Cortland Fly Line Reviews and Recommendations: Fly Line Buyer’s Guide
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This post is part of our Fly Line Shootout, so if you haven't read our main post, you probably want to check it out.
About Cortland Fly Lines
No other company in this test has as rich of a history making fly lines as Cortland. Cortland has been manufacturing fly lines since the 1930's. After several re-organizations, Cortland is now going strong making fly lines under 3 different labels: Precision, 444, and 333. While most people are familiar with the older (and more value-based) 444 and 333, the Precision line boasts some great new coatings and innovations. Read on to see how they fared against the big boys.
One thing we found interesting about Cortland lines (including lines made by Cortland like Teeny), is that they are a little bit heavier than their cousins at Rio and SA for similar tapers. Greater density means that they probably don't float as well as their competitors. See our comparison between 444 and Rio Gold for more info on this.
Cortland 444 Modern Trout
The Hype: Designed for the intermediate and advanced level anglers, the new 444 Classic - Modern Trout delivers the ultimate combination between performance and price.
The 444 is an interesting line. The 444 line has been around for decades and has a very strong following, particularly amongst the bamboo crowd. It’s important to note that 444 is a series designation, not a single line. The line that we tested is NOT the same as the Classic 444 Peach. This taper has a long rear taper, and is very similar to Rio Gold (I’m not sure which came first). Here's a comparison between the two:
We cast the 444 on the NRX first. It did not do well and it was pretty clear that it was not loading the rod well. This is very interesting since the 444 is roughly the same weight as GPX (and in fact has a heavier head weight overall). We've found that long rear taper lines, like 444 and Rio Gold, just feel lighter and need more weight overall than standard lines. On the Circa however, this line sings! It was one of our favorites overall on the Circa. It did everything really well.
- An inexpensive line that casts really well on softer rods.
- Not the most versatile line. It won’t work well on today’s faster rods.
Bottom line: If you have a Sage Circa (or another softer rod) this line should be near the top of your list.
Cortland Finesse Trout II
The Hype: … Designed for fishing small flies at greater distances in complex currents.
Cortland Finesse Trout is a “presentation” line similar to Rio Trout LT and Triangle Taper: average front taper, average rear taper, long belly. Unfortunately, this line has no taper in the belly like the other two. Ironically, it’s also a half line size heavy. The result is very poor loop stability. Sure, it’s got a decent presentation, but there are so many lines (even many from Cortland) that do that and cast way, way better on every rod.
- Decent presentation
- Poor performance in every other category
Bottom line: There are much better choices than this line.
Cortland Trout Boss HTx
The Hype: Built a full-size heavy, the 46.5’ head design helps load fast action rods and increase line speed.
The design of the Trout Boss is fairly standard. It has a slightly longer flat belly, plus an elongated rear taper. The longer head length of the Trout Boss HTx made it an excellent roll-casting and single-hand spey line. This line performed above average across the board on the NRX. Unfortunately, on the Circa, the Trout Boss overloaded the rod and its distance casting and loop stability suffered.
- A great roll-casting line
- A great all-around line on faster rods.
- Too heavy for slower rods
Bottom line: The Trout Boss is an excellent choice for faster rods, especially in tight quarters.
Cortland Saltwater Fly Line Reviews
Cortland Flats Taper Clear
The Hype: Cortland’s Liquid Crystal Series is built to be the toughest floating fly line for tropic environments with a clear line design to prevent spooking wary fish.
Casting Notes: The taper of Cortland’s Clear Flats Line is built for versatility and all-around performance. This line had solid performance across the board and encouraged nice, stable loops, decently delicate presentations, and had some real power and performance at longer distances. While this line doesn’t shoot to the top of any particular casting category, it doesn’t have any real weaknesses, either.
We cast a lot of technical situation-specific lines in this shootout that did one or two things really well. This line, to the contrary, accomplishes Cortland’s mission of building a line and a taper that does everything well. The line’s completely clear build makes it difficult to see on the water… which is good for targeting spooky fish but can make it hard to know where your fly is at all times. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by this line’s performance, power, and versatility.
This would make a great Bonefish and/or Permit line (Jonathan Olch recommends a clear line for Permit). One thing to note is that the line has a different feel and does take some getting used to. If you’re used to fishing SA lines or even RIO lines, this Cortland line has a slickness additive that is different from most saltwater lines. It improves performance but was a little funky when we first started casting the line.
