Dying Fly Lines

Joshua asked about dull colored lines. During the fluorescent wave a few years back, I couldn’t find lines that weren’t so hot they melted the packaging they came in. So I started dying them dull colors. it’s easy to do. In fact, all one needs is Rit dye. Use 2 tsp. in 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Toss the line in for about 15 seconds, the rinse thoroughly in cold water. Don’t fasten the coils of the line with a pipe cleaner, or string or twist-em, etc. If you do you will get a tie-dyed line (I have a couple). Just leave the line in loose coils. Yes you will have to untangle it a bit after dying and rinsing in cold water, but it’s easily done.

Now, about that 15 seconds. The plastics used to make the line will absorb the dye at different rates. Softer plastics take the dye up significantly faster that hard plastics (stiffer–as in salt water lines). So, test the line first—no not that end, dip the back end of the running line in first to get the correct timing. Or, use an old line of the same color and plastic. For most lines the timing is about 15 seconds. Too much and the line will be black—hard to see at any time.

My favorite is to dye a bright yellow line with olive Rit and get an olive yellow line. It disappears against the leaves, but is easy to see on the water. Almost no flash. Dye an orange line with olive and get brown. A white line can be dyed any color you like. Want to dye a “camo” line? OK, coil the line in 18-inch long lengths (the diameter of the coil will be about 6-inches). Hold the coiled line and dip a portion in one color dye. Then dip an undyed section in another color, then a third undyed section in a third color, etc. yellow, olive, and brown make a great “camo” combo—dye a yellow line with olive and then brown, leaving the third section undyed.


The brown line on the left was orange like the one on the right. The olive yellow line—second from left was a bright yellow line—second from the right. Both were dyed with olive Rit. The white line can be dyed a variety of colors.


  1. Joshua Brophy says:

    Now that is taking matters into your own hands! Thanks!!!

  2. Mike Miller says:

    Will the dye ruin the fly line. Like the coating that makes it float and shoot. I use Rio and SF fly lines and Agent X to clean them.

  3. Gary Borger says:

    Hi Mike,
    The dye will not hurt the vinyl in the line if you only keep it in the dye water for 15-30 seconds and then immediately wash it in cold water. I’ve dyed plenty of lines with no ill effects. The “flotant” in lines consists of air-filled microspheres that will not be harmed, even by boiling. Now, having said that. I don’t know the effects on lines that have built in silicon or other materials to make them more slippery. About the time those lines started coming out, manufactures started reissuing lines in greens, tans, grays, and other colors less subject to flash. So, I don’t have any experience in dying the silicon infiltrated lines. My guess is that it will have no effect on them, but try a foot or two at the end of the running line to see what happens. I’d like to hear from you on what you discover.
    My best

  4. Mike B says:

    Great idea, it worked for me. The original color of this line looked like a tracer round shot across the stream. Dipped once in Rit dark green dye for 15 seconds, then re-dipped for another 10 sec.
    –see photo: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/yyHHgVBjl_yKaCSgFE3d1w?feat=directlink

  5. Gary Borger says:

    Hi Mike, That’s great! What line did you dye? I’d like to know so that others might have the benefit of your efforts.

  6. Mike B says:

    It’s been a year, but if I remember correctly the line is a Rio Trout Lt.

  7. Josh B says:

    I recall you talking about a fly line that had grooves in it like a golf ball that eliminated flash and shot better because less of the line was toutching the guides. Can you refresh my memory or am I just going crazy? Thanks GB your the best!.. Still waiting on that DVD collection!!!

  8. Gary Borger says:

    Hi Josh, Yes there was such a line. I designed it for McKenzie Flies years ago. It was a great line, but has since gone out of production. The current Sharkskin line from SA has the same casting qualities and is a better line than the one I designed. All my best, Gary