Introduction to Ultra Light Fly Fishing (ULFF)

If you are new to ULFF or maybe you just recently bought an ULLFF equipment you can read through in order to get an idea of this niche within a niche.

Definition: By ULFF we are talking on equipment that starts at the 3wt according to the AFTMA standard all the way down to the 000wt equipment. Please note that the AFTMA standard doesn’t include the range of equipment between 0wt and 000wt as this one was introduced by Sage.


History: The first ULFF rods that was recorded in print is a bamboo rod made by Leonard Catskill in the year of 1894, its intended line weight by today AFTMA standard was a 2wt, in the other hand the first graphite ULFF rods make their debut in the mid 70´s intended for 3wt lines going forward a 2wt line at the end of the 70´s. For the glass enthusiast, the first ULFF glass rods hit the market on a 3wt AFTMA standard at the beginning of the 80´s by Scott rod manufacturer. The pioneers on graphite ULFF tackle was Howard Steere and Jim West from Orvis in the mid 70´s and Jerry Siem from Sage (who was a former employee at Winston Rods) around the mid 90´s when Sage came up with the first 0wt outfit.

Orvis Western 862-4


Sage TXL 0710-3

Technical jargon: The AFTMA standard defines the weight in grains for the first 30 feet’s of line (1 grain = 0.00228571429 ounces), so for lines weights from 3 to 1 are:

1wt 54 to 66 grains
2wt 74 to 86 grains
3wt 94 to 106 grains

Because the weight in grains ranging from 0 wt to 000 wt was defined by Sage they are not under the AFTMA standard and are as follows

0wt 58 grains
00wt 50 grains
000wt 40 grains

Is worth noting that the 0wt is a light 1wt according to the AFTMA standard.

To make sense on this numbers in the whole technical jargon, we cannot leave this section without making clear that the fly line gives us the ability throw a fly on to the water, so the mass or weight of the line is an important factor when we go to the river and choose a fly and/or the right equipment to fish for our favorite fish species. In this sense the recommended line weight versus fly size is in the following table:

3wt Hooks sizes between 12 and 24
2wt Hooks sizes between 14 and 26
1wt Hooks sizes between 16 and 28
0wt Hooks sizes between 18 and 30
00wt Hooks sizes between 20 and 32
000wt Hooks sizes between 22 and 34

ULFF rod makers: Almost all of the fly fishing rod makers make 2wt and up rods, sadly the 1wt and under fly rods are made by just a few graphite rod makers and this dramatically decreases when you are looking for glass or bamboo rods. So, for rods in the 1wt category you can find them on the following rod makers: Orvis, Sage, Scott (glass), McFarland (glass), TFO and Cabelas. For bamboo rods you may find some maker able to build one just for you.

My favorite ULFF rods are: Orvis Superfine Touch/Trout Bum, Sage TXL/TXL-F and GLoomis Whispercreek series.

P1000137 IMG_2264
Orvis Superfine Touch with custom reel seat and handle 601-3 Orvis Superfine Trout Bum 761-4
IMG_2187 IMG_2037
Orvis Superfine Touch 761-4 Sage TXL 1710-3
IMG_1983 Yeso 2009-01-25 004
GLoomis Whisperlite 802-3 GLoomis Metolius 803-3

ULFF reel makers: The vast majority of reel makers build reels for lines ranging from 3wt to 1wt, so bringing them here is a futile exercise. Instead what you need to know is the lighter the better, so I’m gonna list the reel makers that are relevant to me and also make the lightest reels that I’m aware of: Sage, Orvis, Waterworks-Lamson, Dannielson (look for the Midge reel), Ryobi, Nautilus, TFO and Forbes.

My favorite ULFF reels, with and without drag, are: Lamson ULA Purist 1, Sage 31o0 (not longer made), Sage Click I and Lamson Litespeed 1

IMG_2178 P1000054
Sage 3100 Lamson ULA Purist 1 and Litespeed 1

ULFF line makers: Here again almost all of the plastic line makers do lines for 2wt AFTMA standard and up, sadly for line weight 1 and under we are narrowed to Orvis (1wt) and Rio/Sage (1wt, 0wt, 00wt, 000wt). On the other hand on silk lines you can find them in a 1wt AFTMA standard from Phoneix, Terenzio y Cadno. Cadno is able to build lighter lines for you if you request them to do so.

Some advice for the beginner in the world of ULFF: If you are new to the ULFF world and you are looking which rod weight to buy is better to pick up a 3wt rod because in the lower weights its difficult to sense the road loading and you may end up frustrated, for the same reason don’t go too short and get something above 8 feet long. In the other hand if you already have a 4wt rod don’t go for a 3wt because the jump is too short and you are not gonna feel a whole difference, in this case you can go to a 2wt rod and at the beginning over line it with a 3wt line so you can feel the rod loading. On the other hand, in selecting a rod action I’ll stick with the one that works for you in heavier outfits an that you have already and also feel comfortable with, remember that your muscles have “memory” because they have been swinging that old rod a lot so going with a different rod action can make things more difficult.

Some myths around ULFF:

  1. This kind of outfit makes the fight with the fish you are going after a longer one
  2. This kind of outfit are toys
  3. This kind of outfit are not intended for large fish
  4. This kind of outfit is limited to 20 feet casts
  5. This kind of outfit its only for dry fly fishing

Some facts around ULFF:

  1. Too much wind is gonna send you home
  2. Flies larger than a 10 size hook are awkward to cast
  3. Flies heavily weighted are awkward to cast
  4. The learning curve is steeper
  5. The fight with the smallest quarry feels like a shark pulling hard

Uses: ULFF is at its best for fishing in medium to small rivers, creeks and the like with small flies

Disclaimer: In doing this I try to be around what’s its a common place along this board and general consensus about ULFF to give the newbie a guideline to start enjoining this sport. I’m not saying you can not use streamers, big flies and fish in windy conditions. Also notice that I pictured what I have and like, this may be or may not be your preference and is intended as a guideline.


About zlachevsky

Fly Fishing enthusiast
This entry was posted in Fly Fishing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Introduction to Ultra Light Fly Fishing (ULFF)

  1. CBarclay says:

    Excellent post, Simon! Great and comprehensive information.

  2. Cowpokey says:

    Great guide Simon.

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