Making a Balance to Weigh (Identify) Fly Lines

A simple balance for determining fly line weights can be made from a Yard or Meter Stick. Since, in the USA, a Yard Stick is more likely to be found in the home I will describe the procedure for using a Yard Stick. If you are an ammunition reloader you probably have a balance to weigh things in grains (7000 grains per pound or 437.5 grains per ounce) or Cotland markets a neat little pocket spring scale for determining line weights (about $20) in which cases you won't need to make a Yardstick Balance.

Drill a small hole (1/32" or 1/16") very near the edge of the stick at the 18" mark and tie a short piece of Dacron line to the hole (put a loop in the line, if you like, to help hold the stick aloft). Using a Hacksaw blade cut a notch, 1/16" deep, in the top edge of the stick at the 32" mark. Hold the stick aloft using the Dacron line and if it does not balance (both ends at the same height is balance) add pieces of masking tape to the high end until balance is obtained.

Make a loop of Dacron line about 3" in diameter, crimp a lead #1 Cannon Ball split shot , two BB split shot and one micro split shot to the loop (The Cannon Ball shot is close to 0.37" in diameter and the BB is close to 0.2" in diameter and the micro is close to 0.125"). Don't use the shot with press to remove stems and be sure they are lead. This makes a balance reference weight of about 100 grains. Now slide the Dacron loop onto the yardstick and let it detent into the notch, at 32". Make a second small loop of Dacron and girth hitch it to a line to be weighed. Slide this loop, with line attached, onto the end of the stick opposite the split shot "standard weight" and holding the center piece of line to elevate the balance move the line loop along the stick to find the balance point. Be sure to weigh only the first 30' of the fly line because that is the length used to establish the line number.

The split shot "standard weight" is about 100 grains (close enough for what you want) and is located 14" from the center of the stick. The weight of the line, in grains, can be calculated by dividing 14 by the distance the line being weighed is from the center of the stick and multiplying the result by 100. The reason the "standard weight" was placed at 32" was to allow weighing lines less than 100 grains.

By calculating the position for the various line weights in advance you can mark the positions on the stick and not have to calculate each time.

Greater accuracy can be had by weighing a piece of lead core line and adjusting it to 100 grains , by cuttting it back a few inches/cm at a time (fly tying lead wire or sinkers, etc. can be used instead of lead core line). If you know someone who is an ammunition reloader have him weigh the "standard" and adjust it to 100 grains. Otherwise go to an electronics super market (like Fry's) and find the small platform balances they sell for $100 to $200 and try one out by standardizing your standard (-:


The AFFTA wt is the wt of the first 30 ft of line, including the taper.

Line #     wt in grains    Line #       wt in grains

   1 ............ 60 ± 6
   2 ............ 80 ± 6           9 ............. 240 ± 10
   3 .......... 100 ± 6         10 ............. 280 ± 10
   4 .......... 120 ± 6         11 ............. 330 ± 12
   5 .......... 140 ± 6         12 ............. 380 ± 12
   6 .......... 160 ± 8         13 ............. 450 ± 15
   7 .......... 185 ± 8         14 ............. 500 ± 15
   8 .......... 210 ± 8         15 ............. 550 ± 15


437.5 grains/oz
15.431 grains/gram
28.40 grams/oz

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© 1999, Bill Nash