Baits, Lures & Flies photo

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›


I was talking with some fishing friends the other night about “innovations that changed the fly fishing-world.” Think about that for a minute. Of all the technologies that have been applied to this sport, which ones do you think have made the greatest impacts?

The funny thing is, I was fishing today, and I took a break to switch flies. So I sat on a rock, and set my rod down. Then I took off my sunglasses (because I’ve reached a point where I need to do so to thread the eye of the hook). And, I stuck the fly I’d just cut off in the cork of my rod handle.

And then, as I looked down, it occurred to me that my top five list of fly fishing innovations was essentially sitting there in my lap.

I think the number-one innovation in fairly recent history has to be the coated fly line. When Scientific Anglers put a PVC coating around a nylon core in a way that created a durable floating fly-fishing line, it surely changed the sport forever. Imagine using silk lines. I’ve fished with them, but I wouldn’t want to have to dry and treat my line every day, before or after I went fishing. It’s hard enough keeping dry flies floating with gels and powders. Imagine having to do that with your whole line.

Gore-Tex was another major breakthrough. I’ve sweated and stunk up enough pairs of rubber waders and boots to know I don’t want to go there anymore. I can’t imagine fishing now without the benefit of Gore-Tex waders, and jackets and so forth (or those made of other waterproof, yet breathable, materials.

Polarized sunglasses are also in my top five list. I love sight fishing more than any other type of fly fishing. Seeing is not only believing, it makes sight casting possible in the first place. And polarized eyewear has done more to help anglers see fish better than anything. I actually think this is an area where the technologies are still improving by leaps and bounds.

Of course the application of high-performance graphite in fly rods has been a game changer. Let’s be honest: There are many people who can cast farther and more accurately than their natural casting stroke would let them do with a cane rod, or a fiberglass rod. Graphite, as well as the resins used to make rods, have changed the way people cast, often for the better.

And lastly, that little fly represents some technology changes too. The use of synthetic materials like foam, or Krystal Flash, and so forth makes modern flies “pop” more than the traditional fur and feather patterns ever did. Whether you’re a purist or not, you have to admit that modern flies with modern materials work pretty well.

I haven’t decided how I would rank these innovations in order, but I think the fly line would be tops. How would you rank them? And, did I miss something that you would list among the greatest fly-fishing innovations?