Fly Shop Fluorocarbon too expensive? Try Some Finesse

by | Jan 30, 2019 | 56 comments

I was halfway into the canyon and at the tail end of a full day on the water. The yellow maple leaves had lingered long into the warm fall season, and they fluttered gently in the abounding wind. The fading sun and leaves signaled parallel ends. It was the beginning of something different. And It was perfect.

With maybe an hour left before the walkout, I heard a branch snap behind me. So I turned toward the rustling but continued my tight line drift, leading the nymphs with a high rod hand just to stay in touch.

I found Sawyer standing above me on the tall bank, hands on his hips, smiling and satisfied behind his dark lenses.

“Well, how was it?” Sawyer asked without moving.

“Good!” I replied and pointed downstream. “I caught three off that far bank below, and a couple right next to this . . .”

“No. I mean the fluorocarbon,” he said.

“Oh,” I nodded. “Yeah, I’m sold! I’ll never nymph with nylon again.”

Ten Plus

That was over a decade ago. Earlier in the day, Sawyer had given me his stack of fluorocarbon when I’d lost my own tippet holder, spooled with nylon. Before that day, my skepticism and thriftiness kept me from buying in — from dishing out the $50 – $100 it would take to convert to fluoro, and I thought I did just fine with nylon.

I did. And I’m still not so sure that flouro catches more trout under the surface. Guys use it because it’s less visible and sinks a little better, but I use it because I have the chance to make more casts and keep my line in the water longer with fluoro. Here’s what I mean . . .

I use fluorocarbon for underwater presentations because the material takes more abuse. It’s abrasion resistance and greater strength per diameter allows me to fish more aggressively against the structures where brown trout reside. Sure, I’ll always hang up, but I break off less. Flouro also has an uncanny way of releasing the inevitable twists and tangles of tippet that happen on a trout stream. Where I used to reach for the nippers with nylon, I now expect loose knots and loops to come out with marginal effort — and the few tricks of an amateur magician.

READ: Troutbitten | Let’s talk about tippet — Three questions about the end of the line in a fly fishing rig

Too bad we can’t nymph with this. Photo by Austin Dando


But let’s get back to me being cheap. I’m okay with that. I spend money where I must and cut corners where I can. And most long-term fishermen I know are the same. So the price tag of fly shop fluoro has always seemed a bit much to me, and I keep my ear to the ground for alternatives. For many years, my friends and I have used fluorocarbon that is marketed to gear fishers. We buy three to four times as much fluoro on a larger spool and then wind it onto small tippet spools. I settled on P-Line Halo, FC Sniper from Sunline, or Seaguar AbrazX. These were the best options among a host of other brands tried.

The trouble with these cheaper lines is threefold. Their breaking strength is inferior to the fly shop brands, they’re usually a bit stiffer, and the manufactured diameters only go down to about 4X — usually.

Then a couple of years ago I bought Seaguar Finesse. It was hard to track down when it first came out, because here was a line sold in smaller quantities, with a higher than expected price tag (for the gear guys). But to fly anglers, the 150 yard spool for about $20 was a steal. Easy decision. I bought it immediately, based on Seaguar’s own description and the specs.

Since then, Seaguar Finesse has become my go to fluoro tippet material from 2X to 5X, and a few of my Troutbitten friends do the same. It’s thinner, but stronger per diameter, and is indeed more flexible as described. (It has some finesse.) It’s as almost as good as some fly shop brands and better than many others. And because the type of tippet we use is not what catches trout, I don’t overspend on tippet.

Buy Seaguar Finesse Here

** Note ** This is an affiliate link. Meaning, at no additional cost to you, Troutbitten will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So, thank you for your support.


You won’t find “5X” printed on any of these spool. So look at the diameters. The thinnest Finesse lists at  .0065″, which is right in between the diameter of 4X and 5X. Use a micrometer, though, and you’ll often find a disparity between how all these manufacturers list lines and what’s actually on the spool. I’ve regularly measured 5.2 lb Finesse to be very close to some of my favorite fly shop brands’ 5X fluorocarbon tippet.

Breaking Strength

Remember, the strength of the line at these diameters is what makes Finesse different. It gets real close to the premium stuff. Look at the specs on any line that you intend to use for tippet. (And then break out your micrometer, if you want to be accurate.)

Bottom line: I treat the 5.2 lb Finesse as my 5X, and I go up from there to 2X.

Nothing Smaller?

No. There’s nothing smaller than 5X out there that I would buy outside of the fly shop brands. I had FC Super Sniper in its thinnest diameter, but I couldn’t trust it for my 6X.

So here’s the thing: I still buy 6X fluorocarbon in the fly shop brands — I like Rio and Cortland right now.

