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Abernant

June 19, 2018

Day Two Abernant

The missing boots are on their way, confirmed by message from DHL, so hopefully today will be the last slipping and sliding all over the rocks. As things turned out, troublesome as it was, I did manage to stay upright for the day. My back feels as though I spent the day on a physiotherapist’s “wobble board”.

So today the designated beat was Abernant, with the low water the two main Salmon pools looked ideal runs for some dry fly fishing, all that was needed was a decent hatch of fly and the chill east wind seemed to put the mockers on that.

The path down to the Abernant Beat

 

I persevered with dry and dry and dropper for some time, taking the odd small trout that had risen within range, but there wasn’t much top water action. Eventually I re-rigged with a Euro-Nymphing line and leader, and fortunes changed immediately. A run which I had fished with a dry and a dry and nymph combination failed to produce anything and convinced that there had to be fish in there I switched tactics to a Euro-nymph set up with immediate results. Four small trout in four casts followed a few casts later by a decent grayling.

Moving on upriver, more laminar flows with the odd small fish rising occasionally, back to the double taper line, long leader dry fly and small nymph, and a couple of small trout taken on an olive parachute. I like that sort of fishing, I like casting, but it wasn’t producing the goods so back to the Euro  outfit at the next run and again success.

In the end I stuck to the Euro-nymphing thing, it isn’t my favourite but it was all that was producing fish. A good many small trout the best no more than 12” long and some reasonable grayling.

By day’s end, or at least when I decided to quit I had landed some 30 trout, but mostly small ones and 20 odd grayling a little larger on average than the trout with the best probably about 14” long. Not as large as a couple from yesterday but pleasing none the less.

An Abernant Grayling

 

An interesting thing was that I wasn’t doing that well on the Euro outfit either until I decided to add a much smaller nymph to the mix. The tiny perdigon accounted for the vast majority of fish, both trout and grayling.

 

These simple nymphs produced the most fish.

The gravel river bed meant that it was hard to get the flies down on the bottom, I have seen this before fishing in New Zealand. Where there is little obstruction to slow the flows the buffer zone where the fish can hold and feed is hard on the bottom and you need more weight than you might think to get the flies down there.

I covered a lot of water and worked hard, switching tactics and flies as the situation demanded but by far the most productive set up was the nymphing outfit.

The weather hasn’t been bad but there is a chill wind and the water levels are low too, something is restricting the hatches and it could simply be that low as the water is, it is equally cold water. I may try staying out on the water later to see if things change in that department.

For now though, I have had some fun and caught some fish, landed some graying which was akin to a goal on this trip and although one always thinks one could have done better I am far from displeased.

My accommodations at Pwllgwilym Cottages is really nice and the “Traditional Welsh Breakfast” proved to be more than I can eat in one sitting. I have ordered simple poached eggs on toast for tomorrow.  (It did cross my mind that I could claim to be fattening up for additional stability in the river, but a somewhat lame excuse, some moderation will be in order for breakfast tomorrow)

I like to try “local” cuisine” where I am, I think that is part of the experience. But this breakfast was too much, I thought I was going to burst at the seams.. Fantastic but too much for me!!

I have also ordered breakfast for later in the morning as I intend to wait a while and see if those cursed boots arrive. It may be the ideal opportunity to be on the water late into the evening.

It is only day two and I have already enjoyed myself immensely, it really is something of a privilege to be able to access such water and really rather easily too. The accommodations I would recommend to anyone and although the weather isn’t exactly playing ball it could be a lot worse. On the stream today the position of the flotsam from previous floods shows just how high the water can get, so low is perhaps difficult but certainly better than the alternative.
Actually the rivers are low,  don’t know how that can be, it hasn’t really rained but I haven’t seen the sun either.. Heavy mist most days with the odd spattering of rain, obviously not enough to keep the rivers at their best.

Hope springs eternal and I am enjoying my stay…

 

 

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Craig Llyn

June 19, 2018

River Wye Day One…. Craig Llyn

This morning I was in Cornwall and this evening I bed down in Mid-Wales after an uneventful 4hr trip focusing more on the road signs than the scenery. I left early so that I might slot in some fishing time in the afternoon. All (or as you will see later, mostly) going according to plan.

