CaryGreene

Fly Line Manufacurer Review

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Hi to all - hope everyone is enjoying what has been a very good spring season so far! I wanted to kick this thread off by inviting people to chime in with any Fly-Line questions or comments. I'm going to review the big-four flyline manufacturers to start this thread off. More on that in a minute, but first ...

 

One topic that has reared it's ugly head steadily in the past three years involves getting basic information on new fly lines - particularly, grain weights of their full castable heads. Many manufacturers now withhold this vital information and some even fail to give an AFTMA (first 30') grain weight. Knowing the weight of the first 30' of a fly line head is of very little importance when compared to knowing the weight of the full castable head. I personally would much prefer to know both the AFTMA grain weight and full head weight as both weights are of use. Personally I won't even buy a line if I don't know the full head weight because it's hard to predict how the line will feel on a given rod that I know intimately. 

 

Some companies withhold what  temperature ranges that the lines are designed for as well and gloss over the subject with words like warm-water or all-around..etc and so the problem there is, what exactly do these words really mean? Some companies have gone to the extent of simply designating what rod weight the line is for and that's basically all the info you get. 

 

The purpose of this thread is to create an ongoing "dump" of fly line information. We'll cover what lines we're using for what applications, our thoughts on the lines and ultimately, we'll air out our opinions on what the top lines are each season for various applications. 

 

I'm wondering if people are finding it more confusing than ever before to sort through the distinct lack of information regarding various companies lines? Is it easy to match your favorite rods up with lines that will work on them or do questions abound?

 

From talking to various line manufacturers, I've picked up on the fact that some companies no longer want to give the grain weights of the full castable heads. The either feel it's "proprietary" or "confusing to beginners/most fly-fishermen." I'm going to give my impressions on the major companies to kick this thread off. My focus is on Northeast Saltwater applications and Tropical applications. Understand that the lion's share of saltwater line sales is driven by Tropical applications. Also understand that freshwater sales dwarf saltwater. I'll start the thread with a NORTHEAST SALTWATER focus. I'll try to do a Tropical focus in due time, depending on how well the thread takes off. 

 

Personally, I’ve never preferred one particular company’s fly-lines to another. I think each major line maker does certain things very well and I enjoy testing various lines (while actually fishing) and as a season gets going, I find myself using certain lines for certain jobs. 

 

Regarding WF-Floating lines, I generally like a head that’s at least 40’ - mainly because it’s not hard at all to get that much line in the air and I like a head of at least this length because it performs significantly better at distances of 75’ plus. If I know I’ll be making longer casts and that I’ll also have back-cast clearance, I’ll opt for lines that have heads in the 50’ range. For example, if I’m fishing for Stripers during a Cinder Worm hatch on a New England salt pond or if I’m casting to Permit or other Tropical species, I’m on the skiff almost always, so the longer heads are preferred because they’re so much better at presenting a fly at distance. 

 

If I’m fishing for Bonito or Albies and they appear and disappear quickly, a longer head can be a disadvantage and so I may want a specialty WF-Floating line because I need to get the head in the air very quickly and toss it at the commotion! I generally won’t use WF-Floating lines from the surf, but I may be fishing a back bay where I have a lot of tall seaweed and only a few feet of water, at which point, I need a WF-Floating line and often times, I don’t have a ton of room for back-casts. It’s not possible for anyone to recommend a Floating line to someone without knowing how they’ll be using it. The truth is , whether you need a Floating line or not and how long the head needs to be kind of depends on how you’ll be using the line in question. 

 

When it comes to WF-Intermediate lines, which I think are “generally” the bread and butter lines for shore-based fishing, for use in and around outflows, suitable for many back-bay situations and also excellent for fishing out front when moderate or standard surf is present, the head length I personally prefer is at least 40’ because I can make longer casts much more effectively, even with large flies. I fish at night in tidal creeks that dump into quiet coves during the spring and I’m throwing 9” to 12” Herring patterns so at times, 40’ is simply too long so I have to also keep a more compact intermediate line around that has a taper suitable for larger flies. I also fish small grass shrimp, crab patterns and even larger shrimp patterns on Salt-Pond Flats, often sight fishing to feeting Stripers and at times, an Intermediate line with a Clear Tip can be handy. 

 

Chasing Albies around in the fall can also require a Clear-Tip Intermediate line, especially on calmer days and if I’m tossing Mullet imitations to big Tarpon around bridges or in more open feeding lanes, I have found a need for Clear-Tip Intermediate lines that can handle larger fly patterns so again, choosing your Intermediate lines is based on what you’ll be doing with them, which makes deciding which one is right a very individual decision based on your needs. 

 

Lastly, when we think about open water fishing by boat, or when we’re casting from shore into strong moving current such as in a channel or while standing on a jetty and accessing moving water, we often need to get down as fast as possible, so there is an absolute need for full Density-Compensated Sinking-Head fly lines. In fact, if you fish mostly from boats in and around current, you’ll use a DC line at least 90% of the time. Each season, I use mine a ton and I would be a much less successful fly-fisherman if I didn't have a number of these lines. Head length on Density Compensated lines is predicated on your needs, your available back casting space and ease of handling. For example, if you’re shore fishing with a stripping basket, do you really need any more than 30’ of D/C line? Considering that you strip the line all the way back and then try to get it in the air and send it flying again, a 30’ head is very convenient. Also, line inevitably spills out of our stripping baskets and if you’ve ever tried fishing a D/C line with a head of 50’ - you know that it can be hard to manage from shore for this reason. 

