Sinking Lines

Most sinking lines are weight forward. Shooting heads can also be either floating or sinking. The primary difference between the weight forward and the shooting heads is that the shooting head has a separate running line behind it that tends to be a smaller diameter than most weight forward running line components. Thus, a shooting head will usually go to deeper depths than a similar sinking line due to less line resistance. There tends to be about six sink rate categories for sinking lines. Not all of them are equal between the manufacturers. The Uniform Sinking lines will sink as a straight line between the fly and the rod. This is mostly a stillwater-type of line. The Shooting heads can be used in either stillwaters or large streams. They were developed primarily for salmon and steelhead streams. The Sink Rate is based upon a stillwater situation. Therefore, any current within the streams or the speed of trolling in a float tube will affect the effective depth of the line. Theoretically, all of the lines will reach the same effective depth if left at a dead drift. The sinking rate differences will only reflect the speed at which the line sinks. Some guides prefer to use slower sinking lines such as Type I or II in stillwater depths up to 20'. They will countdown the time for the fly to reach a certain depth based upon the line rating before using a kick troll or a line retreive. The advantage of the slower sinking lines is that they remain within the fish zone for a longer period of time.

A guide to this sink rate classification and the effective stillwater depth is as follows:

TYPE CHARACTER SINK RATE (inch/second) Effective Depth
1 slow (intermediate) 1 1/4 - 1 3/4 ips 2' to 4'
2 fast 2 1/2 - 3 ips 3'-6'
3 extra fast 3 1/2 - 4 ips 5'-10'
4 super sinker 4 1/4 - 5 ips 10'-20'
5 super fast 5 1/4 - 6 ips 10'-20'
6 extra super sinker 6 1/4 - 7 ips 15'-25'

Sinking Lines

Model Weight Color Front Taper Body Rear Taper Head Length Run Length Sink Rate/Depth
S.A. Sonar Titan WF8-WF11 Class III,V,VII Olive/Charcoal/Black 1.0' 25.0' 1.0' 35.0' 65.0' 4.0-7.0 ips / 15-25'
S.A. Sonar Cold Sink 25 WF5-WF12, Class V Charcoal Tip 1.0' 25.0' 1.0' 25.0' 55.0' 4.0-8.0 ips / 10-15'
S.A. Sonar Seamless Density, I-3 WF4-WF8, Class I Pale Green/Dark Green 6.0' 24.0' 5.0' 35.0' 70.0' 1.25 ips / 2-4'
S.A. Sonar Seamless Density, 3-5 WF5-WF8, Class IV Dark Green/Charcoal 6.0' 24.0' 5.0' 35.0' 50.0' 5.0 ips / 10-20'
S.A. Sonar Seamless Density, 5-7 WF7-WF8, Class VI Charcoal/Black 6.0' 24.0' 5.0' 35.0' 50.0' 7.0 ips / 15-25'
S.A. Stillwater Hover WF5-WF7, Class I Pale Green/Surf 7.0' 23.0' 4.0' 35.0' 50.0' 1.0 ips / 1-2'
Airflo Sixth Sense Intermediate

WF5-WF8, Class I

Translucent Olive
Translucent Green
20.0' 16.0' 10.0' 46.0' 59.0' 0.5 ips / 2-4'
1.5 ips / 2-4'
Airflo Sixth Sense Sink WF6-WF9, Class III, V, VI Dark Green/Aqua
Dark Blue/Pale Blue
20.0' 16.0' 10.0' 46.0' 59.0' 3.0, 5.0, 7.0 ips respectively
Airflo Camo Clear WF5-WF8, Class I Clear Camo 20.0' 16.0' 10.0' 46.0' 59.0' 1.5 ips / 2-4'
Cortland 444 Full Sink WF5-WF9, Class III Dark Brown 6.0' 20.0' 6.0' 38.0' 57.5' 3.5-4.0 ips / 9-15'
Cortland 444 Full Sink WF5-WF8, Class VI Black 6.0' 20.0' 6.0' 38.0' 57.5' 6.25-7.0 ips / 15-25'
Cortland 444 Clear Camo Line WF4-WF12, Class I Clear Camo 6.0' 7.0' 28.0' 42.0' 48.0' 1.25-1.75 ips / 2-4'
Cortland 333 Sinking WF5-WF9, Class III Dark Brown 10.0' 25.0' 6.0' 42.0' 48.0' 3.50-4.0 ips / 9-15'
Cortland 444 Clear Intermediate WF6-WF8, Intermediate Clear 8.0' 7.0' 28.0 43.0' 48.0' 1.25-1.75 ips / 2-4'
Cortland Fo-Tech WF6-WF8, Class III, V, VII Yellow/White, Yellow/Gray, Yellow/Black 4.0' 34.0' 6.0' 44.0' 86.0' 3-4 ips / 8-15',
5-6 ips / 5-10',
7-9 ips/15-30'
Rio Fathom 3 WF5-WF8, Class III Blue/Black 6.0' 21.0' 8.0' 35.0' 70.0' 3 ips / 3-7'
Rio Fathom 5 WF5-WF8, Class V Maroon/Black 6.0' 21.0' 8.0' 35.0' 70.0' 5 ips / 5-10'
Rio Fathom 7 WF7, Class VI Gray/Black 6.0' 21.0' 8.0' 35.0' 70.0' 7 ips / 15-30'


