How to Choose the Correct Shooting Line

Topher Browne


Have you ever wondered why RIO Products manufactures four separate shooting lines for use with shooting heads? Standard fly lines feature a one-piece design with a smooth, integrated transition from the shooting line to the weight-forward head. Shooting heads require a separate shooting line, which is attached with a loop-to-loop connection. Choosing the correct shooting line affects the distance that you cast, the control you have over your fly, and ultimately the number of fish that you hook.

RIO ConnectCore Shooting Line is the correct choice for most shooting-head applications. Available in four thicknesses (.026”, .032”, .037”, .042”), ConnectCore has virtually no stretch, allowing the angler to instantly detect subtle takes. The orange handling line is slightly thicker, adding overall durability and ease of handling in cold conditions. The orange handling line also allows the angler to easily “dial in” the correct amount of overhang (shooting line outside the tip of the rod) before the next cast. ConnectCore has factory loops at both ends, and may also be reversed if you prefer a standard color transition to your shooting head.

RIO Powerflex Max Shooting line is an excellent choice when you desire some stretch in the fly line. Available in four thicknesses (.024”, .030”, .035”, .040”), Powerflex has an elasticity of approximately 30 percent, which provides a hedge against break-offs when fishing light tippets. Many anglers also prefer the feel and the “hand” of a traditional shooting line. Powerflex Max has factory loops at both ends of the line to facilitate easy rigging.

When ultimate distance is required, RIO’s SlickShooter is a hard nylon shooting line that flies farther than standard coated shooting lines. Available in four sizes (25-pound, 35-pound, 44-pound, and 50-pound), SlickShooter facilitates long effortless casts due to its extremely low coefficient of friction and its unique oval shape.

RIO GripShooter improves upon the handling characteristics of SlickShooter with the addition of a thick, coated section, varying in length from 16 to 19 feet. Available in four sizes (25-pound, 35-pound, 44-pound, and 50-pound), GripShooter combines the ease of handling provided by coated shooting lines with the extreme “shootablility” of hard nylon shooting lines. GripShooter also features an eight-inch welded loop at the front of the line, permitting fast and easy shooting-head substitution.

When fishing a floating shooting head such as the RIO Scandi or a floating shooting head with a sinking tip such as the RIO Skagit Max, I prefer RIO ConnectCore Shooting Line with a thickness of .032 inches. ConnectCore is easy to handle and shoots exceptionally well. It is also easier to mend than comparable hard nylon or monofilament shooting lines, which can be an important consideration for speeding up or slowing down the fly once the line is on the water. The ultra-low stretch of ConnectCore also transmits subtle takes with precision.

When fishing for large salmonids with heavy tippets (in excess of 20-pound breaking strength), I prefer 50-pound RIO GripShooter. I use heavy tippets not for their breaking strength but for the additional abrasion resistance that these thicker monofilament and fluorocarbon materials provide. As a general rule, the breaking strength of the tippet should not exceed the rated strength of the shooting line. For outsized anadromous species, 50-pound GripShooter allows for a measure of security in case you need to break off your fly at distance.

I prefer RIO SlickShooter when fishing full-sinking shooting heads such as the RIO Intermediate Scandi Body or the RIO Skagit iFlight Shooting Head. SlickShooter has a subtle sink rate, which allows the shooting head to swim a little deeper. I also like the nice, straight pull that I get on the fly when using a sinking shooting line in combination with a sinking shooting head.

Under ideal conditions, RIO SlickShooter and RIO GripShooter shoot farther than coated shooting lines. Under less than ideal conditions—deep wading when you are managing forty or more feet of shooting line—you may discover that a coated shooting line (such as RIO ConnectCore or RIO Powerflex) actually shoots farther than a hard nylon shooting line (such as SlickShooter or GripShooter).

When making long casts, it’s inevitable that some of the shooting line rests in the water. As both SlickShooter and GripShooter sink, any loops or coils of line that sink below the surface of the water affect your ultimate distance. Shooting lines that float are simply easier to remove from the water than shooting lines that sink. If you are not comfortable holding multiple large loops of shooting line, you may find that a coated shooting line shoots farther than a hard nylon shooting line.

Choosing the correct shooting line for your shooting head affects the distance you cast, the control you have over your fly, and ultimately the number of fish that you hook. Coated shooting lines (RIO ConnectCore and RIO Powerflex) provide the best combination of handling and general performance for most applications. Hard nylon shooting lines (RIO SlickShooter and RIO GripShooter) deliver ultimate distance, providing you manage large coils of shooting line effectively. With four shooting lines on offer, RIO has a shooting line to satisfy your every angling requirement.