Experiment led to more than that. It led to the discovery, that in regarding lightness as desirable in a line mankind had been wrong from time immemorial. Besides being much less liable to tangle, the new line, heavy though it was, actually went through the air more pleasantly than the old one, while the fly or flies dropped upon the water just as lightly. Man had taken hundreds of years to discover that weight in a cord helps its projection through the atmosphere, especially when the air is adverse; and the discovery was accidental, a result of luck rather than of intelligence. One is obliged to think of such facts as this when enthusiasts sing the marvellous advance we have been making in the mechanic arts. Perhaps progress seems stupendous only because, not being able to see what is to be going on next century, we are without the means of comparative criticism. At any rate, one may entertain some doubt as to whether we have now the perfect line. The authoritative scriptures seem to stand in need of revision and correction. They clash in not a few respects. For example, what are we to believe on the question whether a line should be solid or hollow ? The expert of The Badminton Library is for solidity. "My objection to a hollow line," he says, " is this: that should there be a flaw or bruise, the water will gradually find its way into the hollow, run down the whole length of the line, and as, owing to the outer coating being waterproof, the line cannot be dried, it will therefore become quickly rotten." On the other hand, experts equally respected favour the hollow line, which they esteem for its softness and pliability. Which doctrine are we to adopt? It is hard to tell; but at the moment one is inclined in favour of the Badminton. Pliability is good; but. to attain it by having a hollow must involve expansion of the line, and a thin line cuts through the air more easily than one of the same weight less thin.
Then, we cannot always be quite sure about the doctors even when they say the same thing. Nearly all of them urge that a line should be tapered. Should it ? The theory seems correct. The gut cast is tapered, and it is not unreasonable to assume that for four or five yards the line also should be tapered. That is a mere extension of the principle. If the cast alights straight and gently by virtue of being tapered, the line, made on the same principle, should act similarly. Unfortunately, it does not. Save when there is a wind at your back the tapered line is a trouble. It is difficult to send forth upon the water. It is limp. It will not stretch out and be straight. The fact is, the very thin part of the tapered line is too light. It wavers with the slightest puff of wind. Now, how did this truth-conveying heresy arise ? Scientific reflection ? It did not come through that. Like many a discovery, it came about in the result of " muddling through." I had a new rod, and the line attached to it was exquisitely tapered. Day after day I fished with that rod and line, and day by day there was something wrong. Evening after evening, before taking down the rod, I detached the cast by cutting off a bit of the line. I regretted the habit as being wasteful; but eventually it saved the credit of the rod, and brought enlightenment. Next season, after a few days of seeming extravagance, suddenly that rod and line began to work in harmony, just as, in theory, they should have been working all along. The explanation is that I had at length, by snippets, abolished the exquisite taper!
In a pause during the writing of this chapter 1 came, with gladness, upon a confirmatory remark by Sir Herbert Maxwell, who is an exceptionally skilful and observant salmon fisher. "Some use tapered lines, which are reckoned specially good for switching or underhand casting; but for ordinary purposes a plaited silken line, even from end to end, is hard to beat."