Archive for October, 2010

The Dohiku Dry Fly Hook Test

October 22, 2010

The thinking angler. Testing Dohiku Dry Fly Hooks.

In a recent post I was suggesting that too many anglers focus all of their attention on the fly and not a lot else. Much as I have believed that for a long time a very interesting discussion with Mike recently brought the idea into further focus.

You see Mike and I had obtained some Dohiku dry fly hooks and were experimenting with them, they are neat looking competition hooks with long points and a dull black japanned finish. They also sport something that seems to have become a standard in many competition hooks, a distinctly turned up point.

This sort of bothered me because I am something of a fanatic when it comes to hooks, sharpening hooks etc and many years ago I threw out all of my up eyed dry fly hooks because I thought that they direction of pull wasn’t correct. In that case probably because in days of old anglers used the “Turle Knot” which effectively gave a straight pull when striking but with more modern knots the strike effectively pulls the hook at the wrong angle. Dozens of dropped or missed fish convinced me and the stock that I had went into the bin. Pity, dry flies tied on up eyed hooks look really neat, it is just that they don’t do a good job of hooking fish which sort of defeats the object.

Back to the Dohikus, I tried them on the stream and started to think that I was missing fish that I shouldn’t be, then a few times I struck to feel a distinct pull as though the timing was dead right only to have the fish swim away seconds later. Eventually having missed or dropped a good many trout I took out the forceps and bent the very point of the hook straight, effectively removing the turned up point and providing a very long straight point to the fly instead. I didn’t miss another fish.

Mike and I were sitting at home chatting about fly fishing, competition fishing and much more, a sort of fly anglers jam session. I suppose were we rock musicians instead of anglers we would have been trying out various combinations of chords or something. Generally chewing the fat and testing verbal hypotheses.

So the subject of these hooks came up and Mike mentioned that he was losing faith in them and wondered if they were really that effective. I then recounted my similar concerns and we started to work on ways that we might test them. It so happened that I had several identical flies tied up on the Dohiku dry fly hooks so we took out two and tied one each at the end of a loop of 7x tippet. One fly received the forceps treatment the other was left untouched. Then putting the nylon through our fingers, one piece between the little and ring finger and one between the middle and index finger we pulled the loop upwards. This effectively applied exactly the same force, same speed etc to both flies as they slipped through the fingers of the closed hand.

Would you believe it the unmodified hook simply popped right through without hooking up whilst the straightened one hooked up? We repeated the process and exactly the same thing happened. Trying to be scientific about it we muddled the flies up so that we didn’t know which was which, the same thing happened. I tried it , the unmodified hook simply popped through whilst the modified one hooked. Mike tried it, the same result. All in all we estimated that the unmodified hook failed to catch around 9 out of every ten times. The modified one never missed.

So it would seem that there is something wrong with the design, but why make a hook that doesn’t work?

I suspect that with the focus on Czech nymphing in competitive fishing the curved in points of many of the hooks works well, the fish are effectively hooking themselves as they turn away with the nymph but on a dry fly the same forces are not in play and one is striking as opposed to allowing the fish to hook themselves.

Which ever way it works not only to my mind does the design fail to work  properly on a dry fly hook I think that I can prove it to you.

Below is a graphic illustration of our experiment, maybe you would like to test it out for yourselves. One thing that I do know, whilst I actually very much like the modified hooks, I like the colour and the shape and have a lot of faith in them when modified, I shan’t be using any that are in the original format. Neither Mike nor myself have any faith in them at all and if you do the test below, you probably won’t have either.

 

Try this test and see for yourself

 

Links related to Dohiku Dry Fly Hooks.

Single Barbed Blog

itieflies Blog

UK Flydressing Double Duck

I haven’t been able to find any  posts or comments suggesting a problem with hook ups but if you do please let us know, it would be interesting to compare our thoughts.

This post is brougth to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris in the interests of better and more thoughtful angling.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

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What Fly?

October 17, 2010

It’s not about the fly.

An imaginary scenario…………………… well mostly imaginary.

A boat angler is hammering them on a DI5 line fished out in the middle of the dam. He is making long casts of 30 metres or so, with a 20’ untapered leader of 6lb fluorocarbon, counting down the sink of his flies for fifteen seconds and then starting a slow pulsating retrieve, he pauses every few strokes. His three flies are exactly a meter and a half apart no more and no less.

