Improve your UL fly rod's performance....
with a new line!

article and images by Bill Byrd


When I began to fly fish seriously in the mid 1980s, I began to carefully focus on how I wanted my fly rods/lines to cast. The more questions I asked, and the more I experimented to get the "FEEL" that I desired, the more confusing the process became.

How can this happen? Choices -- today we enjoy myriad rod and line choices. When I first picked up a fly rod in 1968 there weren't many choices for fly equipment and tackle in the south. Oh how things have changed! Now each manufacturer promotes a host of lines in colors, weights, tapers, and sink rates. Even if you have fished for years, it can be confusing and intimidating.

I have spoken with many rod designers/manufacturers over the years and in most cases when they designed a rod series, they had a specific casting feel in mind for the rod being designed. When they cast the rod, it would have a consistent, familiar, properly loaded feel to it during the act of casting. These rods were normally developed with a specific fly line in mind. Then the rod would be manipulated to comfortably cast the line, and a "balanced outfit" would be the result.

Unfortunately, all rods are NOT matched to specific fly lines. In addition, this concept of a line that matches your rod and feels RIGHT when you cast is a totally subjective notion. RIGHT in this case, means that it pleases the individual fly fisher, as it should. By the way, there is no such thing as the average fly fisher! We are all individuals with individual expectations from our gear. That is what makes this process so difficult for manufacturer and fly fisher alike.

By the late 1980s when I began fishing lighter and lighter fly rods I bought an Orvis Superfine 1 weight. I found with typical DT1F line, it just didn't feel that it loaded well for casting short distances. Most of my casting with that rod was under thirty feet, so it didn't meet my personal idea of how it should feel casting. I experimented. At one fly shop which carried Orvis product, I was told that the rod was a "piece of crap" and that it just didn't cast well. Duh!

Undaunted, I loaded up an Orvis WF2F line which had more of its weight tapered forward and made the little 1 weight cast very smoothly at short distances, and in wind to 15 mph. The drawback was that on longer casts, the rod was OVERLOADED. Then I experimented with Orvis DT2F line and found that it loaded my 1-weight rod lightly but just fine enough and gave a quieter presentation. My conclusion, the fly shop clerk who had made the statement that my 1-weight was a "piece of crap" just didn't know what he was talking about. He lacked interest in the rod and the skill to cast it, but he wasn't about to admit his personal weaknesses to a customer! Just because someone works in a fly shop doesn't MEAN that he knows anything. It just means he works there, and has opinions, correct or not.

I began to research more and learned that Howard Steere and Jim West, Orvis master rod designers in the late 1970s through the 1980s, brought us into the world of ultralight fly fishing. First Howard and Jim designed the Orvis Ultrafine 2-weight fly rod, then they designed the Orvis Superfine 1-weight to emulate the action of a cane rod in a graphite design. They developed this 1-weight rod with only one choice of 1-weight lines available. It wasn't a perfect marriage between line and rod, but it cast lightly and helped re-establish the light weight boundaries of UTRALIGHT FLY FISHING.

Finally the lightest fly presentation of its day was avaiable to us all. For many the rod didn't get great reviews and was considered hard to cast. The reason was lack of a WF1F line available at the time that weighed enough to load the rod to produce a comfortable, familiar casting feel. Anyone who tried that rod had to have enough experience to compensate for the LIGHT load feeling of the rod/line combination. Most couldn't. Many who weren't skilled casters just blamed the rod.

I fished my Orvis Superfine 1-weight with DT2F or WF2F Orvis lines for several years with tremendous success! Because of the fun of this light weight tackle and the stealth presentation that it allowed me I caught more fish than I had ever imagined with it. As contradictory as it sounds, I also caught some of my largest fish ever on that 1-weight. Fishing my Orvis Superfine 1-weight has been a revelation.

