This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

March 22nd, 2004

I Have Arrived
(Well Maybe Not)

My husband, JC or James Castwell, makes a daily mail run to town and does whatever errands are necessary. It's always fun when he gets back - neat stuff does come in the mail, and other surprises if he visits the grocery store too.

When he returned on Friday, I was working in the den on the computer on the new issue. Our little dog, Whiz has a habit of coming to get me when Jim comes back. I made my way out to the kitchen and he handed me a little box. It took a minute or two to realize what I had.

A silk fly line. My own silk fly line!

The box was wrapped with bubble wrap, and upon opening I found the silk line, a plastic container of muclin (more on that to come) and an instruction sheet on the care and feeding of my new line, including recommended knots. Very nicely presented.

Okay, big deal - well for me it is. I've never had a silk fly line of my very own. I've cast a ton of them...but they belonged to my grandfather, dad, and various friends or acquaintances. Jim and I fished silk lines on cane rods when we were first married, but those lines were his - not mine. I seem to recall a line which was braided and enameled and a dark green. Jim thinks it may have been an early Cortland line when they switched from silk to rayon. Too many years ago to remember. Shortly after we were married we adopted the 'new' Scientific Anglers System Series rods (fiberglass), reels and lines. The silk lines were retired.

We continued to fish the cane rods for a while when we moved to Montana, but eventually graphite rods crept into our hands and we made the transformation from cane to fiberglass to graphite in what now seems like a tiny bubble in the stream of time.

Last summer I bought a Lee Wulff Classic cane rod. Six feet one piece - simple and indeed classic. I fished it at Rocky Ford Creek in eastern Washington and at the Idaho Fish-In. We really are limited with trout fishing here. We live on the saltwater. Trout are a minimum of three hours one way. And frankly, it's a bit of a stretch to justify even owning a cane rod for me. I have small light rods in graphite very capable of fishing the most delicate flies on minute tippets.


For me fishing a cane rod is not the same unless I am also fishing a silk line on the rod. Call it anything you want. That's the way it is. And to make matters worse, I have another cane rod on order. It will be hand delivered by it's maker at the Idaho Fish-In this fall. It is a 5 wt. quad being made by Ron Kusse. Ron didn't yell when I told him I would be using a silk line on the rod. He understood. It may be a conscious desire to return to a time less hectic and cluttered, or to simply enjoy a piece of fishing tradition. I doesn't matter really, it's mine to do and I'm doing it.

Silk lines are smaller in diameter, with a harder finish and have a very distinctive sound going through the guides. Smaller diameter also casts with less effort (nice in wind as well) and has less of a profile on the water. Once you've cast one you will feel the difference. Silk lines do require maintenance. I didn't mind it 30 some years ago, it was just part of the whole picture. I don't mind Hoppe's #9 either. If you have to ask what that is, you probably won't understand.

Before plastic lines, silk was what there was. They have to be treated with Muclin or they sink (yes, you can fish them as a sinking line). Fish the morning hatch, come in for lunch, string out the line between trees to dry, then coat and burnish. Reel the line back up and go back out for the late afternoon/evening fishing. Some folks today cut a double taper line in half, spool each half with backing on a different spool. If the line begins to sink, switch spools and continue to fish. At the end of the day, stretch out both to dry and coat and burnish. That works.

Which brings us back to my new silk line. I ordered a 5 wt., double taper from Olaf Borge and I already have the reel for it. It's the Hardy Bougle reel, the "Centennial". I wrote about this reel back in September, it was my Pick of the Denver Show.

Some years ago, (I have no idea how many) muclin was sold in small tins. I rather liked that. JC found the one he had squirreled away. When it is gone, I will scrap out the stuff in the plastic one which came with the line and stuff it in the red can. You have to remember to carry a dime in your pocket so you can open it.

Kind of neat. Some things are better left the way they were. ~ The LadyFisher

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