Airflo Clear Tropical Lines. Exactly how much is stealth worth?

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Ghost on the Flats Photo by Louis Cahill

On a recent tarpon trip I had the chance to fish one of Airflo’s Clear Floating Tropical Ridge lines. I was prepared to either love it or hate it and to be honest I got a little bit of both. I fished it for two days and here’s what I learned.

The positives.

Stealth: I’ve always been skeptical of clear lines. It’s long been my belief that what fish see is the shadow of the line or the disturbance it creates on the surface and that a bad cast will spook fish no matter what line your using. I was surprised to find I was wrong. The first day fishing the clear line was bright and very calm. Landing an eleven weight line softly on a day like that is crucial. I’ll be honest, I made a few bad casts. Casts that should have spooked fish but didn’t. In this area the Airflow really delivered. It’s a great stealth line.

Castability: All in all the line casts very well. It loaded my Thomas and Thomas eleven weight Helix very nicely. It turned over easily and was easy to land softly. It shot well, as promised, handled the wind nicely and, after some work (more on this later) had very little memory and laid out nicely on the deck. No complaints casting this line.

Low Stretch: One of the things I generally don’t like about clear lines is they all seem stretchy to me. A stretchy line is the kiss of death when tarpon fishing. A tarpon’s mouth is so tough you really need some authority to get a good hook set. I expected this line to be a problem, but it wasn’t. The hookups I missed were on me, not the line.

The Negatives.

Sort of Floating: This is supposed to be a floating line and it is, more or less. It sinks just a bit, which aids in it’s stealth but the first evening I found myself in a situation where it bit me from behind. One of the great downsides to carrying a ton of camera gear on the boat is collateral damage. In the heat of fighting a big poon my pelican case some how got kicked and snapped my beloved T&T 9 weight Apex. My all time favorite salt water rod, which I brought along for an evening permit session. I had no choice but to rig my eleven when we went wading after tailing permit. I quickly discovered that the clear line was miserable for wading. The line stripped off of the reel sinks just enough that you have to rip it out of the water and make too many false casts. It’s definitely a boat line.

Situational Awareness: Or the lack there of. The second day I fished the clear line, we had wind. Not a problem for casting but it does make visibility tougher. Late in the day we got into a big school of poons. I had plenty of shots but the fish were being really selective. We switched flies several times after getting refusals and subtle was the ticket. It turned out that the fly the fish wanted was a fly that I could not see in the water. The sun was low and the water choppy so visibility was poor. Saltwater anglers know that the most important thing in the game is situational awareness, knowing what your fly is doing in relation to the current and the fish at all times is key. I had no idea how much I was relying on seeing my fly line under these conditions. It had not been a problem on a calm day with good light but there I was surrounded by tarpon in poor visibility with no idea what my fly was up to. What’s worse is my guide couldn’t see it either so he couldn’t help me. After missing two fish I picked up Kent’s rod and immediately hooked up. For all of it’s assets, if you are a beginning salt water angler without really good situational awareness, this line is not for you.

So, in summary, here’s what I think. The Airflow Clear Floating Ridge line is a special purpose tool. It does what it’s made to do very well. If what you want is a stealthy line that casts well and will put you on fish on those calm days when fish are super spooky, it’s awesome. It’s not an all purpose salt water line. It’s not a great line for beginners. To be clear, I really like it and I will carry it on my next tarpon trip but on a second rod to be used when the conditions are right. I think that makes it an important tool. Being a really good fisherman is all about knowing when and how to adapt to the conditions and this line will help you do that.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Airflo Clear Tropical Lines. Exactly how much is stealth worth?

  1. Louis – I recently tried out Airflo’s Ridge Tropical Clear Tip line on a flats trip – fishing for bonefish in Turks & Caicos. I concur with you on the positives and think some of the negatives you mentioned are mitigated if you go with their clear 12′ tip version instead of the totally clear version. You get the stealthy benefit with a mid-vis running line that floats really well. Overall, I am very happy with the clear tip line.

    • Brent,

      Thanks for letting everyone know about the 12′ clear tip version in case they are interested in purchasing one of the Airflo fly lines. I am sure the 12′ version is much better for wading.


  2. Low stretch, low stretch, low stretch!

    Sure, the Airflows require a bit of touching up – getting it to float consistently, particularly in flowing water required greasing up the tip. But the lack of stretch…man o’ man does it make some rods (i.e. fast ones) sing.

    Get two of the same rod together, one with an Airflow line on it and one with another. Pull fifty or so feet of line off the reel, and start casting. The difference is very very noticeable (at least it was to me).

    The lack of stretch at high line speed makes the other lines feel like rubber bands by comparison. Much better line control in the air, greater feel in the rod loading department, instant response to changes in the direction of the casting stroke.

    And the fact that the extruded gems seem a lot more durable than the alternatives, I’ll happily deal with the cleaning and greasing they require.

    And, there are alternatives to the clear – the Ridge Supple Tactical in Lichen Green is dangerous on a perpetually spooky fish…carp.

  3. It has been brought to my attention that Airflo provides spools or thier retail lines. The one the rep gave me did not have one. Apparently this is to keep people from reselling promotional products. Sorry for the confusion.

  4. I have found that clear lines tend to make fishing guides a little nutty…They have fits helping “call the strip” cadence of “strip,, strip, bump, bump, strip, bump, long strip”, especially in flat light/poor viz conditions. It reduces an important part of the partnership that can and should occur in a boat when chasing fish on a flat or a channel (i.e. bones, permit,’poon). They have the better angle from above and can help even an experienced fly caster up their hook-up ratio. Net/net, in tough viz days, the clear line isn’t as much of an advantage, go with an off-color line.

  5. Hey guys. I tried a clear floating line about eight years ago on the Bow and I found it very difficult to fish with. The actual casting was excellent, no issues there, but the line mending that you need to do when you are dry fly and nymph fishing really hampered me. It was hard to see the when I needed to mend,and as was experienced by Louis,was tough to get a cast back out as the line would partially sink. I now use it on lakes for dries and like it there. Just discovered your site a month ago, keep up the good work!

  6. Pingback: Fly Line Review: Airflo Ridge Tropical (Trio) | Michael Gracie

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