He watches the end of his line where it leaves the rod tip for any hint of a tightening that could represent a fish taking a fly on the drop. When he gets to the last ten feet of line he sees the marker that he has affixed to the line and hangs the flies for five seconds before giving a long slow strip and hangs them again. Finally he roll casts the leader out of the water and smacks another effortless cast into the middle distance and waits once more for them to sink to the correct depth.
Every fifth cast or so he strikes into a glorious energetic rainbow trout between two and three pounds in weight, nets the fish and releases it. He is pleased, he changed lines three times to find the right depth, drifted various directions on the dam and covered different depths and bottom structures until he found some fish and finally mixed up the fly patterns on his leader until his catch rate was soaring to the point that it has now reached.

His boat partner isn’t such a good caster, he has a short leader about the same length as his rod because there is a large knot where the leader joins the fly line and he can’t pull that through the tip top guide. He isn’t sure of the breaking strain, it used to be 8lb at the tip but he has eaten some of that up changing patterns, and had to cut some out when he had a wind knot in it, it has been on the rod since last season so he isn’t quite sure if that was 8lb anyway, could have been 10lb but he thinks it is fluorocarbon, yes pretty sure about that.

Anyway, at least if he hooks a fish it won’t break off, that seems like a good call. He can’t cast three flies without getting a tangle so he uses one only on the point. He has a sinking line, he knows it is his sinker because it is brown and his other line, the bright orange one, is a floater and it is obvious that the fish are down deep. He has been watching his mate hammer them for over two hours now and he is using a brown line too. He might have had a take about half an hour ago, he had left his line to sink for ages whilst he was eating a sandwich and the line was just lying in the bottom of the boat until is sizzled out for a moment. Darn, never mind there will be another one. He recasts as his partner hooks into yet another fish that leaps from the water, trailing the deeply sunk line behind it. Feeling that perhaps he needs a bit of advice he turns towards the man with the bent rod and asks the perennial angler’s question. “What fly are you using”?

 

Most of the time "It's not about the fly"

 

I must have seen similar scenarios played out on rivers and dams on several continents, I have even seen the same thing happen with supposedly serious competitive anglers, neophytes, weekenders, float tuber’s, bank anglers and more.

What fly are you using?, it is like one of those action dolls that used to be common when I was a kid, you know before everyone switched to computer games and portable consoles, the ones where you pull a string at the back of the neck and it says the same catch phrase over and over,

“Go on punk, make my day”.. or indeed “What Fly are you using?”

Truth be known, it is something that I would have done myself a decade or so ago before I woke up, and it is an awakening make no mistake. Successful fly fishermen, like successful sportsmen of almost any discipline do things differently than the other 80%. The eighty twenty rule applies here as much as anywhere else and 20% of the anglers catch 80% of the fish and the other 80% out there on the water fight it out for the 20% left over. Why? Mostly because the 80% are so besotted with the idea that they have to have the “right” fly that they ignore all of the other stuff that is going on.

Sure there are occasions that the fly is critical or at least moderately important, but what about all the other stuff. What depth are the fish feeding at, are you getting good drifts, is the tippet sinking, can the fish see you, or see your rod or your watch flashing in the sun? What about the size of the fly? Is your leader fluorocarbon or mono? Is your line taking the flies to the depth at which the fish are feeding or perhaps going past them? Have you varied your retrieve, would you know if you got a take anyway?  Are you fishing in the right spots, are you covering fish, are the fish not there or simply ignoring your presentations such as they are?

There is so very very much more to fly fishing than the fly that I would be willing to bet that most good anglers would go out with half a dozen favourites and still kick butt most of the time if they had to. Of course they wouldn’t limit themselves like that, they are prepared and part of being prepared is having a variety of fly patterns in various sizes, but it is only PART of it!!.

Do your honestly believe that Pascal Cognard won umpteen World Championships over a period of years fishing in rivers and dams on various continents and numerous countries because by some miracle he had a fly that nobody else had?  Do you think that the guy in our little scenario is catching because he has the “right fly” and that if he gave one to his boat partner it would make a jot of difference? Probably not.

Fly fishing is or at least can be a complicated business and you can’t learn it all at once, you can spend time on the water, read as much as possible, fish with guys who know more than you do, go on a course, take a guide, watch videos and search the internet for information, all of which will help.

