New Fly Lines of 2018

Amplitude Anadro 

The Anadro is for big fish like steelhead, Atlantic salmon, Chinooks, and cohos in big rivers where long casts and long days slowly stack the odds in your favor. In the 8-weight version, the line has a 62′ head with a short, powerful front taper for turning over big flies, and a 30′ rear taper for long casts and–more important–line control at long distance so you can mend, mend, and mend again. The Anadro taper is available in Scientific Anglers’ Mastery series, and in Sharkwave.

Like the Sharkwave line, this has a Sharkskin texture on the tip, a shooting texture through the head of the line, a smooth “tactile reference point” to let you know when the head is extended, and more shooting texture through the running line. The difference with the Amplitude is the price, slickness, and durability. Amplitude lines have a new slickness additive SA says helps the line shoot farther and last much longer than non-AST versions. The Anadro taper is 1.5 times heavier than the AFFTA standard. That means the 8-weight is 260 grains in the first 30′, halfway between a 9-weight and a 10-weight. $130|


Amplitude Anadro Fly Line

DirectCore Flats Pro

We tested the new RIO DirectCore Flats Pro on Belize permit, alligator gar in Louisiana, and tarpon in the Florida Keys in extremely hot conditions. The low-stretch monofilament core of this new line had zero memory coming off the reel, rolls out straight on the water without kinks or coils, yet it stays stiff enough to shoot long casts and doesn’t tie knots around itself on the casting platform. RIO says the difference is the low-stretch monofilament core that also gives you better contact with he fly, and greater power to burry the hook when you need to.

Beyond the new core, the triple-color line helps you judge distances better and communicate more accurately with your guide. The front 19′ is blue, while the rear of the body and rear taper (also 19′) is bright orange, followed by 12′ of yellow handling line, so it’s easy to both see and feel when you’ve got about 40′ of line out of the rod tip. DirectCore Flats Pro 6- to 12-weight lines are all one line size heavy for longer casts and to properly load stiff, fast-action rods. So an 11-weight is a 12-weight according to the AFFTA standard, a Flats Pro labeled as an 8-weight is actually 240 grains, and so on. $120|


Rio Fly Line

Tropic Compact 

A 350-grain line is an 11 1/2-weight according to the AFFTA standard, but Cortland does a good job here by labeling the Tropic according to its grain weight, and offering multiple suggested rod weights as well. The reality is that this is an excellent line for modern 10-weight rods and actual fishing conditions, and the Tropic Compact comes in 200-, 240-, 275-, and 425-grain weights as well. The full-floating line with a short, aggressive head is perfect for casting large-profile batfish imitations into the wind, or turning over heavy permit flies with dumbbell eyes. $80|

Cortland Fly Line

InTouch Single Handed Spey 3D

The InTouch Single Handed Spey 3D has a long 34-foot head that allows you to pick up and carry a longer line, which means you have to strip in less line before you cast, but you’ll also need some space for that D loop to lay out a full cast. The body and longer rear taper also give you the option of making a normal overhead cast, with better mending and line control after the line lands. RIO came out with the floating Single Handed Spey line in 2016. The new 3D version has three densities from the running line to the tip–floating, hover, and intermediate–to get your flies just under the surface. It’s perfect for swinging soft-hackles during a caddis hatch, or shining streamers through a riffle without the tedious repetition of stripping in a bunch of running line before you can cast. $99|

Rio Spey Fly Line

Airflo Super-DRI Elite

Most Double-Taper lines are symmetrical–identical at both ends. When you wear out one end, simply flip the line and you’ve got a brand new line. The Airflo Super-DRI Elite builds on this 2-in 1 idea with presentation tapers at both ends, but they are not identical. It’s an asymmetrical double-taper fly line. One end is tapered for delicate presentations, the other end is slightly more aggressive, with a thick tip taper to turn over bigger streamers, nymphs, and strike indicators. The 5-weight Super-DRI Elite is 145 grains, which is within the AFFTA standard. It’s perfect for fishing distances under 40 feet and standard-size drys and nymphs, but as the package indicates, don’t take this outside the trout world. $85|

