Selecting a fly line for an exam is a tricky business as you need a versatile line that can cope with all the overhead tasks as well as being very good on spey casts. As with the rods, there are many lines out there that will do the job, but it comes down to personnel choice. Here I will name three that I know will do the job.
The line I used for all my GAIA and IFFF single handed exams was the Loop Opti Stillwater. (6 w/head length approx 32.8ft and the line weight is 14.0g) I have seen this line used by many people for exams and I can’t fault it. It is bright yellow in colour so it is easy for assessors to see and they like that . I will give you some advice here if you decide to go with this line or any other for that matter. I suggest ordering a few lines to make sure you have a sufficient amount to get you through all your practice sessions and the exams just in case it gets discontinued etc . My advice is order a few, check the head lengths and weights as I was buying three Loop Opti lines at a time from one shop and they were coming in a variety of weights and lengths. A little bit lighter/heavier or shorter/longer and the cast can feel totally different once you have got used to a certain head length and weight. The Loop Opti has is a nice feel to it and is definitely worth a try.
I was part of Paul Browns assessment team in 2015. For his IFFF MCI exam he used a Snowbee XS line in high vis which was very easy to see (6w/ 42.5ft head approx and a weight of around 10.8g) His test went very well (credit to him) I made a mental note of the line he used as I am always being asked questions on line selection so I try to stay current and keep an open mind on equipment, even though I am a Guideline Power Team member it is good to try other manufacturers equipment. What I suggest today in this article might not be what I would recommend in 18 months time as new lines will become available that may be better than the ones mentioned here. Twelve months ago I would have chosen the Loop line, for an exam today I would take the Rio Single Spey (just my personal choice). Since Pauls exam I have purchased the Snobee xs line and played about with it to form my own opinion. The line is slightly longer than the other two, so it will handle more line outside the rod tip more comfortably. This line would suit a caster that likes to aerialise more line. Remember most tasks are done under 55ft, apart from the distance and salt water casts, so bare this in mind when making your line selection. This line is excellent for teaching with as students can see it as it comes in a bright orange colour. It is nice to cast and will do all the tasks as Paul showed in his exam.
The line I would choose if I was taking any exam now, would be the Rio Single Spey (6 w/head length 34ftApprox plus 8ft of handling section, the weight is 14.9g) This line is great on all spey casts but also holds a nice tight loop on the overhead casts. Without getting too line technical, some people prefer a longer head which gives them more control on the distance casts. Other people prefer a shorter head and to shoot line for distance, but with the Rio you get a line that will shoot well and with the added benefit of it having 8 ft of line handling section which is quite a bit thicker than the running line and this helps with stability when you are casting with the head outside of the rod tip. The only downside to this line is it is not as visible as the other two lines in this article. This is not a problem when fishing but from a teaching or exam point of view it is better for the line to be high vis so the students/examiners can see it better.
Lines are designed for fishing not for exams, although there is now the odd manufacturer that does design a line with instructor’s exams in mind. It is a mine field choosing the right line but I hope I have given you some ideas. Good luck with choosing the correct line and the exam. If anybody requires further information please don’t hesitate to give me a call.