A Short History of Silk Fly Lines

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The Kingfisher braided silk line was the result of a happy marriage between P D Malloch and an expert in the field of braiding. In 1908 in Leicester, (England), they designed and built the first Kingfisher silk fly line together.  It was no accident, since coupled with Mr. Malloch’s vast experience in the world of fishing was his undoubted mathematical ability plus his ability to design and patent, in 1884, the Malloch casting reel, the forerunner of the present fixed spool reel.

The basis for this new type of fishing line, which would replace horsehair, was set against strict criteria set out by Mr. Malloch (see below).  It is this which resulted in the Kingfisher silk fly line and what made it superior to others, the weight and diameter being built into the line at the time of braiding and not by a coating added to a uniform core.

Silk lines enjoyed their heyday and then fell out of favour as new materials became available and cheaper.  However, quality products never entirely go away, and many silk lines remained in use.

In the mid 1970s, not too far away from where the first silk line was made in Leicester, Noel Buxton took up the challenge.  He was a keen and knowledgeable fisherman, with an engineering background – a combination of the original skills that produced the Kingfisher line.  All the original data had been destroyed and, after many years of careful research, Noel produced the Phoenix Line.  In the England, he was designated a National Treasure – and many people all over the world still believe this to be true.  Phoenix silk fly lines thus continued the tradition. Co-incidentally, a similar sequence of events was taking place in Paris, France, and Michel Dubois made silk lines there.  History repeated itself yet again and as Monsieur Dubois retired, the machinery was sold to Jean-Pierre Thebault, who continued to make silk lines in France.  A short time after, Noel Buxton also retired and sold Phoenix to Mike Brookes who continues the same tradition.

A final word from P D Malloch

These are the criteria that Malloch set for the performance of an oil-dressed, braided silk fly line.

  1. Made by craftsmen with painstaking care
  2. Taper is built in at the time of braiding
  3. Soft and pliable
  4. Will not stretch or crack
  5. Unaffected by extreme variations in temperature
  6. Will last for years and years
  7. Silk give correct weight for smaller diameter
  8. Less wind resistance
  9. Quicker, smoother lift from the water
  10. Less bulk to place on water and therefore less disturbance
  11. Allow delicate presentation of flies
  12. Gives more speed and positive feel
  13. Improved casting powers in both distance and accuracy

And a word of caution from the Kingfisher booklet issued with their lines –

” We do recommend running a line off the reel at the end of the day – or wiping it and then running it back on the drier – but some people never have done this and it hasn’t really mattered. After all, there are lots of things we should do but don’t – so if you are the type that doesn’t bother – we won’t either, though you may have to buy another line before a fisherman in Nottingham (England) did – his lasted 42 years before being caught in the propeller of a boat at his local reservoir.”

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