There seems to me to be an inverse relationship between the width of the roadways and the quality of the fishing. Some of the best dry fishing I have ever experienced has been on the Bokong River in Lesotho, where one travels until the road stops and is replaced by donkey track

On this trip I started the day driving down narrow and leafy lanes, before negotiating the ubiquitous curse of British roadways, damnable and confusing mini roundabouts. Then onto duel carriage ways, then motorways, speeding along the M5 and M4, crossing the impressive span of the Severn Bridge and eventually ended up back in much the same sorts of narrow leafy lanes I had started with. Even then, each small town still sports at least one multiple mini roundabout, just to keep visiting drivers on their toes. I am currently working on the hypothesis that quality country living can be determined by the Mini roundabout/Country Pub ratio. As I ventured further into Wales the pubs were winning hands down, from my perspective a most cheering thought.

There are some similarities between Cornwall and Wales. Both peoples Celtic and both fiercely proud of their heritage. The Welsh have done a better job of preserving their language than have the Cornish , and each road sign requires a second take as directions are in both English and Welsh.

If you wonder how to pronounce any of the names in the native tongue whilst driving, you are liable to lose concentration and come to a sticky end at the next mini-roundabout. (As an example, my destination ” Pwllgwilym Cottages”, is apparently pronounced something like ‘Poff Gwillam”, meaning  “Gwillam’s Pond” as best I can understand.) Having spent a good part of my life trying to get a grip on the Afrikaans “G”, I don’t see myself learning Welsh any time soon.

Try reading this whilst whizzing around “Mini” Roundabout.

It is self-evident that back in the mists of time the Romans never held sway over the Celtic nations, the complete lack of any sort of straight roadway being proof enough. The lanes wend and wind around a hotchpotch of apparently randomly shaped fields, ancient boundaries of farms and homesteads that have been in existence for hundreds of years.

In Cornwall many of the boundaries would be demarcated with dry stone walls, whilst in Wales profligate hedgerows serve to mark out territory and of course keep the sheep where they are supposed to be (Sheep rarely stay where they are supposed to be even then)..

Green Fields and prolific hedgerows.

 

I drove along these tiny country lanes marveling at the scenery and the lovely natural stone cottages along the way, the greenery is only broken by the white dots of wandering sheep, it is too beautiful for words, enough so that even the drizzle failed to curb my enthusiasm. Even the next mishap didn’t really deter me too greatly.

Now for the “hiccup”: (Fishing trips, like Weddings, always seem to include at least on hiccup).
On every beat description of the Wye there are dire warnings that you MUST have studded and felt soled boots and I purchased some from Sportfish specifically for the trip, couriered overnight to Cornwall.. I don’t like or use studded boots at home, but the warnings were so dire (capitalized and in parenthesis) that I had decided it would be foolhardy to ignore them.

Now when I left Cornwall this morning my “little voice”, which is generally reliable if unspecific with regards forgotten gear, was telling me I was missing something and I wracked my brains to no avail. Eventually putting it all off to “road trip paranoia”. However no sooner had I arrived at Pwllgwilym Cottages and started to unpack the car when I realized the error. I was in Mid Wales whilst my newly purchased boots, with the prerequisite studs and felt soles, were still drying out, 200 miles away in my brother’s garden in Cornwall. 😦

Not good and I was faced with the choice of risking life and limb wading in my shoes or skipping the fishing. I had already glimpsed sections of the Wye and there was no way I could delay wetting a line,  so risking life and limb was really the only choice.

I did battle to wade and wasn’t able to fish the way I normally would, but that notwithstanding, I did manage to catch about a dozen grayling (the goal of the trip in many ways). In fact I got one of close to 2lbs I would think, and I was well pleased with that. They are tremendously pretty fish with bright red fringes on the massive dorsal fin which they use like a sail when fighting in the current. Gorgeous looking fish, and alas I shall have to delay posting this because on top of the boot saga the camera went on the blink and I was unable to take a picture. I shall hope to do so shortly, but of course we all know that when the camera is working the fish won’t be biting. I can only promise to do my best when the opportunity arises and if all else fails I shall have to take the cell phone with me on the water..

Finally a picture of a grayling.  The Latin name is Thymallus thymallus  because they supposedly smell like the herb. Had the originator been trying to photograph them instead of sniffing them they would have been called “Slippery slippery”..

