Archive for June, 2012

A Question.

June 21, 2012

Can you catch eight or so fish and honestly claim that it wasn’t a good day’s fishing?

That probably sounds a dreadfully egotistical question and more so if the answer is yes, but actually on a recent trip to a local lake the answer was undoubtedly in the affirmative, I did catch eight fish and no it wasn’t a good day..

It is pretty much accepted that most of us go through various phases in our fly fishing lives. The sequence varies slightly from author to author but the general list looks something like this.

To catch a fish
To catch lots of fish
To catch big fish
To catch a specific fish
To catch fish in the way that you would like to.
To catch a specific fish in the way that you would like to.
The list probably goes on with variations of more species or specific fish such as trying to catch “Ol Bert” who lives next to the third pylon on the road bridge and has become a local legend. The permutations are endless really but pretty much all of us are in a “phase”.

Now I am going to add another, to catch a fish such that you think at least that you understand why you caught it. There is something soulful about doing this, even if it is a figment of one’s imagination. One of the reasons I don’t like to pump fish stomachs too often, the contents can ruin what was up to that point the perfectly happy illusion that I had cracked the code.

So for example you flip a perfect drift over a rising trout and he ignores your offering, you change patterns and still the fish simply rises to a natural next to your imitation. You persevere and notice some flying ants on the rocks. You switch to an ant pattern, the fish takes on the first pass and when you finally land it you pump its stomach only to find ants, ants and more ants, does piscatorial life get better than that?

There is a certain wholesomeness to that scenario, a closing of a circle, a combination of dexterity, skill, observation and deduction that takes fly fishing far above the level of throwing out a woolly bugger and dragging it back. Sort of Zen Buddhism versus WWF wrestling.

Just recently I visited a productive lake which I have fished three times now in close succession. Normally I would be drifting it with my mate and regular boat partner Mike, I have to take him as he owns half of the boat and will cough up for some of the petrol, but this time around he was tied up with work projects and unable, at the last minute, to make it.

Missed you Mike.

So I set off alone a two and a half hour drive arriving at the water in the pre-dawn, air temperature 3°C and set about pumping up the boat and sorting out the gear. Launching was only moderately more challenging than with two people and I was afloat and heading for the first drift within forty minutes or so.

My view and Mike’s view of boat fishing a lake is that one should first drift to find the fish, the wind was variable with some calm spells and it took a long while to locate even one fish. That taken on a hare’s ear nymph dragged behind the boat whilst changing position so it didn’t really count.

By lunch I had only that one fish despite flailing madly, changing lines from Di5 up to slow intermediate and back.  It is times like this that you get to truly value the benefits of a good boat partner and I am already realising that I shall have to apologise about the jibe in respect of owning half the boat. With two of you fishing, different sink rate lines, different flies and covering twice as much water is should be easier to find a concentration of fish, indeed I would suggest logarithmically easier. On my own I hadn’t found more than that odd one.

Then I hooked another fish trolling the line behind me as I moved, it really isn’t cricket to catch fish like this and again to my way of thinking it didn’t really count , but at least I figured that the fish perhaps wanted something moving faster, or shallower or both.

I then hooked yet another trout whilst on the move, why would a trout attack an orange blob fly moving at 15 Kms an hour? It didn’t make sense and finally with a very rapid retrieve I hooked and landed my first “legitimate fish”, a hen that poured roe all over me and the boat when I landed her.

This now raises yet another question, you see many of the fish we have taken in the past week or two have been bright silver, rounder in aspect and more salmon like, showing none of the expected colouration and gravidity that might normally be seen in the early winter months. I strongly suspect that those silver fish are indeed triploids, part of a stocking years back who are now unaffected by spawning urges.

I landed a few more fish on either orange blob flies or red and green boobies which are in fact a pretty fair imitation of a dragonfly nymph when retrieved at speed., but in all honesty I never quite got with the program. I didn’t have any working hypothesis as to why I caught when I did or failed when I didn’t.