 

From the boat, D/C Heads of 24’ to 35’ all have their place and sometimes, a head of 40’ or more is good if you need to get down deep. Sink Rate also comes into play with D/C lines. Most boat fishing requires as heavy a head as possible and the came really starts with sink rates of 7 inches-per-second. When we cast across current and drop the fly in the water, we let it swing and then bring it back. Hits happen at various points, sometimes on the swing, sometimes after a line straightens and sometimes, right at our feet at the end of a retrieve. In swift moving current, a 7 ips sink rate doesn’t do much, it only gets down a few feet or so before it swings. Therefore, 8ips or 9ips or even more is even better. 5 ips is generally not useful unless you’re fishing very calm water - I rarely recommend 5 ips for the boat-based crowd. 

 

Considering that you can count down an Intermediate or full D/C Sinking line, there isn’t really much need for all the “inbetwixt” lines with odd sink rates like 3 ips, 5ips..etc. An Intermediate line easily covers 5 to 10’ of water and a 7 ips DC line easily covers 10’ to 20’ of water. Do we really need all the oddball sinking lines? Personally I think most of the oddball sink rate lines are more for freshwater river fishing applications than they are as useful saltwater tools. That said, if you have discovered a real need for one of them based on how you’re using it, don’t let me dissuade you. 

 

If I had to rank, in order of importance to me and the kind of fishing I do, I’d go with the following hierarchy:

  1. WF-D/C 7 or 8-9-10-ips - 30’to 35’ Head, Used 90% or more from boat and 25-50% or more from shore.

  2. WF-Intermediate 1-2ips - 40’ to 50’ Head, Used 25-50% from Shore and 5 to 10% from Boat

  3. WF-Floating 40’ Head for most Northeast Situations, Used from Shore or Boat depending, 50’+ for most Tropical situations

 

Here's what the main companies are up to, these are just my thoughts to get us started. Feel free to opine or contribute other non-related line thoughts, observations and info:

 

Scientific Anglers - In general, Scientific Anglers make superb fly lines (IMO). The quality of their higher end products is pretty amazing. They pack a ton of technology into every aspect of how their lines are made. Lines feature AST Coatings (extremely long-lasting and slick), Shooting and Floating Texture technologies, Dry Tip technology (great for WF-Floating lines), Line “ID” markers for quick identification when needed, three different/distinct types of cores (Braided Multifilament - for coldwater and floating lines, Single Strand Monofilament - for clear lines and sinking lines and Tropi-Coare which is a Braided Monofilament which makes these lines strong and stiff and helps the line coatings penetrate the core and adhere to it), tactile TRP touch recognition so you know when a full head is in the air, Seamless Density technology to help with uniform sink rates and S-A also shares recommended Air and Water Temperature ratings on all their lines.

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There is a lot to like. Sci-A has never listed the grain-weights of their full-castable-heads so all the average Joe has to go off when trying to match one of their new lines to an existing rod that they know intimately is to go to their product catalog - which isn’t even printed these days. Their reason for not posting the full head weights online remains a mystery, especially given that customers today, more than ever before, buy sight-unseen and online. One would think that providing as much technical info as possible, for those that want the info, would positively impact sales. Personally, I will not purchase a line unless I know the weight of the full head. It’s a non-starter for me. Fortunately, they did make their product catalog digitally available upon request and I’ve been able to pick out exactly which lines are of interest to me both from a northeast perspective and also a tropical one. Cary's Website Grade: B- (unless you know their marketing lingo, or are very good with Greek Gods and fancy words like Amplitude, Frequency, Sonar, Grand Slam..etc, it's REAL EASY to be turned off. Also, the technology messaging comes through a little bit but it's still unclear and confusing.  Full castable head weights are not posted. 

  • Saltwater Leader Material

    • Absolute Hard Mono (my #1 favorite Saltwater Monofilament Leader material)6289a011861aa_Screenshot2022-05-213_27_00PM.png.112589b6ed3272c0c829971f8b0fa5b4.png

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  • Sci-A offers (5) Lines of interest for Northeast Saltwater Applications. The assortment is a bit difficult to decipher and from the perspective of a northeast fly-fisherman, S-A is unfortunately not a one-stop-shop as there are big holes in their lineup and taper problems which we’ll discuss. For a company this big and this good at making fly lines, the assortment kind of sucks to be honest. It's actually gotten a lot worse in the last several years. At one point, Sci-A catered to northeast saltwater fishing and they had a basic coldwater Floating, Intermediate and D/C assortment marketed as "Striper" lines and found within the Mastery Series of tapers. That strategy is now out the window and things are WAYYY more confusing on the Sci-A website these days. 

    • WF-Floating - not a lot offered here and this is just flat out unacceptable. If you're looking for a basic 40' or 50' coldwater floating line, look eleswhere, unless the Redfish line works for you, which features a very smooth casting 31’ head and has Cold-Medium Temperature rating of 10 to 70 degrees F. The line itself if more of a quick-shooting line so it’s very good for chasing Albies and Bonito in the Northeast, in addition to being ideal for Redfish and Snook. That said, because it’s S-A’s only cold-to-medium water offering, the company itself falls dramatically short for an all-purpose northeast primary line. Cary’s Grade: A for what is - for fishing for Redfish, but D+ to S-A for having only one cold to medium water temperature Floating line. Booo!

