Here's a look at 8 new fly lines for 2019:
Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity | $100
This is it. The best do-it-all fly line for freshwater fishing, especially if you prefer a smooth line. Last year, Scientific Anglers introduced Amplitude lines with a new coating called AST Plus. The coating is slick, more durable than anything else we’ve tried, but regular Amplitude lines are textured. This line has the same AST Plus coating but it’s smooth, and has the best taper to handle a wide variety of fishing situations, from popping bugs and bass, to steelhead, carp, and dry-fly fishing for trout. It’s a half size heavy so it actually loads fast-action rods, and the front taper is steep to powerfully turn over a variety of flies. The long, stepped-down rear tapers help carry line for long casts, and make it easy to mend and control the line at any fishing distance. It’s available in two color schemes—buckskin or buckskin with a stealthy camo tip. scientificanglers.com
RIO Big Nasty 4D Sink Tip | $100
The InTouch Big Nasty Sink Tip line has the same front-loaded weight distribution as a floating Big Nasty. What sets this line apart is a seamless blend of three or four densities (4D) for a smooth transition of power when casting, and none of the hinging normally associated with sinking-tip lines. The line is available in float/hover/intermediate, float/hover/intermediate/sink 3, and a float/intermediate/sink 3/sink 5 configuration. The different densities get you down in different depths and different water speeds. Our tester used the float/intermediate/sink 3/sink 5 Big Nasty in a deep, slow river mouth to catch chrome Alaska silver salmon. While a floating line caught a few fish, the 4D line cut through the wind better, sank quickly, and provided a straight-line connection to the fly for quick, solid hook-sets. rioproducts.com
Amplitude Smooth Trout | $100
For multipurpose trout fishing on a variety of water types, the Scientific Anglers Infinity (page 12) line is a better choice. The Infinity is a half size heavier than the line weight standard and it has an aggressive front taper to turn over indicators, tandem rigs, streamers, and who knows, maybe even a bass popping bug? Amplitude Smooth Trout, on the other hand is best suited just for one task, and that’s dry-fly fishing.
This line is true to weight with a long progressive rear taper that reaches out past 60 feet, which means if you like to fish far and fine, this is your line. Your loop won’t collapse at distances over 50 feet, and the line will turn over neatly with as little disturbance as possible. For gulpers and size #18 Parachutes on Hebgen Lake, for pods of rising trout feeding on spent Tricos on the Missouri, or Ephemerella dorothea hatches on the West Branch of the Delaware River, this is the line that will help you make clean presentations at ranges that won’t spook trout. While the Smooth Trout will throw small nymphs or swing soft-hackles if needed, our tester found it most useful for wading skinny water on big rivers, and especially for casting to risers from a drift boat, where the quarry won’t let you get too close. Available in line weights 2 through 7. scientificanglers.com
Cortland Ultralight Trout Series | $90
The Cortland Ultralight Series (weights 2 through 6) helps throw smooth, controlled loops with delicate presentations at what most people would consider “normal” dry-fly fishing distances. With this line, that means inside of 40 feet with a 2- or 3-weight, and within 45 feet with the 4-weight and larger. If you cast much farther than that with this WF line, you’re into the running line and you lose your ability to mend and control the line to defeat drag and get a natural presentation.
These lines are dead on the AFFTA line weight standards, so a 2-weight (80 grains) is really a 2-weight and the 4-weight (120 grains) is really a 4-weight. That means with most modern “fast-action” rods, you’ll be tip casting at short distances, or you’ll need to overline the rod by one weight. Where this line truly shines is paired with dry-fly-specific graphite rods like the G.Loomis NRX Lite Presentation, the Winston PURE, and especially on fiberglass rods suited for a smooth, relaxed delivery. What makes the Ultralight Trout Series truly special is the long 18' front taper—almost twice as long as other lines in this category to lay down small flies delicately in flat water.
Remember that stealthy thin-diameter lines meant for flat water come with a price: They don’t float as well as buoyant, large-diameter floating lines with thick tips, but the fine taper lands softly, and the narrow diameter makes the line more limp and more flexible, akin to using a much longer leader. Speaking of leaders, due to the long taper and fine tip of this line, look for a leader with a .017" diameter butt section so it closely matches the tip of the fly line and doesn’t create a stiff hinging point. The idea behind the long 18' taper on the fly line is to attach a 12' monofilament leader and essentially create 30' of gentle taper ending at the fly. The tip is aqua green, the body dark green, and the rear taper and running line are pale yellow to help you gauge distances and to load the rod correctly at the appropriate spots. cortlandline.com
RIO Creek Fly Line | $80
RIO’s new Creek line (weights 0 though 4) pairs beautifully with light-line rods in short-distance, close-quarters fishing for the simple reason that it was made to do just that. A specialty line for specialty rods, it’s designed to load at close range for casts as short as 10 or 15 feet—often all the room you have to work with on small streams and creeks.
