Fishing the Ultralight Orvis
Superfine 1 weight fly rod.

article and images by Bill Byrd

Although I fish rods as heavy as my 9 foot 10-weight, I mostly fish 3 weight or lighter fly tackle. I began fishing ultralights more than 16 years ago, and I have had an INCREDIBLE time with them. With over four thousand three hundred hours fishing Triple ought- to 3-weight rods for most species, I have caught and released unharmed MORE fish and LARGER fish (like this Orvis Superfine 1 weight bass below right) with light/ultralight fly tackle!

In the beginning (mid 1980s) I fished the lightest rods then available. The primary rod was my Orvis Superfine 1 weight. I fished it in many circumstances and caught thousands of fish, plus fish as large as the 6 pound largemouth bass (right), a 19 pound grass carp, and bass as large as 8.9 pounds on 4 pound tippet. I had an amazing run with my rod, and find that fly fishers still have and fish Orvis Superfine 1 weights today.

In fact it may be that some of the earlier 1 weights are making a come back. They can still be found used, and if the manufacturer supports them, they may be very functional and inexpensive these days.

Amazingly, Orvis still supports its original Superfine rods. Jim West who runs the Orvis rod department can build ultralight enthusiasts original styled 7'6" Superfine 1 and 7'9" Superfine 2 weight rods from their remaining stock of components so long as the components remain in stock. Call Jim West at 802-366-8235 -- extension #6540 Monday thru Friday 830AM to 330PM for the Orvis rod Building and Repair Department to find out what ultralights they can build or repair for you. The best time of year to contact the rod building department is during their less busy season -- August to early March. Please tell them Bill Byrd sent you.

I very recently had an email from a reader who wanted to know my suggestion for a proper line for the Orvis Superfine 1 weight.

Years ago when I first cast, then bought my 7 foot 2 piece Orvis Superfine 1 weight, I knew that it didn't load well on 15 to 20 foot casts with the Orvis recommended DT1F line. So I shifted to an Orvis DT2F and that helped it load, but picking up 25 feet of line off the water OVER loaded the rod. I knew that I was on the right track, but had not matched my rod with the right weight line.

When Jerry Siem co-developed the Sage Quiet Taper WF1F line with Bruce Richards of 3M/Scientific Anglers for the Sage SPL rod family in 1997, the line's front taper was designed to be farther forward on the line. I tried a Sage WF1F Quiet Taper on my Orvis Superfine 1 weight, and my little rod came to life!! Just enough additional line weight was set forward to load the Orvis 1 weight even with 15 feet of line out. With 25 feet of line out, the Quiet Taper's thinner running line kept from overloading my rod.

Later I discovered the reason for the Superfine 1 weight's loading problem was that in the early 1980s when Howard Steere and Jim West first designed the Orvis Superfine 1 weight, only one manufacturer made a 1 weight line, a double taper floating 1 weight line designed for "delicate dry fly" presentations assumed to be cast to trout.

The Orvis Superfine 1 weight rod was not designed to the grain weight of that particular line, rather the Orvis Superfine 1 weight was designed for a line weighing about 11 grains more than the recommended DT1F line. That was simply a mismatch based on lack of having a proper line to match the rod perfectly. Orvis had NOT made a bad rod, the available line just didn't match it perfectly, or gave a very light loading and presentation.

For many years when I fished my Orvis Superfine 1 weight, I used WF1F Sage Quiet Taper or Quiet Taper II line, or Sage Performance Taper II, the latest WF line available 2-weight thru 9-weight. Together, the rod and line cast and fished flawlessly.

While other line manufacturers were cutting back or eliminating 1 weight lines, by 2008 Orvis came out with a nice DT-1-F and two WF1F lines in the Generation 3 family of lines. Now, we have several possibilities for good lines for the Orvis Superfine 1 weight of old. You see the Orvis Generation 3 Superfine WF-1-F right.

To Clarify: The Orvis Generation 3 Trout is available in DT-1-F and in WF-1-F. There is another Orvis line called the Orvis Generation 3 WF-1-F Superfine that has a less aggressive forward taper than the trout version.

So if you want a WF line with the a slightly aggressive taper, get the Superfine WF-1-F. If you want MORE weight forward get the Orvis Generation 3 Trout WF-1-F. If you want the quietest presentation get the Orvis Generation 3 Trout DT-1-F.

Now all of the Orvis 1 weight rods in existance including the latest Trout Bum 1 weight, can be suitably matched by one of the Orvis lines currently available. You also have new possibilities for lines for 1 weight rods regardless of the rod's manufacturer.

For more information on Orvis' new lines or to cast an Orvis 1 weight or line in person, please drop by or call Orvis Atlanta, GA, at 404-841-0093 and ask for Shannon Ward, fly fishing manager, or any of his staff. He has the latest Orvis fly lines described above in stock. You can order by phone. Shannon, himself an avid ultralighter, knows and fishes Orvis rods, lines, leaders, and tippets on true ultralights.

Have fun!

- Bill Byrd.