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Gear

Gear Review: Cortland Fly Line is More than the 333 Series

Time

Gear reviews here at TMTB are organized in a specific way. There’s always an overview section to give you a quick rundown of the gear, its value, and whether it’s earned the TMTB Seal of Kickass Gear. Then, because I hope other gear nuts are reading, the reviews will get into the specifics of different aspects of the gear.

Overview

I started fishing with a Cortland rod, reel, and Cortland fly line outfit my dad bought from the local supermarket. It wasn’t anything special, but to this day I still have the rod and reel. The reel’s old, clunky, and sounds like a chainsaw when a hot trout’s on the line, but it works. The rod is a serviceable backup streamer stick, though I’ve held on to it more for nostalgia’s sake than anything else.

The point here is that Cortland has been around for a long time, and for good reason – they make products that just work. Most beginner fly fishermen spool their rods with Cortland 333 or 444 line, since it’s more affordable than other brands. The 333 was actually the first PVC-coated fly line, and Cortland’s survived for more than 50 years in a tough industry.

They’ve since branched out, though, and have found some serious success. Fly Fishing Team USA members Lance Egan and Devin Olsen both used Cortland rods, line, and indicator mono in their “Modern Nymphing” film, produced by the great Gilbert Rowley. I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with both Egan and Rowley, and while it’s no surprise both of them handily out fished me, the quality of their Cortland outfits surprised this diehard Winston man.

Now, I’ve been a big fan of Cortland’s fly lines for the past few years. The Trout Boss HTx line, in particular, is my favorite 5wt line on the market. The Finesse Trout II is a dream on my old IM6 Winston rods, and every line I’ve used has lasted as long as I’d expect them to.

Recently, Cortland sent me two more lines to try – the Precision Omni-Verse WF5F and the 444 Spring Creek WF5F. Both of these lines are similar in function but incredibly different in taper, which is why I’ve lumped them together in one review.

cortland fly line

Photo courtesy Cortland Fly Line

The Omni-Verse is a specialty line with one of the more unique tapers I’ve seen. Offered in weights 4 – 10, this line features an exceptionally long head and thick rear taper, creating a line that mends like a double-taper but loads a rod as effectively as any weight-forward line. As with most Cortland lines, the Omni-Verse is built true-to-weight, per AFFTA standards.

The 444 Spring Creek is also true-to-weight, available in weights 2 – 6. The Spring Creek series has a long tip and the tougher 444 coating, making it ideal for use on spring creeks, freestone streams, and other waters demanding a perfect presentation.

I’m partial to the Omni-Verse line only because I love how well it mends at 50+ feet, but that doesn’t detract from the solid, workhorse performance the Spring Creek delivers. Both are a great value from a company that’s proven themselves since before graphite fly rods were a big deal.

The Cortland Precision Omni-Verse and 444 Spring Creek Fly Line earned the TMTB Seal of Kickass Gear.

 

The Nitty-Gritty

The Good

Presentation

Both the Omni-Verse and Spring Creek are excellent presentation lines. Whether you need a small dry tucked tight to the bank or a roll cast with a nymph rig to the inside edge of a seam, the lines work well with your rod to achieve the desired results.

The Spring Creek is the better choice for dry-fly only anglers, if only because it’s built with a shorter head and more running line, making it an ideal line for the small stream angler where casts are usually 35 feet at the most.

Cortland Fly line 444 spring creek

Photo courtesy Cortland Fly Line

Taper

The taper for the Omni-Verse is nothing short of genius. Think of it as a long-belly line, because that’s essentially what it is. The head is 62 feet long that ends in a 25 foot rear taper. That’s a lot of continuous taper – reminiscent of the Triangle Taper – gradually growing and shrinking through the majority of the fly line. The 6 foot level tip gives anglers a WF line which roll casts as good as any DT I’ve ever fished.

The Bad

True weights

True-to-weight lines are harder to find these days, With the exception of offerings from RIO and Scientific Anglers, finding a true-to-weight line is like looking for size 30 dry fly hooks. Of course, the increasingly fast action of fly rods is the reason for half-weight heavy lines dominating the market, so if you fish with a rod that’s anything beyond a moderate action you’ll likely have a few issues with feeling your rod load this Cortland line. It’s not as strong in the wind either, and doesn’t offer the same turnover power for larger bugs, though both lines did just fine with long dry fly leaders.

Final Say

Both of these lines are essentials for the modern dry fly angler. They’re more durable than RIO, available in true-to-weight sizes which load dry fly rods (glass, bamboo, slower graphite) better than a half-weight heavy line, and they’re more affordable than most lines on the market. Cortland’s existed so long for a reason – their gear is quality, and these two lines are no exception.