I shall have a day more on the water without the correct footwear, but the family have already been instructed to courier them up to me (Hang the expense) because I need them badly. Tomorrow I shall be on another beat and will no doubt be staggering about or trying to fish the runs from the bank, not ideal but with good fortune the boots should arrive by Tuesday morning and then I will be good to go.

An interesting aside though, forced to fish without the prerequisite boots and the mobility that goes with them I had to adapt. Firstly very little Euro-nymphing  because it was not easy to wade deep enough for that. Secondly , because I was frequently out of position I was required to do a lot more mending of the line and curve casting than I might otherwise employ. In the end I suppose it was an exercise which is of value, no matter that it was born of error and frustration. Back home anglers and clients who find it difficult to wade make the same errors, trying to fish from the same position instead of moving to get better angles and more control.

Today I felt for those anglers , because I had become one of them, being forced to make difficult presentations where a move to a different location in the river would have made things simple, the ability to move and choose the best position for each presentation is a skill well worth learning and the troublesome footwear forced upon me highlighted that point with glaring clarity.

Tomorrow will be more of the same no doubt, but at least that first rush of overly hurried preparation and excitement will have abated and I should proceed with more focus and at a more leisurely pace on day two.

For now it is time for some pub grub, a pint of ale and a restful sleep in the absolute quiet of the Welsh hills. I shall have sweet dreams I am sure, (probably interspersed with short nightmares about missing boots).

 

Mission Accomplished

June 12, 2018

 

I have been in the UK for a week now, most of that time dedicated to family and outings with mother. Trips to what passes in these parts as “ the big smoke” and a wander around “The Eden Project”, not quite as relaxing as you may imagine. The Eden Project is built in an old and pretty large quarry, the only lapse in the exemplary service received from all quarters so far was the lack of provision of an electric wheelchair for mater despite it being booked and paid for well in advance.

The Eden Project.

Thus the “stroll” around the gardens turned out to be more of a “push around” on my part as “designated carer” and de facto wheelchair pusher. As you may imagine, an old quarry, even one so magnificently re-purposed to accommodate exotic plants from around the globe, still has some fairly abrupt changes in contour.  I was thus thankful that at least our manually operated chair did have brakes. Mother was no doubt thankful too. She has flown the “Sky Wire” as celebration of her 90th birthday at this very same venue two years back. However that was a planned adventure. An unplanned loss of control down a steep slope in a wheelchair with a mind of its own, piloted by a ninety two year old woman with seriously waning eyesight would probably have proven just a little too Gung Ho.


The Skywire at the Eden Project.

 

Anyway, the steep slopes and humidity of the Rainforest Dome were eventually undertaken without major mishap and the marginal dehydration of aforementioned carer was set straight after a visit to “The Old Inn” in St Breward on the way home. A pint or two of ale and a delicious panini proved to be all the medication required for near full recovery.

The Old Inn in St Breward, apparently the highest pub in Cornwall and a welcome watering hole after the exertions of the Eden Project.

But now I am in Truro, administrative hub of Cornwall and gateway to the Fal River estuary, a massive piece of tidal water where I had hoped to catch a sea bass or two.

The bass have been making something of a comeback over the years after populations were in serious decline, but that said one has to find them and finding them in a massive tidal estuary such as the Fal is a fairly intimidating notion.

On the walk from Mylor around the coast towards Flushing, the volume of water in sight really had me questioning the wisdom of my quest, thoughts of throwing an insignificant twist of feather on the end of a thirty foot line trusting that a fish may see it were to my mind pure fantasy.  So I convinced myself that I was enjoying a very pleasant walk with the option of throwing a line, rather than seeing things as a serious fishing expedition. Such mind games take a little of the pressure off, but in my heart of hearts I knew that I would be dissatisfied if I failed to lure at least one small bass to the fly.

Confidence was really rather low, I never saw anyone else fishing, and this on a remarkably sunny Saturday. Logic suggests that if the fishing was good there would be fishermen in sight, and there weren’t.

No matter, I figured that a little casting practice from the rocks with the optional possibility of perhaps hooking a fish was no bad way to waste an hour or two. I did begin to wonder if any bass would show up, but they are inherently mobile and wander in and out of the estuary with the tides, such that at any given moment you may encounter a shoal.