Airflo Super DRI Elite Fly Line

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Thomas & Thomas Exocett SS

Exocett SS

The successful Thomas & Thomas Exocett saltwater series turned heads when it hit the market two years ago, and showed it has more that just technology and slick components. The series hits an appetizing balance between weight and power, where the casting is so tactile and rewarding, it’s almost surprising to feel the power in the rod when it’s time to do the dirty work of lifting and pulling—perhaps part of the reason the Exocett has become a common fixture at some of Earth’s most challenging saltwater locations. But an interesting thing happened with this “saltwater” series. I started to also see it in the hands of fishermen in Africa with tigerfish, cradled under the bellies of golden dorado in the freshwater streams of Bolivia, and in my own hands fishing for taimen in Mongolia. The Exocett, it seems, isn’t just for salt water. With that in mind, rod designers at T&T came up with the newest iterations called Exocett SS ($825,, two 8’8″ rods with steep taper at the tip end, so they have extra lifting power for sinking-tip lines, and for casting heavier short-head floating lines. I used the 350-grain Exocett SS at the annual Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, and throughout the day used increasingly larger flies (to keep small stripers off my fly) and heavier sinking tips (to sink below small stripers) and while I never did find bigger stripers, I did find there was almost nothing this rod couldn’t handle. For heavy lifting, carrying short lengths of heavy heads, and for drilling large flies into a headwind, the Exocett SS (also available in a 250-grain version) is also perfect for muskie and pike fishing; largemouth bass in heavy cover; for snook under the lights, docks, and other structure; and for baby tarpon snacking within the mangroves.

On a recent trip to the Rio Marié in Brazil, I also found the slightly shorter 8’8” Exocett SS to be the best rod in my arsenal for peacock bass. It was a powerful tool for fighting fish near the boat, slinging line low under overhanging branches, and for lifting sinking-tip lines near the boat for the next cast. For long days of casting with heavy lines and big flies, it was less fatiguing than other rods because it loaded with less effort.

To find out more about the best new rods, reels, lines, and other tackle for 2018, pick up the FLY FISHERMAN Gear Guide on sale at newsstand nationwide or at


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Waterworks Lamson Cobalt

Amid the current profusion of fly reels on the market, it’s hard to imagine much new being brought to the table. But Waterworks-Lamson builds a number of noteworthy innovations into the saltwater Cobalt (5/6 to 11/12). Even looking at the Cobalt, you sense something slightly unusual—the spool and frame ports are asymmetrical, some larger than others to distribute mass in a way that eliminates the need for a separate spool counterweight. Less visibly but more significantly, the inside and outside diameters of the case are machined on different centerlines, putting less material at the bottom of the frame and more at the top, underneath the reel seat, where it does more good by adding strength and stiffness—no small consideration in fighting powerful, hard-running saltwater fish.

Much, in fact, about the Cobalt addresses strength and toughness. The MICRALOX finish offers twice the durability and 55 times the corrosion resistance of standard Type II anodizing. In protection from the degradations of saltwater, there’s no such thing as overkill.

A spool held to the spindle with a nut for a more secure mount replaces the familiar pop-out design. The drag is a super-sized version of Waterworks-Lamson’s signature conical brake (as smooth and reliable as any I know), built specially for the Cobalt with a carbon alloy friction surface for heat stability at high RPMs. Completely sealed, it requires no lubrication and remains waterproof to 30 meters. The drag adjusts in half-pound increments through a 12-pound range, but you can change the window from 0 to 12 pound, or 2 to 14 pound if you prefer to match the requirements of your target species. (It entails tools and loose parts; I’m not anxious to try in the field.) Once you’ve dialed it in, you can mark specific settings on the drag knob and instantly adjust from stripping tension to fighting tension with repeatable, reliable results.

Tarpon are a bit hard to come by in Oregon, so I took the 11/12 model to an estuary for a shot at fall Chinook during one of the worst salmon returns in memory. The fishing lived down to my expectations; the reel exceeded them. The frame proved commendably rigid—no flexing or twisting or play when you bear down on it. It felt like a full-cage frame. I had a particular interest in how it would behave with a monofilament running line behind a shooting head since this setup can cause problems with many single-sided reels; the thin mono can sneak through gaps between the frame and spool and end up outside the reel, wrapped over a frame pillar. But I never had the slightest problem. I have only one, very minor, quibble—the drag knob, which I find found stiff to operate—though this may well relax with extended use.

Decidedly not a scaled-up trout reel, the Cobalt is engineered for heavy lifting and longevity, built from the ground up specifically for big dogs in the salt. $570-$800 |

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Orvis Ultralight Convertible Wader

I’ve backpacked into high-mountain lakes without waders just because I couldn’t handle the extra weight. Standing crotch-deep in numbing water, I wondered if I made the right decision. I’ve left essentials at home when flying to remote Alaska wilderness lodges simply because my waders and boots consumed so much space and weight, I had trouble meeting the weight allowance. The waders were nice, but I sure wish I had space for a rain jacket, my box of streamers, and a bottle of Scotch.
Orvis’s new Ultralight Waders make backpacking and flying a little bit easier by shaving weight and bulk from a men’s and women’s wader system that weighs 2.4 pounds (men’s medium) and packs smaller than any previous Orvis waders.
To get there, Orvis used a new stitched-and-taped seam system with less overlap and bulk. With seam reinforcements in the knee and crotch areas, Orvis says these seams are stronger than previous Orvis waders with sonic-welded seams. Although packable, the waders still have essential features like a Velcro patch for flies, docking station for hemostats, front outside zippered pocket, and an inside zipper pocket with a large stretch mesh cargo compartment.
Most important, these waders have a slick and easy system to convert chest-high waders into waist-high waders—critical for hot summer days and for peeing. Fidlock magnetic clips hold the waders firmly in place at three points when wading deep. A one-handed flick releases the magnets and allows the waders to slide down the suspenders into the waist-high position  $300|