      • Drawbacks include no longer-head coldwater to medium water temperature floating line available and grain-weight range may require over-lining to handle larger flies. Not a primary northeast saltwater floating line, unless you fish smaller to medium flies only. 6289a08bd33ff_Screenshot2022-05-2110_31_15PM.png.0615c02ac1bc6874c034400d1e0708dc.png

    • WF-Intermediate - the main offering is the Sonar Camo Intermediate, which is “the” line IMO for shore based coastal applications whether fishing out front, or covering outflows, back bays and other areas where longer casts are needed. Camo Intermediate features a whopping 49’ to 51’ head and line sizes are available in 8-9&10wt sizes. The head’s pack a substantial wallop in terms of grain-weight and the taper on the line encourages long, smooth loops and excellent accuracy and shootability. 6289a11762ebf_Screenshot2022-05-2110_33_35PM.png.857213820f966a6d7812f5034222d0d7.png

  • This is a flat-out superb casting line. Be warned, if you struggle to carry 55’ feet or more line in the air or if you just don’t have the back-cast clearance or time to make a couple false casts to get longer heads ready to shoot, this is not the right intermediate line for you. That said, Camo Intermediate is one of my absolute favorite lines, I cannot recommend it highly enough for general shore based fishing. Its perfect for temperatures from 10 to 70 degrees F. Cary’s Grade: A++
  • Drawbacks on this line are non-existent. One of the best casting Intermediate fly lines on the planet!

  • Another S-A offering is the Sonar Sink-30 Clear-Tip which features a full Intermediate-Sinking Head. The head is a uniform, smooth taper that delivers nice loops and only fair shootability due to a 20’ non-clear handling section. The temperature rating is 40 to 90 degrees F on this line, so it may not be a true 4-season Intermediate as it will tend to coil when water temps are chilly. That said, the Clear-Head is a fantastic stealth advantage and so it’s nice that they offer a Clear option. Cary’s Grade: C+

    • Drawbacks include non-ideal temperature rating and rear handling line which is fine for river fishing and mending but not ideal for shooting easily (to shoot this line effectively, you have to carry the head and the handling line in the air prior to casting it - that’s 50’ of line - and loop characteristics aren’t wonderful when doing this due to the change in diameter between the handling section and the head)

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  • The other notable S-A full Intermediate line is the Sonar Titan Intermediate and it features a 33.5’ compound head with a dramatically swelled front section that is designed to push larger flies straight into the wind. Because it lacks a rear handling section, Titan Intermediate shoots much better than the Sonar-Sink 30 Clear above, which makes it a very good line for throwing bigger northeast patterns like large Herring flies, Bunker imitations, Mackerel or Shad patterns and other larger flies. Sonar Titan Intermediate is suitable for use in temperatures from 10 to 70 degrees, which again makes it ideal for the Northeast. Cary’s Grade: B+ 

    • Drawbacks include lack of stealth (lots of splash and green head color is very visible and not subdued) and also, it takes a lot of energy to move this line around all day, it’s whoppingly heavy and the casting loops are not smooth and easy to form because the head is compound and it swells towards the front of the line. That said, it is an excellent big-fly specialty line.

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  • Density Compensated Full-Sinking Head - S-A’s Sonar Titan Sink-Tip line, which features a floating running line and a dual-density head that goes from 5.5-ips to 6-ips is one of the two go-to S-A D/C Full Sinking Head fly-line for all around Northeast fishing. The Titan taper makes throwing larger flies very easy (providing you’re using a proper saltwater leader - which I’ve written endlessly about the importance of here on SOL). One neat thing about this line is that the running-line floats, which makes it a lot easier to handle from shore than some of the competitors products that feature intermediate sinking running lines. You may or may not want this feature. The drawback is that retrieves are not at a more uniform depth because the floating line suspends - so it’s a trade off. If you’re looking for a long-casting, easy to pick up off the water primarily saltwater line, Sonar Titan Sink Tip is pretty wonderful. The 33.5’ Head-Length is also very spot-on and the quality of this line from a slickness and shootability standpoint is pretty much unrivaled. Cary’s Grade: A+

    • Drawbacks include noisy, splashy presentations and extra casting effort needed and casting loops are not smooth and easy. Line is also dramatically over-weighted to I’d air on the side of NOT overlining with this offering. Another drawback is the sink rate is a bit wimpy. Personally, I like 7-8-9+ sink rates for boat fishing in the Northeast, because currents are very strong and sinking lines don’t get down very deep before they swing. When fishing from fixed positions, this matters a lot but even when dead drifting, it’s nice to be able to get down quickly. 

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  • SA’s Sonar Titan Sink-Tip Triple-Density line offers all the same features as the line we just spoke of, with notable differences. Two models in this series are notable and important for northeast fishing. The first model features an Intermediate-Sinking Running-Line, and a dual-density head that goes from 3 to 6-ips. The line is also available with a 3-ips sinking running line that then moves to a dual-density head that goes from 5 to 7-ips. Both lines provide very uniform retrieves, but keep in mind running lines with faster than Intermediate sink-rates are absolutely more difficult to handle/deal with.  The 33.5’ Head-Length is also very spot-on and the quality of this line from a slickness and shootability standpoint is pretty much unrivaled. Cary’s Grade: A+

    • Drawbacks include noisy, splashy presentations and extra casting effort needed as loops are not smooth and easy. Also, no model available with an Intermediate Running-Line that moves to a 7-ips to 9 or 10-ips head, which would be a VERY interesting creation for northeast saltwater applications. 

RIO - In general, RIO makes very good fly lines. For northeast fishing, they do unfortunately seem a bit out of touch. For whatever reason, they have the “jankiest” assortment of compound-head tapers known to mankind. Smooth loops at all distances with some of their lines are very hard to achieve - the lines I’m referencing cast very differently at 10 feet than they do at 20 feet and again, the difference between 20 and 30 feet is noticeable as well when compared to some of the competitor’s lines. RIO also seems to have bitten by the compact-head-itus bug that affects so many line companies today. Shorter heads are fine for certain situations but sheesh! They really went overboard here - more on that in a bit. Cary's website rating: C (poor technical specs, really dummed down, super confusing assortment with wayyyyy toooo muuuuch redundancy. There is little to no clear message about what characteristics the lines have or what technologies are packed into them. Horrible messaging)

  • RIO offers (9) Lines of interest for Northeast Saltwater Applications. The assortment is beyond difficult to decipher and from the perspective of a northeast fly-fisherman, RIO is unfortunately not a one-stop-shop as there are big holes in their lineup and taper problems which we’ll discuss. 