You don’t need to make it overly complex but the one thing that you don’t want to do is keep thinking that the reason for your limited success is the fly. Of course there are times when it could be but I am prepared to guarantee you right here and now that most of the time that isn’t it. By focusing on the fly you take your eye off all of the other factors that could be affecting your efficacy, and that is the real problem.

I would have to say the most of the time when I am fishing with a buddy, on a river or lake we rarely use exactly the same flies, frequently ones that are considerably different for that matter but that doesn’t affect us too much. We probably are however doing a whole lot of other stuff that is near as dammit exactly the same and that is what adds up to success.

I love flies, I love tying them and having hundreds gives me a sense of control and optimism that would be lacking if my fly boxes weren’t full. However I wouldn’t turn the car around if I had forgotten one of those boxes. Had I left the polaroids, the 7X tippet, the forceps, the hook sharpener, the leader degreaser or the fly floatant at home I would be pulling a 6 G “U” turn in the middle of the freeway. So don’t worry so much about the fly, carry a few trusted favorites, hopefully some variety in sizes and after that focus on technique and presentation, you will I am sure do a whole lot better once you catch on to this reality.  I just hope that you aren’t still worrying about that first scenario with our imaginary angler in the boat, because I sense that even now perhaps you are thinking, “but he never said what fly that guy was using”.

Brought to you in the interests of entertainment and instruction by

Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris and Stealth Fly Rod and Reel.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

 

This blog was brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL.

 

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On Stream Arms Race

October 11, 2010

I can still recall the early days when I fished the streams of the Limietberg, Schalk Van Der Merwe and I would climb down the concrete retaining blocks of the old road bridge to access the river. There was no fancy tunnel through the mountains and the trip would always be prolonged by the slow progress of trucks up over the Du Toit’s Kloos Pass in front of us. With only a few places to overtake and the fishing awaiting us on the other side it was frequently a frustrating journey.

On the river there were no beats, no catch and release, you only had to notify the club that you were going to be on the water and that was it. We rarely saw anyone else but there were a few spots which we might stake out early where late arriving anglers wouldn’t be able to get in front of us on the stream.

There were more trees on the rivers in those days, the new freeway had yet to be conceived and on some sections of the stream the old road ran close enough to the river, with picnic spots along the way such that it wasn’t uncommon to sneak around a bend in pursuit of trout only to find someone bathing in your favourite run.

 

We didn’t have two weight rods back then either, the standard was a #4 weight, although of generally sloppy action and we used to fish a mixture of dries and nymphs although the dries where our favorites, we already had visions of some kind of “purism” despite the fact that the trout would pretty much eat anything. I can recall that we experimented with all manner of indicators and tied weighted nymphs to represent the heptagenid mayflies as well as the more standard baetis going to some lengths to flatten the bodies and weave in legs and eyes and all manner of subtleties. To be honest we thought that we were pretty hot at this.

Occasionally we would venture further into the mountains, but there was no real path in those days and a long hike up the river would require and equally long return trip back down the river bed at day’s end.

 

Big bushy high floating flies were all that was required.

 

Dry fly fishing was a case of flipping a buoyant dry into the pockets and waiting for a take, if you missed it there was little real problem, another cast, perhaps with a little more focus and in a serious looking crouch and the fish would come again. They would always come again and give you a second chance. The flies were huge by today’s standards, size 12 or even 10, buoyant deer hair patterns, Elk Hair Caddis, Humpies and the like. I seem to recall that one of my favourites was a “Royal Humpy” whilst Schalk preferred a “Rat Faced McDougal, some days we would venture out with little more in the fly box than a selection of hoppers, matching the hatch was for sissies, these were real fish in search of a real meal. Darn I think that there were still barbs on those hooks and certainly Schalk would always take a few fish home for supper.

I recall once fishing behind Schalk when he broke off on the strike to a fish, a remarkable achievement in itself; I doubt the tippet was less than 6 lb breaking strain. That Rat Faced McDougal popped up from the depths right in front of me and I picked it off the water and gave it back to Schalk, some indication of the size and buoyancy of the pattern.

If you wanted to kill a fish the size limit back then was 10” and I think that one could keep quite a few fish if one wished, It could have been as many as ten per day although I don’t honestly recall. What I do remember is that by the season’s end almost all the fish in the stream would be nine and a half inches long or less.

Regretfully Schalk passed on and new fishing partners came and went, but we kept on working on improvement.

We also developed a highly effective manner of dealing with the occasional difficult or selective fish, we simply went and found another one that was more accommodating, it worked every time. If you do that today you are going to be finished with your beat by lunchtime, some level of experimentation and effort is no required and you can’t simply move on to the next fish at each refusal.

