The Silk Bug and Cadno Lines

I was truly bitten by the silk bug about two years ago, and I was lucky enough to cross paths (electronically speaking) with a gentleman by the name of Stuart Tod.  At that time Stuart had just founded Cadno Silk Lines, and being located in Monmouthshire, he is currently the only UK Maker of traditional, handmade silk fly lines.

Cadno Lines

Four of my Cadno fly lines. Note that the tips are the “Straw” color, and the belly is “Emerald Green”. Being hand dyed, you can expect some color variation.

Now for some, a silk fly line seems to be too expensive, too much hassle, and if nothing else, too unknown. This last point may be the main reason more people don’t use silk, and it was certainly the main reason I didn’t.  Like many (most) I don’t enjoy purchasing an unknown product on a mere “hope”.  I may be more willing to take that chance when the cost for admission equates to the change in my automobile’s ashtray, but when that cost climbs to the level of needing to pull bills from my wallet, it’s easy for me to stay with what I know, especially if what I know is working. And lets be honest here… plastic fly lines work well.  But if you don’t try a silk fly line for yourself, you’ll never know what you are (or aren’t) missing.

My first Cadno line was an early run 4 weight DT, and I still have (and love) this line.  In fact, I was so impressed with the line, that I began working with Stuart on other lines I wanted, and I now own five Cadno silk lines.  All of them are DT lines, but you should know that Cadno does offer WF lines as well.

What you get when you order a Cadno silk fly line.

What you get when you order a Cadno silk fly line.

Like with most things I have “multiples” of, I do have a favorite, and that is my custom 3 weight with an integrated leader.  I typically use a furled thread leader, and it dawned on me one day that the leader could just as easily be a silk fly line. So I worked with Stuart to make a fly line that did just that: taper all the way down into a leader.  This line is simply incredible, and I just add tippet directly to it.  I can’t say that I’ve used 7X on it, and if I want a long length of 6X, I’ll step the tippet with some 4 or 5X.  But for anything from 5X or larger, I just add what I want directly to the fly line.  And since the fly line has a tiny loop woven into it, a simple Perfection loop in the tippet does the job, and makes changing tippet easy and quick.

For me this line illustrates a big difference in how ordering a Cadno silk line is different from purchasing a silk (or plastic) line elsewhere.  Stuart hand makes each line as it is ordered.  So you tell him what you want and he makes it.  A few weeks later, you’ll receive your line coiled in a nice presentation box, complete with a “tin” of Muciiin for dressing the line.

Since every line is made to order, the photos in this post aren’t of the lines being given away in the DFGGG, and are actually my own fly lines or images from Cadno.  The winners will get to order exactly what they want, and Stuart will make it up for them!  Personally, I think that’s very cool, and if you win you are in for a great experience working with Stuart.

The “stock” options available for a Cadno silk line include your choice of line weight (DTs in 3-8, and WF in 4-8) as well as your choice of color (Straw, Emerald Green, or Coffee Brown).  DT 3 and 4 weight lines have a stock length of 25 yards, and everything else has a stock length of 30 yards.

A woven loop prior to dying, and the three colors available: Straw, Emerald Green, and Coffee.

A woven loop prior to dying, and the three colors available: Straw, Emerald Green, and Coffee.

As you can see in some of the images I’ve posted here, I elected to have Stuart dye the belly of my lines Emerald Green, and leave the tips the natural Straw color. In my case, these color transitions also have other implications.

For example:  On the line I have with the integrated leader, the tapered leader section is six-feet six-inches in length, and the tapered line section leading to it is another eight feet in length.  So the entire tapered tip (including the integrated leader) is 14′-6″, and I requested that it be straw in color.  This taper is repeated at the other end of the line (remember it is a DT line) and I wanted the color transition at the back end of the line to also indicate 60′.  So I did the math, and requested that the line have a belly length of 45 feet that is dyed the Emerald Green color.  As such, when the color transition at the front end of the line is reached, I’m past the tapered/leader section, and when the color transition at the back end of the line is coming off the reel, I have ± 60 feet of line out.

I don’t know of any other fly line manufacturer (silk or otherwise) where I could have ordered something like that, and Stuart pulled it off flawlessly for me.  I’m not saying he’l go to that level of customization for a line he is giving to one of our winners without them chipping in a little, but knowing how he has treated me, he just might.  But the point here is, he can do it and I’m not sure anyone else will.

Comparison of the loop size of a Cadno silk line (on left) and a Scientific Anglers Mastery Trout line.  Or if you prefer, silk versus plastic.

Comparison of the loop size of a Cadno silk line (on left) and a Scientific Anglers Mastery Trout line. Or if you prefer, silk versus plastic.

I assume you can tell that I love silk fly lines, and Cadno lines are simply wonderful to fish.  Yes, as with any silk line, they require that they be dressed if you want them to float.  But this is a simple process, and takes about as much time as it takes to pull line out of the reel and then wind it back on.  It isn’t a big deal, and if you ever clean the grime from your plastic line, or use a line conditioner on it, you are doing as much (or more) maintenance on your plastic line as you would be on a silk line.

