If you spend a week with a group of spey anglers the debate over the best spey running line will surely be brought up. To start, some anglers call them ‘running lines’ while others refer to them as ‘shooting lines.’ From there, the debate continues into how easy some lines are to hold, how easy some shoot, and of course the memory the running lines possess.
To the fair, there is no perfect running line on the market. After a decade of listening to these debates amongst guides and guests at spey fishing lodges, we’re about as qualified as anyone to put our two-cents out there!
What is Running Line / Shooting Line in Fly Fishing
Modern fly lines are built on a taper. The front section of the fly line is called the head, which often has a slightly larger diameter and higher grain weight than the back sections of the fly line. This allows for easier casting. The back portion is what is referred to as the ‘running line’. For traditional, single-hand fly fishing, the head and the running line are integrated together and just called a fly line. The fly line is connected directly to the backing.
However, when it comes to spey fishing lines, it becomes more complicated.
In spey fishing, the running line is not integrated with the shooting head. Instead the running line is attached between the shooting head and the backing as its own entity. It is attached with loop-to loop connections. Despite the spey style differences of Scandi and Skagit set-ups, both styles use running lines the same way.
The Best Spey Running Line in 2023 Results:
- Overall Winner: Berkeley Big Game
- Best Coated Running Line: Rio GripShooter
- Best Mono Running Line Runner-up: Nám Products HAZUMI Shooting Line
Surprised by the results? Well, we do a deep dive below on our thoughts about each of the most popular running lines on the market today!
Best Mono Running Line
Mono running lines will always be the most affordable option and will provide the best performance. In fact, we wager that every spey guide uses a mono running line!
We do a deep dive into the 5 most-used mono lines on the spey market and review each one individually. See the following chart to quickly compare prices, diameters and shapes of these popular shooting lines!
Things we love about mono: It’s affordable for one. It also has much less friction and is ‘slicker’ while shooting through the guides of the rod. This equates for more distance potential when you need it and higher line speeds. When your line starts to get kinks, aka “memory”, you can quickly cut it out and retie.
This simply means that you can cut out a section (start at the front) of the running line – or rather whittle it back. It’s easy, and tying a new loop to attach your shooting head takes seconds!
Things we don’t love about mono: The memory. Regardless of branding, all mono running lines have some degree of memory and will need to be cut out at some point. Some lines can be ‘stretched’ out – which helps to get rid of memory coils.
Berkley Big Game
Berkley Big Game is dubbed as the best running line for three reasons. For starters, it’s the best deal. You get the most mono at the lowest price point on the market. Seriously, you can replace about 6 reels’ worth of running line from one spool! Secondly, it’s the easiest mono to grip and hold contact too throughout the spey cast. This is because it’s diameter is slightly larger than other mono’s, but not too big of a diameter. Thirdly, we love it because it’s not a coated running line!
Nám Products HAZUMI Shooting Line
Nám’s HAZUMI running line is new on the North American markets, and we’re excited about it! While it hasn’t been around long enough for a consensus of reviews, good things are being said. HAZUMI boasts extremely low stretch ratings, which correlates to increased “swing detection” for soft grabs. This is also promising for low memory and line kinks!
VARIVAS AIRS Shooting Line
The new AIRS running line from VARIVAS is newly upgraded and re-branded! Highly rated for its buoyancy, this line is highly acclaimed by competitive casters. The mono line has six hollow chambers throughout the spool to increase float. Not only that, but there’s a mark halfway through the spool to measure out two reels’ with of running line!
SlickShooter has been around for a while, and is widely used in the industry. It’s easy to get your hands on as a RIO Product. Uniquely, SlickShooter is round in shape, which decreases friction through the line guides of the rod. Not only that, but the shape helps it cut out of the water faster following the trajectory of the shooting head!
OPST Lazer Line
Then Lazer Line from OPST has been increasingly popular for anglers in the PNW. The thinnest diameter of the 40ish lb running line class on the market, the Lazer Line will shoot far! While many people love this factor, some find the thin diameter makes it harder to grip throughout the cast. This leads to gripping the line tighter, which causes kinks and memory. While it does huck far, Lazer Line needs frequent maintenance to prevent memory.
Best Coated Running Line
Most coated running lines, aka shooting lines, run $30-50 USD. They need to be replaced seasonally and fly line conditioner is never a bad idea!
Below, we discuss the pros and cons of coated running lines. We’re 100% biased towards mono running lines, but there is a demographic in the spey community that loves coated running lines! If it gets you on the water and makes your time more enjoyable, go with what works for you.
Things we love about coated running lines: While there are certainly tradeoffs to these PVC and polymer coated shooting lines, they do one thing very well; they’re easy to grip. Cold, numb hands that are unavoidable with anadromous fishing trips have no issues holding this style of running line!
Things we don’t love about coated running lines: They don’t shoot line as far and it’s harder to increase your line speed with coated shooting lines. Simply put, there’s more friction. Also noteworthy, is that when they do tangle and tighten they are a bugger to fix! Often this creates de-gloving from the core and the running line is ruined. When the line is ruined, it’s ruined – you can’t cut it back like mono!
While we do complain about the distance factor with coated running lines, remember that when swinging for steelhead you often do not have to cast far!
The GripShooter by RIO is the top rated coated running line on the market. Why? Because it’s almost like mono. The GripShooter has the first few feet of the running line coated to make for easier handling and grip. However, this coating tapers to regular SlickShooter. It comes with an 8 inch loop weld to make head changeouts quick and simple. Core strengths are rated at 25, 35, 44 and 50 lbs.
airflo RIDGE RUNNING LINE EXTREME
Our friends at AIRFLO have come out with the new Ridge Running Line Extreme made for both salt and freshwater. Core strengths of 20, 30 or 50 lb. Slightly stiffer than other coated running lines, this should tangle less! A 6 inch black loop makes it easy to change out heads and to mark your hang-down prior to casting.