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Best Running Line for Shooting Heads

There is always a ton of debate among spey casters about what is the best running line on the market. Which one is the easiest to hold? Which one is the slickest, or the thinnest or the most supple and which one tangles the least… Everyone has an opinion, and this is just mine. But, I am pretty sure I am right.

I have used a million different running lines. Each one usually did well in one category or another but fell short in others. I never found a running line I thought would be hard to beat, until recently.

There are 2 main categories of running line, “Factory” running lines and “Mono” running lines. There are still spey casters out there that love the “factory” running lines. This is crazy. They stink. Factory lines are built just like a fly line, mono core with a PVC or whatever coating.  They are not as slick, so won’t go as far. They are usually thicker, providing more friction, and they tangle like a bastard. The only category Factory runners may excel in is grip during the cast. Some guys tell me they just can’t hold the mono runners, but I find it hard to believe. Mono does not slip that bad. I have never had this problem. They must have no feeling in their fingers or something!

If you have not figured it out by now, I am a mono guy. Mono running lines are justy slicker and go further. That being said there are still lousy ones out there that cost $40 bucks because they are for FLY fishing. Don’t be fooled, not all mono is created equal. I have tried a hundred different runners at least I am sure.

Believe it or not, the best running line for shooting heads on the market right now is made by a bait company, Trilene Big Game. Sweet for us because it is $13 bucks for 370 yds of the stuff. That comes to about $1.30 per 110 ft running line, the standard length of a running line for fly fishing. Other comparable products made specifically for us fly guys range from $17 to $40 for the same length. The difference is a little ridiculous.

The price is great, but the Trilene also outperforms every other line out there that I have tried on the water in recent years. Here are some of it’s best features:

*It is slick as hell, obviously, it’s a mono. It really goes.

*Rated at 40lbs test, it is stronger than the backing, the core of the head, and the leader, so it won’t be the weakest link in the chain.

*The diameter is miked at 0.024, which is no problem to hold onto… For me at least.

*It is the perfect amount of stiffness to keep from tangling. I hate super supple line. This is the tangle factor. Stiffer line like this tangles less.

*Excellent color, easy to see the transition between the head and the runner.

This Trilene Big Game knots really well too. I have used every knot out there to form the loop to attach the shooting head, but have finally abandoned all fishing knots for my roots in climbing. The “Figure 8 Loop knot” can be trusted with your life dangling off of a cliff, it can also be trusted with your fish of a lifetime. Super easy to tie and extremely strong, being small is where the Figure 8 really exceeds, passing through the guides with ease. I use and albright in the back, straight to the backing, no loop to loop.

I usually put about 200 feet of the Trilene, or a little more on the spool, so when I get the inevitable kinkyness from repetetive tangles up front, I just cut it off, tie a new “Figure 8 Loop” in the stuff and I have a brand new line. Beautiful.

I also have to mention Rio’s new Spey Swivels. I love them. It is just a barrel swivel between 2 braided loops. You put it in between the running line and the head. It is unbelieveable how well it does at letting the head spin independently, preventing the running line from getting all twisted and tangled up. I am literally addicted to them and instantly notice when I am fishing a rig without one because the runner is noticeably more twisted and wants to kink and tangle. I can’t fish without them anymore. They are tough as nails too, I’ve had some fish I was sure would blow up the swivel but it held. Really good stuff. Made by a fly fishing company though, they are a real beating at about $10 apiece. To bad they weren’t made by Trilene! Worth it though.

I have been using the Trilene Big Game for a few years now and a Spey Swivel for the last year. Together they are the best there is behind your heads. If there is something better out there I will switch in a heartbeat, but I keep looking and can’t find anything that comes close. Give both a try, you will dig it.


  1. How can say that 40lb test big game Trilene mikes up at .024. They list it themselves at between . 0558 and .061 and I’ve miked up many lines – most of which are thicker than stated on the spool? Iv’e never used a mono running line and was looking for a positive recommendation to make the switch but your over 100% inaccuracy isn’t persuading me.

    • HA!
      Good one.
      I just started messing around with various running lines.
      For the last decade, more and more of my clients show up with them so finally, out of curiosity, I laced up a couple.
      So far
      Nextcast, Catfish Whisker SeekerLines, Varivas are my favorites and on the slightly more traditional side the most recent AIRFLOW running lines are really quite good.
      Now rather than wade deep..cast far…I just wade knee deep and cast far.
      We wont get into mending and other forms of ‘line control.’
      =. )

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