Cortland Is Back

Cortland Line Company recently announced their products will be available directly in Australia and New Zealand again. FlyLife had a chat with John Wilson, President of Cortland Line Company, to discuss Cortland’s return after a noteable absence.

20 years ago, Cortland was synonymous with fly lines in Australia, with a huge loyal following, especially for their 444 general trout line. I remember the first advice I asked for when getting into fly was “what line should I put on my entry level Redington 6 weight.” The answer across the board was a Cortland 444, with varied advice on whether I should overweight it with a 7 weight line, as was the trend back then.

Then around 10 years ago, Cortland just seemed to vanish overnight and the other major players gladly filled the void with an array of new and innovative lines. So after nearly 100 year in business what happened?

When we put this to John Wilson his answer was refreshlingly frank. “Cortland is celebrating it’s 103 year this year. In any company with that many years in an industry there will always be some up and downs. Cortland has a long history of being the innovator in advancements in fly fishing and sport fishing. In 1915 when Cortland first introduced tapered fly lines they never anticipated how it would be Cortland that continued to introduce many of the major advancements to our sport.”

“With the loss of Leon Chandler Cortland lost its way in being the industry leader. In 2012 Cortland went from being an employee owned company to being owned by a private equity group. Initially management just did not understand fishing or what was needed by our customers.”

Wilson joined Cortland in 2015 and was faced with the enormous task of getting Cortland back on point. With over 6,000 product lines the company’s focus had spiralled out of control and investment in innovation had all but ceased. 

“After being in business for 103 years, it is not surprising that there might be a period of stumble.” After putting the broom through the business and consolidating their efforts “Cortland is now focused on bringing the highest quality products we can offer and investing in innovation.”

While Wilson’s main profession was not the fly industry, he had worked as a fly fishing guide for nearly 25 years throughout his business career. He also coached the US Youth Fly Fishing Team for 10 years and won the country’s first medal in 1998. This put WIlson in a good position to understand fly consumers and product performance while focusing on sound business direction.

Moving forward to now, Wilson says “we are excited about coming back to Australia and New Zealand, the location of some of the best fishing on earth. Fishing down under is the dream of fly anglers around the world. We are happy to be back!”

Cortland is now pushing boundaries again. At the World Fly Fishing Championships in Vail, Cortland rolled out prototypes for their new rods and tippet. “We are introducing a next generation nymphing rod that is extremely light, sensitive, and counter balanced for immediate hook sets. We use military grade graphite and resins that were previously not available in the US market.”

Cortland just finished the final production samples on an entire new series of still water lines. The line includes innovations such as a ‘Hover’ line that will break the surface and then just hang there. “When fishing for sipping fish you don’t want a line disturbing the surface.”

“Our new FO Tech distance lines will be in this assortment as well. The line is 40 meters long and will still clear the guides on a single hand rod. It is incredible to cast when distance is needed to reach those fish normally just out of reach.”

Cortland are also about to introduce their next generation fluorocarbon tippets. At the World Championships the new tippet became known as ‘Top Secret.’ “We passed out a few samples and told people not to tell anyone. Apparently fishermen cannot keep a secret. Very quickly almost all the competitors were using it. The material is finished with plasma that creates an optical finish on the line that also makes it stronger. For instance, our maximum test was the 0.127mm tested at 1.91kg. They are slimmer, stronger, and invisible. Rumor is it also makes you more attractive to the opposite sex.”

There is more to come as well. Cortland created the extrusion process several decades ago and are working on high-performance polyethylene composites. “Our engineers at the Cortland Skunk Works have new polymers, core technology, and processes in the works.”

Wilson concludes saying there is “much more to come in the future. I really enjoy coming to work every day. The history is amazing, but the future is incredible.”

Cortland ANZ is currently working on establishing stock of major Cortland products for this coming Spring. For further information visit