Spencer Durrant is a novelist, outdoors columnist, and sports writer from Utah. He’s the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum and a contributor to other major fly fishing publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram @Spencer_Durrant.

Gear

Gear Review: Does the Orvis Recon Earn the Hype?

Time

Gear reviews here at TMTB are organized in a specific way. There’s always an overview section to give you a quick rundown of the gear, its value, and whether it’s earned the TMTB Seal of Kickass Gear. Then, because I hope other gear nuts are reading, the reviews will get into the specifics of different aspects of the gear.

Overview

When you go shopping for a mid-priced rod (anything from $275-500) you likely don’t consider Orvis sticks. The mid-price market is dominated by Echo, Redington, Fenwick, Blue Halo, and some pretty decent Sage models.

Orvis has – rightfully so – earned a reputation of high quality over the years. As any angler knows, high quality is almost always accompanied by high price (the exception is the Echo Base, Fenwick Aetos, and Redington Hydrogen). But you don’t have to shell out a mortgage payment to own a quality Orvis stick, thanks to the Recon series.

orvis recon 9ft 5wt

The fine folks at Orvis sent me a 905-4 (9’5wt 4pc) Recon, and I spent a bit more than a month tossing it as my go-to 5wt. I’m primarily a dry-dropper fishermen, but I threw streamers and longer nymph rigs on the Recon as well.

Overall, I was impressed with a) the weight, b) the build quality, and c) the blue-collar attitude of the rod. This thing clocks in at 2 5/8oz, which is stupid light for a 5wt that has the backbone of the Recon. The build quality is what you’d expect from Orvis – high-grade cork, a beautiful dark wood burl insert for the reel seat, and black-nickel hardware.

Now, the Recon didn’t wow me in any specific category. Rather, I was impressed with how it managed nearly every fishing situation I threw its way. Dries to warily rising trout? No problem. Nymphing with a sighter leader? You bet. 5wt-sized streamers? Just don’t snag the tree behind you, because the Recon is a rocket that’ll shoot line in a laser if you’re a competent caster.

It felt like the fly rod for the blue-collar angler. If you don’t want to spend a ton of cash but still need a quality rod that’ll fish well and even put some trout on the table for dinner, the Recon deserves a wiggle test from your local fly shop. It sells for $425.

The Nitty-Gritty

The Good

Accuracy/torsional stability

This rod is scary accurate – almost as good as the new Sage X. A competent caster won’t have issues getting this rod to put flies on a dinner plate up to 60 feet. Beyond that, most 5wt rods don’t pack the punch to be that accurate, but most trout fishing situations don’t require 60+ foot casts to begin with.

The blank stays straight, tracks well, and unless you’re up against a stiff wind you don’t have to work the rod too much to get your flies in the right spot.

Roll casts

I’ve switched my nymphing game up to Euro nymphing (thanks in large part to Lance Egan, Devin Olsen, and Gilbert Rowley, who produced the great “Modern Nymphing” film that’s a must-watch for every angler) so I don’t look at a roll cast like I used to, but the Recon did an exceptional job of lobbing an indicator, two weighted flies, and some split shot up and down the Lower Provo River.

Overall competency/Build quality

The Recon really is a rod you can comfortably use in any reasonable fly fishing situation. It handles dry flies, nymphs, and streamers very well, has a soft enough tip to protect your favorite skinny tippet, but the backbone to fight a larger trout’s run.

The build quality is typically Orvis, who’s churning out some of the best-looking production rods on today’s market.

The Not-So-Good

Long leaders

I fish a lot of dry flies, and in the winter I’ll fish size 20-30 midges on a 14’ leader. The Recon didn’t turn these leaders over as well as other rods, like my Boron IIIx from Winston. I had to work the rod a bit with a short haul to get these leaders out, but again, for the price point of the Recon, it’s still great.

Not as great with the wind

The Recon does well in slight breezes, but in heavier winds it’s not as great as other 5wt rods. Again, though, it’s important to remember that this rod packs the performance of a much more expensive offering inside a sub-$500 price tag, so it’s hard to really nitpick it too much.

Final Say

With the 25-year warranty from Orvis, a $425 price tag, exceptional build quality, and solid blue-collar performance in nearly every aspect of trout fishing, the 905-4 Recon is arguably the best mid-priced rod on today’s market. There’s a reason guides from Alaska to Patagonia have a Recon or two in their customer quivers – because these rods just work.

You can buy a Recon from our preferred fly shop, Fishwest.

Spencer Durrant is a novelist, outdoors columnist, and sports writer from Utah. He’s the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum and a contributor to other major fly fishing publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram @Spencer_Durrant.