Of course over time things change and they did for us, we promoted catch and release fishing, to start  with only the upper beat of the Elandspad was subject to this regulation and even then the old school were complaining about it. Comments such as “it isn’t really fishing if you don’t take a frying pan with you” were commonplace and we were troublesome young bucks with some hidden agenda, equally vilified and distrusted by the more established anglers.

Mind you as with everything else there was more pressure on the streams, more trouble with people getting in each others way on the river and leapfrogging groups would effectively put the fish down for everyone. The beat system was born where you could book your section for the day which not only meant that one could enjoy uninterrupted fishing, but equally that you didn’t have to rise at sparrows fart simply to secure some privacy.

The catch and release regulations spread, the fish, given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes started to get smarter and better educated. No longer would they always come twice and the rainbows started to rise in far more circumspect fashion than was previously the case. Reacting more like cautious browns, sipping in flies and eschewing any poor presentations or dragging flies.

 

The fish were getting smarter, they still are.

 

In fact on our brown trout stream some of the fish had been tagged and we would discuss the relative condition and latest measurements of number 423567 as each season passed. It wasn’t scientific but it proved one thing, that the fish would survive capture if you were careful with them and it laid to rest the argument of the old timers who insisted that the trout was going to go “belly up” anyway so you may as well chuck it in a pan and have it for lunch.

We started to change tactics in response to changes in the fish’s behaviour, gradually flies got a lot smaller and I well recall bringing back from Australia the first size 22 hooks that we had ever actually seen. We stopped simply using nylon and purchased “tippet” material on neat little spools that cost the earth but offered better presentation. Gradually the terminal tackle got thinner and we started going out on a limb with 6 X tippet and eventually 7X (currently the extreme is 8X and even 10X is now available in local stores).

We built our own ultralight rods, to start with the Orvis “Superfine 7’ 9”  #2 weight became the standard, those with the old favourite “Osprey #4’s” were now regarded as little more than hackers.

 

The availability of fine soft tippet material is still probably one of the greatest weapons in the stream angler's arsenal.

 

With the advent of light rods and catch and release we were now fishing barbless hooks all the time, we had figured out that you actually land more fish on those and we started to sharpen our hooks, first with pebbles from the stream bed and later with purpose built diamond dust hones carried in our pockets.

Leaders got longer and finer, we degreased them to make them sink and took much more care in our positions and presentations on the streams. The fish were larger now, larger and wiser and consequently more demanding. There were even occasions when one would have to match the hatch, particularly if there were ants on the water.

A further and oft ignored development of the Catch and Release regulations was that at one level information was more easily passed from one angler to another. Now there was no need to hide the truth about the flies which one fished or the best beats or your knowledge of a good fish on a particular section. Previously one would keep quite, not wishing to encourage someone to improve only to go and whip out your favourite nineteen incher tucked away under the bushes of “dry fly run”.

Whilst all the time the fish were getting better and better at the game as well, it may seem an unfair battle , what with us using micrometer measured tippets, carbon graphite rods, camouflage clothing, fancy dry fly floatants, hooks sharpeners and all the mod cons but I am not sure that our catch rates ever climbed that much. We would do better for a while but the fish would get smarter and things would level off again.

 

Of all the improvements in gear, using your brains is still what will keep you ahead.

 

Today the streams of the Limietberg probably offer the most technically demanding fishing in the country. There are plenty of fish to be sure, and there are some really good ones too for that matter, but they are a whole heap more demanding of the angler compared to the days of climbing down those bridge supports in search of supper.

We don’t actually fish in a pristine natural environment, much as we may enjoy the illusion, we fish in the midst of a highly technical arms race where we get better weapons and the trout continuously update their defenses. I have to confess that this is the way that I like it, but there is one down side, beginners to the sport are in for something of a rough ride without help. The trout on these streams have already received their education and if you are a neophyte angler you start off at something of a disadvantage. The only option is to go out on the water and start working on your education to catch up.

 

Bells provide essential support for the education of neophyte anglers

 

Shortly the Cape Piscatorial Society, together with Bell’s Whiskey, will host the latest “Bell’s Fly Fishing Festival“. Unlike most other fishing festivals it isn’t a competition. In the context of this article it is more like “infantry school”, where newcomers can get some on stream experience from old hands and learn some of the subtleties and tricks of the trade. In times past this may have simply been a fun way to spend the weekend and a means of perhaps improving one’s catch rate. Today, with the arms race if full swing it is more of an essential right of passage. Without some help it is going to take the average newcomer a lot of time on the water to catch up. As said previously, if you are starting out, the fish are way ahead of you and learning more each season.