I try to care for all of my lines, and I really don’t baby my silk lines any more than my plastic lines. I do use plastic lines when I just can’t bring myself to cast a silk line into the pond-scum that thrives in some of my local waters, but otherwise my lines see the same conditions. After a year or two of use, my plastic lines will show some wear, where-as, aside from getting more supple and better with “age”, I can’t find any sign that my silk lines are now a few years old.  They simply last if they are cared for.

For me the only real maintenance difference in using a silk line as opposed to a plastic one, is the fact that I let the silk line “air out” to dry when I get home, where as I just leave the plastic line on the reel.  This takes very little effort on my part, as all I need to do is pull the line out of the reel so it is in loose coils.  (I use a hat box like a stripping basket.)  Then I just forget about it.  When I’m ready to use that reel and line again, I simply reel it in and dress it with Mucilin as I do so.  Now if that’s too much trouble for you, and a deal breaker, then pass on using a silk line.  They simply need to be allowed to dry out before being re-dressed with Mucilin, otherwise they can rot from the inside out.

A four weight Cadno silk line.  This line is about two years old, and has been fished frequently.

A four weight Cadno silk line. This line is about two years old, and has been fished frequently.

The difference in using a silk line versus a plastic one, really needs to be experienced to be appreciated, and one outing for me wasn’t enough to truly comprehend their benefits.  I suspect I’m not alone in this, and would recommend that you use a silk line for at least three or four good fishing outings before making a decision on whether you like silk or not.  I don’t think I really knew how much I’d enjoy using a silk line until after a month or two of use.

And now… I’d rather fish with a silk line than a plastic one, and I generally do.  Which also means, I generally fish with a Cadno line, and I highly recommend them.

For more information on Cadno lines, or to contact Stuart, check out his website here:  Cadno Silk Lines

~  DFG

Disclaimer Dated 2/21/2015:  I have recently received correspondence from a number of individuals seeking assistance in getting their Cadno line order filled, as they claim to have ordered lines and are now having difficulty getting any response to their emails.  I still enjoy and recommend using Cadno lines, but I have enough “evidence” to suggest that getting one today may be difficult and/or frustrating.  Take that “here say” information for what it is worth.


9 thoughts on “The Silk Bug and Cadno Lines

  1. Marty
    September 25, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I love silk too. I have a great many old ones I’ve refinished and half a dozen or so new. My new ones are Terenzio and Phoenix. I like Terenzio’s silk leaders ( made like the fly line) only advantage over your made in leader would be saving wear on that loop. I use a 6″ piece of mono looped on both ends to save my leader loops.
    All mine are DT or parallel ( level). In small waters there is more weight in that first 10 feet with no taper and you get a tad better loading with just 6-15 feet of line. I like silk because:
    Silk casts better! Presents better as well
    The pre / post trip time with the winder is relaxing for me. Gives me a reason to play with my reels
    The occasional waft of varnish is intoxicating.
    I enjoyed your article! In my circle I’m the only silk guy most of my fishing friends laugh at me and my coffee can in camp. ( can holds rag, mucillin, and my collapsible winder)

  2. September 27, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Very enjoyable writeup! I’ve owned one of Stuart’s lines and they are very nice. Nicest I’ve fished.

  3. wheezeburnt
    September 28, 2013 at 6:44 am

    I’ve never contemplated silk lines, but that post made me want to at least consider them. I like the idea of the ritual and the history associated with the lines.

  4. Dark Waters
    September 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Very interesting, I’d like to try one some day.

  5. Trouter3
    September 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    My sentiments exactly ..nothing compares to the feel, sound, ( even sounds different going through the guides ) presentation of a silk line, and believe it or not even smells better ( yes I said smells, if your a silk fanatic like I am, there is a distinct smell of a silk like after it is used a few times ) wierd but true ….only wish more fly rodders would get the opportunity to fish a silk line … The ultimate fly line IMHO …

  6. Glass Stixs
    October 23, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I’ve always wanted to try one. I still have a couple of questions regarding the silk lines that I would like to find an answer for. How is the weight/ diameter consistency between lines? I fish a lot of Cortland peach lines and they can vary as much as +/- 15 grains between two lines. WF vs DT lines, is the taper on the WF lines identical to the DT lines given the same line weight? Do the silk lines float well enough to fish all day without needing maintenance? Any input would be appreciated.



    1. Dry Fly Guy
      October 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm


      I think you’d find that silk lines will also have a variance in their weight. As to the WF versus DT question.. everything I have knowledge of, and everything I’ve read leads me to believe that the head and belly of the lines should be the same, the belly will just be shorter and have the back taper to the running line. Silk lines are considerably thinner though, and there is a good reason (in my opinion) to go with a DT. If the line starts to sink through a days fishing, you simply swap ends and are back in business. Can’t do that with a WF line.

      As for all day floating ability… if the line is in the water all day, I’d say you are likely to find it starting to sink. Clean water helps to keep it floating, and I can often revive a sinking tip by simply pulling the tip through a small chamois (or towel) I carry to clean it of the grime that’s accumulated. I’ve routinely gotten 4+ hours of fishing time in the morning, let the line dry while I ate lunch and relaxed, then fished it again for a few hours in the evening.

      ~ DFG

  7. Glass Stixs
    October 24, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Thanks for the informative input!

    1. Dry Fly Guy
      October 24, 2013 at 7:26 am

      You might also find some helpful information on silk lines in this post:

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