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July 19, 2011 / flogginwater

Gear Corner – Cortland Fairplay Flyline

It’s been a few months now since I got my Cabela’s 4 weight, and the Cortland Fairplay line I’d matched up with it. I love the Cabela’s rod – the Fairplay line, I’m not so in love with after this much use.

Now let me say this – the Fairplay line is not the worst line I’ve ever had – that honor is a two-way split between a horribly crappy Rio line that came packaged with a Cabela’s rod & reel I bought 12 years ago – and a clearanced Scientific Angler’s line from a now defunct sporting goods store. That SA line was just a lemon, and not indicative of SA quality at all. The fiasco from Cabela’s though, turned me off to Rio for a loooong, looooong time.

This Fairplay line, if you don’t remember (or haven’t read) my early quicky review on it, is the #4 floating rocket taper. I picked it up on sale from a Dick’s Sporting Goods for about $18. There’s a good reason it’s priced so cheaply, it just is *not* up to the quality standards of the 333 or 444 series lines. After a few months of use, I’ve noticed the tip of the line starting to sink fairly quickly – it’s just a few inches, but it’s still an annoyance.

The worst part though, is the horrible memory this line has developed. I find myself having to stretch & straighten this line at least two or three times each trip, in addition to initial stretching when I begin fishing. The line still casts OKAY, though when the memory coils set back in, casting is effected until I straighten the line again – it’s hard to shoot 3″ coils of line through the snakes of a flyrod. It doesn’t help that most of the usage of this line has been in cold water. Memory might not be so bad on a 70 degree bass pond, but a 55 degree trout stream or mountain lake is not so great for this line.

I still say that these lines are fine if you’re really on a budget – though I prefer Scientific Angler’s short Air Cel lines, or their entry level full length Air Cel lines, which run $15 to $30 a piece when it comes to entry level lines. I’ve used one such line on this rod, and others (it’s a WF6F line) and it does not have nearly the same memory problems, and the tip still floats well, despite being a 4 year old line. I don’t have to stretch this line out mid-way through a fishing session as I do with the Cortland line.

If I had to choose, would rather fish a $10 garage sale special rod with a GOOD line (like one in Cortland’s 444 series) or a Scientific Angler’s Mastery line, than to fish the Fairplay line on a more expensive rod. I just don’t find it enjoyable to fart around with my line, trying to keep it straight and easy to handle, during a fishing trip. (And hey, that $10 garage sale special might just turn out to be a neat old Wright & McGill or Fenwick fiberglass rod!)

If you can afford it, get a better line than the Fairplay, but if you just can’t cut loose with the extra cash, the Fairplay is a serviceable line, just don’t expect greatness and you won’t be disappointed.



  1. Cofisher / Jul 19 2011 09:11

    Interesting. I have around 30 or so reels that each politely take turns being used. For that reason, I'm not very picky about fly lines. I use the Fairplay on some, along with Rio Gold and SA Air Cel. I can't say I've noticed a tremendous difference…even when a line has been wound on a reel and sat for long periods of time. I used what I suspect is a Fairplay yesterday and did notice more coil than usual; and that was in warm water. I'll generally stick with Rio Gold or Trout and see what happens. Good review.

  2. Mark / Jul 19 2011 10:48

    I can think of a couple lines that are worse than the Fairplay lines – the South Bend “Crystal River” stuff comes to mind. I forgot about the Crystal River line I once used when I was writing this – it breaks the tie – the crappy Cabela's line, the crappy Crystal River line, and then the SA line I had that literally snapped. I bought that line on a clearance sale – when I got it home, I began to suspect someone else had purchased and returned it – or that the person who packaged it had a seizure when they did – it was kinked and coiled around itself, and had knots in it. When I finally got the knots out and tried stretching the line to straighten it, it just snapped like a worn out rubber band.

    The SA Air Cel lines are great lines for the price – if you're watching your dollars and can't spend double for some really good fly line – the Air Cels are a good line.

  3. Anonymous / Aug 31 2011 07:37

    Damn! and I fell sucker for this line as well.

    Not impressed at all. My “CHEAP” and I mean cheap no name brand line is far better than this new CORTLAND. I specifically was looking for a second floating line with a forward weighted taper – I matched the line weight to my 5/6 rod and leader. What really started my concern was that straight out of a sealed box I did the usual line layout and within seconds my hands were covered with an oily black dust/fluff. Thinking that I would just stretch and clean through a wet sponge I also noticed the rough texture of this line. Anyway I attached the line to the backing put a braided loop on (another frustration – not from putting the loop on but if I hadn't thought to ask if the line had a loop I would have got home and then had to return to the store for braided loops!)

    I must say that I didn't experience as bad a memory effect as expected – but I did hand stretch and clean the line under tension and the line was left laid flat on the concrete walkway for an hour or two in the sun – I estimate the temp at 80F.

    With the whole rig setup, I initiated a few short casts and my worst fears were confirmed – The line with it's rough texture was hanging up on the eyes of the rod. No feel or shoot of the line at all!

    In all fairness I have done about 50 casts with the line and as with all things new it seems a bit of “breaking in” is required. But to break a line in ? Get rid of memory effect – yes. Never has this happen before on any other line I have purchased.

    I think what annoys me most that the SA AIR Cell lines were right next door on the display stand but I let the store owner convince me otherwise.

    Should the line have such a rough texture?

  4. Mark / Aug 31 2011 17:55

    Your fly line shouldn't have a rough texture at all – at least not a modern line. I didn't experience that particular malady with the Fairplay lines I've used, but I did notice a bit of an oily texture right out the gate with my line. My guess was that it was line dressing.

    As far as the braided loop to loop connectors…I'm going to cut them off all of the lines I installed them on – after some good use with them now – I've discovered that they cause a horrible hinging effect with my casts – the braided mono is too stiff, and the heat shrink tube compounds the stiff effects. Another thumbs down for this particular product. I've gone back to the good old standby Castwell Knot for attaching all of my leaders. Loop to loop is fast, sure, but I firmly believe it causes unnecessary degradation of casting performance.

    Good luck with your new line – the Air Cels are great cheap lines. You might also check out Cabela's website – they've been having some killer sales lately.

  5. gfen / Feb 23 2012 14:20

    I've been tempted to buy this at rare moments of need more than once, but the cost of it off the shevles at the sprawlmart is within a few dollars of the cost of a bagged LL Bean branded line, which is nothing more than a SA Aircel, anyways.

    FWIW, the Aircels in WFF don't leave me impressed because I'm pretty sure its a weird taper, but $18 is $18.

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