Rio Gold vs. Airflo Elite Shootout

Rio Gold vs. Airflo Elite Shootout

Both Rio Products and Airflo fly lines have developed reputations of excellence in the fly fishing industry through a time-tested commitment to quality and performance. We offer lines from both manufacturers at the shop, with the belief that each offers advantages to anglers in different situations. This week we are going to take a look at each company’s premium all-around floating trout line: the Rio Gold and the Airflo Super Dri Elite.  Each manufacturer takes a unique approach to the construction of their respective line, and the different technologies utilized in each translate to noticeable performance differences on the water.

Rio Gold

The Facts

Rio fly lines have been manufactured in Idaho Falls, ID since Jim and Kitty Vincent started the company in 1990. The exceptional performance of their lines has earned respect throughout the industry and a reputation as a go-to line manufacturer for anglers around the world. The Gold is Rio’s premium all-around option for trout anglers who want one line that will perform well in a variety of situations. It is designed to cast dry flies, nymphs, and streamers at any distance while providing the exceptional control and floatation essential to nailing the perfect drift and getting fish to eat. The Rio Gold is also available in an In Touch version which is built around a low stretch core to maximize feel and connection to fish and fly.

The above diagram provides a visual on the specific design elements of the Rio Gold in a WF5F line. It is important to note that each of these measurements will vary slightly depending line weight, but that the overall design remains consistent through the full range of Gold lines. The most notable design element of the Gold is its elongated back taper, which increases total head weight, and enables anglers to maintain control and accuracy when casting long distances. The relatively short front taper allows the line to turn over heavy flies with ease, and for precise mends in various conditions. The line coatings are comprised of PVC and a variety of floating agents, descriptions of which can be found below.

The Gold comes standard with both front and back welded loops for easy attachment to backing and leaders and has four different dual-tone color options. A color change at the back of the head indicates the transition to the running line and provides a visual to anglers as to the point at which casting efficiency is maximized. Maxcast, AgentX, and Maxfloat Tip technologies accompany the Rio Gold and are all floating agents designed to improve the overall performance of the line.


  • Maxcast– The coating which repels water and keeps the line clean and floating through extended use.
  • AgentX– Microspheres, which are essential to floatation, are contained in the inner coating of the line. The outer layer is designed to protect the microspheres, adding durability and shooting ability.
  • Maxfloat Tip– A coating specifically designed to eliminate the loss in buoyancy associated with the narrow line diameter at the tip of the front taper.


Airflo Elite

The Facts

Airflo fly lines are manufactured in the UK and hold a historical presence and reputation for durability and performance throughout the industry. Their partnership with Rajeff Sports has led to revolutionary developments in fly line construction methods and materials, resulting in lines that are a pleasure to cast and fish. The Super Dri Elite is Airflo’s offering to the premium, all around trout market, and effectively presents almost any fly on any type of water.

The Airflo Super Dri Elite is built around a more traditional taper design than the extended back taper found in the Rio Gold. The grain weight of the line is truly contained to the body (belly) of the line, and will load rods consistently at distances greater than 35’. The 8’ front taper of the Super Dri Elite will delicately present the smallest of dry flies, without compromising the ability of the line to turn over heavier nymphs and streamers. PVC free coatings used by Airflo create an extremely durable line that will withstand the abuses of grit, UV light, and chemicals found in sunscreens and bug repellents.

The Super Dri Elite also comes with front and back integrated loops for ease of use, each constructed with Airflo’s Micro Loop technology. Airflo also provides a visual to the angler through a two-tone line, which includes a full gamut of Airflo’s proprietary technologies:

  • Super Dri-Airflo’s coating which repels water and grime. The material has an extremely low coefficient of friction enabling it to shoot extremely well.
  • Power Core-The low stretch core which the Elite is built around. With much less stretch than standard fly lines, anglers will have improved sensitivity and connection to fly and fish.
  • Ridge Tech-Micro ridges that run lengthwise down the line to minimize surface area and maximize shooting ability.
  • PVC Free-The Elite’s primary coating material is a polymer that is extremely durable and resistant to damaging chemicals, UV light, and cracking
  • Micro Loop-An extremely smooth, durable, and seamless loop integration used on both the front and back of the Elite

On the Water

Each line is a pleasure to fish, and both deliver in every aspect one would expect a premium fly line too. After all, both are designed with the same purpose in mind and the two lines feel quite similar in most respects. Both mend extremely well and perform as advertised in their ability to cast in a variety of situations. Each will cast a dry fly or a heavy, two fly nymph rig with without resistance, providing anglers the confidence to put the fly where it needs to be.

The Gold stands out in the accurate delivery and feels it provides in short and mid-range situations. The short front taper allows the rod to load properly with a very little line out and gives the angler confidence to cast with accuracy to close and mid-range targets which, let’s face it, are usually the most productive areas to fish. The extended back taper is noticeable when casting at distances greater than 40’. The gradual transition from body to running line does provide additional stability and accuracy and excels when paired with a fast action rod with the power to propel the additional weight (60+ grains) contained in the back taper. The full head weight of the Gold is 208 grains, which can slightly overload moderate action rods when casting at distance.

The Super Dri Elite provides its own set of advantages on the water. The longer front taper means that it is easier to deliver delicate presentations with small dries around spooky fish. The most apparent advantage of the Elite is the ease with which it shoots through the guides. Very little effort will generate line speed with any rod, increasing confidence and accuracy when casting to mid-long range targets. Additionally, the PVC-free Polyurethane coating Airflo prides itself on means this line will perform through heavy use without fail. The Micro Loop technology utilized in the Elite means there is little to no chance of failure at the integrated loops, and each line Airflo makes comes with a 5-year no crack warranty.

Whether we’re throwing caddis dries to sipping redsides on the Lower D and Crooked or heaving two flies 6 feet under an indicator in search of elusive fish on the Metolius, we’re happy to have either line on our reel. The Gold pairs perfectly with many of today’s fast action rod and maximizes casting distance. The Elite is an incredibly durable option and ideal for delivering all around performance, particularly on moderate action rods. Many of us here at the shop own multiple of each line, and enjoy them for their individual qualities.

*All technical information procured through the respective Rio and Airflo websites.

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