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SA's Ultra 4
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Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair:
A Product Update
The Ultra 4’s
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Doug Macnair

The other night in a sound sleep, I dreamed a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Forum … As we were walking along, my trusted friend asked me why I had never spoken before the Senate about the virtues of Scientific Anglers Ultra fly line series. Tugging on my toga, I responded that I had never felt the need. After all, I had never been a fan of the Ultra series and thought of them as “Lines for Wimps.” I said that macho guys like me turned to Mastery for their needs. Suddenly, I felt the pain in my side (and a lot of other places, too). I had been stabbed … Bathed in sweat, I awoke from a bad dream … Bad dream? Perhaps not! On my tummy was a box of fly line with a cryptic note that read, “Try this dumdum!”

Being a very good boy and believing in the fantasy of Never Never Land, I had little choice but to spool the line the box contained – a 5-weight Ultra 4 floater with AST (Advanced Shooting Technology). A couple of days passed before I got up the energy or interest to wander outside to see what the line would do. I suffered from the preconceived notion that it wouldn’t do much. When I finally did go outside, I was driven by a single thought: I didn’t want another bad dream.

I married the line to a Sage RPL 8-ft., 5-wgt. This combination rod and line proved to so good that I have yet to fiddle with it. After all, I am of the opinion that people who screw around with success should take up golf. For me, success is when you max out a combination of rod and line that can attain up to 90 feet but also works with acumen at distances of 30-feet or less.

Has the Ultra 4 brought change to line? You bet! The 5-weight combo I just described has become my favorite outfit for fishing close to medium waters where fly presentation is truly important and range can make a difference. In a few words, I was so impressed with the Ultra-4 5-weight that I requested a broader sample, specifically a DT-4-F and a WF-9-F. My request was granted…

Why the DT-4-F? A lot of you folks are of the opinion that double taper lines are all but useless in modern fly fishing. Nothing could be further from the truth. In ever so many circumstances the DT proves out to be the superior line: (1) when it comes to roll casting, a DT is always my preference; (2) when it comes to a fine presentation, the DT wins again; and, (3) when it comes to being versatile, the DT is way ahead. Keep in mind that since both ends are alike, you can always switch heads end-to-end after a little wear or cut it half turning it into two shooters.

So what happened? From my point of view, the Ultra 4 DT casts like a dream. I married it to my Orvis Madison bamboo 5-weight. Precise, accurate, and effortless casting to a max of 65-feet is about all you can ask from what can be called truly “fishing light.” And when a roll cast is called for, I would be hard pressed to ask for a better line.

The obvious question is what’s the big difference between a DT-4-F Ultra 4 and the same flavor in the Ultra 3? If you will hold the question, I promise it will all become clear after we discuss the other extreme in the new Ultra 4 series. As I mentioned earlier, I ask for and received a 9-weight WF floater designed especially for saltwater. Believe me, it is one fantastic line!

In my casting tests, I used 3 rods: a G.Loomis 8.5-ft. GLX Mega, a Sage 9-ft RPLX, and a Fish Creek 9-ft Clearwater Salt. The line’s performance was superb with any rod in the group although my greatest distances were obtained with the Clearwater. No doubt anyone in his or her right mind would be happy with the results of any rod in the group. With any of the three rods used in this evaluation, I achieved extreme accuracy throughout the range of 30 to 80-feet and distance up to 90 to 100 feet. A wind-fighter? You bet! The Ultra 4 is so much better that the Ultra 3 that there really isn’t a comparison.

The flavor of the Ultra 4 features weight-specific front tapers ranging 3.5-ft. for a 7-weight to 5-ft. for a 10 weight. Fly turn over was perfect once I had figured out the right combo of leader butt diameter, mid-section, and taper to the tippet. The Ultra 4 Saltwater version of the Ultra 4 has a braided nylon core reducing memory and making it suitable for a broader range of salt environments than the tropic core. (Don’t fret! For those of you like me, who fish mostly very warm waters, there are a couple of variations of the Ultra 4 – the Bonefish, weights 7-9, and the Tarpon, weights 10-12 - that feature the tropic core.)

One of the features I like best about the series is the “telecast bump” -- a raised area on the fly line behind the head that suggests by feel when you should pickup and recast. One tip: do yourself a favor and use a nail-less nail knot to tie into the telecast bump with contrasting color thread. Once sealed, the bit of thread makes for a better feel in foul weather. In a squall, with wet chilled hands and reduced visibility, your feel may not be all that good. Tying the nail-less nail is as easy as this graphic shows. I encourage you to use this technique on all your saltwater lines, especially your intermediates, sinkers and sink tips. I assure you, life on the water will be better.

Now it’s time to respond to that earlier question, what sets the Ultra 4 apart from the Ultra 3? A lot! AST for one, but more than that and according to Scientific Anglers, the changes are geared to today’s high-performance rods and better casters. All of the tapers in the Ultra 4 series – both fresh and saltwater - have been re-engineered and are individually tailored for each line size. Accordingly, this change affords optimal performance over each line’s typical range.

Bruce Richards, Sci-Anglers’ fly line product engineer, a master fly fisher in his own right, remarked, “Anglers who deem[ed] the Ultra 3 their fly line of choice will experience even better control and longer casts with the new Ultra 4 tapers … In addition to the casting benefits, the taper improvements allow slightly larger tip diameter that improve tip floatation – making Ultra 4 one of the highest floating lines available.”

If you are a fan of Ultra 3, you will love the Ultra 4 series; on the other hand, if you are a fan of the Mastery series, be aware that serious competition has arrived. I assure you that the next time someone hands me an Ultra fly line, I will immediately ask, is this an Ultra 4? No longer a skeptic, I believe you will like what Scientific Anglers has done to better an already very popular fly line.

Well folks, that’s it for this the product update. For more information, contact:
3M Scientific Anglers, 3M Center, Bldg. 223-4NE-05, St. Paul, MN 55144-1000. Telephone: 1 (800) 525 -6290.

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© Copyright: Douglas G. Macnair, 2003-2005.
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