    • WF-Floating - Only two lines are offered in this department and it’s as if the Department of Redundancy Department invented them. They both have 30’ heads too, go figure! The first we’ll review is the most popular one - the mighty RIO Outbound Short floating line, which is suitable for water temps in the 50 to 80 degree range - though they don’t post the line’s temperature rating on their website. Fortunately, many of the shops who sell RIO lines do post the info because they appreciate that specialty clients absolutely use this info as part of their buying & decision making process. 

    • Outbound Short features a compound 30’ head that features no less than five taper changes. I’ve never been a fan of this line but a lot of people love it. It’s basically a heavily weighted, short head that will give you the ability to shoot modest distances, which it absolutely does a fair enough job at. In fact, when you need to get a line in the air fast and launch it, Outbound Short is one of the go-to choices on the market. Obviously, the line will suffer from memory retention in colder water or air temps, but it performs well enough to meet the needs of people who like to overline and shoot medium range casts with little effort - which accounts for it’s popularity. Cary’s Grade: C+

    • Drawbacks include insufficient temperature rating, overly jankey, compound head, unstable loops and poor casting characteristics at distance. Casts snake through the air at distance and land with a thud, leader often trails to the side with any short-head fly-line, but, what's most disappointing about Outbound Short is really how weird it feels with different distances of head in the air. The strength of this line is that appeals to the over-lining crowd who wants to load quickly and let go - casting characteristics be damned!

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  • The other WF-Floating line of interest to Northeast Saltwater fishermen is the RIO Striper WF-Floating line. Unfortunately, it’s more of the same as it features a 30’ compact head and is almost no different than the Outbound Short. The picture on the box is different though, for those that appreciate pictures and the efforts of Marketing departments though. Temperature rating is 50 to 80 degrees F. Cary’s Grade: D+

    • Drawbacks are the same as above. This is strictly a fast loading, chuck and duck line with poor presentation and distance casting characteristics. 

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  • WF Intermediate - RIO has made this a staggeringly confusing category. Wow!! Talk about a bunch of redundant fly-lines. Where to start?? They have 4 intermediate  lines with Clear-Heads that are pretty much all the same exact thing. First we’ll look at the RIO Outbound Short WF-Intermediate line. It features a 30’ Clear Intermediate Head that’s available with a 1-2-ips sink rate or a 2-ips sink rate. Outbound Short is a nice for when you want a stealthy Clear-Tip for daytime fishing, but again the temperature rating is only 50 to 80 degrees F. Cary’s Grade: D+

    • Drawbacks are the same as the floating Outbound Short above. This is strictly a fast loading, chuck and duck line with poor presentation and distance casting characteristics. Temperature rating is limited. Probably better off with the Coastal Quick Shooter’s 33.5’ head, opposed to the Outbound Short’s 30’ head, considering that they’re otherwise pretty much identical. 

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  • Now let’s look first at the Coastal Quick Shooter. This line features a 35 to 36’ head and seems to be more geared for Steelhead fishing. There is a neat picture of a wave crashing into a surf-fisherman’s face on the box, but seeing as how it only comes in 5wt to 8wt sizes, I’ll end my review by saying it is a clear-headed fly-line that features an over-engineered heavy in the rear compound-taper with a temperature rating of 50 to 80 degree F. If you needed a stealthier clear tip, this line might be the ticket. Cary’s Grade: C-

    • Drawbacks are the same as above. This is strictly a fast loading, chuck and duck line with poor presentation and distance casting characteristics. Temperature rating is limited. 

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  • Next we have the Coastal Quick Shooter XP, which would be a bit more suitable for northeast fly-fishing than the regular Coastal Quick Shooter because it’s significantly beefier, but it’s the exact same line as the Outbound Short - only the head is 3’ longer. As I said, it’s totally designed by the Department of Redundancy Department. We get it! RIO loves lines that are essentially the same thing! I wanted a quick shooting WF Intermediate with a Clear Tip and so I bought this line last season and I did fish it a bit on sand flats. Temperature rating is 50 to 80 degrees.  Cary’s Grade: C

    • Drawbacks are the same as above. This is strictly a fast-loading, chuck and duck line with poor presentation and distance casting characteristics. If you want a RIO Intermediate Clear Tip, I’d recommend this one because at least you get a touch more head length than the Outbound Short - but then, does 3’ really matter much? Temperature rating is also limited. 

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  • D/C Full Sinking-Head Lines - RIO offers 3 opinions for the D/C crowd, the first we’ll examine is the Outbound Short Int-5-7 dual density line. This line is right on the money for a D/C line considering that it has a fairly easy to manage Intermediate Running-Line and a head that moves from 5-ips to 7-ips. Slickness is very good, not quite Sci-A good but better than most. Unfortunately, the Temperature-Rating is only 50 to 80 Degrees F on this line. Cary’s Grade: B+

    • Other than a limited temperature-rating, drawbacks are really non-existent here. This line fits the bill for a D/C line and it’s thought out properly from a sink-characteristics standpoint. It should appeal to almost everyone who needs a D/C line. 

