Fly Lines

Every Day in May Challenge. Line

Thoughts on modern day fly lines.

I suppose that we all imagine that the iPod, the iPad, the PC and the plasma screen TV are wondrous inventions; indeed they most likely are pretty special. But if you were growing up and cutting your teeth in the fly fishing world back in sixties then the best thing since the proverbial sliced bread has to be the modern fly line.

It may not seem like much of a thing to the youngsters out there who have known little else, but for me, well for me it is a godsend. You see the very first fly-fishing outfit that I owned, purchased by hard earned and well saved pocket money was a fibreglass rod of questionable manufacture and a level Terylene line. The rod sported a proper cork grip and not one of those ghastly foam things which tire the hand and mark you as a cheapskate but the line by modern standards was simply dreadful.

Not only was the complete lack of taper a limitation, although one not yet understood in the mind of a neophyte pre-pubescent caster but equally it had to be treated to float, and before it could be so anointed it had to be dried out.

The operation in my house was to wrap the damp skein around the bannisters on the staircase (we lived in a multi-story house) to dry and then with a tin of Mucilin paste and a little felt pad run up and down the stairs greasing up the material in preparation for the next outing.

The advent of the plastic coated fly line with its built in taper and AFTMA number revolutionised fly fishing in a way that the remote control revolutionised home entertainment. No more poor turn over when casting, no more drying racks and linseed oil, just put the reel away and leave it until the next foray to the stream. Darn it all became so easy.

Today there are plastic and “stable polymer” coatings, a multitude of tapers and sink rates of lines, there are colour codes, sink tips, running lines, weight forward constructions  and even some lines with neat little scribbling along their lengths to remind you exactly which line it is. There are lines which supposedly show you where the “sweet spot” is when casting, clear lines and camo lines, ridged lines, sharkskin lines, hot-tip nymphing lines and lines with built in loops at both ends. There are tropical lines, cold water lines, bonefish lines and tarpon lines, Spey lines and Skagit lines, in endless variety. It may all be a little bit too much but at the same time they are a technological wonder.

When you think of it, to be able to produce lines with accurate and repeatable tapers that float, sink or hover in the water as desired is quite something. To be able to run microscopic grooves all along their length whilst maintaining the same density and weight within a few grains is an engineering miracle. Hell there are even lines whose density changes to, supposedly at least, give one a level sink rate, so called “density compensated” constructions of immense complexity when you consider the mathematical implications.

It is easy to imagine that the aerospace bar stock aluminium reels or the complex resins, mandrels, tapers and carbon fibres of rods have revolutionized fly fishing. To be sure they have, particularly the carbon fibre rods, made a significant difference, but compared to running up and down the stairs, getting friction burns on your fingers and grease on the carpet, modern fly lines have done more than anything to make fly fishing easy and accessible, even to the most ill-disciplined.

So next time you are bemoaning the fact that the first inch of your fly line is waterlogged and dipping a fraction under the surface consider the scientific magic of what you are holding in your hand. A modern miracle of engineering wizardry and a technological breakthrough of astounding significance, particularly to a young boy with burned and sticky fingers..

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