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.