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  • Next we have the Outbound Short 7-ips marketed as the “Dredger.” This is a full-on Type 7 Sinking fly-line, which has limited use in the northeast, unless you’re trolling from a kayak or really looking for a uniform sinking line. Temperature-Rating on this line is 50 to 80 degrees F. Cary’s Grade: C+ (for what it is)

    • Drawbacks are that a full sinking line is extremely hard to get in the air and manage, but for trolling, it’s basically like a lead-core line, except with the added benefit that you can cast it. It’s VERY hard to shoot a weighted running line by the way, so consider this line carefully as most will not have a use for it. RIO may have been better off here just going to a Int-7ips-10ips configuration, which would be very useful to most D/C line users. 

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  • Lastly, we have the RIO Striper D/C line, which is VERY SIMILAR (go figure) to their Outbound Short Int-5-7 line. Both have 30’ heads! (you guessed it) So what’s the difference and why do I like this one as the best RIO D/C line for Northeast fishing? Because it features Intermediate Running-Lines that move straight to uniform Sinking Heads that increase as you go up in grain weight. The 300 grain and the 400 grain sink at 8.2 and 8.7 ips. This line is actually EXTREMELY on the money in terms of how it’s thought out. Slickness is very good, not quite Sci-A good but better than all others. Temperature Rating on this line is 50 to 80 degrees F. Cary’s Grade: A

    • The Only Drawback is that the temperature range is limited on this line. Otherwise, it’s exactly what D/C customers are looking for. 

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AIRFLO - As a company, Airflo has come very close to nailing the requirements for northeast fly-fishing. Their assortment is both simple and close to being totally on the money. If anything, they simply need to slightly expand their lineup. Their lines have always been 100% PVC-free, so that’s been a long-standing added benefit that their products offer. Their tapers are the smoothest casting tapers in the industry and a number of their lines are extremely easy to cast and delightful at distance, even rivaling some of Scientific Anglers lines. Durability is outstanding with Airflo and between their Super-Dri technology that keeps their lines floating and prevents water absorption to their proprietary Ridge Tech coatings and their powerflex core designs, the lines are quite fun to fish with. The temperature ratings on their lines is also very much in line with northeast fly-fisherman’s needs throughout the full season, which can range from April to December these days. 

 

AIRFLO has never listed their full castable-head grain-weights online and so this info continues to be a mystery. They may feel this information is too confusing for the average customer. Perhaps they have new marketing people who don’t realize that experienced fly-fishermen appreciate this information. Perhaps they’re just being secretive. Dunno! 

To reiterate my sentiment about almost every company, One would think that providing as much technical info as possible, for those that want the info, would positively impact sales. Personally, I will not purchase a line unless I know the weight of the full head. It’s a non-starter for me. Fortunately, they do make postal scales and I’ve been able to weigh every line they make! So again, yay-me! LOL Cary's website rating: B- (they don't post grainweights of full heads and their products have borderline stupid names that are too long and hard to figure out. Otherwise, they have some technical info (more than Rio and on par with Sci-A, but good luck figuring out what their line technologies do. Messaging is awful. 

  • AIRFLO offers (6) Lines of interest for Northeast Saltwater Applications. The assortment is very much on point. Tapers and grain weights are very well thought out.  

    • Floating LInes - Airflo offers 2 floating lines that are good for the northeast. We’ll start with the most popular one, which is the Cold Saltwater Floating line. If you’re looking for one floating line to do everything, this would be my top recommendation. Cold Saltwater line features a bulletproof, highly durable Ridge Coating, which prevents cracking and remains slick and castable as long as the line is maintained properly and rinsed, sponged down with cold water from time to time. (I haven’t met a line yet that won’t crack if you don’t maintain it a little bit throughout the season by the way.) The coating makes the line noticeably slick and easy to shoot. The line features a delightfully powerful, uniform head that is smooth and free of those undesirable, janky compound tapers. It performs very predictably and smoothly at any distance inside 40’ and shoots easily as well. Loops are gorgeous. The taper is strong and able to turn over almost all fly types and the grain-weights available make this an already oversized line so I wouldn’t recommend over-lining. This is currently my favorite northeast WF-Floating line. The temperature range on this line is 23 to 78 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A+

      • Drawbacks include a need to protect it from laying on the deck of a skiff during the hottest of days. It must be stored in the shade and certainly don’t leave it in a hot car for days on end with the windows rolled up. Yikes. (I have heard horror stories on this subject) Also, I only wish it came in a 55’ head length for maximum distance casts. Still, it is a fantastic line for actual fishing. 

      • 6289a53471d71_Screenshot2022-05-2110_51_13PM.png.18f8e201a8f0c4ddd3cac1424bf43541.png

    • Next we have the Airflo Sniper 4-Season Floating line, which features a more compact 30’ head that is free of compound taper changes, which makes it exceptionally smooth casting and powerful. This would be a go-to chuck and duck floating line that outperforms all others. It is over-weighted so I don’t recommend over-lining. Loops integrity is outstanding and loops are easy to form. Temperature Rating 40 to 86 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A

      • Drawbacks are really non-existent with this line, it’s as smooth as butter and for those that like to quickly get rid of a heavy, easy to cast line, this would be a “best in class” type line. Not quite as slick as some of the Sci-A lines but extremely durable.