Links to Sinking Line Manufacturers

Scientific Angler Logo
Sonar Titan Intermediate Sink
Sonar Titan Sonar Cold Sink 25 Sonar Seamless Density Sonar Stillwater Hover  
The Sonar Titan is a triple-density sinking line that is fully tapered so that it casts like a floater but sinks in a straight line to the target. The running line has a sink rate of Type III, the 20ft. section behind the head has a sink rate of Type V and the head has a sink rate of Type VII. The line provides a straight-line sinking connection to your streamer.  The Sonar Cold Sink 25 is designed with a short 25 foot fast-sinking head, the Cold Sink 25 sinking fly line gets flies deep extremely quickly and is paired with a large diameter handling section for excellent line control. Designed for coldwater applications, it replaced the Mastery Wet Tip Express.The Sonar Stillwater Seamless Density lines are a unique departure from the traditional graduated density lines of years past. With a double-density sinking rates and a smooth, seamless transition between each, the Sonar Stillwater Seamless Density lines provide straightline connections to subsurface flies. There are three sink rates to choose, an intermediate/Sink3, Sink3/Sink5, and Sink5/Sink7 which covers a stillwater from top to bottom. The Sonar Stillwater Hover sinking fly line is built with an extra-slow sink rate, the Hover is an excellent choice when it comes to fishing streamers with a slow retrieve through the surface film.
Airflo Logo
Airflo Sixth Sense Sink Airflo Camo Clear
Sixth Sense - Intermediate Sixth Sense Sink Camo Clear    

The Sixth Sense Intermediate sinking line comes in three sinking speeds, 0.5" , 1.0" and 1.5". All within the Class I category. The reason behind the three speeds is that in Stillwater fishing finding the fishes feeding level is one of the critical factors in successfully outwitting your target. The ability to keep a fly at this level during each retrieve just increases your chances of success. The Sixth Sense Intermediate line has a marker system on the line that assists in getting a consistent result of depth on every cast.

The Sixth Sense Sinking line features Airflo's classic Delta Taper design. With its long front taper, it will present flies delicately at any distance without overly disturbing the quiet, still water. Its longer overall length allows for fishing effectively at both long and medium distances. The color-marked rear taper is 10' long to help carry long casts and keep them stable. The Sixth Sense Sinking lines all feature line markers at 10' and 20' as well as the marked "haul zone" to help you know exactly what depth you were fishing when you found the feeding fish.

Camo Clear, When you find yourself pushed up against weed beds, casting flies for the spookiest of trout on a glassy day at the lake, the Clear Camo is the only line you'd want to be using. This line’s blended, Clear Camo color blends in with its surroundings to ensure it wont alarm fish in the stealthiest of settings. This intermediate Camo line is the perfect all-around sneaky line for lake fishing.

Rio Logo
Rio Fathom Rio Fathom Rio Fathom
Fathom 3 Fathom 5 Fathom 7

RIO's Fathom lines are a series of sinking lines designed specifically for the lake angler. Each line has a short, quick-loading head for minimizing the number of false casts, and for quick, easy distance, and a color contrast between the head and the running line to easily show the line's loading point. In addition, each line is built with a Hang Marker that shows anglers when to stop stripping, and when to fish the hang, and features RIO's Density Compensation (except type 7) for complete fly control.


Cortland Logo
Cortland Clear Camo Intermediate
Clear Camo Full Sink Type 3 Fo-Tech 333 Sink (Type3)
The 444 Clear Camo Intermediate is made with a supple, crystal-clear intermediate coating over a mottled monofilament core. Slow sinking and virtually invisible to fish, it’s ideal for still or moving water.The 444 Classic Full Sinking fly line is a premium-performance, slick-shooting, durable line. Equipped with a welded front loop for extra convenience when changing leaders.The FO-Tech sinking line puts your flies deeper in the water column when fish are down. The density compensated sinking material gives you a perfect presentation in the water column. An ideal color change at the head and running line ensures line control and promotes better shoot ability.The 333 Classic Full Sinking line is a Type 3 sinking fly line for fishing in deep lakes and faster rivers. It’s ideal for fishing at moderate depths, while also serving as a great trolling line with a steady drop for perfect presentations to suspended fish.
©2023 Steve Schalla
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