicated leader material, and from what I understand it behaves quite differently when fished with bait-caster style of lures in heavier breaking strains.
Which breaking strain to use for trout fishing
When choosing fishing line for your spinning reel, it is important to match the line with the reel, rod and the size of fish you plan on targeting. Using the wrong breaking strain of line can result in lost fish, reduced casting distance or even a broken rod. All things we want to prefer.
Nearly all rods and reels have a line class line or weight printed on them. In the case of trout reels the line capacity will be printed on it, for example 110yd/6lb, sometimes the dimensions are printed alongside 140m/0.20mm. Line breaking strain is usually in Imperial (sometimes metric) while the line diameter is most often in metric.
Rods normally give a range. Most trout rods are rated for between 2-8lb or 1-3kg. Sometimes, rod manufacturers do not give a line weight, but only the lure weight the rod is designed to cast. So you will see something like 1/16oz-1/2oz instead.
What line weight for stream trout
I suggest using 4lb line for small stream trout, look for a line with a diameter no thicker than 0.008″.
This is an ideal line for targeting the tiny stream trout, such as brook char which live in the foothills of the Appalachians mountains.
Just take care when tightening knots and fighting fish. . There is not much margin of error. If your line suffers from any abrasion, I suggest cutting off the damage portion of line.
What line weight for Steelhead fishing?
The best breaking strain to use for steelhead fishing is between 8-12lb. Most of the time I use a mainline with a diameter of around 0.01″ or 0.25mm. This is approximately 8lb.
Steelhead trout are larger, and fart stronger than most. So anglers use slightly stronger lines. On North American rivers over 90% of steelhead fishermen use line between 8-12lb in breaking strain.
If the river is fast, and the current strong anglers tend to use slightly heavier line to better control the fish. When fishing from boat’s 8lb line can be used. Many steelhead anglers also use a leader of between 10-15lb, but thinner diameter leader spooks less fish in clear conditions.
My preferred lines to use for Steelhead fishing is Sufix Elite
What line weight for Searun trout
I generally use a 0.009″ line (0.23mm) when targeting searun brown trout. This has a breaking strain of around 6-8lb
Searun trout are bigger and fight harder than river trout. So the line used by dedicated fishermen has a slightly higher breaking strain. The ideal breaking strain to use also depends largely on where you plan on fishing.
Some rivers simply have larger, more powerful sea run trout. Such as Lake Thingvallavatn in Iceland or the Rio Grande in Argentina where the trout can exceed 30lb in weight. In such trophy trout waters 12lb line is often recommended.
Can trout see bright color fishing lines?
Fishing line comes in many colors, but for trout fishing conventional wisdom favors clear, less visible line. Many lines have a green, blue or even whitish tinge… I am not aware of the slight variations in color really matters.
People often believe trout do not strike when they can see the line, but that is far from the truth. They normally see micro drag or something else unnatural which convinces them not to strike. So, can trout be caught on high vis orange or yellow mainlines? Probably, but I have never meet anyone brave enough to try. So why take the risk.
These bright colors lines exist to be easier to see. Not only for anyone with poor eyesight but for birds. It is not a big concern for spin fishermen, but bird strike can be a real consideration for some sea fishermen. If you trout fish with high visibility lines I will love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
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