This article is dedicated to those who came before us and created this fishery and the people who still look after it for the benefit of all. It is also in recognition of the assistance offered by Bells and the dedicated anglers who act as guides, who provide the means for so many newcomers to get a start at this wonderful obsession we call fly fishing. Welcome to the arms race.

Brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris and Stealth Fly Rod and Reel.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

 

This blog was brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL.

 

Disclaimer: These blogs sometimes attract Google Ads advertising, we have no control over their appearance nor do we derive any financial benefit from their presence. Whilst they may prove of value to you appearance of these adverts does not  infer any relationship with or endorsement by the participants of this blog.

Trout and the Flat Earth Society.

October 7, 2010

Now it strikes me that if I were a trout in a catch and release stream it wouldn’t take too long for it to dawn on me that most of the sh1t in my life came from “up there”. You know above that little silvery window that is the ceiling of my aquatic world.

Fish eagles, otters, kingfishers (at least when I was little) and of course anglers, plus like a small child afraid of the dark I wouldn’t have a particularly good feeling about stuff that I can’t see and my view is limited at the best of times.

So rather as humankind were a bit wary of the horizon in times past and fearful of dropping off the edge of the world so for a trout the outer world would be a little scary. I mean I don’t need to identify every bump in the dark to be fearful of it and, were I a trout, anything untoward, a glimpse of movement or a flash is enough to put me on edge and perhaps even take a runner and stick my head under a rock for a while until the perceived danger is passed. (The ichthyological  equivalent of locking yourself in the bathroom).

Trout don’t need to identify a threat to be wary of it.

I well remember fishing with my fishing mate (and drinking partner) Gordon McKay years back when he was casting and I was “spotting” for him. There he was all lined up on a trout that we could both see clearly in the crystal waters. The fish was feeding away happily, occasionally broaching the surface and unaware of either of us, just doing what a trout does when breakfast is on the table.

It so happened however that just as Gordon made his presentation a large dragonfly came bumbling up the stream, casting a shadow like a pterodactyl in the bright sunshine and flew directly up behind the fish such that it didn’t notice until the last moment. The passage of that shadow coincided exactly with Gordon’s dry fly presentation and as the fly was in the air the fish bolted for cover. Poor Gordon, who from his point of view couldn’t see this all unfold simply assumed that he had made some mistake but in all fairness that wasn’t the case at all. The fish bolted simply because of the shadow of a dragonfly that wasn’t in any real sense a threat.  Trout don’t like surprises and they particularly don’t like surprises that come from “up there”.

Smart trout:

 

Success on a drowned Midge Pattern.

 

Further were I a trout it would come to pass at some point that I might realize that most of the time eating stuff off the surface is a high risk occupation in an environment where most anglers prefer to fish dry fly.

It isn’t just a snobbish affliction, we all like the drift of the fly, the vision of a spotted shadow rising on the current to intercept our offering and the glorious heart stopping moment when the mouth flashes white and we try to time our strike, nerves jangling as we attempt to avoid being too hasty.  So if I were a trout I think that I would tend to find other sources of food if possible and what better and easier pickings could there be than drowned bugs just under the surface?

You see it doesn’t escape me that in the bubbling freestone rivers that I fish most of the time insects that are falling on or hatching from the stream have pretty limited windows of opportunity to escape before they are done in by the next waterfall. The waterfalls don’t need to be huge, if you are a size 20 midge a moderate boulder will create a stopper wave that in comparison to one’s size is like the rapids of the Colorado. For a small bug in a freestone stream drowning is only ever a short drift away.

One can look back at the angling literature and there are numerous indications that trout might very well enjoy the easy pickings that lie just under the surface. Soft hackles, emergers, stillborns, Klinkhammers and probably quite a few “low floating” dry flies are all good imitations of bugs that have been swamped.

Recently I have been revisiting this idea with a good deal of success, for years I have fished dry flies designed as much so that I can see them as that they imitate the fish’s food but there are problems associated with fishing like this. Not least that the fish are wary of the surface, that drag is all the more noticeable on a floating fly and that no matter what you do you can’t get the darn tippet to sink much of the time.

