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Cortland Line dynasty on the path to return to prominence

For nearly 100 years – 99 to be exact – some of the world’s most popular fly fishing lines have been made in Central New York.
Cortland (WSYR-TV) – For nearly 100 years – 99 to be exact – some of the world’s most popular fly fishing lines have been made in Central New York.

Cortland Line Company boasts some of the most highly regarded fly fishing lines anywhere, but the company was on its way toward extinction until rebounding a year ago.

Fly fishing is an art form – and no one has done more of it than Cortland Line Company.

Many of the company’s products are on display at the headquarters, including Cortland’s 333 line, introduced in 1953. The 333 line was revolutionary when it was initially developed – it was the industry’s first unsinkable fly line.

"I think why Cortland is great is because we have such a drive to make incredible products and I think that's what Cortland had for many, many years going back to Ray Smith, a gentleman who started Cortland in 1915, that was his drive, he wanted to make the best product in the world,” said Cortland Line Company CEO and President Randy Brown.

The nerve center of the operation is a room that looks much like it did decades ago.

Machines there carefully braid the spider-web like material in ways unique to each of the lines made by Cortland and specific to the company, which they say has put them on top.

But it’s only the beginning of the process: each step is precise.

Each line is then colored coated and bubbles in the plastisol are eliminated and the shade has to be exact every time.

Finally, each inch of line is hand checked by testers looking for even the slightest defect.

At full production, Cortland can have 40 different lines running at once.

Despite its tradition and endurance, Cortland Line has experienced some tough times. The company was number one in the world in 1998, but bad business decisions began dragging the company down.

"Passion for excellence has never left Cortland. They came upon hard times financially, some business decisions didn't work out, but the passion never left,” said Randy Brown.

In 2012, Brown and a group of investors – all fishermen – decided to step in and save the storied company.

"Back when they had the small store out on Route 281, I went into that store. I was a young guy, with my dad, so that's a memory I won't forget,” Brown said.

There are currently six fly line manufacturers in the world – three are in the United States.

Brown says sales are picking back up for Cortland Line, but says it will be about two years before the company has completely turned around.

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