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Silk Fly Lines in Saltwater: Casting in the face of the Alisios

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Silk Fly lines are enough of a novelty to turn most heads when used on a Chalkstream, let alone when using one in Saltwater. Having just returned from casting in the face of the Alisios trade wind on Fuerteventura, I was pleased to discover that the same qualities which make these lines popular on the rivers also prevails in the salt.

Atlantic Bonito caught on silk fly line Fuerteventura

A fresh Bonito caught using a silk fly line of the rocks at Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Two weeks ago I was happily engrossed in preparing for a last minute trip to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. What I was really excited about was the prospect of testing out a Silk Fly Line in the Salt. I am big fan of silk fly lines, and have used them now for many years in freshwater, but would they perform as well in the Salt?? I was eager to find out.

For those that have never fished with a silk fly line before, the natural benefits are -

  1. Zero line memory: No kinks around the feet or in the water giving direct contact to fly

  2. Less wind resistance: Lower diameter to weight ratio (makes distance casting easier)

  3. Adaptability: Floating or intermediate, although intermediate most suited to the salt.

  4. Zero stretch: Allows for greater sensitivity and hook sets and better fly movement

  5. Greater line capacity: More space for backing with their lower diameter

  6. Longevity: If looked after silk lines can last 3 times longer than plastic fly lines. I haven't had the chance to test this in the salt yet. See line care at end of article.

(You can read more about silk fly lines here - Silk vs Synthetic Fly Lines)

Upon arriving at our hotel at Caleta de Fusta, I was pleased to hear that the manager Carlos Benetez (aka Carlos Bonitos) was an avid fisherman. I arranged to meet him that afternoon after we unpacked.

I met Carlos at the reception as he started his shift and discovered he was a very passionate angler, in fact he had just been out fishing before his shift started. We sat down and he was able to tell me of a few local spots on google maps, and some fish he had caught in the past when spinning off the rocks. One particular location sounded ideal to me. It was a rocky ledge which dropped off to 8 meters, it was about 1 kilometer along the coast South of the hotel, near the salt museum. Importantly this location faced East South East. For those that haven't been to Fuerteventura before, the island is very windy, with a constant prevailing trade wind from the North North East called the Alisios blowing year round on average 30 kmh. I made plans to go see for myself right away.

Upon arriving I discovered that the location was exactly what I was looking for, the rocks were flat leading down to the ledge, allowing plenty of space for a decent back cast. However I quickly discovered that this was only fishable on an outgoing tide. At full tide the Atlantic swell washes over the ledge of the drop off making it impossible to get close enough to the edge to make a cast. The rocks being extremely slippery and hazardous to get to or stand on. I attempted a few casts but decided to come back when the conditions were better.

That night I examined the tide charts and discovered that there was a window with perfect conditions the very next morning! There was a new moon and spring tides, with the tides turning to low at 7 am, this coincided with the wind dropping to 30 kmh from the 60 kmh it had been the past few days. I went to bed and lay awake dreaming of catching a Bonito on fly from the shore, a lifetime goal of mine. Carlos had said they were frequently caught at this location on spinning gear or live baits if you were lucky enough to have a shoal come past.

At 7 am I was up and walking to the rocks, the sun was rising, the wind was yet to strengthen and conditions looked perfect!

Perfect conditions for fishing

A beautiful start to the morning looking back towards Caleta de Fuste

This was to be short lived, when I arrived at the rocks things were not looking as great as I had hoped. Despite the wind dropping there was still considerable swell washing in over the rocks, making them quite treacherous.

Despite the wind dropping the swell was still up making for tough fishing

I setup my carbon 9' #9 with a Phoenix DT #9 natural (yellow) colour Silk Fly Line. I decided to leave the line un-greased as I wanted to fish as deep as I could off the ledge and drop off. I made a 9' trace comprising of 1' of 40 lb fluorocarbon leader with a Bimini twist attached with an Albright knot to the silk line. I hadn't brought any braided loops with me otherwise this could have been a better option. I then attached 7' of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader with 1' 40 lb trace with a Lefty Kreh non-slip mono knot. This knot allows the fly to have natural movement whilst it sinks in the water or in between strips.

