Down The Old Silk Road
Nearly forty five years ago my first decent fly line was a Kingfisher number 3, silk of course nothing else available then except very early plastic lines that were if I remember correctly frankly not much cop, the number 3 was quickly followed by a Kingfisher number 2 for the rivers, for the uneducated a number 3 was roughly equivalent to an #6 and the number two an # 5.
So I was brought up on silk lines, not until they both finally wore out many years later did I get a plastic line, a DT Cortland 444 I think, anyway it was plastic, it shot better and did not need to be dried out and greased after every trip, not a big deal but by then they were the norm and shortly after Kinfisher lines ceased to be made and that was that. My father had the best silk line I have ever seen, so supple and polished it was a joy, testament to the amount of time he spent looking after it, (much more than I did mine), and the years he fished with it, probably 30+, silk lines do without doubt improve with use and the more the better. Some years ago silk lines became available again, Mike Brookes started Phoenix Lines and for quite a while I deliberated about buying one, after all they were very expensive and to be honest I have never been a “retro” fly fisher so I resisted the temptation, that was until a few years ago when I bought one, what a revelation, just like the old Kingfisher. One great bonus of buying a silk line is the smell at least when new, the smell brought back many happy memories from the past, I don’t think it’s illegal just yet anyway to be a silk line sniffer.
There are many advantages to silk lines for river fishing, they are much finer than their plastic equivalent and much more supple once worn in giving a much better presentation, they float on the surface film and not in it giving better take detection and less disturbance when lifting off, they have little or no stretch which equals more fish hooked and more takes felt and being finer than plastic cut through wind better. More expensive yes but with a little care they will last many, many years so in the scheme of things actually represent very good value. The minor disadvantages are that they need to be dried and re greased with red Mucilin after every outing, they don’t shoot quite as well as plastic lines and after a long days fishing will eventually start to sink, in practice not normally a problem unless you are a dawn to dusk fisher. Re greasing only takes a couple of minutes after overnight drying.
So there you are, in this age of high tech everything it’s good to know that sometimes the original is best, well at least in my opinion!