New technology fuels new fly lines.
When I got started in fly fishing, a crotchety old-timer told me that the only line I'd ever need was the top-selling floating trout line of the day. He couldn't have been more wrong. While many rods and reels are multipurpose and multi-species, fly lines are perhaps our most highly specialized pieces of equipment. Apart from our flies—which are hyper-specialized to meet specific hatches—fly lines should be the most carefully considered pieces of your presentation.
If you're the type of fly fisher who fishes only one river using a single method, then maybe you can get away with just one good trout line. But if you like to switch from drys, to nymphs, and then to streamers, and you travel abroad to different rivers and lakes and even salt water, you'll want lines designed for each situation.
Modern fly lines are more than just specialized tapers. Everything about the lines is engineered for a specific purpose—from the core, which is the inner "skeleton" of the line, to the outer coatings, which are designed to work best in specific temperature ranges. Here's a few new lines that will help you catch more fish—but only if you use them in the right situations.
Cortland Big Fly $75
Cortland's low-friction Precision Shooting Technology (PST) was introduced first in the popular Trout Boss, and later in the new-for-2014 Carp Boss and Salmon/Steelhead line, but nowhere is it more noticeable — or more important — than in the Precision Big Fly. The floating line has an aggressive front taper and overweighted head to load rods quickly, and throw giant bass and pike flies with minimal false casting. But that taper won't get you far if the line tangles or you've got a soft line that gets gummy in hot weather and produces friction in the guides. The Big Fly starts hard and slippery, and stays that way so you don't waste any energy behind your cast and you can drive poppers, gurglers, and oversize musky streamers with authority. Our tester said the stiff, low-memory line also resists tangling so you spend more time fishing, and less time wishing you were fishing.
Cortland Sky Blue Liquid Crystal $75
A clear line is less visible to fish and therefore stealthier. But while fish can't see a perfectly clear line, you can't either, and for tricky flats species like bonefish, permit, and tarpon, a visible line helps you judge where your fly is at all times. Made with the same polyethylene PE+ coating as the clear Liquid Crystal, Cortland's new Sky Blue Liquid Crystal line is extruded over a blue-tint monofilament core, so it fades from strong blue color in the center of the line, to a light blue on the outer edges. It's easier to see from above — the angler's perspective — but still provides a subtle, blurry profile when viewed from below.
'We believe the new Sky Blue Liquid Crystal is the perfect compromise between a line that's almost invisible to the fish but easily seen by anglers and their guides, ' explained Randi Swisher, Cortland's vice president of sales and marketing. 'It will be especially useful when fishing over turtle grass or whenever there's a chop on the water and it's really tough to locate your fly. ' The lines come in 6- to 12-weights, with different tapers for bonefish, permit, and tarpon. cortlandline.com
Cortland Trout Boss $75
A great trout line might not seem like a 'specialty ' line to you, but what about for someone who lives in Key West? If you take a trip to the Rockies you need a line that deals with wind, cold water, large flies — you need a workhorse that can do it all. We tested the Trout Boss in Montana, Chile, and Pennsylvania, and found it worked best in big rivers where constantly changing conditions force you to reevaluate your game plan every hour. The long, 65-foot head helps you mend at long distances, and roll cast when brushy banks make things tight. In keeping with the distance theme, the line has an 18-inch white, high-vis and high-float Dyna-Tip that's easy to see from far off to help you track your fly, whether you are dry-fly fishing or nymphing. The rest of the line is stealthy moss green or high-visibility orange in 3- through 8-weights. cortlandline.com
Check out Fly Fisherman's review and insider video on this product! Cortland Trout Boss
RIO Bonefish QuickShooter $80
If you're going to mend, carry a lot of line, or roll cast, you need a line with a long head. What many people are realizing is that you don't do any of that while bonefishing. The Bonefish QuickShooter has a short, 36-foot head, acknowledging the fact that the flats are windy, and when your chance comes, you'll need to get the fly on target, and quickly. The dual-tone aqua blue/sand line helps you pick out the sweet spot to keep in your tip-top, and the extremely hard, tropical coating makes sure the line won't wilt while waiting for the cast. rioproducts.com
RIO Perception $90
RIO's new flagship trout line has made a core change, both figuratively and literally. The Perception trout line has a new low-stretch core — the first of its kind for polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based fly lines. RIO won't say what its proprietary new core is made of, but it's not nylon monofilament or nylon multifilament, which are the traditional elastic materials for PVC fly line cores. If you've fished RIO's InTouch Deep lines, you've already felt the difference a low-stretch fly line can make to your contact with the fly, your sensitivity in detecting strikes, and your ability to set the hook when you feel the fish. Everything is more instant and efficient. But does it make a difference in your casting as well?