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Scott G-Series

In 1976, San Fransisco was ground zero in the world of graphite fly rod design. Golden Gate Casting Club member Jimmy Green with Fenwick hand just recently introduced graphite fly rods to the consumer public, Tom Morgan was the new owner of the R.L. Winston Rod Co., and Harry Wilson–who had started the Scott Fly Rod Company in a basement on Cook Street just a few years earlier–introduced the world’s first 9-foot 4-weight graphite rod.

Wilson called it the G rod, and with its groundbreaking internal ferrule it quickly became the foundation product that built the entire Scott Fly Rod brand. In 1993 Scott moved its factory to Colorado, and in 2006 the G was re-engineered to become the G2. By today’s standards, the G2 was a slow, deep-flexing rod. It developed a cult-like following in the Rockies because it was easy to load at trout-fishing distances, and amplified your enjoyment of even small and medium-size fish.

With the recent introduction of the G-Series, Scott can lay claim to having the longest-running continuous graphite fly rod series–even if it’s the name only, because the G-Series is a completely different animal. Like the G2, the finish on the G-Series is brown with gold trim, and the rod is miraculously easy to bend. With the G-Series it’s easier to be accurate because you’re never trying to muscle your way through it. Your hand talks, and the rod listens.

The new G-Series is much lighter than its predecessor. More important, with modern material, technology, and design elements borrowed from the Radian and Meridian series, the rod recovers (comes back to the straight position) much quicker than you’d expect from such an easy-loading rod, even when your reach out to distances beyond its intended range like 60 and 70 feet. It also tracks straighter and comes to a stop with less wobble than the old G2, which means you’ll hit the target more often with less frustration and fatigue.

It’s hard to redesign an American classic, because like a Ford Mustang or a favorite pair of Levis, so many people have fond memories that it leaves little room for improvement. But Scott has hit a home run with this one. It’s retro in  all the right ways, but gives you a bigger window to work in terms of distances, wind, fly size, and the species you can tackle. It’s a rod that will be winning fans and catching fish for another decade. $845|

To find out more about why the spine of a rod is important, and to learn how to find the spine of your rod black, see the 2018 Fly Fisherman Gear Guide (On Sale now nationwide).

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Hook & Fly Base Layer

Blending the best two natural materials in the world—Bamboo and Merino wool—results in a garment that benefits from the best of both worlds in warmth and comfort. Hook & Fly’s Bamboo and Merino blend base layer features a soft, form-fitting cut that sits next to your skin to help minimize any of that pesky bunching under your waders. Seams are designed for 360 degree movement and stretch in all the right places provide for maximum performance when casting or moving to the next spot. Both Bamboo and Merino wool contain fantastic moisture wicking properties to keep you dry and comfortable all day. Bamboo is also anti-microbial and prevents the growth of odor-producing bacteria, resulting in a hygienic base layer that can handle the abuse and stay smelling fresh.

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Ross Evolution R Salt

The original Evolution R has a braking system derived from 7 stacked stainless steel and carbon fluoropolymer disks. What’s better than a little cowbell in a great song? How about more cowbell? The new Evolution R Salt has a 16-disk drag system that produces nearly 30 pounds of drag. The large frame-integrated drag knob makes it easy to turn up the volume. Instead of one counterbalance, the Salt R has two smaller offset counterbalances to reduce vibrations when line is being ripped from the reel, and a reel handle machined from canvas phenolic rod. It comes in diameters of 4.08″, 4.43″, and 4.75″ to suit 7/8, 9/10, and 11/12 fly lines, $600.

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World’s Top 13 Pike Flies

Pike live in a green chiaroscuro. Their own green coloration adds to the effect while hiding them perfectly. Pike, therefore, are accustomed to seeing things swim too close. Dangerously close.

Pike live and grow large by this philosophy: The less energy spent, the better. When things casually feed dangerously close to pike, the better they like it. Dead baits work best in spring, before the water hits 50°F. The next best thing, late spring until ice-up, is a fly. Suspending suckers under a bobber are the next best thing, yet pale in comparison. Suckers know when pike are dangerously close, and they react accordingly.

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