Silk Line~Summoning the Humingbird

The sounds on many rivers allow us to fall into a somewhat hypnotic state and transports our senses to a more serene and most often inquisitive place. If we step away from all of the digital madness in the world today and find ourselves completely alone on a river there is a very noticeable difference in heart rate, thought patterns, and levels of concentration. Most noticeable of all is that time has little or no measurable bearing. The position of our shadow or the waters angle of reflection is really the only que when it comes to relative time. The sounds that a fisherman makes is somewhat limited, I suppose that's why I come across so much shy wild life from one season to the next. Fox, Heron, deer, the elusive badger, and turkey are all the usual suspects. This past season two coyotes came sloshing across the river twenty or so feet in front of me with absolutely no inhibition. Recently an unlikely visitation of a hummingbird has kept me thinking about the qualities of silk fly line.

One morning this season while casting in the middle of a riffle on a small stream near my home I heard a low pitched humming noise. The sound startled me because it came so quickly. Like an on-off switch the humm came and went. I quickly realised I was being visited by a hummingbird. As soon as I casted the hummingbird would come back and dance above my rod tip. So I paused for about thirty seconds and the hummingbird disappeared. I false casted a few times and there he was again dancing on top of the rod tip as though he was trying to summon me. I decided to pull line in instead of casting and the sound attracted the bird again. When I stopped pulling he became disinterested and flew off. I’m no ornithologist but there is obviously a sound silk makes running through a fly rod that attracts the hummingbird! I ruled out the motion of the rod while casting. Again it only danced on the tip when the line flowed in and out of the guides. Because silk line (not coated silk) has a subtle textured surface it acts much like a stringed instrument does such as a viola or cello. When the two surfaces meet causing friction a discernible sound is made.

I fell in love with silk line the first time I casted it. Over the years I have found a specific line made in Italy that I have settled on being the best in my opinion and works remarkably well with my bamboo rods. The lines make a certain subtle “zipper” sound when the line slides through the guides. The heft and density of the line is so subtle that I feel I could never return to casting plastic lines with the same level of enthusiasm. I compare it to the sound an electric keyboard makes as opposed to a real piano. There are subtleties that cannot be denied. I suppose I will never know what that hummingbird was thinking I’d like to think he could simply recognise the sounds of a well crafted silk fly line.

The Hummingbird
by Harry Kemp
The sunlight speaks.  And it's voice is a bird:
It glitters half-guessed half seen half-heard
Above the flower bed. Over the lawn ...
A flashing dip and it is gone.
And all it lends to the eye is this --
A sunbeam giving the air a kiss.


Tying The Little Green Tree Cricket

One of the more interesting of the fall terrestrials is the tree cricket. This amazing insect will appear in the bushes or trees bordering fields or meadows during the last weeks of summer or early weeks of fall. Along trout streams this insect is on the main menu for most trout especially big ones. The tree cricket is usually no larger than one inch in length and has a pale green or whitish colored body depending on the species. Found in the Gryllidae family in the Orthoptera order of crickets, roaches, mantids and grasshoppers, the tree cricket is part of the Oecanthinae subfamily. They are nocturnal insects and often hard to spot since they easily camouflage their presence among the leaves of their chosen habitat. I run across them all the time in August and through the fall in my yard. Because I live on a road that quickly dead ends into my home trout stream the insects I find in my yard are generally accessible to the trout down the street. The last several years I have become quite the insect scavenger and readily capture and keep insects throughout the trout season in my house much to the chagrin of my wife Jenny.

 above: The slender legs and abdomen of the Tree cricket is quite 
delicate in comparison to the Black Cricket and common Field Cricket.

I tie the Tree Cricket somewhat similarly to the Black Cricket pattern. The differences are the smaller hook sizes, thicknesses of foam, leg girths, color ways, and hackle turns. This cricket again is quite small but evokes rises from big trout that will leave you shaking.

Hook: TMC 5212 #14
Thread: Uni 8/0 Lt green
Body: Razor Foam 1mm Green
Tail: Biot dyed Kelly Green (Ritt Dye)
Legs: Natural Pheasant Tail (x1) per leg
Antennae: Natural Pheasant Tail
Hackle: Ginger
Wing Case (sim): 2mm Razor Foam 2mm Green
Dubbing: Beaver Belly Green

Tie these up small and they are sure to turn some heads under the surface. Three turns of hackle is all you need for a sufficient hackle collar, the four legs in the rear and the biots do the rest of the work as far as stability. The naturals profile is very delicate and gossamer so cut and wind your materials with this in mind. The tendency is to overdress and use heavy foam, keep it simple and sparse.
Clint Joseph Bova