      • 6289a56492d5a_Screenshot2022-05-2110_52_06PM.png.e01b063182e3b012babf28fbdabe6d50.png

    • Intermediate Lines - As with the Floating lines, Airflo offers two types of WF-Intermediate lines. The most popular is the vaunted Cold Saltwater Intermediate line, which is the go-to, do-it-all Intermediate line for fishing in the northeast and it would be tied for my top recommendation with the Sci-A Sonar Camo Intermediate. The difference being, Airflo’s Cold Saltwater Intermediate isn’t camo, it’s instead a dark, sky blue color and it also features a shorter 40’ head (just like it’s WF-Floating brother above). Cold Saltwater’s 40’ head makes it a lot more versatile than an Intermediate Line with a 50’ Head so I would give this line my top recommendation for northeast fishing and I use it constantly by the way. I don’t leave home without it. As with the floating line, Cold Salt Intermediate line features a delightfully powerful, uniform head that is smooth and free of those undesirable, janky compound tapers. It performs very predictably and smoothly at any distance inside 40’ and shoots easily as well. Loops are gorgeous. The taper is strong and able to turn over almost all fly types and the grain-weights available make this an already oversized line so I wouldn’t recommend over-lining. The same Ridge Coating is present on this line as is present with the Floating version, so it remains very slick and shootable. This is currently my favorite northeast WF-Floating line. The temperature range on this line is 23 to 78 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A+

      • Drawbacks include a need to protect it from laying on the deck of a skiff during the hottest of days. It must be stored in the shade and certainly don’t leave it in a hot car for days on end with the windows rolled up. Yikes. (I have heard horror stories on this subject) Also, I only wish it came in a 55’ head length option for maximum distance casts. Still, it is a fantastic line for actual fishing. Lastly, can we get a Clear-Tip? They used to make one. 

      • 6289a5a7cae24_Screenshot2022-05-2110_53_08PM.png.3330e287f8eff1e4c67845b6922d65ed.png

    • Next we have the Airflo Sniper 4-Season Intermediate line, which features a more compact 30’ head that is free of compound taper changes, which makes it exceptionally smooth casting and powerful. This would be a go-to chuck and duck floating line that outperforms all others. It is over-weighted so I don’t recommend over-lining. Loops integrity is outstanding and loops are easy to form. Another nice feature with the Sniper line is that it’s 120’ long, so you get a little extra ability to shoot very long casts or dump line into current that that of the competitors, which usually are never longer than 105’. Temperature Rating 40 to 86 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A

      • Drawbacks are really non-existent with this line, it’s as smooth as butter and for those that like to quickly get rid of a heavy, easy to cast line, this would be a “best in class” type line. Not quite as slick as some of the Sci-A lines but extremely durable.

      • 6289a5d60afd7_Screenshot2022-05-2110_54_01PM.png.a6ba310bebb2ed2fca50df4f400bd2f9.png

    • D/C Full-Sinking Head - Arflo offers two choices for northeast fishermen in the D/C department. I recommend using them in conjunction with each other. Airflo should actually merge them and make them all 150’ long with sink rates progressively greater than 7ips, complete with Intermediate-Siking running lines. Here’s the scoop on both lines, which together make up a “Best in Class” offering. 

    • The first is the Airflo Sniper 4-Season Sink-7 line, which features a compact 30’ head that is free of compound taper changes, which makes it exceptionally smooth casting and powerful. This line is heavily weighted so I don’t recommend over-lining - it comes in 330, 370 and 425 grains. It features an Intermediate-Sinking running line that blends into a 7-ips Full-Sinking head. Loop integrity is outstanding and loops are easy to form. The line is also 120’ long so you can make extra-long casts or dump extra line into rips - more so than with the competitors lines that are generally a maximum of 105’ long.The line also comes in a Sink-Rate of 3-ips but this would not be a line that would be in high demand within the D/C crowd. Temperature Rating 40 to 86 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A+

    • Drawbacks are that the line only comes in three grain-weights but otherwise, it’s as smooth as butter and for those that like to quickly get rid of a heavy, easy to cast line. I only wish that it had a slightly faster sink rate. Also the slickness is a step below the Sci-Anglers D/C lines. 

    • 6289ab1866cbe_Screenshot2022-05-2111_14_53PM.png.b6ff8a8410760097ce0102f2fb597fb0.png

  • Lastly, Airflo also features the Depthfinder Big-Game line, which really ought to be merged with the 4-Season Sink-7 line because it too has a 30-foot head and is available in 300, 400, 500 and 700 grains. A huge advantage to this line is that it’s 150’ in total length, which makes it phenomenal for dumping into a rip as it’s 33% longer than most other D/C lines that competitors make. For these reasons, the Depthfinder Big Game, when used with the Sniper line, are easily best in class. 

  • The 4-Season Sniper Super Sink 7 line actually fills in the cracks that the Big-Game line doesn’t cover, but the two lines are otherwise very similar, with the only difference being that the Depth Finder Big Game line features slightly more aggressive sink rates and 30 extra feet of running line. The Depthfinder 300 grain sinks at 7.5 -ips and the 400 grain sinks at 8.5 ips which makes both of these lines HIGHLY desirable amongst the D/C fly-fishermen. 

  • I primarily use both the 4-Season Super-Sink 3 -or- 7 and the Depth Finder Big-Game lines and I find that certain rods love certain grain weights and if you mix and match the six offerings in 300, 330, 375, 400, 425 and 500 grains, you can usually make any 8wt to 12wt rod sing. Temperature rating on the Depth Finder Big-Game line is 40 to 86 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A+

  • Drawbacks are mainly confusing marketing and slightly different sink rates and line lengths between the Sniper and the Depthfinder, along with line slickness, which is a level below Sci-A. 

  • 6289ab72c82f0_Screenshot2022-05-2111_17_56PM.png.90402629257a189aeeb7e840932c1039.png

 

CORTLAND - As a company, Cortland gets the top award for being the most straightforward and least confusing to use when it comes to buying a line with a clear, marked full-head grain weight. You know exactly what you’re getting with Cortland. 

