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Rio Fly Line Dual - The Best of the Indicator Lines

Opinions abound on which fly line is the best for fishing with an indicator. Trek Tech’s fly fisherman, Andrew Borgic, places two of the leading indicator fly lines, the Rio Indicator and the Rio Steelhead/Salmon, on the water to settle which is the best at catching fish while nymphing.

Testing of the two lines was performed over 3-months on the Lower Sacramento River (large tail water typically varying from 3,750 – 14,000 CFS) in Redding, CA while wade fishing for rainbow trout. The indicator setup used during testing included (from the top) a large Boles FloatRite Indicator, 10-feet of 3X line to a 1.6g split shot, 18-inches of 4X to the first fly and then 12-inches of 5X to the second fly.

Rio Indicator WF8F, $75,

The Indicator is touted by Rio as being the “best line for fishing with indicators”. The Indicator sports an aggressive front taper for turning over heavy nymphing rigs and has a unique white body with a bright orange tip to help spot takes. The WF8F Indicator line has a total line length of 100’ and a 30’ line weight of 240 grains.


Rio Steelhead/Salmon WF8F, $75,

Specifically marketed to steelhead and salmon fishers, the Steelhead/Salmon line has a long head and rear taper to help the fisher mend line at greater distances. The WF8F Steelhead/Salmon line has a total line length of 110’ and a 30’ line weight of 218 grains, making it lighter than the Indicator line.



Here’s how each line performed in each of the following categories:

- Casting -

Winner: Rio Steelhead/Salmon

The Steelhead/Salmon line takes a little more oomph to pull the line off the water initially, but once the line is in the air it sings through the guides loading a fast-action 8-weight rod easily. The Indicator line felt a bit sluggish and heavy compared to the Steelhead/Salmon line.


 - Stack Mending - 

Winner: Rio Steelhead/Salmon

When stacking line I want to effortlessly flick the rod and send a tight roll of line to settle just upstream of the indicator. The Steelhead line was the easiest line to do this with. As I switched back and forth between the two lines during testing, the Steelhead line continued to deliver more line, more effectively, at longer mending distances than the Indicator line did.


 - Versatility - 

Winner: Rio Indicator

As we fish we encounter different river/stream features including riffles, long runs, deep holes and such that are not best fished utilizing an indicator setup. When tested under these various conditions, the Indicator line was the clear winner. The Indicator’s bright contrasting colors helped detect light strikes while swinging nymphs in shallower runs and its added weight helped achieve the desired “J” sag quickly while high sticking pocket water.


The Bottom Line: Winner is the Rio Steelhead/Salmon

The Rio Steelhead/Salmon line’s ability to be casted smoothly and stack mend at incredible distances seals the deal to award it as the overall winner of the “Best of the Indicator Lines” throw down.

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