by Scott Sadil

I’m pretty sure it was Russell Chatham who pointed out, long ago, that the most important part of a fly angler’s gear is the line he or she chooses to cast.

Forget new rods, forget new reels, Chatham argued.  What you need is the right line, a good one – and even if money is short, spend your last dollars on lines, the best you can find.

Of course, such notions are all but heresy to rod and reel manufacturers, if not fatal to the commerical foundations on which the business of fly fishing exists, making it possible for you and me to find the goods we need to get on the water and fool fish.

But Russell Chatham was as far from what’s now often referred to as “the industry” as you could possibly get, and in long-time classics such as Angler’s Coast, Dark Waters, and Striped Bass on the Fly, he reminded us, in so many ways, that the point of the sport is the sport itself and the fish, not the gear, that we’re after.  

What matters least, he suggested, is most anything to do with new and improved versions, latest and greatest innovations nor, especially, brand names.  

Yet ironically enough, Chatham often pointed out that he wrote about fishing as a way to make money, something he didn’t always make enough of from his work as a painter, his first calling. In fact, our own Gray’s Sporting Journal, along with Field & Stream and Sports Illustrated, bought a good number of Chatham’s stories over the years, and anybody who steps up on the magazine stage understands where most of the money comes from to pay for the talent.

But I was talking about lines.

If you haven’t already done so, start off your season right and buy yourself a new line or two.  Don’t put it off a moment longer.  Nothing makes casting easier than a fresh line right off the spool. If you’ve already had the thought – I wonder if I need a new line? – you’ve already waited too long.

It’s like while sailing: the first time you think about whether to reef, or reduce sail, is the best time to do it.

And if you’re headed someplace special, and there are lines involved that might be different from the ones you use day in and day out, in the course of a normal season, go out and get those lines.  You’re going to be happier.  You’re not going to be grousing, making excuses, complaining about something you do, in fact, have control over.

Before you leave home, of course, cast your new lines.  The last thing you want is to show up and discover something ain’t right.

I ought to know.

Now, some readers may hope that I make a pronouncement: Here’s the next line you really should buy.  But, I’m sorry; even knowing how little my own opinion matters, I refuse, in this case, to plug one product above others I may or may not know anything about.

Still, that’s no reason not to grab a new one.  It may not be as exciting as buying a new rod or a new reel.  But once you’re on the water, it will make you happier – and happy anglers, I’ve found, catch more fish.

Or is it the other way around?

Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil admits he still hasn’t found a fly line that prevents him from throwing a tailing loop on occasions it matters most.