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Fly Lines and Line Backing

When anglers commit to unravelling the mysteries of fly fishing lakes, rooted at the bottom of their efforts is the fly line. Keep in mind there is no one universal line for lake fishing. Because conditions keep changing, the effective range of any line is limited.

When probing different depths, if your presentation allows the line to sink too deep or is below the zone trout are holding, it's time to change lines to another type with a slower density. On the other hand, if trout are not showing on the surface, you probably need to use a fast sinker until you locate the depth trout are holding. The key is to match the lines sink rate to the depth where trout are feeding or holding. You only need to worry about two angles, parallel or up through the water column which dictates a sink-tip line.


The floating line is easily the most versatile of all stillwater lines, however it's also the most misused by fly fishermen. The primary function of a floating line is to fish the surface with a dry fly, nymphs just below the surface, chironomids under an indicator off the bottom, weighted nymphs up through the water column or probing shallow water with small nymphs. You can also troll small unweighted nymphs just below the surface. Any other function is best fished with other lines. At the same time you can use a floater for these different forms of presentation, however that doesn't mean it's the best choice.

A floating line is clearly not a good choice when the wind blows, probing deep water, when fishing any fly that needs to be strip retrieved or when short leaders are necessary. A floating line is also a risk when fishing over flat, clear water under a high sun. This creates line shadow and if there is any movement of the line, however slow, it creates moving shadows, a situation that will definitely spook approaching fish.

Cortland's "Trout Boss" floating line is the newest of their lines that provides anglers with four key elements necessary for Stillwater presentations. Distance, accuracy, floatation, and durability are the keys to a successful floating line. This line has become an instant hit with fly shops and anglers around the country and is now considered at the top of the quality floating lines available to anglers today. I find it best for pick up and recast without almost no surface displacement, a key element for not spooking feeding fish. You won’t be disappointed with this product.

Type: Floating/Colored
Cortland's Trout Boss is a high floating line that helps remove surface disturbance when lifting the line for the next cast. Perfectly tapered for long casts.
Brand Name: Cortland Trout Boss

Trout Boss


Camo Intermediate
Without question, this line is the most critical line anglers can use to effectively fish stillwater if you cast and retrieve the fly. It's the first step in the presentation process that will keep the fly where you want it, where trout feed.

With its slow sink rate of 1 to 1 1/2 inches per second or 1 foot in 10 seconds, the line keeps the fly off the bottom above underwater debris while maintaining its presence in the feeding zone longer. This, in turn permits a slow retrieve through a specific water column increasing the chances of inducing strikes from feeding fish.

Intermediate lines come in both colored and clear but no other manufacture can match the Cortland Line Company's clear Camo. Other lines sink faster, have more memory and don't cast nearly as well.
For me, I use the Camo line to probe the top 6 feet especially that 2-4 foot depth where most strikes occur. I've found that exploring deeper reaches with this line is not productive. I count up to 30 seconds which drops the line approximately 3 feet. Counting longer than 30 seconds is a waste of time. If trout are deeper than 6 feet, switch to a Type 2 sinker which gets you into the next zone quicker.

Because of the conditions we encounter on stillwater, the intermediate is probably the line of choice 70 percent of the time. The other 30 percent are better fished with the other line choices.

Type: Intermediate Full Sinking
Brand Name:
Intermediate Cortland-Camo 444
Sink Rate - 1.25-1.75 ips


Type: Intermediate Full Sinking
Brand Name:
Intermediate Airflow / Camo
Sink Rate - 1.25-1.75 ips


Clear Type 2
Fast sinking lines are built with specific sink rates which makes it possible to select a line that most effectively explores a specific depth or gets you on the bottom more quickly. The Type 2 sinks at 2 to 2 1/2 inches per second or 2 feet in 10 seconds, twice as fast as the Camo intermediate line. It is designed to fish Zone 3, 6-12 feet down. If trout are deeper or you need to get to the bottom more quickly, you need to use a Type 3 or 4 line.
However, I've found trout that hold deeper than 6 feet are telling you they are off the bite and are there for other reasons other than food. You can catch them, but it is painfully slower action unless using an indicator and chironomid or small nymph.