My standard nymphing rig ends at 5X (because I don’t like leaving flies on the bottom of the river). But when I nymph with #18’s and 20’s, I do better with 6X. So the name brand stuff is in my vest. But my primary nymph and streamer work happens with the Seaguar Finesse from 2X to 5X.

I’ll mention this too: I continue to use fly shop nylon for all my dry fly fishing, and I don’t see an alternative for that any time soon. The supple high-end lines with greater breaking strengths are worth the nominal extra cost of fly shop nylon.


Seaguar Finesse comes on a bigger spool, of course. And that kind of inconvenience isn’t for everyone. I transfer the Finesse over to empty tippet spools, right out of the box. It takes about fifteen minutes and three spools, but then I’m set for a good long time.

So if that sounds like something you don’t mind doing, try the Finesse.

Fish hard, friends.

Photo by Austin Dando


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Thanks for the tip, Dom. I just ordered some 5.2 lb. Finesse.

    • We’re did you order it from?

      • The link in the article.

    • Cool.

  2. Thanks for the tip. We stopped in Bellafonte last year on the way out to and back from Yellowstone. Beautiful area. Sadly the rivers were all up. Will visit again. Will follow through with an orderly

    • Hi John. Hope to see you sometime.

  3. I do the same thing — with the spools, I mean — except with Berkley Vanish. Works like a charm.

    • What lb.vanish?

      • 2 through 8 lb. Spools of 110 yards are about $7-8 on Amazon. 2 lb. is about 5X; 4 lb about 3X. I use 6 and 8 for bass fishing mostly.

        I almost always start with a nylon 7.5 ft or 9 ft leader and modify from there.

    • So the purpose of the article above is to point out that Finesse is very close in specs to what you find in fly shops. It’s pretty unique in that way, compared to the other big-spool brands. For example, Berkley Vanish, at about the same diameter of Finesse, has way less than half the breaking strength of Finesse. (2lb vs 5.2lb).

      Listed on the Berkley website toward the bottom:

      It’s also a lot stiffer than the Finesse. I bought a spool of .007 once. Did not like.

      I hope you don’t read my comment to mean that I think you’re doing anything wrong by fishing Vanish. If it works for you, then excellent! This is fishing. I only made the comment here to keep the differences clear and be helpful.

      Cheers, Patrick.


      • I get it. I’m going to try Finesse. I do like the stiffness of Vanish for droppers.

        The key thing is remembering which direction to wind the stuff on the empty spool. Harder than it sounds hahahaha

          • So what’s the way to wind the tippet on the smaller spools?

          • Hey Bruce,

            It’s not a big deal, really. Just be sure it goes on the new spool in the same direction as it was wound on the old spool. Check out some youtube videos on how to spool up spinning line, and you’ll see the concept.

            Don’t hand wind either. I put the big spool loosely in between my legs. I run short dowel rod through the center of the small spool and turn the spool, loading the line from the big to the small spool. Don’t need a lot of tension. Just snug is enough.

            You’ll know if the direction is wrong, because the line will start to twist as you spool it. So just flip it around.

            Hope that makes sense, brother.


          • Yes it does. I put spinning line every year on reels. Your technique will be helpful because it’s pretty simple and low tech….a dowel, nice.
            I’ve found round pencils work too, , with the spinning reels. I just have to pick the right time when Susan will help with the proper tension on the spool while I reel up! I’ve learned that the more patient and easygoing I am, the more likely the job will get done right then. Otherwise, it may be a few days before I try again!

    • I use vanish in 4lb that stuff is thin and strong

  4. do you get seaguar for free I’ll take frog hair over anything

    • Hi,

      I’m not trying to tear anyone away from their favorite fluoro brand. I’ve bought Frog Hair too. The Finesse has a listed breaking strength per diameter that is very close to Frog Hair fluoro. And it’s close enough for me to choose it, considering the other qualities that I like about. That’s all, really.

      Do I get Seaguar for free? No. I always disclose that kind of thing if/when it is the case.

      And if you read through Troutbitten a good bit, you’ll find a no-bullshit approach here about product reviews or mentions. I promise.



  5. Thanks for the tip – I’ve been using Seaguar Red Label fluoro for my 4x and 5x on Arkansas tailwaters, landing some hefty browns with no issues.

  6. Definately appreciate the money saving tip Dom! At the beginning of your post you mention you “spend money where you need to”. I’d love to know your thoughts on the things not to cheap out on.

    For me it’s hooks, a few big fish got away by straightening out cheap brands now I use what I trust.


