In the last bulletin, I did mention at the beginning of my fishing life, in the 1950’s, the only fishing line available was braided line. For leader material anglers used “cat gut”. The braids at that time were made from linen, nylon or Dacron fibers. It is hard to imagine, but Dacron line is still on the market after all these years.
Fly line is a type of braid and has been around for many years. The making of early fly line was an interesting process. First, the line was braided from silk, and then coated with enamel or a mixture of boiled linseed oil and kauri gum. The line was placed in closed tank with the coating mixture. Air was pumped out of the tank, which forced the mixture to penetrate the line. The process was repeated several times to build up the finish. The final step was to rub the line down with a gritty substance for a smooth finish.
If you are familiar with fly fishing, you know that a leader must be attached to the end of the line. I have read that in Isaac Walton’s day, hair from a horse’s tail was used as leader material. I have no idea how it would work, it seems it would be very fragile. From the 1800’s until monofilament came on the scene “cat gut” was attached to the fly line.
My father taught my brother and I how to fly fish when we were around eleven or twelve years old. Along with the fishing lessons, we were required to learn how to attach leader to the line, splice the leader and tie on the flies. We were told the leader material we used was “cat gut”. I never questioned where it came from. I had always thought it was a type of animal sinew, but that is not the case at all. It is gut alright, not from a cat, but from a silkworm. Curiously, the silkworms that produced the best leaders came from a province in Spain. To make the leaders, the silkworms were dumped in a mixture of vinegar and water. The mixture would solidify the liquid silk. Then the strands of silk gut would be drawn from the worm, stretched and dried in the sun. The final step was to scrape away the residue from the leaders. The leader material would be graded for size and quality before being shipped.
At times it would be impossible to get shipments of silk gut leaders. In the early part of the twentieth century when supplies were short, the suppliers came up with a substitute. They would twist strands of silk fibers together and coat with a type of gum. The substitute would work well until the gum would wash out, then the leader would fall apart. At the time, anglers would lament, “There’s no substitute for good gut”.
I sure glad we have fluorocarbon and monofilament. Good luck and keep the lines tight.