Best Shooting Head Fly Line

Best Shooting Head Fly Line - Fly Fishing Atlas

Nothing can take a big streamer fly for a long-distance ride like a shooting head fly line.  Shooting lines can help you to get a quick cast off to that cruising bonefish or blitzing striper.  Whether you are doing the chuck-n-duck with big clouser minnows, or spey casting a fish taco, shooting heads will reach out like no other fly line can.

Shooting head fly lines can be a little confusing.  They are quite different than other fly lines.  So how can you know which shooting head fly line will perform the best for your needs?

That’s why Fly Fishing Atlas brings you our take on the best shooting head fly lines.

Which type of Shooting fly line will perform for your needs will depend on what type of water and which species of fish you are after.  We explain how shooting fly lines work and offer our top choices and explore their strengths and weaknesses.

How Does Shooting Fly Line Work?

Shooting fly line is designed like an extreme weight forward fly line.  Typically the heavy front taper, or shooting head is around 30 feet long.  The remaining portion of the fly line, or running line, is a long section of much thinner fly line that is easily carried forward by the heavy head section.  The combination provides for maximum distance casting with large flies.

Historically, anglers made their shooting lines by connecting two separate fly lines.  For fast action rods, the shooting head portion would be 2 sizes above the rod weight.  That would mean using an 8 weight shooting head on your 6 weight rod, or a 10 weight shooting head on your 8 weight rod, etc.  For shooting heads designated by grain weight, a 7 weight rod would require the head weigh around 250 grains, an 8-weight fly rod/300 grains, a 9-weight rod/350 grains, etc.

Are Shooting Heads the Same As Shooting Line?

Shooting heads are separate from the running line, whereas a shooting line is a single strand of line from running line straight through the head section.  Shooting heads that are separate from the running line are still commonplace in fly fishing today, particularly in two-hand spey casting.

The good news is that fly line manufacturers have designed full-length shooting lines for a huge variety of applications.  So if you don’t want to mess around with inter-changeable shooting heads, just simply buy a full length shooting line.

If you want to utilize interchangeable shooting heads, like used in spey casting, then you’ll want to purchase separate heads and running line.  Two-hand spey casting is quite a nuanced form for fly fishing.  We won’t get into great detail regarding that niche within the larger sport of fly fishing.  But if you are interested in better understanding the use of shooting heads in spey casting, take a look at this video:

Which Shooting Head Will Best Suit My Needs?

Shooting fly lines are manufactured for freshwater, or saltwater fishing.  You also need to select shooting line for warm water or cold water fishing.  You don’t want to cast a shooting line designed for cold water in tropical water.  Not only will you find that your fly line is ridiculously limp, but you’ll likely damage the coating on the line due to the softening effects of the warm water.

Like other fly line, shooting lines and heads come in floating, sinking, intermediate, and sinking tip.  Which particular style you need will depend on what depth in the water column you want to present the fly to the fish.

For top performance and the best chance of success, it is super important that you use your shooting line for the correct application.  Below we offer our top shooting line picks.

Best Saltwater Tropical Shooting Line

Stalking bonefish, tarpon, or permit on the flats is an incredibly fun and popular form of saltwater fly fishing.  Watching a giant tarpon swim within casting range will really get your heart thumping.  But that line-peeling excitement will swim right past if you can’t accurately place a long cast, and make it quick.  Below are our top saltwater tropical shooting line picks.

Full Shooting Line

RIO Tropical Saltwater Fishing Line
7 Reviews
RIO Tropical Saltwater Fishing Line
  • Easy annealing, low-memory core that lays perfectly straight on the water
  • Low-stretch "Directcore" for hard, solid strip sets
  • Mid length head & long rear taper for complete line control
  • High floating running line that will not sink and impede the cast

Best Saltwater Temperate Shooting Line

Constant exposure to the sun, salt, and sand can really take its toll on fishing gear.  Besides rugged conditions saltwater fishing gear also needs to be able to face the brute strength of powerful fish like striped bass and bluefish.  Saltwater shooting lines need to be up to the challenge.  Below we offer our top shooting fly line choices for warm and cold saltwater fishing.

Full Shooting Line

RIO Fly Fishing Fly Line InTouch Striper 30' Sink Tip 300gr Fishing Line, Black-Salmon
3 Reviews
RIO Fly Fishing Fly Line InTouch Striper 30' Sink Tip 300gr Fishing Line, Black-Salmon
  • The ultimate range of sink tip lines for throwing streamers, with ultra-low stretch performance
  • A short, powerful head of 30ft, and an aggressive front taper makes it easy to cast Clousers, Deceivers, and other typical striper flies
  • All fly lines are made with pride in our Idaho Fall facility
  • Line has welded loops on both ends of all lines  for fast rigging

Short Shooting Head

RIO Products Fly Line Outbound Short SHD Type 6 Wf8S6, Black
1 Reviews
RIO Products Fly Line Outbound Short SHD Type 6 Wf8S6, Black
  • Powerful, easy casting Shooting heads that make long distance casts simple
  • The heads are built two sizes above the ASTM standard to correctly load modern rods
  • Anglers Do not need to step up a line size when choosing a line for their rod, as this is done in the design
  • Each head has an easyid loop at the back end for quick recognition
  • All fly lines are made with pride in our Idaho Fall facility

Best Freshwater Shooting Line

Freshwater fishing for big trout, steelhead, and salmon calls for a special type of line.  Freshwater shooting lines and heads will allow you reach out and present even the biggest, chunky streamers to hungry fish.  Below is our top freshwater pick for shooting lines.

Full Shooting Line

Royal Wulff Triangle Taper Fly Line Ivory 8F
10 Reviews
Royal Wulff Triangle Taper Fly Line Ivory 8F
  • Floating 8 WF
  • J3 coating
  • Welded Loops
  • Printed Line ID
  • Yellow & Ivory

Short Shooting Head

Royal Wulff Ambush Shooting Head
2 Reviews
Royal Wulff Ambush Shooting Head
  • The innovative short, fast-shooting Ambush head design loads quickly for multiple casting applications
  • Loops on both ends for quick attachment
  • For single hand, switch, Skagit, Scandi, single hand Spey, and double hand Spey.
  • Floating. Lime Green with 2' Blue back taper

Spey/Switch Head

Airflo Rage Compact Floating Shooting Head 360gr #4/5 Angry Mint
3 Reviews
Airflo Rage Compact Floating Shooting Head 360gr #4/5 Angry Mint
  • Coating: Ultra-Supple Polyfuse XT
  • Core: Power Core
  • Taper: Powerful Front Taper

Best Selling Shooting Lines on Amazon

Anglers who are just getting started in the sport of fly fishing need entry level gear.  Even the most experienced fly anglers usually start with inexpensive fishing gear and upgrade as needed.  With that in mind we wanted to include some good entry level options.  These are Amazon’s top selling shooting fly lines:

Bestseller No. 1
Scientific Anglers Freshwater Shooting Lines, .030" 25# 120 ft Monocore
  • Perfect Shooting Line For Skagit Or Scandi Spey Heads
  • For Exceptional Casting Distance
  • Features The St+ Slickness Additive
  • Minimal-Friction Design Delivers High Speeds And Long Distances
  • Easier Handling With Fewer Tangles
Bestseller No. 2
river peak SH-9F Shooting head Line Floating 30ft (LightBlue)
  • river peak shooting head line #9 (SH-9F)
  • type:floating
  • Length:30ft (about 9.14m) Core:Braided (Dacron) Coating:PVC
  • Please refer to Photo 3 for detailed specifications.
  • This is a brand of Japan called river peak.