    • Hi NIck,

      Well, yes, certainly I don’t cheap out on hooks. But I also don’t cheap out on the fluor either. That’s my point here, I guess. I don’t like the cheap stuff at Wal Mart. Breaking strength is too low per diameter, and it’s too stiff.

      I also hate cheap boots, cheap waders and cheap zippers on anything.

      Basically, I like good stuff. But I also don’t need the BEST stuff all the time. Know what I mean? And when I do buy the best, I keep it for a long time. I like stuff with a lot of years of wear on it. I kept my XTerra for 14 years and 240,000+ miles. Wasn’t any need to trade up.



  7. Thank you. Good article. I’ve tried some fluoros every now and then but I still come back to mono. Why? Well it was Stroft at first but after I tried Trabucco T-Force I’ve made my choice. The strength of that stuff is insane – so you can go with low diameters.
    And yes maybe fluorocarbon can take more abrasion but I anyway change the tippet very often. The tippet cost with Trabbucco stays low. Overall benefits of Trabucco mono are greater for me. Maybe that Finesse is something to try next summer. Could compare those two… We’ll see.

    • Hi Teemu
      Have you micro’d the T-Force? It’s claimed diameter is pretty unbelievable

      • Justin,
        I’m using T-force tournament tough. It is cheap and very strong (I’m mainly using 5 turn uni-knot). I’ve done several pull test against Rio and Stroft . T-force wins. I don’t know the name of dropper knot I’m using (was on some fishing video. Can’t find it in google search). It’s much stronger than surgeons knot.

        • Ok I’ll give it a try. I’ll be very impressed if it’s anything like the tensile strength for a given diameter it’s claiming.

          • Cool. But why wouldn’t it be? Most of the fly shop brands are that strong. And this is expensive stuff for a non-fly-shop brand.

          • Yeah very expensive! But I’m not aware of any other nylon that comes that close to their claims. If their claims are true I’ll gladly pay the premium. They also print on the packaging that it’s “invisible under water” so their making stuff up from the off.
            For the Trabucco T-Force XPS Power Plus Hooklength stuff:
            0.10 = 3.7lbs that’s 20% stronger than anything else.
            0.16 = 9.4lbs that’s a massive 42% stronger than anything I’m aware of.
            In 0.18 it’s advertised as 11.9lbs which is 98% stronger than Orvis’s super strong plus advertised 6.0lbs. The super strong doesn’t have the highest strength but many people seem familiar with it.
            I can’t figure out if Trabucco are manufacturers or respoolers?

          • Justin,

            The Seaguar Finesse is fluorocarbon, not nylon.

          • Dom
            I think we’ve got cross wires. When I said “I’ll be very impressed if it’s anything like the tensile strength for a given diameter it’s claiming.” I was referring to the Trabucco nylon claims.
            The Seaguar Finesse fluro looks a solid buy.

  8. Thanks for this recommendation. I have tried almost every budget fluoro non-leader line out there in 0.007″ (vanish, seaguar red label, seaguar invizx, basspro/cabelas brands, etc.) and they are all inferior in terms of breaking strength and handling, looks like the finesse has great strength at 0.065″ and 5.2lbs. Also, I’m glad that you busted out the micrometer to check that the diameter is accurate and consistent across the length of line.

    I will say that for smallmouth or saltwater fly fishing, the cheaper stuff works very well. I’m throwing 10 to 25lb fluoro tippet and the extremely stiff nature of it is actually an asset in turning over clouser minnows, really heavy saltwater streamers, etc.

  9. Thanks Domenick, just ordered some too.

  10. Do the spools snap together like fly shop brands? If not, Do you have are any suggestions on the best way to make them easy to get to while you are on the water? Thanks

    • Hey Steve,

      No they don’t snap together. Check out the last paragraph for how I carry the fluoro. You skimmed!


  11. As ever nice find. Not looking easy to find outside of the US.
    After 10 years of fluro use for nypmhing I fished stroft LS a lot last season. I’m 50/50 right now. In back to back tests the knot strength for a given diameter compared to any fluro is hard to argue with and it has many of the same properties being stiffer than many nylons.

  12. Domenick,
    Great article. I too am constantly spooling fluro from the big spool to empty tippet spools. I even made a funny little tippet spooler that allows you to “reel” up the little tippet spools to reduce any line twisting.
    I tried Seaguar’s Finesse last summer and had great results…. at first. I too thought I had found the magic bullet alternative to overpriced fly shop tippet (that has its own demons and pitfalls on the water), but after a few weeks the line got incredible weak and brittle, losing me some really nice fish. Now I know its a no-no to leave fluro in the sun so I’m not the kind of guy that throws my spools on the truck dash board, but inevitable the line will be exposed to some sun and some heat and that could be root of the problem. Either that or I got a bunk spool from Seaguar. Have you had any of these issues of weakness over time? Since I have gone to Seaguar’s Invisi-X with zero problems but it doesn’t have the same strength to diameter that the finesse has.

