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

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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.