'Absolutely, ' said Simon Gawesworth, RIO marketing manager and a big part of the Perception design team. According to Gawesworth, a good caster can significantly stretch a standard fly line in the air by merely hauling the line, and this stretch is like a giant power drain when you're trying to move the fly efficiently. The Perception's low stretch — about 6% compared to about 30% in a standard fly line — lets you move the fly immediately instead of first stretching the line before you can move the fly.
We've tested the line extensively and found that it not only casts better, it mends more efficiently, picks up quickly and quietly, and gives you better control and more sensitivity for 'blind ' fishing subsurface with nymphs and streamers, where instant contact with the fish is the difference between hooking up, and missing a strike. In short, it's a more responsive line because the force you apply at your end of the rod is more immediately telegraphed through the line, and there is no 'dampening ' effect cause by line stretch. rioproducts.com
Check out Fly Fisherman's review and insider video on this product! RIO Perception
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Scientific Anglers Saltwater Grand Slam $85
Slackline casts are great when you're dry-fly fishing for trout, but in saltwater fishing, a slackline cast means that you'll have to retrieve line before you can come tight to the fly, and that lapse in effective movement often means the difference between catching fish and just seeing them. Florida Keys guide Capt. Bruce Chard is a master of coaching the short cast to the batter on the deck, but he's still watched too many bonefish and tarpon swim right past a stationary fly due to poor presentation. To combat this problem, he designed his Grand Slam line with an extremely short front taper that delivers excess energy to the fly so the leader turns over completely, and you can instantly swim the fly. The heavy head loads rods quickly for quick up-close casts, but a long rear taper (twice as long as most other saltwater lines) also helps you carry and control more line in the air for those opportunities where you actually get to make a hero cast. scientificanglers.com
Check out Fly Fisherman's review and insider video on this product! Scientific Anglers Saltwater Grand Slam
For other award winners see our 2014 Gear Guide Awards
Skagit Max $55
The Skagit Max is built on RIO's low-stretch ConnectCore (see above), and if you join it to RIO's new ConnectCore shooting line, you'll have a complete low-stretch Skagit system suited for Spey casting large flies and heavy sinking tips. Our tester tried the new lines on British Columbia's Dean River for June Chinook salmon and steelhead, and found the low-stretch lines were easier to mend, picked up efficiently, and produced better hook-sets.
Super Dri Distance Pro $75
Once Airflo perfected the hydrophobic coatings behind its Super Dri fly lines there was another objective — use 'zone technology ' to perfect a series of fly line tapers to cover any trout-fishing situation. Zone technology refers to Airflo's new capability to change the compression of the coating from supple to stiff, and back to supple, all on the same fly line. This means you can keep the coating slick and hard in the areas of the line where double-hauling puts pressure against the stripping guide, and keep the tip soft and supple for better floatability and longer drag-free drifts. There may be no better example of this zone technology than in the Super Dri Distance Pro, a long-belly line with an extended, hardened 'haul zone ' that allows you to carry and shoot long lines even on hot days, without feeling the extra resistance of a soft line against the guides. Airflo also uses zone technology to create a nymphing line (Super Dri Mend), and an extra-heavy line for fast-action rods called Xceed. rajeffsports.com
Super Dri Elite $75
The first thing you need to understand about Airflo lines is that they're not made of PVC — the coating is polyurethane, a completely different type of plastic with different chemical properties. What makes or breaks a fly line, whether it's PVC or polyurethane, is the additives that make the product special — additives that make the coating harder or more supple, make the line float or sink, and some that make the line slicker. With Super Dri, the UK company went back to the drawing board with its coatings to produce a new generation of nano-engineered hydrophobic coatings with additives that would actually repel water, and therefore float higher and drier. Our tester used the Super Dri Elite on the West Branch of the Delaware during a heavy morning downpour that swamped mayflies as they hatched, and kept fat and sassy rainbows feeding on top for hours. 'The Super Dri was also super accurate, super easy to mend and pick up, and super slick going through the guides, ' he said. 'Even after the river turned to chocolate, the line stayed clean, and rode high like it was made of Teflon. ' rajeffsports.com
Check out Fly Fisherman's review and insider video on this product! Super Dri Elite