The idea is that by going just subsurface you eliminate many of those problems and with a lot of net winged midges on the water of late I had been thinking that perhaps fishing a fly just under the water I might give myself a better chance of deception.

The further advantage is that bugs that have just been given the wash cycle treatment are going to look a little disheveled at best and therefore with my limited fly tying skills it would be a lot easier to imitate them. I mean I just had to lash some stuff on a hook and stamp on it a few times to get the required effect. The only real objection being that I couldn’t see the darn things in the water.

So was born the “drowned midge”, it takes about a minute to tie one, the rougher the better (remember that the required look is sort of microscopic road kill). Fished on a fine tippet to allow the weight of the hook to sink the pattern a few inches and a dry fly to act as an indicator I was ready to experiment.

 

Loose dubbing, a brush with some velcro, a couple of hackle point wings and you are in business.

 

On two recent trips to the stream this tactic has proven to be  a real winner, sure a number of the fish eat the dry, perhaps even the majority but the ones that refuse it will frequently take the midge and more to the point will sometimes simply ignore the floating pattern entirely.

It also seemed to me that the takes on the subsurface pattern were more positive whereas takes on the dry seemed to indicate that the better fish were eating the thing with what locally might be referred to as “Lang Tande”, (that is “long teeth” for the uninitiated) and indicative of less than true commitment to swallowing the floating imitation.

The fly fishes so close to the surface that most of the time you will see the take anyway and you still have the dry as a back up. It is a wonderfully effective tactic and a real “go to” trick when the fish are coming short or offering up inspection and refusal rises, something that seems to be getting more common.

Perhaps you might like to try this next time you are on the stream, the fish seem a whole lot more confident in chomping down on some hapless bug that has been swamped and if they can be sneaky enough to avoid eating high floating dries I can certainly be sneaky enough to go subsurface after them.

The Drowned Net Winged Midge:

Hook: size 18 moderately heavy wire.

Abdomen: Black 70 Denier Thread dressed short.

Thorax: Soft black dubbing, rabbit or similar brushed out with velcro.

Wings: Dun Hackle points.

Front Thorax: A pinch more loose dubbing.

Brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL, suppliers of Gamakatsu Hooks, Airflo Lines, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Deep Red Fly Rods, Scott Rods and more.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 


What a Drag.

October 6, 2010

Fishing becoming a drag? It is better to be something of a slacker.

I have recently been asked by a client to describe and or demonstrate a variety of different “casts”, that isn’t to say various socio economic groups on the Asian continent, but varieties of fly fishing presentations. In particular there were amongst others, the slack line cast, the mend, aerial mend, the puddle cast, the reach mend, the “e” cast (I really haven’t heard of that one before) and more..

It got me to thinking, in fact it is a subject that was much on my mind in years past, why do we make this all so complicated?

There is a definitive tome on fly presentation by one of America’s most famous fishing sons, Gary Borger, entitled “Presentation”. The book really is a work of art, I may even suggest required reading at some point,  it contains every possible variation of cast, presentation, leader set up and all manner of tips tricks and techniques which would one supposes where you able to accomplish them all, would make you into the world’s best angler.

Don’t get me wrong, there is little in the book with which I would disagree, I suspect that nearly everything, with the possible exception of the “overpowered curve cast”, which I have yet to see anyone effectively demonstrate with a dry fly, is in fact true. I would further submit that the vast majority of what Borger is on about is in fact useful and on occasion pertinent. What I don’t agree with is the necessity to give every little nuance a different name to the point that it boggles the mind. If you really want to stop your spouse, loved one or significant other taking up fly fishing in the first place you should buy them a copy of this book. It is telephone directory thick, chock a block full of information and so complicated for the neophyte that they will roll over on the couch and suggest that perhaps bowls is more likely to “be their thing”.

Sure fly fishing can be complicated, the very best have an arsenal of tricks and adaptations up their piscatorial sleeves that keep them ahead of the pack, not to mention ahead of the fish,  but for the average or neophyte angler it is all a bit too much. Perhaps for the aging trout bum the same applies, it is all simply too complicated.

Truth be told what it is mostly about, is the presentation of the fly without drag, that is to say not moving in any manner differently to the current upon which the fly is riding. Refer to Drag and Steak Dinners on this blog for some reference to what drag is.

