Orvis Clearwater Fly Line Review

Typically when I write a review, I am doing so to promote a product that I have benefitted from. These items are ones that I have been pleased with, and am spreading the word about to hopefully help fellow anglers. In this case, however, I am writing to dissuade others from purchasing a product I have had a poor experience with.

First, let me get things straight by mentioning that this is in no way an attack on the Orvis Company. I have used their tackle many times and have rarely been disappointed with the results. Orvis also does an incredible job educating anglers of all experience levels, giving back to the community, donating to conservation organizations, and providing outstanding customer service. In years past, they were chastised for only providing gear for the wealthy, stereotypical fly fishers. Today, they make quality lines of items that come with a much lower price tag, providing anglers like myself who don’t have the money to spend on higher-end items a way to enjoy the sport.

The most notable of these lower-end lines is the Clearwater series, which offers exceptional quality for a low price. My euro nymphing rod, the Clearwater 10′ three-weight, has performed better than I could have ever imagined. The tip is supple and sensitive, and it has endured a fury of jamming into walls and doorways that should have broken it a while ago.

Unfortunately, the quality of Clearwater products isn’t universal. I am not nearly as pleased with my floating, weight-forward, five-weight Clearwater fly line. In many aspects, the line isn’t terrible; it shoots alright, is highly visible, and loads my rod well when making even short casts. What I am unhappy with, however, is its floatability and durability.

Orvis Clearwater fly line. Photo credit: CrossCurrents Fly Shop

The reason I began looking for a new fly line this spring was to replace the three-year-old line that came with my five-weight originally. The line had done its job for a while, but was starting to sink, even when using dry flies or large foam indicators. I planned to purchase a high-quality line to put on my most frequently used rod, but I had to restrain myself as I knew I was saving for my Maine lifetime fishing license. Instead, I opted to get the much more budget-friendly Clearwater line. Besides, I’d had good experiences with Clearwater items in the past.

Right out of the package, the line sank. At first I tried to ignore it, claiming the riffles were pulling it under. After a while, though, I started to get disappointed. Even after thoroughly washing the line a couple times, it still was dipping beneath the water’s surface. This really screwed up my presentations, from drifting a microscopic midge dry to pulling oversized stonefly nymphs under a bobber. It wasn’t as much of an issue with streamers, although it was sometimes difficult to tell when I got a strike on the swing.

The poor floatability of the line was a surprise. One of the reasons I purchased this line was because I had read that there was a water-wicking technology built in that supposedly helped it stay on top of the water better. Whether this was a gimmick, or the line I received was flawed, I do not know.

The other issue I have with the line is the durability. Never in my three years of using my incredibly cheap fly line had I noticed so much as a nick along its entirety. Now, I’m finding cuts and scratches here and there, leading me to believe the line will only continue to sink faster. And it’s not like I’m stripping this across razor-sharp ice or rocks; even with regular use in places with sandy and muddy bottoms, this line is becoming damaged. It’s possible that because the line is sinking, it is finding rocks and sticks beneath the surface to get caught on.

At the end connected to the leader, the line is also having some endurance problems. I’ve found that the loop-to-loop connection has dug into the fly line loop, nearly cutting right to the monofilament core. Even when using leaders with heavy butt ends-say 30-pound-test, the leader still cuts through the fly line more than I would like.

With all this said, I do want to point out that the line I received could just be an anomaly. The reviews online are all positive, so don’t let my two cents keep you from purchasing it if you really believe you may have a different experience. It’s possible, however, that the reviewers didn’t actually use the line, but rather just test casted it on a lawn.

In the future, I plan on trying some higher quality lines, and when I do, I’ll let you know my opinion.

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