When I got home that female trout was with me, she had been badly hooked and was bleeding so was put down and brought her home for supper.  Her stomach contents? Four small boxy dragon fly nymphs no more than a 10 mm in length, each as though a sibling of the others, not exactly a suggestion of a feeding frenzy.

So here are my thoughts, I suspect that the dam is currently harbouring two distinct populations of fish, the sexually active ones who are hardly feeding and responding more from aggression than hunger and the triploids, which I failed to find this trip, feeding happily somewhere out there in the watery expanse.

So I ended up with eight odd fish to the boat and I was none the wiser by the end of the day than when I had started. That is annoying, we generally start out without too much of a clue but gradually find fish, hone in on the correct depth and then suitable flies such that we have worked out the formula for the day. This time I didn’t manage that and the numbers of fish didn’t ameliorate my disappointment.

It isn’t egotistical to suggest that this wasn’t the best of days, sure a few fish in the boat makes it seem worthwhile but in the end I learned very little. It has to be said that I would far rather catch feeding fish than purely aggressive ones and if this was a victory is was to my mind a little bit of a hollow one.

Never mind, next time I am out I shall have Mike as a wingman and we can perhaps hunt down those triploids who are behaving a little more normally, go back to imitative patterns and kid ourselves that we have worked it out. Just so long as neither of us decides to check the stomach contents and spoil the day.

If it ain’t broke, Don’t fix it.

June 5, 2012

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, words of wisdom from my father and probably everyone else’s Pater as well for that matter. So what is it that possesses people and in particular companies to do exactly that? Generally I like to keep blog posts upbeat, cheerful, joyous and inspirational and this one is dedicated to a fat moan because the fly fishing marketing department really does give me the gip some of the time..

So let me start out by saying that it is pretty much known that I am not a Sage fan, not that I don’t like some of their rods, to be honest I love some of their rods, and the click reels are a revelation,  but you had better hope that I don’t love one of the rods that you want. No sooner do I find one that I think is a real honey than the people at Sage remove it from the market.

Some time back a friend had a gloriously soft two weight that presented a dry fly as well as any rod I have ever cast (I confess I have forgotten the model, all these numbers just confuse me). I had plans to save up some of my limited funds and invest in one of these sticks only to find that when the required cash accumulation was complete the rod was no longer available. So I purchased the “newer model” instead, it proved a disaster, darn thing wouldn’t present a fly on a short line, snapped tippet because it was too feisty and in general to my mind just wasn’t a two weight in the first place. So I took it back to the shop and got the one weight version, that was better because I fished it with a two weight line and treated it as a two weight rod. It wasn’t the best I have ever used but it sufficed. Having dropped that amount of cash though I should have greatly preferred to have purchased what I had originally hankered after. A compromise is fine but for that amount of hard earned after tax dough I am not sure one should have to compromise.

Just recently I became the proud owner of a Sage ZXL two weight, again a honey of a rod for the fishing that I do. Great at short accurate presentations, light in hand and soft enough to protect the delicate tippets that I prefer to fish. With this rod not long ago I landed a fish over ten pounds in weight on 7X tippet and a size 18 dry fly.  Fantastic you may think, but alas I now hear that Sage have discontinued this one too. To no doubt be replaced by yet another lighter, faster tippet smasher geared to thrashing giant hoppers into the middle distance on Western Rivers or something. Don’t the guys at Sage do anything else but throw giant flies on strong tippets into howling gales? What is it that makes them think that all of us are out there fishing thirty metres away all the time?

Fly fishing rods are exactly that, “FISHING RODS” not “CASTING RODS”, there is more to rod design than chucking flies as far as possible and I am for one not convinced that faster actioned rods necessarily help with distance casting anyway. In fact I recently came across an article where there was a comparison of rod price v casting distance, and to everyone’s surprise except mine there was an inversely proportional relationship. The higher the price the less the distance..

