Anybody who has stood on the West Coast wet sand casting into a 15-knot or better wind knows the advantage of an integrated line when fly fishing the surf. Sure, an integrated line can be stripped all the way to the leader connection without the irritation of loop-to-loop line connections catching through the guides, as with a head system, but the major advantage is: the heavier running line of an integrated design is less apt to be picked up by the wind and spilled from the stripping basket, which is a problem with the lighter shooting/running lines used behind shooting heads. Those who fish north of Point Conception will nod.
Fly fishing the West Coast surf, having the right line can make the difference between a couple smallish surfperch and a 30-fish day. I’ve had that fact illustrated and handed to me, having been on the short side of that equation more than once, I admit. Whether casting for surfperch or cruising corbina, energetic surf conditions don’t allow much time to fish the fly in the sweet zone. The fly must get to the bottom fast. And stay there. The faster everything gets to the bottom, the better. And regardless what anybody says about fishing close for perch, we want a line that will cast far. More often than not, the fish will be a long cast out there, and if fish are close, the long cast will fish through that zone as the fly is stripped in. Full-sinking integrated lines aren’t the best long-casters, so a sink-tip gets the nod. I like at least a 15’ sink tip, and longer is better. Sink-tip lines with full-floating running line aren’t my first choice for the surf, as the floating portion rides on top of the waves and gets picked up and pushed, so I prefer an integrated, sink-tip line with a slow-sinking running line, as this type penetrates the waves, allowing the fly to sink quicker and fish slower, and with more direct contact with the fly.
Saltwater junkie that I am, I’m always seeking a better surf line. Going into the winter surfperch season I lined-up with a Cortland Compact Sink Type 9, and after a couple of months of fishing this line I’ve come to the conclusion it is the best surf line I’ve tried.
The Cortland Compact is an integrated, slow-sinking line with a 28’ fast-sink head. The slow-sinking running line is light blue in color, while the 28’ sinking head is black.
The Compact lines are available in several sink rates, though the fastest sinking, Type 9, with a sink rate of 9ips (inches per second), is the best choice for the surf. The long 28’ sinking head gets the fly down quick and is less subject to wave lift than shorter tips.
This is a very nice casting line, possessing an aggressive front taper that turns over and lays out heavy Clouser-type surf flies with ease. First time out I was impressed with the castability of the Cortland Compact. This line casts well with both single-hand and two-handed rods.
Cortland prints the grain-weight
of the line on the package, a great help to those seeking a line for a
two-handed rod. An average caster, I’m fishing a 475grain Type 9 on my #5 Spey,
and have no problem throwing the entire line (100’ to 120’).
Though it is ideal in the surf, the Cortland Compact with 28’ sinking head is an essential line with a number of saltwater applications, including fishing the kelp or offshore, and also for dredging lakes with Bugger and Leech patterns.