  • Cortland offers (9) different fly-lines that are all of interest to northeast saltwater fly-fishermen. The tapers are for the most part outstanding and their lines are very well thought out. Cary's Website Rating: B+ (By far the least confusing website of the major line manufactuers. The Assortment is very technical and varried, full grain weights are posted, AFTMA grain weights are also posted, complete taper diagrams are present and they even give full but slightly confusing temperature ratings for each line so as you get used to the website, you begin to understand intended uses of each line. If anything, Cortland suffers a bit from compact-head-itis - like many companies these days. That said, the products are pretty well thought out for a company that is landlocked in upstate, NY and wouldn't know a Mackerel if it jumped from the Cape Cod Canal and landed in somebody's french fries at the A&W stand on Route 13. Could they do better, yes - absolutely. They could easily lead the entire industry if they put some focus into their assortment) 

    • Floating LInes - Cortland offers one floating line that is relevant in the northeast, which is their Striped Bass Floating line. It features a 30’ Head that is extremely smooth casting and features a uniform taper which creates near-perfect loops. The line is designed for fast casting and is a half-size heavy so it will load rods easily. Temperature-Rating on this line is a very acceptable 30 to 70 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: B+

      • Drawbacks as far as a quick shooting line are non-existent with the Cortland Striped Bass WF-Floating line, it is a smooth casting, functional fast-casting compact-head fly-line. The one drawback is that they don’t offer a WF-Floating line with a longer head. In fact, it would be nice if they did a 40’ head and a 55’ head for use in cold water.

      • 6289abe5529c7_Screenshot2022-05-2111_19_51PM.png.24e058dd25cbeb99e76527262af34331.png

 

  • Intermediate Lines - Cortland offers 6 lines in this category and all are good for Northeast Striper fishing. We’ll start by looking at the Camo Intermediate line. This line also has an evil-twin, which is the full Clear Intermediate line. I love both of these lines, they both feature identical 41’ Head lengths that have smooth, uniform tapers to ensure beautiful, easy loops formation and excellent turnover and presentations. The heads are weighted very true to AFTMA standard, so overlining would be in play with these lines if desired. Temperature Ratings on these lines are 30 to 70 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A

  • Drawbacks are non-existent with both of these lines. If you’ve never fished a fully Clear-Intermediate line, all I can say is wow! They are extremely stealthy and when fishing in clear water, being stealthy is an awesome thing. 

  • 6289ac410d5dc_Screenshot2022-05-2111_21_20PM.png.2c271653ccd097cca10d50ef50950f43.png

  • 6289aca6535ac_Screenshot2022-05-2111_23_02PM.png.51d378f9cc58f8931270431c498d19cd.png

  • Next we have the Striped Bass Blitz Intermediate line, which is kind of a niche part of their Cold-Salt series of lines. The Blitz Intermediate features an extremely smooth casting, uniformly tapered 26’ foot head that is only slightly heavier than standard. This is one of THE BEST ultra-compact lines there is but personally, I fail to see a need for a fly-line with a 26’ Head because a line with a 30’ head can be cast just as easily and just as quickly. Therefore, I do see this line as a bit of gimmick. Temperature-Rating on this line is a very acceptable 30 to 70 degrees F. Cary’s Rating A (for what it is, it’s made properly for sure)

    • Drawbacks are non-existent with this line, if you’re in the market for a fast-casting ultra compact line that allows you to respond to blitzes, Blitz Intermediate is a decent choice, though I would 100% recommend a line with a slightly longer head. 

  • 6289ade0cbed8_Screenshot2022-05-2111_28_03PM.png.8b5b792f4cda0cfcd8bc94a8464d88bd.png

  • Perhaps the most versatile fast-casting line in the Cortland array is the popular Striped Bass Intermediate line. This line features a 32’ Head that casts plenty quick and it has that nice, smooth, uniform taper that many casters have come to love. No gimmicks! No janky compound tapers that cast weird with various amounts of head in the air. Just perfect loops and fast shootability. Temperature-Rating on this line is a very acceptable 30 to 70 degrees F. Cary’s Rating A (great choice for a compact Intermediate line)

    • Drawback is that the head isn’t clear, which for some might be a deal breaker because the line is therefore a wee-bit less versatile. I would have liked to see this exact line made with a longer head option as well, perhaps a bit more aggressively weighted. That way, both the compact-head crowd and the longer-casting crowd would both be appeased. As with all compact head fly-lines, this is not a distance casting go-to. 

    • 6289ad29394c6_Screenshot2022-05-2111_25_16PM.png.a7a04413aa17a36bf44dc9db8f124d5a.png

  • The next line that has a bit more limited appeal in the northeast is the Ghost Tip 15’ Clear Intermediate that features a 40’ Head, 15’ of which is a Clear-Intermediate Tip. Obviously, this is a super idea for Saltwater fishing but unfortunately, the Temperature Rating on this line is 50 to 70 Degrees which makes it kind of summer time only fly-line. The line is slightly heavy to standard so it will load most rods as marked. 

    • Drawbacks - limited temperature range, otherwise, sweet line. 

    • 6289ae291bdfa_Screenshot2022-05-2111_29_29PM.png.bbd675bb4eb2ca1782faa06efa32e902.png

  • Lastly, in the Intermediate family we have the Compact Intermediate 26’ Clear Head fly-line that features a very beefy heavy to standard weight rating and a nice beefy taper which works well with larger flies. Unfortunately, the Temperature Rating on this line is 50 to 70 Degrees which makes it kind of summer time only fly-line.

    • Drawbacks - limited temperature range, otherwise, sweet line. 