It achieves this kind of performance in a couple of different ways. The first is a taper strongly stacked toward the front end. With a short 5½-foot front taper backed by a beefier 5-foot body, the WF3F that I tested carries very nearly half its weight in the front 12 feet of line; that’s about 30% more weight than other WF3s I measured. With more mass up front, it takes less line to load the rod. The second reason for the short-range attributes of this line is a bit of a parlor trick, though one almost universally practiced among line manufacturers these days and in this case, I think, justifiable. The #3 line I used weighed in at 125 grains, which is actually at the top end of the #4 grain-weight window. In short, it’s a line size heavier. But for short-line angling, the upsizing makes sense as it acknowledges that virtually every rod, even moderate action ones, can profit from overlining for very close-range presentations. The combination of the overall weight of the line and its distribution toward the tip give the Creek an authority that makes for both easy casting and easy fishing.
Odd as it may seem, the line profile and extra weight of the Creek bring to mind another type of specialty line: the powerful, front-loaded tapers used for delivering big streamers and heavily weighted flies, such as RIO’s InTouch Big Nasty or SA’s Mastery Titan. The casting requirements are the same—good rod load with a short line.
The Creek offers one other advantage in this respect: the short, heavy front end lets you shoot line with a very short backcast for those small-stream occasions when you need a bit of casting distance but don’t have much room behind you. You may not get the range in shooting you would with a standard WF3, but on small water you’ll probably reach out far enough.
That having been said, however, the design of the Creek overwhelmingly favors short-distance, fixed-line presentations, and it’s a superior line for the purpose. rioproducts.com
Cortland Bonefish Tropic Plus | $100
Our tester used Cortland’s newest saltwater line on a recent trip to Andros Island when the weather was marred by clouds and rain. Due to poor visibility, the bonefish often didn’t appear until they were inside of 50 feet—and often much closer. The Bonefish Tropic Plus (6- to 9-weight, dual welded loops) has an aggressive front taper with a 5' tip and 7' body that loads even stiff, fast-action rods quickly for these types of close shots, and turns over straight so you can get the fly in front of the fish and start moving the fly immediately after it lands. The fishing end of the line is off-white with a 20' sky blue section and a 20’ pale yellow section near the rear loop to help gauge distance when the fish runs into the backing. When the sun comes out, the 32' rear taper helps carry line for longer casts, and the Tropic Plus coating stands up to the heat to keep the line shooting smoothly—with fewer tangles—throughout the day. cortlandline.com
Cortland Trout Boss DT | $90
Double-taper lines were eclipsed in popularity by weight-forward designs many years ago, about the time, not coincidentally, that faster-action rods came into vogue. I suspect most anglers felt that the long front tapers loaded faster rods poorly at shorter distances, and they lacked the punch to turn over bigger or heavier flies. Such objections are valid for some double-taper designs, and (with one important provision that I’ll get to) not at all for Cortland’s new Trout Boss DT line.
A few technical details are worth pointing out. Compare the Trout Boss DT with the weight-forward Trout Boss WF, and you’ll find they have the same, short, 6-foot front taper; in fact, they have identical line profiles over the front 26 feet. Within that range (with one important provision that I’ll get to), they provide identical line dynamics. Beyond 26 feet, the DT has some decided advantages over its WF counterpart, at least for some anglers. You can carry more line in the air for more accurate deliveries at a distance and less stripping between casts. The long level body gives greater roll-casting range and better mending both in the air and on the water. And of course the DT line is reversible for twice the life. Interestingly, one end of the Trout Boss DT is hi-vis orange, the other low-vis moss green.
Now for that important provision: The Trout Boss DT3 I tested comes in at 100 grains—a spot-on 3-weight. The WF3 version weighs 120 grains—an unequivocal 4-weight. So for equivalent short-distance performance (inside 26 feet), just choose a DT that’s one line size heavier. While doing so does mean you’re carrying extra weight in the line on longer casts, most graphite rods can handle the additional load, unless the distances are extremely long.
The biggest downside to a DT line is in shooting, and if that’s your thing, go with a WF. But for fishing at average distances, the Trout Boss DT is a solid performer with a very slick, low-friction finish and the economy of two lines in one.
By the way, a shout-out to Cortland for printing the grain weight of the lines on the packaging; it should be standard operating procedure industry-wide. Available in line weights 2 through 6. cortlandline.com
RIO DirectCore Bonefish | $120
With a 50-foot head plus a 12-foot rear taper, this line works best in optimum bonefish conditions where you can see the bonefish at longer ranges and you require a delicate, accurate presentation because the fish are just a little bit skittish. Our tester used the 8-weight version on Espiritu Santo Bay bonefish, and found the 6.5' front taper turns over size #6 Gotchas and other typical bonefish flies delicately with little splashdown effect, though it had a little trouble turning over larger snook flies when those linesiders appeared on the flats.
Bonefish most often eat the fly on a tight line while you’re stripping line, and the fish are swimming toward you. We’ve all had experiences where a bonefish picks the fly up two or three times before you can actually stick the hook in—our tester experienced fewer of these missed strikes with the low-stretch DirectCore Bonefish line and reported feeling the strikes, in addition to seeing them, more often. The hard, tropical coating stood up to the Mexico heat and the line was particularly good while wading because the running line has a larger diameter (.041" on the 8-weight), floats better, and is easier to handle than most narrow-diameter running lines that are meant to shoot from the deck of a skiff. rioproducts.com