Lake Fishing with Full Sinking Lines by Danie Erasmus

Lake Fishing with Full Sinking Lines by Danie Erasmus

Many dedicated still water anglers regularly use full sinking lines. These lines are effective at presenting flies to imitate leeches, dragonfly nymphs, damsel nymphs, mayfly nymphs and even scuds. Full sinking lines are also excellent when trolling flies in lakes.

 As the name suggests, full sinking lines sink from end to end. Rated for different rod weights, these lines have a weight forward taper, but they also come in different sinking rates designated by the type/sink number. 


Type (Sink)

Sinking rate





Type 3 (III)


Type 4 (IV)


Type 5 (V)


Type 6 (VI)


Type 7 (VII)



Full sinking lines are usually darker colours, such as dark green, blue or grey. Hover lines are much lighter in colour, and many intermediate lines are clear and look like thick monofilament line.

These different sinking lines allow still water anglers to fish subsurface at different depths and retrieval rates, and imitate different types of fish food.

Intermediate and hover lines sink very slowly, usually one to one and a half inches per second. These slow sinking lines present flies two feet below the surface. These lines are very effective at presenting mayfly and damselfly nymphs which then travel parallel to the water surface.

After a floating fly line, the most popular fly line among still water anglers is a type 3 full sinking line. A type 3 line sinks down to the bottom of 10 to 15 feet of water fairly quickly. Its sinking rate allows for a variety of retrieves, from slow hand twist retrieves to faster strip retrieves, and allows the angler to use flies that imitate leeches, minnows, mayfly nymphs, scuds and dragonfly nymphs. Type 3 lines are also very popular with anglers who troll flies. Type 4 lines fulfill a similar role as a type 3 line except they sink a little faster.

Type 5 to 7 lines sink very fast. These lines are used to fish in deeper water or fish fly patterns a little faster. These lines are effective at fishing flies imitating leeches and dragonfly nymphs. They are also popular when fishing attractor flies such as Booby flies. 

Sinktip fly lines are very popular among river fly anglers. However, these lines are not a common sight on lakes as they are not the most effective at presenting subsurface flies. Many anglers who start out using a sinktip line soon realize the advantage of using full sinking lines.

Over the last few years fly line manufacturers have developed double density and triple density fly lines. These fly lines have sections that sink at different rates. For example, a line with a 3/5/7 designation is designed to have a type 7 sinking section at the fly end, followed by a type 5 in the middle and a type 3 towards the reel. These lines allow the tip to sink faster to where the fish are without the line sinking too fast near the rod. There are many different combinations of these lines on the market. 

When getting into full sinking lines for still water fishing, keep it simple. Start with a type 3 line and get used to fishing it. From there, add to your repertoire as your need for different lines expands. Remember that you will need an extra spool to switch lines on your rod, or another complete outfit for a second line.