Drag occurs simply because the fly is tied to the leader, the leader is tied to the fly line, the fly line is tied to the reel and the reel is tied to you. That means that various sections of the line on any given trout stream are going to be moving at different speeds and therefore the end result is going to be that the fly is either speeded up or held back in its progress down the river.

So why is drag important?

Because “Dear Watson”, the natural flies on which the fish are feeding are not tied to a leader, which is not tied to your line, which is not tied to your reel which is not tied to you and therefore they move at exactly the same speed as the current upon which they find themselves, other than the odd flutter of the given struggling insect perhaps. So abnormal movement of the fly is a dead giveaway to a wary trout that all is not well. If you are a trout living in the catch and release waters of a Cape Stream you have a number of possible means at your disposal to avoid getting a sore lip when feeding, the most reliable one being that you don’t eat anything that is moving unnaturally, better to miss out on the odd wind affected real bug than to end up with a size eighteen hook in the nozzle.

How do you delay the onset of drag then?

Firstly I am going to draw specific attention to the above comment, notice that it says “delay the onset of drag”. Drag is an inevitable consequence of fishing with a line and fly, you cannot, as so many writers glibly presuppose, “Avoid it”, drag is unavoidable it is however possible, in fact desirable, to delay its onset long enough to present the fly to a fish and therein lies the skill of fly presentation.

The essential means of delaying the onset of drag is to put slack into the line, a straight line and leader will drag almost instantly as the currents pull the line at different speeds and possibly even in different directions.

On small freestone streams the problem is complicated by the multitude of currents of various speeds and directions, in fact frequently too complicated to solve simply by “mending the line” as is so frequently illustrated in books. In those books there is almost always only one variation of current speed not ten and on a freestone stream in amongst the pockets you could be mending the line like a dervish and achieve little.

To my way of thinking there are five primary ways of delaying the onset of drag, all the other variations, no matter how impressive their titles, are simply versions of the same thing.

Pick your stance, probably the most underrated skill in small stream fly fishing, it is as important where you cast from as where you cast to. By moving your position you can eliminate a lot of potential drag causing cross currents before you even start and even moving a foot or two can achieve a great deal.

Cast short. Because drag is a function of the various currents acting upon the line and the fly at different speeds and directions, the less line out the less conflicting forces have to be dealt with , which is why most good Cape Stream anglers don’t cast very far at all and prefer to get closer when at all possible. Trust me, it isn’t because they can’t cast further, it is because they know that it is counter productive to do so.

Keep the line off the water. The corollary to the above is that line not on the water isn’t going to be affected by the currents (although it could be affected by the wind) and therefore in highly complicated pocket water currents one of the best methods of avoiding drag is “high sticking” keeping the majority of the line and leader out of harms way. One can achieve similar benefits by laying the line on convenient rocks to keep it away from the tug of the stream’s flow.

Fish a long and unstable leader. On more laminar flows perhaps it isn’t as critical but on fast moving and varied currents of freestone streams the single most effective means of delaying the onset of drag is to use a leader that will automatically create slack in the presentation. That means that it is long, fine, manufactured from soft material and pretty much impossible to turn over perfectly. There are casts that will provide more slack in the leader and some are useful but almost all of them then lose out when it comes to accuracy of presentation. On a tight overgrown stream, accuracy is pretty much essential.

Mend the line, where possible. There are instances where one can “mend” the line to overcome or avoid the effects of one significant variation of current flows. But that will only help you in respect of one current at a time, it is very difficult if not impossible to mend sufficiently to prevent the results of multiple current flows.

I have found that for myself when fishing convoluted currents the two most effective means of getting drag delayed presentation are using a long unstable leader and picking ones position carefully before the cast is made. In the final analysis, anything that you can do to delay the onset of drag on the fly will improve your chances but you don’t need a litany of different names for every variation. If you get it right you will know because there will be more trout on the end of your line eating the fly.

CPS Newsletter Sept 30 2010

October 1, 2010

Cape Piscatorial Society Newsletter                        September 30th 2010

Despite the fact that the fishing has been a little slow in the early season I suppose it is fair to say that it hasn’t been quite as slow as previous years when we couldn’t even fish. No doubt not only a plus for the anglers but equally for those small towns downstream of the fishing who haven’t seen half of their houses washed away this year.

Fly anglers I am convinced are a rather perverse lot, in the end it isn’t the fish that you catch that make you return to a specific water but rather those that you see but don’t tempt. Much the same with the poor fishing, I have been out on the streams more in the past month than I have for a long while, again that perversity, had it been good I probably wouldn’t have been quite so motivated, the sense that “we have to crack it one day” has kept me going.