    • 6289ae5be9efd_Screenshot2022-05-2111_30_19PM.png.9416aaeb77b0f7fce2654a056c8e6752.png

  • D/C Full-Sinking Head - Cortland offers an amazingly good D/C line called the Striped Bass Sink 8 line that features a compact 28’ Head that is gently sloped towards the front for strong, smooth loops and to help with turning over larger flies. The line has an Intermediate Running-Line and a head that sinks between 8 to 9-ips, which makes it terrific for northeast fishing. This is one of the best D/C lines on the market. It has a 12’ rear handling section which detracts from it’s ability to shoot quickly, normally it’s best to hold the full 40’ in the air before shooting. That said, the handling section can help as you manipulate line in current and so the tradeoff exists. Personally I like the handling line at times because I may be standing on a Jetty and wanting to mend my line, once the head is down and starting to swing. Temperature Rating on this line is right on the money at 30 to 70 degrees F. Cary’s Rating: A

    • Drawbacks include a slightly too short head (would have liked 30’ at least, maybe even 32’ or 33’) and slickness that is not on par with Sci-A. 

    • 6289ae985723c_Screenshot2022-05-2111_31_24PM.png.a212742d799ff9be31ae736b41bc72b4.png

  • Rounding out the Cortland inventory is the Compact Sink Type 3 -or- 6 -or- 9. Not to be confused with a triple-density line, Compact Sink features a 28’ head that, if desired, can be had in 9-ips. What’s the catch? Unfortunately, the line’s Temperature Rating is a balmy 50 to 70+ Degrees so it’s pretty much a limited line in the northeast. 

    • Drawbacks include limited temperature-range and sub-par slickness compared to Sci-A.

    • 6289aed6216d4_Screenshot2022-05-2111_32_25PM.png.196a8ad3f2e31d0d6abb6339c09fc3f1.png

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Impressive review and very informative.

Thanks for doing it.

 

SA sells the Mastery Standard which is a long headed true to weight floating line that I find useful.

 

My understanding is that the. Cortland weights refer to the first 30’ (or so I’m told) rather than the 40’ head total weight???  I don’t own one to check, however.

 

A down side to the Airflo sniper is that it’s head is very thick for an intermediate.  

 

 

Edited by numbskull

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I'm glad you enjoy testing new line because at a hundred dollars a line I will not be testing, I'll be fishing. Thank you so much for your information on lines NE fly rodders will use.

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Cary, the Cortland Blitz also has a 13 foot step/handling section. Does that contribute to the total head weight? Seems like that should push the head weight for the 9wt, for example, from 305gn to 355 (if I use the Striped Bass Sink 8 as reference)

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Excellent writeup.

 

But always have to ask this question. Are you strictly an individual posting his thoughts or are you on a companies pro staff?

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19 hours ago, CaryGreene said:

There is a neat picture of a wave crashing into a surf-fisherman’s face on the box

LOL..

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38 mins ago, ifsteve said:

Excellent writeup.

 

But always have to ask this question. Are you strictly an individual posting his thoughts or are you on a companies pro staff?

Just an individual posting his thoughts. 

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3 hours ago, iklu said:

Cary, the Cortland Blitz also has a 13 foot step/handling section. Does that contribute to the total head weight? Seems like that should push the head weight for the 9wt, for example, from 305gn to 355 (if I use the Striped Bass Sink 8 as reference)

No, the handling sections of fly lines are usually swelled line, weight free. In this case, there is no added weight in the handling line. 

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5 hours ago, saltyh2ofly said:

I'm glad you enjoy testing new line because at a hundred dollars a line I will not be testing, I'll be fishing. Thank you so much for your information on lines NE fly rodders will use.

Absolutely Salty. I'll be coming out with a Royal Wulff writeup next - Northeast perspective to start with. 

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Very nice write up, fly lines can be a bit confusing to a beginner me. I fish CT waters pretty calm and temp range is right in the 40-70 range season depending of course. Looking forward to other line(s) that you going to write about. Thanks

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One of the best tools to have is a small scale that measures in grains. I measure the head of every line I buy. Two heads that I've bought since I got my scale 4 or 5 years ago were completely mislabeled, and one of those heads was from one of the major fly line companies. Of the two one was 70 grains less than it should have been, the other about 150 grains too much.  And those were heads/lines that grain weights were published.  For non-published grain weights, figure out what you like for the rods you have by weighing the lines that cast well with those rods. When you buy a new line by the AFTMA weight or whatever, weigh it before using it, and if it isn't what you were hoping for, simply return it for another. 

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14 hours ago, numbskull said:

Impressive review and very informative.

Thanks for doing it.

 

SA sells the Mastery Standard which is a long headed true to weight floating line that I find useful.

 

My understanding is that the. Cortland weights refer to the first 30’ (or so I’m told) rather than the 40’ head total weight???  I don’t own one to check, however.

 

A down side to the Airflo sniper is that it’s head is very thick for an intermediate.  

 

 

Thank you numbskull! Regarding the Mastery "Standard" I'm assuming you mean the "All Rounder" - which is a Medium to Warm Temperature line with a 37.5' to 40' head depending? Not really a long-headed line though, or true at all to standard, right?

 

Here are the specs on that line:

628acc8dbf8b2_Screenshot2022-05-227_51_27PM.png.173cb2a17c76d328fffe54036d0abf36.png

 

As for the whether or not Cortland posts full head weights on their website, I will double check with them this week and get back to you on that. I believe they now do, however I also believe that any object that has a source of sustained propulsion "flies." Birds, Planes..and Fly Lines in fact.

 

Objects that do not have a source of sustained propulsion don't fly, though they are still governed by Newton's laws. Objects like rocks, bullets, baseballs..etc -- don't sustain their flight. 

 

What is the head thickness of the Airflo Sniper line? Is it thicker in proportion to other quick-cast type lines? It seems very much in line with Sci A, Rio, Wulff and Cortland. Do you have a measurement on it?

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