My father had a very fixed routine. Every evening, when he returned home from his job in London, he would take a chair and place it near the doormat, get the shoe polishing kit from the cupboard and spend several minutes cleaning his shoes thoroughly.
He did this in an almost robotic fashion and without fail, placing wooden shoe trees into the now rejuvenated shoes and then leaving them to air. I’m sure he’d have much rather changed out of his suit and relaxed, but you could see he got great pleasure from the results, knowing that not only were they smart and ready for wearing, but they would last longer too.
This is very much the case with a silk line as correct care and maintenance improves performance and longevity. This involves peeling the line from the reel and wiping it with a soft absorbent cloth after use, and then taking a few minutes to apply a thin coating of red Mucilin to the dried line prior to setting off on your next one.
At first this might seem like a bit of a faff when all you want to do is dump your gear and open a beer, either in celebration or commiseration of your day’s fishing, and you’d not be alone I assure you. However, once you get into the routine it becomes almost ritualistic in the same way as my father’s shoe cleaning, and for much the same reasons. After all, if you’re going to invest in a pair of good English shoes or a premium silk fly line then you are going to want to take care of them aren’t you? The benefits are well worthwhile as fishing this silk line has been a near blinkers-off experience for me, and for many reasons.
I received my 3 weight Phoenix DT line just before the mayfly season started and paired it with my Orvis Superfine Carbon eight foot rod who’s full-flex action feels similar to that of a modern split cane rod for which this line has been primarily designed. On their first outing to my local chalk stream I discovered the two worked together incredibly well especially as the stream is heavily overgrown, leaving little room for casting error, both from the greenery and the spooky wild brown trout that inhabit it.
Within the first few casts I became very aware of just how alive my fly rod suddenly felt and I can only put that down to the zero stretch of the silk and the line’s total lack of line memory. My full flex rod seemed to track better than ever and I could feel exactly what was happening on my backcast, something I’ve never felt so acutely with a synthetic line. It was the same with the forward cast, and this time I could see why. Everything felt so precise as a snug and vertical loop came gently forward with enough energy to turn over the furled leader and long tippet. One particularly bizarre thing was the way the line hung in the air on the backcast, seemingly unaffected by Newtonian physics. Quite how it did this is beyond me, but it allowed for plenty of time to line up my cast and deliver the fly with delicate ease, the line landing on the water with little more than a kiss.
As poetic as this might sound it is the practical application of it which really stands out, allowing for precise and accurate casting in tight quarters coupled with genuinely delicate presentation. Isn’t this what the dry fly river angler dreams of?
In that first outing I caught fish from a shallow glide that, until then, I’d failed to do so, watching them scatter as my 2 weight synthetic line landed. At first I believed this to be a total fluke, but it kept on happening. Now I’m not so brave as to suggest it’s purely down to how the line lands on the water, but there's also the fact that when it does land there’s no memory to flex it out of shape in an unnatural way or force some of it under the surface. This zero memory also prevents the fly being pulled backward the moment it lands, and yes, you could compensate for that through leader and tippet construction when using a synthetic line, but that just gives you a longer leader to control.
Did I find any drawbacks with the silk line? The answer to that is both yes and no, and it rather depends on the individual angler. The main advantage with a synthetic line is that there is no need for maintenance other than the occasional clean. A synthetic line will also shoot further and might enable you to reach a fish that would otherwise be out of range. However, if you accustom yourself to the post-fishing ritual of caring for your silk line it will last many years longer than any synthetic one. As for it not shooting as well, I might suggest that a trout gained through careful and skilful stalking is more rewarding than one taken at such a range that your concealment is of little importance.
This is why my answer is both yes and no. Personally, I have found this silk line to be a dry fly revelation and it has performed superbly with both tiny dries on 6X tippet as well as chunky mayflies on 4x tippet. That lack of stretch not only enables a firm hook-set, but lets you feel everything the fish is doing in a way you just don’t get with a synthetic fly line. Just be aware that it’s now the rod that’s absorbing all the fight and not, in part, the the stretch in the fly line; something you quickly adjust to.
So, will all my dry fly fishing be done with a silk line from now on? I very much doubt it as dry fly fishing is so varied and there are occasions where particular line tapers are called for, the type you can only produce with synthetic materials. However, I cannot imagine using anything else when stalking my local, wild brown trout as this Phoenix silk line is, for me, hands down the best tool for the job and by some margin.
Now where are those shoes I keep meaning to clean?