By the late 1990s Jerry Siem picked up the ultralight ball and ran with it. This time, Jerry co-developed the Sage SPL series of rods. Along with new technology materials, he co-developed the rods with the new QUIET TAPER lines designed by Bruce Richards for Sage at 3M/Scientific Anglers. Being co-developed, the rod and line were a perfect marriage. This was a first. Jerry also broke ground by developing the new ultralight fly rod lineup called the Sage SPLs. They covered line weights Ought to 2. The Sage SPL Ought weight was ground breaking since it was physically lighter than the Orvis Superfine 1-weight, and cast its new companion Quiet Taper WF0F line like a dream. I was hooked.

I began to spend many hours with my new Ought weight. After casting the new Sage Quiet Taper lines, I believed that I saw potential for these lines on other manufacturer's rods so I began experimenting with Quiet Taper lines. First I cast Quiet Taper WF1F on my Orvis Superfine 1-weight. WOW! With the new aggressive weight forward line my 1-weight really cast beautifully -- better than with the DT2F or WF2F lines. It had to be the taper.

Then I cast Quiet Taper WF1F on my Winston 8 foot 2 weight rod. Again, it was the perfect match for me. I enjoyed precision effortless casting on my Winston for the first time. So I tried this experiment with many other rods that were BORDERLINE. They didn't load fully with standard lines, but the Sage Quiet Taper made them perform. Another issue in favor of the Sage Quiet Taper lines is that they use a low mass, fine diameter running line. On longer casts, the total line weighs less, and won't "crush" your rod on long line pick ups.


THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE. Ultralighters will NO LONGER have a true full ultraight WF floating line choice in Sage line product. Quiet Taper II line, a direct descendant of Sage's original Quiet Taper WF lines mentioned above available 0-weight and 1-weight thru 3-weight was discontinued in 2007.

The latest generation Quiet Double Taper II line is available 000-weight to 3-weight in double taper only retailing for about $65.00 and is bound to re-set the benchmark for true double taper ultralight fly lines. However the Sage manufactured WF true ultralight lines are gone.

Sage's Performance Taper II line is available Weight Forward in line weights 2 thru 9 at $65.00. The problem is that no Sage WF lines are being manufactured for 1-weights to 3/0-weights as of now. These days if you want a more aggressively tapered WF1F line, see Orvis -- below.

Alternatives: If you need a WF1F to WF3F line, go to The Orvis website line section. You'll find the Orvis Wonderline Generation 3 Trout WF1F thru WF3F listed for $59.00. In addition Orvis features a second Wonderline Generation 3 Trout WF1F Superfine line that has a less aggressive WF taper than the standard WF1F. Orvis' DT1F thru DT3F version is also $59.00. These 1 weight lines are the lightest lines listed on the Orvis website. For information on these lines please call Orvis Atlanta, Atlanta, GA. at 404-841-0093 and ask for Shannon Ward, fly fishing manager. You can order by phone. Shannon himself an avid ultralighter, knows and fishes these lines.

Another source for WF1F to WF3F line is The Rio website -- trout line section. You'll find Rio Selective Trout II WF1F line thru WF3F listed along with Rio Selective Trout II DT1F thru DT3F line. A complete description of tapers is available along with product description. Nothing lighter than a WF1F is listed.

The Sage Quiet Double taper lines are manufactured 1-weight to 3/0 weight. Sage's Rio built lines are the only lines I'm aware of available in Ought-weight to 3/0 weight. According to Jerry Siem, these are high tech DT lines that will still cast well at short distances with the Sage 0-weight thru 3/0 weight rods.

I have been looking at product on many manufacturer websites this year. Even though there don't seem to be WF line choices 0 weight to 3/0 weight, it appears to me that the selection of WF and DT lines 1-weight through 3-weight is slightly increasing.

We are truly fortunate to have all of the wonderful choices when it comes to fly lines. My primary suggestion to you is if you fish true Ultralights -- EXPERIMENT! Try different top manufacturer's lines to produce the FEEL you desire. I will write an article to be listed in my Technical section soon on how to custom tune fly lines to get the FEEL you desire on your UL rods from production lines.