Running Line Roundup

Running line from above
Photo: Cameron Miller

As you’ve probably noticed, since we do a lot of spey fishing for king salmon and steelhead at Alaska West and BC West, we play around with spey tackle a lot.

Our team and most of our guests use Skagit-style line systems most of the time, and these line systems generally allow for the use of a separate running or shooting line behind the Skagit head. We’re constantly in search of the perfect running line. There are a lot of different options out there, and we’ve put together a little summary of the most popular options, with pros and cons for each.

Rio Slickshooter

Pro: It’s slick, and it really shoots. Great for distance-oriented casting.
Con: The thin, flat cross-section can be difficult to hang on to. Kinks are difficult to straighten and result in tangles.
Price: $9.95 for 115 feet

Plain Old Mono, like Berkley Trilene Big Game 40 lb

Pro: It casts a mile. Loops of line come out of the water really easily. Very inexpensive.
Con: The thin diameter can be difficult to hang on to. Some types of mono are quite stretchy (although Berkley Big Game isn’t bad), resulting in less feel and tougher hook-setting.
Price: $7.49 for 370 yards!

Rio Powerflex Core Running Line

Pro: It’s got a really nice feel and is easy to manage.
Con: Not the best for distance. Not the cheapest.
Price: $34.95 for 100 feet

Airflo Miracle Braid

Pro: Great for distance. Very little stretch – great for sensitivity and for setting the hook. No memory – great for small-arbor reels like your classic Hardy.
Con: The braided outer layer is pretty abrasive on the fingers.
Price: $24.95 for 40 yards

Airflo Ridge Running Line

Pro: Good balance of moderate distance and moderate ease of handling.
Con: Not the farthest casting line out there.
Price: $34.95 for 110 feet

Guideline GL Shooter

Pro: Great for distance. Fairly easy to hang on to, fairly easy to manage.
Con: Kinks can become permanent, which is tough given the price.
Price: $25.50 for 30 meters

Monic GSP Level Shooting Line

Pro: Zero stretch. Amazing sensitivity and ability to bury the hook. Great distance.
Con: Some anglers have had problems with durability. Tough on the fingers. It ain’t cheap.
Price: $44.95 for 100 feet

That about does it. The right running line for you is dependent on the rest of your gear, your casting style, the conditions you fish in and the species that you’re chasing. The current favorite of yours truly is…plain old boring, cheap 40 pound mono.

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  1. philip walker says

    I’ve been using new stuff that may or may not be available stateside. It’s made in Japan and is called Varivas Airs shooting line. Breaking strain is 47 pounds so it’s tough. A reel of 100 yards costs 20 pounds in the UK that’s about $30 and that is enough to do two reels.
    When it is new, you need to anchor the front end to something immovable, pull hard and wind it onto your reel under tension, then it won’t kink or tangle. It gives the impression of zero friction through the rod-eyes, just dump 15-20 yards of it beside you on the bank, or put half that length over your pinkie if wading. It’ll shoot the lot !!!
    I will bring some with me in June if anyone wants to give it a try……



  2. andrew says

    Sounds great Philip – I’ve heard about Varivas Air but haven’t fished it myself. Appreciate the input – see you in June!

  3. Graham acourt says

    Just signed up for your weekly news letter and reading through articles I came accross this one on running line . There is a product in the uk made for shock leaders for beach casting called greased weasel , a solid mono that as the name implies feels almost as if it is greased . It comes on 50 meter spools in breaking strains from about 40 lb , by far the best running line I have tried , better than airs and available in different colours . You can easily melt the end if you connect the running line with a braid connection so it won’t slip out when whipped . It’s also cheap !

  4. Matthew Murdza says

    Can anyone provide a concise answer to the “what diameter running line-to-shooting head weight” question? There has to be reason for the various diameters right. Rio recommends the .040″ for 650gr and higher, but why? This is what I’d like to better understand.

  5. andrew says

    Hi Matthew,

    Bigger diameter running lines are easier to handle, but they have more drag so they take heavier heads to shoot well – it just takes more grain weight to pull the thicker line through the guides. That’s the basic idea behind the ‘heavier running lines for heavier heads’ advice.

    Have fun out there!

  6. Rick B. says

    When using plain mono like Berkley Trilene Big Game (40lbs.), is a backing line still required???

  7. andrew says

    Great question Rick. It depends on the size of the reel. I know some folks who fish big reels and don’t need a ton of distance capacity who do just drop the backing and spool it up with mono. I use Dacron behind the running line – but honestly I’ve never measured how much Trilene I could fit on the reel without it. Added to the project list!

  8. says

    Stumbled upon this nice write-up thanks! I really like Rio’s Gripshooter except all of the sizes feature an orange line at the head connection end. A pet peeve for me is just how many running lines are orangey when many so many shooting heads are also some shade of orange or pale yellow (ie Rio’s Skagit Flight). A clearer color delineation at the head sure would make it easier when casting in low light. I end up using Rio’s .035 running line with those Skagit heads just because it’s blue.


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