Gear Review: Scientific Anglers Amplitude Textured Fly Line
Overview: I’m a chronic procrastinator when it comes to replacing fly lines. Call me cheap, stubborn, or just plain lazy, there’s no question this habit has impacted my angling experience over the years.
Take a recently retired five-weight double-taper, for example. Even a casual observer could see it was way past prime. Its once slick surface was cracking, and the color had turned dingy and dull from years of hard service. In short, that old line was just plum tuckered out. I would have – should have – replaced it long ago, but a niggling little voice in the back of my head kept whispering, “It’s just fly line, what’s the big deal?
Truth is, fly line is a big deal. More important by far (for trout fishing, anyway) than a fancy, bar-stock reel with a whiz-bang drag system. One might even argue that line impacts performance as much as the rod itself. And that’s not all – all lines aren’t created equal. Certain companies simply invest more into research, development, and performance – and in turn, produce better products.
Scientific Anglers has been a frontrunner in fly-line research and development for nearly 75 years. In fact, they revolutionized modern floating PVC fly line back in the early 1950s, making the fussy, high-maintenance silk lines of the day all but obsolete overnight.
And they’re still doing it today. Their top-tier Amplitude series is triple textured, and incorporates a proprietary additive called AST PLUS for slickness and durability meaning longer casts and easier pickup. Having used it recently in a variety of settings, I can honestly say this line offers more in the way of science than Bill Nye’s basement laboratory.
I’ve made a career as a knuckle-dragging cop, which is about the farthest profession from a researcher, but I’m all about running gear through the proverbial T&E grinder. And that’s precisely what I did with the Amplitude Double-Taper recently on three very different bodies of water – a small Northern Michigan trout stream, a medium-size inland lake, and across numerous spring creeks smattering Wisconsin’s famed Driftless Region. In the following paragraphs, I’ll reference these places by region and description, but not by name, for obvious reasons.
During this informal test-and-evaluation process, I used a five-weight Para-14 bamboo rod measuring seven-feet, nine-inches long. Like most bamboo tapers, it has a slower action – especially compared to the current batch of lightning-fast graphite rods. I flip flopped between two different reels – a contemporary Orvis Battenkill Bar-stock and a vintage Orvis CFO.
Test Site #1 – Small Northern Michigan Stream
Like so many Northern Michigan small streams, this creek averages knee-deep and a dozen or so feet wide. Tag alders crowd the banks, and the resident trout are wild, skittish, and stunning. Traditional overhead casts aren’t possible in most places along that water, but accurate, sidearm roll-casts – or even bow and arrow casts – are just the ticket.
One of the first things I noticed about the new Amplitude line was its slickness and texture. In fact, Scientific Anglers promises it will “shoot farther and last longer” than any other line on the market, and they weren’t lying, Amplitude turbo-charged my cast. The line hissed audibly through the guides, and although it won’t compensate for sloppy casts, this stuff sails effortlessly through the air and settles softly on the water.
I’m in no danger of modeling my casting stroke for A River Runs Through It – Part II, but Amplitude made my roll casts unfurl smoothly. Dry flies, soft hackles, weighted nymphs – it didn’t matter – when I did my part, they all landed delicately where they needed to go, and the brown trout responded in kind.
Test Site #2 – Inland Lake
Mid-May means Bambluegill – our annual panfish trip where everyone uses bamboo rods for big bull bluegills. The venue is a 72-acre inland lake where we sight-cast Michigan Skunks into the shallows. The panfish aren’t picky, but conditions can be challenging. Seasonal southwesterly winds whistle from one end of the lake to the other and play havoc with line management. It pays to keep casts low and send them in hot with a double-haul, because lag time equals wind drift – which means flies that land wide of the mark.
In theory, a weight-forward line would work better, but fortunately, the Amplitude double taper worked like a champ, even in the stiff spring breeze. Even though bluegills aren’t overly discerning, when they’re lying in a foot of water, they don’t let you get very close before they spook. Our casts averaged somewhere between 25 and 75 feet and needed to land close to the mark to get noticed. The proof was in the pudding though – we caught baskets of fish over two-day’s time and celebrated with an all-American fish fry.
Test Site #3 – Wisconsin’s Driftless Region Near Viroqua
The famed Driftless Region spans Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. This geologically unique area is one of the few places that was spared from the grinding, gouging effects of ice-age glaciation.
Spring creeks crisscross the terrain and we fished near the charming little town of Viroqua, Wisconsin, where the streams average between 10 and 40 feet wide. Unlike Michigan, tree limbs aren’t an issue, but high, overhead banks with tall grass and cow parsnips threaten to snare every dropped back cast.
As popular as the Driftless Region is among anglers, the resident fish see plenty of casts over the course of a season. What’s more, the summer sun beats directly down onto the water, making the trout even warier than normal. Success depends upon careful wading, long leaders, and fine tippet.
Regardless of those challenges, the Amplitude double-taper got the job done again. Subtle casts and drag-free drifts translated into bowed rods and smiles all around.
What I Like:
Slickness: The slickness of Amplitude line is unlike anything I’ve ever cast before. No, it’s not going to compensate for poor casting skill, but it flows through the guides effortlessly, offers amazing accuracy, settles subtly on the water, and floats like a foam Hippy Stomper.
Durability: Scientific Anglers claims Amplitude will last eight times longer than other lines on the market. Only time will tell, but given my experience with their other products, I’ve got no reason to doubt that claim.
Details: An old maxim suggests, “It’s the little things that make all the difference in life,” and there’s truth to that old saw. The fact that SA prints their specs (line-weight and type of line) near the end of the line itself might sound like another minor detail but it’s extremely helpful.
I’ve forgotten which line was loaded on what reel too many times, so trust me, this is next-level stuff. In fact, I once drove two hours north only to realize that I’d packed a five-weight bamboo rod and a reel loaded with four-weight line. I was fishing a small stream where abbreviated roll casts were the norm, but that underlined setup required at least 20 feet of line outside the tip-top to load the rod. A visual confirmation of the line specs would have saved me a ton of trouble.
What I Don’t Like: Call me crochety and cheap, but I still remember the days when premium fly line cost around seventy bucks, so there’s some sticker shock about the $129 price tag. Then again, as an old friend says: “It only costs a dollar more to go first class.”
Performance Tips: One of my annual rituals leading up to the fishing season is line cleaning. Some evening in late February, I pour a glass of something amber, fill a dishpan with warm, soapy water, and flip on A River Runs Through It for the umpteenth time.
Washy-washy-washy. Rinsey, rinsey, rinsey.
(Then, a brief pause to chuckle at Tom Skerritt, playing the wry Reverend Maclean)
“The Lord has blessed us all today, it’s just that He’s been particularly good to me.”
Yes, Tom, I agree. And so it continues throughout the evening.
I’m a sucker for annual traditions, but the pre-season prep for Amplitude is far much easier than it is with standard fly lines. Rather than meticulously washing off last year’s gunk, then drying and dressing it, a few passes with an abrasive cloth releases a built-in lubricant. The process seems overly simple but believe it or not, it works!
Perfect For: Serious fly anglers who demand optimal performance and don’t mind spending a bit more for premium line.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5 stars. (It would be an easy five stars if it cost less.)
Learn More: https://www.scientificanglers.com/product/amplitude-trout/