A trip to the headwaters:

With that in mind I set off yesterday , of course hence the late posting of this newsletter, for the Upper Witte. This is a stream which I used to fish regularly, in fact in my youth we would head up there two days on the same weekend, making the trip twice in quick succession although rarely to fish the same beat. Back then there were fish in the lower beats, I suspect they are now gone or the numbers further diminished. The place suffers dreadfully from the over abstraction of water from the summer flows, bringing the water levels lower down to a standstill and I am sure that can’t be good for the trout, or for that matter for any indigenous fishes that aren’t yet on the evolutionary brink of growing legs and lungs.

I keep thinking that I should do an exploratory trip up the lower sections whilst the flows are still reasonable to find out for sure if there are any fish left down there. It is a pity, years back on my birthday I caught a 22” brownie below the hiking hut and it breaks my heart to think that, what at this time of year looks like excellent water, has been reduced to such a state by narcissistic self interest.

Irrespective of past agreement it does seem to me to be insane that anyone, person or organization for that matter should be allowed to abstract the entire flow of a river and one hopes that in time sanity and the law will prevail and the water in the Witte will once again flow during the summer months.

Headwater brownie, spectacularly colourful.

Mind you people all tell me that everything has an up side to it and if there is one here it is that there is fishing higher up, not only that but you need to be seriously motivated and relatively fit to access it. Hence there is less pressure on this water than almost any other beat under out control.

My little jaunt on Thursday probably equated to a round trip on foot of some twenty odd kilometers, I think that is enough to stave off the advances of the average couch potato. I did however find fish, a few I spotted and duly spooked and several I picked up prospecting at longish range.
The water up here is ridiculously clear despite its amber hue and the fish are equally not used to seeing anything much by way of movement so are particularly quick to take offense at any intrusion. Paradoxically at the same time I don’t think that they are particularly fussed about fly patterns and the like, they don’t see enough of them to form an opinion.

Presentation Presentation, the fly didn't seem to be too important.

It is a trip that I haven’t made in years, in fact I ventured further up the stream than ever previously and it was both challenging and fun despite the near crippling stomp homewards. These fish are as pretty as they always were; a particularly noticeable feature of the strain is a frequently bright red dotted adipose fin, such that for a second they look almost as though they were tagged. High up the pickings are thin and the water thinner so I doubt that there are many monsters up there, but there could be a few and I think that I shall have to make the trip again in the not too distant future, I just need a bit of time for my calves to recover. Still it was worth it, wonderful scenery, clear water and some genuine wild trout, not a lot of them but some. Working on the same basis that I measure the fuel consumption of my car you could say that working on the distance walked it averaged out at about fourty trout per hundred kilometers an entertaining if entirly useless statistic.

So October is upon us, the first month of the season passed and that means that summer should be around the corner, more stable conditions and removal of the rain jacket from your back pack to make way for the sunblock. The Cape Piscatorial Society’s Bells Fly Fishing Festival takes place in October, I don’t know if it is fully subscribed as I type but if it isn’t then you definitely want to enquire about it if you are a novice angler on our waters.

This festival has a special place in my heart because the one disadvantage of our catch and release regulations is that the fishing is a whole lot tougher than it used to be. I like that, I like the fact that it is more challenging, that there are more and bigger fish and that they demand greater expertise from the anglers. I also like the fact that if one finds and releases a 19” fish you know that it isn’t going to be whipped out next week by someone else and end up under a grill with some toasted almonds.

I even like the fact that because of the catch and release issue most anglers will offer quality advice to newcomers, something a whole lot less likely to happen if they think that their neophyte protégée is going to be having a good ol’ fry up with the product of his learning.  But it does make it hard if you are a beginner and the Bells Festival with its opportunity to fish with some of the best anglers in the province at least allows anglers to learn the ropes a bit faster than simply bashing about on their own without guidance. It is something quite special and if you are looking to improve your angling, or currently struggling on the streams then there cannot be a better investment than to attend this one.

I shall be posting some information and images of my recent Witte River Trip on my next post on this blog so keep you eyes open for that.

For now the sun is shining, the barometer seems to have settled somewhat from its roller coaster ride of the past month and things are looking up. If you are out and about on the streams over the weekend, as always, “Be Careful Out There”.

Tim