China – 4th century BC: a piece of rice, a needle, a bamboo pole and silk fishing line…fish on! It doesn’t get any more natural and basic than that when it comes to fishing. Bamboo has made a resurgence in recent years, with fly fishermen wanting a more natural and handcrafted experience during their outings. With the ever emerging technologies available to fishing gear, it’s doubtful that we will ever resort back to a needle and some rice, but silk fly line offers a unique experience and makes us aware of what has been lost in the invention of mass-produced, conventional line.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the finest quality silk fly lines on the market, produced by a company called Phoenix Lines. Hand made in a workshop in the countryside of France, each silk line is a work of art designed for use on the water. While equal in weight to standard line, the silk line features a thinner diameter that allows it to come off the water faster and cut through the air more easily.
This is particularly useful for the type of fishing I do – off the beaten path, above 10,000 feet and often devoid of trees, the lakes I frequent don’t get a lot of pressure but they do get a lot of wind. I found that the silk line cut through the strongest gusts of wind and separated from the surface of the water as if it were weightless.
Maintenance while using the silk line is quite minimal. Out of the box, the Phoenix line can be used as a sink tip. Add a bit of Mucilin to the line and it becomes a floating line. When fishing the high alpine lakes, early morning I use the line as a sinking line and then once the sun heats up the water a bit I dry the line off, add the Mucilin and begin catching trout on dry flies. The little bit of work it takes to maintain the line is complemented by its versatility.
Another benefit to using silk is that it can last up to three times longer than regular fly line. In one instance, an English gentleman used his silk line for 42 years until it got caught in a propeller of a boat at a local reservoir. Given my experience so far and barring a rogue propeller, my Phoenix Silk Line will be on my reel for quite some time.