Another thing we like about this line is its multi-species versatility. Unlike other lines in the shootout, the Flats Taper’s performance isn’t limited by a technical design that makes it great for one style of fishing and bad for others. This is a line that could be used for Bonefish, Redfish, Permit, Snook, Tarpon, and more. Plus, Cortland offered us the only completely clear fly line in the shootout which we think is a really nice feature for spooky fish or an environment where a cast could spook a 2nd or 3rd cruising target.
- Performance across the board
- Versatility and power at longer distances
- Doesn't offer really spectacular, stand-out performance in any particular category
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for an all-around line that’ll present flies with stealthy performance, this is a great choice.
Cortland All Purpose Taper
The Hype: Cortland calls it their “best all-around hot weather floating line for multi-species saltwater fly fishing”.
Casting Notes: Refer to our paragraph at the beginning of the saltwater shootout about average fly lines. The Cortland All Purpose Taper is a pretty average, versatile, all-around saltwater fly line with decent performance across the board. As you can see in the diagram above, the line’s taper is pretty typical for an all-arounder and it casts pretty well both at short distances and at longer distances.
If you’re a novice or intermediate angler looking for a line that is relatively caster-friendly and cheaper than high-end RIO and Scientific Anglers lines, this is a solid option. If you look around, you’ll probably find a better option though.
- Versatility and decent performance across the board
- No standout performance in any particular casting category
Bottom Line: This is a versatile line for anglers who are targeting many different species in a variety of scenarios. If you’re looking for a technical line or a line with high-performance in a specific casting category, check out some of the other Cortland lines.
The Hype: Cortland built this line as a quick-shooting, easy-loading line for contemporary fast action fly rods.
Casting Notes: Cortland built this line to be heavier than other lines in their tropical saltwater collection for anglers who fish fast action rods. Interestingly enough, while they market it as a ‘quick shooting line’, it has a pretty long taper with a gradual rear taper which is different than other ‘quick shooting lines’ we tested (ie RIO Outbound Short). This line definitely loads fast action rods reasonably well at short distances. We also noticed that it felt heavier than other lines in the shootout.
The Cortland Guide is a fine line to carry in the air and does pretty well when presenting smaller flies at mid/long-distance. That being said, we didn’t think it had particularly great shooting capabilities and felt more like a regular Bonefish line. It also isn’t a super caster-friendly line so not something we’d recommend for beginner anglers.
- Solid presentation at longer distances with smaller flies
- Not a forgiving line
- Weird taper and not a ‘shooting line’ as marketed
Bottom Line: There are better shooting-style lines on the market and better all-around Bonefish lines.
Cortland Tropic Compact
The Hype: This line is Cortland’s offering for “large air-resistant flies or punching a cast into the wind”.
Casting Notes: This line can be grouped into the ‘quick shooting’ category of lines that have an aggressive front taper and are ideal for throwing large flies in windy conditions. This line felt heavier than the others in that group, however. The line had really poor presentation and isn’t a line for anglers who fish small flies.
This line is a good option for targeting Redfish with large flies or casting in high wind. It’s taper and weight also make it a really caster-friendly line, great for absolute beginners. The line had fine loop stability but its performance struggled when we tried to carry line in the air. The benefit of this taper is that the line does a lot of the casting work for you. It’s a real chuck-and-duck line.
- Great shooting capabilities
- Really easy to cast at longer distances
- Poor presentation-based performance
- A highly specialized line with limited applications
Bottom Line: If you’re fishing in high-wind or with big streamers, this line is a great option. It’s also a solid line for absolute beginners. If you’re fishing for technical Bonefish, this line is too aggressive to present a fly delicately.
The Hype: Cortland’s Bonefish-specific line features an “aggressive taper that loads rods easily for close shots” and an “elongated rear taper” that “provides excellent loop control when you need to carry line for long-range targets”.
Casting Notes: This is the lightest line we tested in the shootout. It was so light, in fact, that it was too light even for the Helios 3F 8wt. Why, with today’s fast action rods, is Cortland making a line that’s a full line size lighter than the AFFTA standard? We have no idea. The line’s loop stability at long distances was fine but the line’s light head wasn’t enough to load either rod properly. If you want to try this line, you probably need to line up unless your rod is from the 1980s.
- Decent loop stability
- Difficult to cast
- Not versatile or powerful
Bottom Line: Get something else.