Silk fly lines generally have less diameter than synthetic fly lines

Silk Fly lines have lower diameter than plastic lines with more backing capacity

Now it was time to get serious. The wind was picking up, but the tide was still high. I decided to walk out to the highest rocky outcrop I could reach and make a cast. First impression of the silk fly line was wow, it carried through the stiff cross wind and I could feel the cast wanted more line. The line was floating, I thought this might be due to the density of the salt, so continued to persevere. I gradually let out more and more line each cast, soon I was casting to the backing. I was clearing the full #9 Salmon line. Soon as the line became wet it began to sink. I needed it to cut through the swell though, as it was currently riding it. I can't wait to test out a weight forward line. The swell in the meantime was playing havoc with the loose curls and I wished I had brought a stripping basket along. Whilst trying to get a loop of line off a rock, I took my eyes off of the swell and nearly took a bad tumble. The seaward side of the ledge is not a place you or your kit wanted to end up. I decided to take a break and wait for the tide to subside a bit more.

The gully to the right. No line memory with silk fly lines

The gully to the right where the Bonito had to be landed

I observed the scene and realised that hooking a fish was not the real problem, but how was I going to get it onto the rocks? The ledge I was fishing off of was undercut and the swash dropped from over the lip to 2 meters below with each wave, plus there were small barnacles. Despite being the bane of a fly line, these in fact were very handy, I learnt quickly to only stand on rocks that had barnacles and avoid the black ones that were so slippery, it was as if they had been oiled. After another 30 minutes things were not looking much better, but I noticed that 20 meters to the right the rocks took a slight bend so the wind was more behind than across and the deep water was more accessible, it looked extremely fishy! I decided to give it another go.

I stripped off the entire line and hauled it out. It flew over the drop off and the cast landed perfectly. The line sank like a fast sinking line. It must have just needed some time to soak the water into the core of the silk fly line. I looked down to check the fly reel, when suddenly WHAMMM! The rod went down the line arced away seawards and my drag started to scream. Something had just smashed into my fly on the descent! What was it!?? A Barracuda, Trevally, Bluefish (Elf), Snapper or even maybe a Bonito! I focussed on putting the drag up a few notches and getting my fingers out the way of the rapidly spinning handle, as my knuckles were rapped! 20, 40...60 yards the backing flew off the reel. I started to apply some pressure and managed to stop the first run. After a couple more runs the line started to come back onto the spool and I was glad to see the backing knot run through the guides, hoping that this Albright would hold. It was about now that the fish decided to shoot under the ledge going deep, right at my feet. I didn't want to get to close to the edge and the swash in the excitement, but also if I didn't, the line would get cut on the barnacles on the edge of the ledge.

Now I was stuck, the fish was 3 meters below the ledge under my feet, with waves coming in and the only place available to land it being a gully to my right, I still didn't know what it was! At this point I thought it must be a snapper. I decided to move to the right and stand in the gully, at least this way being partly submerged in the relatively still water provided some stability and it was a straight pull with a rising swell to lift the fish up the rocky ledges one by one.

I gave it a go, and began to lift the fish to try end the stalemate, when SNAP!! I had given it too much force and as the swell dropped the weight of the fish was too much for the fly rod. It had snapped on the 3rd section! I watched the tip of the rod slide down over the ledge into the dark depths to meet the fish, but the silk line held!! I was disappointed in what I had done to the fly rod, but the fish was still on. I used the leverage of the now shorter rod to manoeuvre it up and onto the first ledge of the gully.

It flashed in the light, it was a Bonito! I managed to step it over the ledges one by one and into the gully. Time to celebrate! I think the guests at the Hotel a kilometer up wind may have heard me.

Bonito caught fly fishing on the silk fly line in Canary Islands

The achievement of a lifetime dream to catch a Bonito on fly off the shore!

I continued to fish the rest of the week with a #6 I had brought along, but the conditions were never as good as they were that morning and I wasn't able to get the distance required. I had a few more solid knocks though beneath the ledge.

Lessons learnt, I would say that a #10 rod would be a better setup for these conditions and have the backbone required for lifting a fish in the swell. Although if on a boat the #9 would be ideal. I would suggest fishing with a buddy on the rocks, conditions can be a lot worse than they were and always beware to keep an eye on the incoming swell.

Looking after the silk fly line. As I was there for a week and wanted to use the line each day, I decided not to dry it between outings. I left the line overnight in a basin of fresh water. This worked very well as it kept the line wet and meant that it sank extremely well on each trip. I washed it thoroughly in a bath before I hung it up to dry on the last evening, it was dry in the morning ready for storage.

Thank you you to Jean and Mike Brookes of Phoenix Fly Lines for providing me with the demo line. These lines are available on our online shop -

To find our more about Phoenix Fly Lines visit their website here -

Phoenix Silk fly Lines in Saltwater

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