There’s perhaps nothing more critical for an angler than fishing line. Sure, fancy rods and reels can help you catch more fish, but even the most top-notch reel is useless if you’re using a fishing line that’s not suited to the conditions. If you want to make the most of your fishing excursions, a basic understanding of the common types of fishing lines and their construction is essential.
Keeping in mind the importance of using the proper fishing line, today, we’re going to discuss a vital question: what is fishing line made of?
We’ll take a look at three common types—monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided fishing lines—to get to know the characteristics of your most fundamental fishing asset.
A Brief History of Fishing Line Materials
But before we get into the materials and construction process of modern fishing lines, here’s a brief discussion of how anglers have created these items over the centuries. After all, angling is nothing new. It’s been around for thousands of years, and people have had to come up with creative fishing line solutions.
We can look to the ancient Egyptians as one such example. They created fishing lines from silk glands, which was quite innovative for the time—not to mention expensive. The Chinese are another example, and they chose to use silk. Another common fishing line material among early civilizations was vine.
But things started to change in the 1850s with the advent of modern industrial machinery. For the first time, we begin to see machines mass-producing fishing lines, though they were still made from natural materials like linen and silk.
And the record of the first lines made from synthetic fibers comes from France in 1884. Fishers used an artificial line made from twisted silk mixed with resin and chemicals, which marked the beginning of the modern age of fishing line materials.
Monofilament Fishing Line
Now that you know a little bit about what anglers used to fashion fishing lines over the years, it’s time to look at how today’s versions are made.
The first type of fishing line we’re going to discuss is monofilament, which is sometimes referred to as just “mono.” Most anglers have probably used monofilament, which is a ubiquitous fishing line thanks to its cheap cost and range of diameters and tensile strengths.
Mono is also known as a “single thread” fishing line. Unlike other lines that use braiding techniques with multiple fibers of material (which we’ll get into in later sections), mono is made from one continuous filament.
The material used to produce the monofilament fishing line is nylon. This type has been around since the late 1930s, which is when nylon was invented.
Fishers back then liked that it had good knot strength and low visibility in the water, but early iterations were a bit too stiff. This stiffness meant that anglers had trouble handling and casting the first mono fishing lines, which is why other options remained popular throughout the 1950s.
In 1959, DuPont refined the technique used to create the monofilament fishing line, and it became more versatile. They introduced Stern, which became a hit among anglers, and inspired other manufacturers to produce their own monofilament versions.
So how is the mono fishing line made?
It’s manufactured from a mixture of polymers that are then heated and extruded through tiny holes—a process known as extrusion. What this process does is form strands of line, which are finally spun into spools.
These spools can be of varying thicknesses, and they’re also available in several colors, such as white, green, blue, and fluorescent.
Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Next, let’s have a look at the fluorocarbon fishing line, another popular option for anglers.
The advent of fluorocarbon is more recent than monofilament, with Seaguar introducing it to the public in 1971. Back then, it was stiff and hard to work with. Over time, the manufacturing process improved considerably, and in the 1990s, the interest in fluoro began to speed up.
Demand took off in the early 2000s as anglers started to recognize the benefits of fishing with fluorocarbon—namely that it’s refractive index is similar to water. Therefore fish have a difficult time seeing it.
If the name of the material in this fishing line sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for that. The term fluorocarbon includes compounds like fluorine, chlorine, and carbon, which you can find in things like Teflon (what keeps food from sticking to your pans) and Freon (a now-banned refrigerant common in air conditioners).
However, in the fishing world, we associate fluorocarbon with a compound called polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF), which is the material used in the fishing lines.
Before we talk about how it’s manufactured, it’s vital to know that PVDF has plenty of benefits for anglers. This material offers excellent:
- Weather resistance
- Abrasion resistance
- Low visibility
- Hooking Power
So how is fluoro created?
Like the monofilament fishing line, it also undergoes an extrusion process. The line is taken through various cooling, heating, and moisture processes, during which time it’s stretched little by little until it reaches its final diameter.
But although the manufacturing process is similar to that of monofilament, the result is quite different. Because its molecules are more tightly packed, fluoro is a much denser fishing line. It’s also heavier than nylon. These differences in weight and density lead to a product that performs quite distinctly from monofilament in terms of visibility, stretch, and durability.
Braided Fishing Line
Up to this point, we’ve only discussed fishing lines that use modern materials. But if there’s one version that has stood the test of time, it’s the braided fishing line, one of the more primitive types of lines used.
They’re so primitive that archaeologists are unsure exactly when or where they were invented. Though braided fishing lines became prevalent in Europe in the early 1900s, they probably date back even further. Nowadays, it’s another popular fishing option for anyone looking for low resistance to abrasion and a line that any sharp object can cut easily.
As you may have guessed already, what defines this type of fishing line is that, unlike monofilament, which utilizes just one strand, braided fishing lines make use of several strands to make the line.
Our ancestors used cotton and linen to create this type of line, although these materials didn’t produce a particularly strong line. And early iterations in Europe utilized horsehair, which wasn’t a whole lot better in the strength department.
All that has changed nowadays, however. Scientists began experimenting with human-made materials, and as they did, some popular alternatives emerged.
Nylon remains one of the top choices to include in braided fishing lines, though you can find plenty of other synthetic blends. Some common examples are Spectra, Dacron, and micro-Dyneema. All of these synthetic materials are light, but at the same time extremely strong. Indeed, braided fishing lines are generally one of the most reliable kinds you can find.
Besides its strength, braided lines offer anglers plenty of other benefits, such as:
- High knot strength
- Lack of stretch
- High flexibility
- Ease in casting long distances
While you can use whatever material you prefer, the manufacturing process for braided fishing lines is the same. You take the materials and braid or weave them together to create the line. This process typically begins with the base fiber (which is usually monofilament, but it can also be fluorocarbon).
A critical part of achieving the proper strength to diameter ratio is the braiding pattern used. The braiding design standard in older versions was generally flat, but shapes today have branched out a bit. Some are still flat, but you can also find round and oval versions.
Nowadays, the recommended way of manufacturing braided lines is in asymmetrical weaves in oval shapes. If you want the weaves to be symmetrical, the shapes should be rounder. But regardless of the pattern utilized, a quality braided fishing line should have the lines interwoven as tightly as possible, which increases its overall strength.
When done correctly, the result of this process is a line that generally has anywhere from 1/3 to 1/4 of the diameter that monofilament or fluorocarbon lines have at the same test breaking strength. You can get a lot more braided fishing line on your spool than with the other two types while still maintaining the same strength.
Braided fishing line is not without its drawbacks, however. The main disadvantage to this type is that it’s hard to knot correctly, and it’s also highly visible to fish—which is why most anglers attach a different kind of line to the lure.
As you can see, fishing line has significantly evolved since its humble beginnings, and people who enjoy the sport now have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to fishing lines.
We hope you found this discussion of how a fishing line is made useful and that you have learned something that will make your fishing excursions more fruitful.