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Silk Lines. . .Who Needs 'Em?

By Ronald J. Barch, Rodmaker and Publisher of the Planing Form. Originally published in Issue #70 July/August 2001 of the Planing Form.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania and spend a long weekend on Spruce Creek. It's not often that I'm willing to endure 20 hours on the interstate in exchange for an equal amount of time on a trout stream but this excursion was an exception. Tom McDonnell, my host, had provided the classic angling weekend and I'd get a chance to renew some old friendships. The Lodge was comfortable, with bar well stocked. The food was outstanding and a wrap around porch with a view of the river made a great place to sit and gab. Spruce Creek ran clear and cold, held numerous big trout and the tricos came off like clockwork. On my second morning fishing I hooked, played and landed an 18-inch brown trout using a #24 spinner tied on a 7X tippet. For me this was a career best! You'd think all of this would make for a very memorable weekend, and it did, but food, flies and fussy fish isn't what I'll recall. No, when I look back it will be my introduction to fishing a silk line that I'll remember.

In preparation for the trip I made a Garrison 201, 7ft. 2pc. 4wt. The taper came highly recommended and I looked forward to its maiden voyage on Spruce Creek. While lawn casting the Garrison 201 prior to the trip I experimented with both 4 and 5 weight lines in double taper and weight forward. The fives seemed too large, while the lighter lines didn't seem to make the rod come alive like others had told it would. Remembering that a new rod needs tuning, matching a specific line to it, I vowed to try others while on Spruce Creek. As luck would have it silk lines were available for field-testing and I selected a double taper 4 weight. Immediately the rod came alive! WOW, What a difference!

The rod cast short, the rod cast long, it cast accurately and cut through the wind. The silk delivered a 12-ft. leader with 7X tippet with authority. I'd played around with silk lines before but never in an actual fishing situation. What I thought was just a mediocre rod taper became the rod I fished exclusively all weekend. I attribute this to the silk line.

During the remainder of the weekend, on the long drive home and often since then I've contemplated the change a silk line made. I've been wondering how using polymer lines effect tapers designed during the silk era. Perhaps all the taper tweaking that goes on is merely a response to, or consequence of, adapting to modern fly lines. A lot of research needs to be done and one must also consider the high cost and maintenance of silk lines before purchasing and using one. I switched from graphite to cane years ago so that I could feel the flex of the rod, I wanted to be in touch with what was going on. Casting a silk line gave a similar experience. The silk line enabled me to stay in touch with what was going on. I don't want this essay to become a fishing story but a big trout, rising to small mayflies, across the stream, rising between a rock and the opposite bank made for a difficult cast. I made the tough cast and hooked the trout because my rod and line responded to the situation. And the only new variable in the scenario that day was a silk line!

I am wondering how a silk line would do on big windy rivers? Or how about gaining distance in the cast while lake fishing for cruising trout? There's a lot to consider. In the meantime I'm going to start squirreling away some loose change and folding money and get a silk line of my own, all in the interest of scientific research of course! Oh Ya, Silk Lines…Who Needs Em? Well maybe we all do. Tight Lines. ~ Ronald J. Barch

For another view on cane rods and silk lines, don't miss this: Press Release.

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