I have complained about this love affair that the marketing departments seem to have with fast actioned rods previously on this blog. An AFTMA fairy tale.

Fly rods should help you cast sure, but cast the way that you need to in different applications, short dry fly fishing, nymph fishing, whacking it out there from a boat, whatever. It makes no sense to me that the focus is purely on rod speed.

A good fly rod in my opinion should variously:

* Assist casting the size of fly and the distance required for a specific application.
* Should protect the tippet that you are fishing for that application.
* Allow you to play the fish effectively in terms of the pressure exerted and the risk of breakoff.
*Provide hooking power based on the fly size, fish size and distance cast.
*Offer accuracy where required and feel when casting and playing fish.

If some of these rod designers were creating hammers instead of fly rods we would all be wielding ten pound lumps of iron to knock a drawing pin into a felt board.

Just this past weekend I was fishing with my mate Mike, I was using my favourite boat rod, a Stealth Magnum 10’ six weight. The rod has buckets of power lower down but isn’t particularly quick in action. I find that it affords me comfortable casting and yet protects the tippet and doesn’t bounce the fish off when hooked. I can cast that rod all day, thirty metres on virtually every throw where the line doesn’t tangle, two false casts only. It will hook fish effectively at full range but not break the tippet. It is a pretty ordinary looking thing and some might even suggest that it was a “piece of cheap Sh1t” but it is a favoured rod for almost all of the competitive boat anglers that I know. It isn’t dreadfully light and actually has pretty crumby single foot wire guides which I don’t particularly like. Mine has been sanded down to remove rod flash and is scratched and battered from over ten years of use,  but it does its job better than almost any other I have fished. If I break that rod I am going to shed more than a few tears but after ten years I can still buy another one exactly the same if I want to.

Mike was also using a ten foot six weight rod, not the same as mine and not a Sage either for that matter, but he broke off fish and dropped fish over and over and I strongly suspect that the rod was in part to blame.

Yet another fish on a “piece of cheap rubbish rod”, which can still be replaced and does the job it was designed to do as well as it did when I got it ten years ago.

So why can’t we purchase “horses for courses”? It seems nonsensical to me for manufacturers to have a “range” of rods from two to ten weight actually. The requirements for a two weight rod are simply not the same as for the ten. They are designed for entirely different purposes and different size fish, different casting distances and different sized flies. A two weight rod with the same action as a ten weight is more than likely completely useless when you get right down to it.

I suspect that the most popular rod weights are probably fives and sixes, so one may well find that the six weight ZXL is a tad too floppy for its purpose, I don’t know I have never cast the six weight version. I have however loved fishing the two and three weights. So maybe Joe Public says “The six weight isn’t fast enough” and Sage then blow the entire range as a result. I am not sure what it is that motivates the process, but I am saying that the ZXL in the lighter weights did the job that I and more than a few other anglers wanted it to do. Now you will no longer be able to buy one.

I read one comment from an angler unknown to me, who after casting a light weight ZXL posed the question “Should I sell a kidney to get one?”, I hope he either bought one already or hasn’t booked the surgery, because he may well find his nephritic sacrifice was ill conceived if he arrives at the shop too late.

I don’t suppose that Sage are the only ones out there playing this silly game of faster is better, and I am not actually “anti Sage”, I love some of their rods, but I am very tired of the fact that you cannot be assured of getting the one you want when you can afford to because the range has been “updated” once more. More to the point, why pay a premium for a guarantee when your claim will result in your being forced to get a different rod which you may well not like if you bust it?

A while back I asked a female friend “why do you girls all buy smock tops and hipster jeans when they don’t suit you?”, “why don’t you wear what you like and what suits your figures, not everyone looks good in hot pants or the latest pink”. Her reply was a warning to us all, “we all buy the latest fashion because there isn’t anything else on the shelves”, yes and we are heading that way with fly rods too. You are going to have to buy what someone wants to sell you and not necessarily what you want. The marketing departments would have you believe that this is progress; mostly I think that it is just crap.