Fly Fishing

Piscifun fly fishing reels


First Published in Harper's Magazine - April 1885

If Phariseeism is ever pardonable, it is when a good line of this kind is compared with the best produced in any other country. If not decrepit through old age - and their longevity is far in excess of any other lines - in strength they leave nothing to be desired. Smooth as ivory on the surface, they render through the rings with the minimum of friction. Their weight is sufficient to cast nicely without being excessive, and at the same time this is always uniform, while their flexibility is just as it should be - neither do great as to foul the tip, nor so stiff as to cause inconvenience. In short, they are as nearly perfect as the work of man's hands is permitted to be.

They are braided from the best Italian boiled silk, and water-proofed by a process the secret of which is jealously guarded. Their first cost is high, but in the end they are far cheaper than any other. The temptation to economize is great in the purchase of this essential, since lines in all respects equal, to the eye, may be bought at half price. But these are made from thread spun from a "fluff" produced by disintegrating old silk stockings, umbrella covers, and such trash in a machine, and are utterly worthless for any purpose except to rob the unwary of their money. Therefore, buy your lines of a reputable house. Take the best they have, and pay their price, and you will have no reason to regret it.

The flies are attached to a leader, or, as our English brethren term it, a casting-line, which is affixed to the outer end of the fishing-line. This is made by submerging the Chinese silkworm in vinegar when about to spin its cocoon. The worm is sufficiently pickled in eighteen or twenty hours. It is then torn apart, displaying two yellowish sacs, which may be four inches long and one-sixteenth of an inch thick in the middle, diminishing gradually to a point at either end. They contain the silk fluid, and lie folded together within the worm, and constitute the principal part of its interior bulk. These are stretched to the required length, thus rupturing the envelope, and exposing the semi-fluid contents to the action of the air, by which they are quickly solidified.

So far the process is conducted by the peasantry of Spain, each working up at home the more or less scanty product of his own mulberry orchard. With the remains of the ruptured envelope still adhering to it, the gut, then somewhat resembling hay in color, is delivered to the factors. To cleanse the exterior is the next step. This was the work of women employed by the factor, and was done by drawing the strands between the teeth, thus scraping off the remains of the sac. The long rows of women and girls drawing the entrails of the worm through their teeth, their mouths smeared with blood from cuts inflicted by the hard thin strands, mingled with the offal thus removed - spitting and drawing and spitting again - is said to have been a most revolting spectacle. Chemical processes have now in some measure superseded this.

Thus a hard, transparent, and colorless cord is produced of surprising strength, and several of these knotted together form the leader. It will be seen that the length of each strand of a certain thickness is limited by the quantity of fluid contained in a single sac. This is small in the Chinese silk-worm, since that is a large one which exceeds three inches in length and a third of an inch in thickness; and consequently "gut," as it is termed, of moderate thickness, and which exceeds fifteen inches in length, is rare in the market, and commands a high price.