The Type 2 sinker has more memory than the Camo because it has a mono core which is impossible to get the memory removed especially on cold days. But, it is the line necessary for fishing that 6-12 foot depths where trout hold during mid-day time frames or when they are off the bite.

Type: Type 2 Transparent - Full Sinking
Brand Name: Cortland


Sink-Tip Lines
When trout turn their attention to emerging insects, presentation of the fly needs to match the naturals upward arc towards the surface. This is a perfect match for the sink-tip line. The key is knowing when to make the change. Most of the time the trout tell us when they are focused on emergers with those last second takes.

Choosing the correct length of tip is relative to the depth of the water you are fishing. The deeper the water, the longer the tip. The sink rate of the tip corresponds to the depth the fish are holding. The closer the fish is to the surface, the slower the sink rate should be.

7 foot clear Camo tip

This line has a Camo tip that is 7 feet long next to the floating portion of the line. Because of the slow sink rate of the Camo tip, this line is perfect for fishing the top 2 feet or when trout are showing feeding on or just under the surface. I designed this line just for this purpose and it is my line of choice when trout feed in this manner.
As with any sink-tip line with a tip section 10 feet or shorter, you can pick up and recast anywhere during the retrieve which is a huge advantage over full sinking lines.
I don't use this line for fishing emergers up through the water although you could if you want to wait and let it sink. I use the 5 or 10 foot sink-tips for this purpose.
From comments I've had from other stillwater anglers, they find it an excellent choice for fishing pupae just below the surface or any small nymph when trout are showing dorsal and tail fins on the surface.

5 foot clear sink-tip

This line has a clear Type 2 tip that is 5 feet long attached to a light green floating line. The tip sinks 2 feet in 10 seconds and is perfect for fishing emergers up through the water in the top 5-6 feet. Keep in mind most trout will hold in the top few feet when focusing on emerging insects.
You can also probe shallow shoreline edges with this line when using a cast and retrieve form of presentation, but with longer leaders to avoid spooking fish.
This line is also my first choice when fishing streams and rivers with nymphs. The floating portion can be mended while the sinking portion gets the fly to the bottom quicker. The line can also be used when trolling flies which will put the fly 2 to 3 feet down relative to the speed you troll and the amount of line you let out.

10 foot clear sink-tip

This is the same as the 5 foot sink-tip only 5 feet longer. It's a Type 2 tip that is 10 feet long and sinks at the same 2 feet in 10 seconds. I designed this line to fish zone 3 which is 6 to 12 feet deep.
This line has two presentation options. I can use it to fish emergers up through the water column or to reach trout holding in deeper water. I'll use a weighted fly on leaders from 10-12 feet long and use a count down system until I reach the depth the fish are holding. With this set-up, I know the fly will always be below the line which is perfect for fishing emergers or to reach fish regardless of their depth as long as they hold in water 12 feet or less.
Keep in mind the only two angles you need to meet when fishing lakes is parallel or up through the water. Each of these lines has a specific purpose. You challenge is to match the line to the depth trout hold or feed in and always keep the fly in the zone as long as possible.
Remember, trout only look up so the longer you keep the fly above the fish, the longer the distance you can retrieve the fly which increases your chance of more strikes.

Type: Sink Tip - Transparent Tip

Brand Name:Cortland


NEW! Cortland's Micron Fly Line Backing
This is 20 pound backing that goes on your reel for 5- 7 weight lines. A 100 yard spool is more than sufficient if matched to the proper reel. Line and backing should fill the reel to avoid coils in the line when stripped from the reel. Stretch your line before placing the cast on the water to insure a smooth presentation.

$11.95  qty


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