    • Hi Brett,

      Nah, I’ve never experienced anything like that with any of the Seaguar lines.

      Also UV light has no effect on fluorocarbon. It degrades nylon but not fluoro.

      Don’t know what to tell ya. But I and a handful of my buddies who fish a ton haven’t seen anything like what you’re describing. You can check around on the web too. There’s no such issue with Finesse.

      • Thanks Dom,
        I will take your word for it and give it another try as it did seem like the magic bullet until I had problems. I will report back.

  13. Dom, great suggestion. In your experience what are the best knots when tying fluoro to fly? Also, do you use different knots when nymphing vs fishing streamers? Thanks again.

  14. So I know that lots of guys have their own brands they’ve used for years. For me, it was always about finding the highest breaking strength per diameter, because that’s what makes fly shop fluoro unique, and it’s always been way stronger that the big box stuff — until now.

    My point in the article above is that Seaguar Finesse is far stronger than Vanish, and it’s stronger than the P-Line Halo and Seaguar Abrazx that I used to use. 5.2 lbs at .065″ is a lot stronger, really, than 4 lbs at .07″. I also find it more supple than the others. So it’s a better buy, overall, for me.



  15. I’m just getting into euro nymphing. Well the Seaguar work well? I currently use SA 6x and 5x mostly.

  16. Dom, Do you know of any site or store which sells empty tippet spools? I haven’t saved any of my old, used spools. I suspect using Loon rigging foam doesn’t have a deep enough groove and circumference to act as a tippet spool for 30 yds of Seaguar Finesse.

  17. For smaller sizes, has anyone considered Seaguar Blue Label? It is available down to 2lb, .005 . Likely the saltwater series is too stiff for tippet.

    • Hi Michael,

      For me, 2lb 6X is not strong enough. It’s also much stiffer than brand name fluoro, as you mentioned. When I go below 5X, I stick with fly shop fluoro, because that’s when I need the extra strength and flexibility, per diameter.

      Those are my thoughts.


  18. I got Finesse in 5.2 lb. and the next size up, whatever that is. Have tested the 5.2 on little blue lines. I was worried that the additional flexibility (compared to 2 lb. Vanish) would result in wrap-around tangles but there was no problem there.

    So far so good, then.

    Next test is on bigger water — Housatonic or Farmington.

    Of course I still have a bleepload of Vanish sitting around.

  19. Hi Domenick,
    Do you use the 5.2 lb. Seaguar Finesse for both 4x and 5x? About all I nymph with is a 4x dropper with a 5x point fly or I tie the 5x on the bend of the 4x.
    I hope you’re well,

  20. How stretchy is seaguar fluoro? I find that stretchiness helps prevent break offs. What do you think? Thanks!

    • Hi Ethan,

      Because it’s a bit more flexible than standard fluorocarbon (hence the name Finesse) it also stretches a bit more. But not a whole lot. For me, it’s just right.


  21. Great article, Dom. Seaguar Finesse is all ever I use now; I’ve gone thru 2 spools each of the 5.2lb and 6.2lb already.

    But, recently I’ve had trouble buying more. It’s either gotten really expensive, like $34 on Amazon for 6.2lb ($24 + $10 shipping), or not in stock at all like the 5.2lb which Amazon doesn’t even list anymore.

    Anybody know what’s happening to the supply of Seaguar Fluoro?

      • Thanks for the update, Dom. Yes, very sad. What are you going to use now? Go back to expensive fly shop fluoro?

        When you find a worthy substitute, please let us all know.

        Your tips and lessons have been amazing, I’ve learned a ton from you. Thanks for your dedication to the sport.

  22. I hate to seem pedantic, but there is an order of magnitude difference between ‘0.065’ and ‘0.0065.’ I searched the whole page and there doesn’t seem to be a comment pointing out this error.
    4x ~ 0.007
    5x ~ 0.006
    6x ~ 0.005
    This means the line is 0.0065” which is between 4x and 5x.
    BTW: I love your articles and I will buy from the affiliate link. I wish you guys had more affiliate links.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks very much for catching this error. Yeah, I’m surprised no one else did until now. And I totally agree — it matters!

      Changing it in the article above now . . .

      Also, because Troutbitten is just me (Dom) I rely on the good eyes of people like you to find these errors. I hope everyone feels comfortable to let me know when you see something that needs to be changed.

      Lastly, you can find all affiliate links on the Recommended Gear page, here:

      Thanks again for the support.



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