I persevered, starting on the rocks opposite Falmouth Harbour and working my way along the coast towards Flushing I eventually hit a shoal of “schoolie bass” and managed to land one. Some time later I landed another. Unremarkable fishing in many ways but for the fact that I had never taken a sea bass on fly in this estuary previously. It is, as said, a large piece of tidal water and one suspects it may take a lifetime of dedication to understand its flows and know its fishing marks well. So I was well pleased with my humble success.

 

A fairly diminutive Schoolie Bass, but taken on the fly and something of a milestone.

The next day we headed out to try to repeat the success but to no avail. In the end we walked back to Mylor over the top of the hills along a footpath and headed home. Perhaps the disappointment got to me because later in the day I headed out to a section of stream that is part of the local fishing passport scheme. The beat was #36 on the scheme and is part of the Tresillian River, just above the section that it tidal. Finding the correct parking and then the ticket box proved to be easy, not so much finding the river however. The instructions were “Walk down to the river through the rush pasture” , no rushes in evidence and it took me almost an hour to find the water.

I had forgotten about brambles and stinging nettles, but I am now officially reacquainted with them, blood stains down my arms and an unpleasant “buzzing” sensation in my hands , arms and legs from the nettles serve as reminders of my reacquaintance with some of the less pleasant components of this verdant isle.

All that said and done it was an interesting and tiny stream, no room to make a proper cast so all presentations were roll casts, often sideways to avoid all the overhanging vegetation. Casting proved to less problematic than striking. There was rarely room to swing the rod and in the end I tried to focus on horizontal strikes, vertical ones would merely land one in trouble with all the overhanging branches.  I did manage to capture a few wild brown trout though. Diminutive perhaps but beautifully coloured and the real fishing on this trip only starts in about a week’s time when I head up to the Wye and Usk in Wales.

Tomorrow I shall visit the upper Fal on another passport beat, still not serious fishing, but more “ticking venues”, trying to catch fish in places I have never previously visited. It should also provide a level of preparation for my time in Wales later. By then I should have sorted out the new fishing vest and its contents into some sort of order.

For now I shall content myself with the idea that I did at least catch some fish, in both the fresh and saltwater venues visited and that, for the present, represents success enough.

 

A Load of Ol’ Clock

March 19, 2018

This post is a reproduction of an article written some time back for Fly Fishing Magazine. It is posted as a result of discussions on line with novice casters who have been struggling because they have been taught “the clock system”

“Cast by moving the rod from ten to two o’clock on an imaginary clock face” , if you have been knocking about fly fishing and fly casting circles for more than a few minutes and you have managed to avoid this dangerously misleading piece of advice you can count yourself extraordinarily fortunate.

During my casting clinics and tutorial sessions I spend more time trying to assist fly anglers to unlearn the bad habits of poor tuition advice in the past than I ever spend on newcomers. The single most pernicious piece of advice, and one that has resulted in endless frustration for generations of anglers, is the clock system

If you have been taught using this methodology then the chances are that you are in need of some remedial exercise to undo the habits formed. But before we go there perhaps let’s look at why the clock system is so misleading.

The casting clock suggests that the tip of the rod should be accelerated to a stop on each stroke, (AT LEAST THAT MUCH IS TRUE). The stops are then designated on an imaginary clock face with the stop position being at two o’clock on the back cast and ten o’clock on the forward stroke.

The first thing wrong with this is that it implies the rod rotates around a fixed pivot, in this case your hand, as though it were pinned in the middle of an imaginary circle as indeed are the hands of a clock. This is not the case in a good fly cast.

The idea that the rod rotates around a fixed pivot as do clock hands is incorrect. FIG #1

 

Secondly the clock system suggests that the stop/pause at the end of each stroke can be conveniently designated as constant positions irrespective of other variables, such as rod bend or line length. . Truth be told the stop/pause position at the end of each stroke is variable depending on the amount of bend in the rod when under load. The most likely (but not the only) cause of different amounts of bend in the rod is the different amount of line out of the rod tip during longer or shorter casts because more line weighs more and less line weighs less and will thus bend the rod more or less.

The idea that the pause/stop positions are fixed is incorrect.FIG#2

In an ideal cast, the rod tip will move along an imaginary straight line path as it bends and unbends and that straight line path is virtually impossible to replicate with a simple rotation of the rod about a pivot point, particularly as the amount of line and then of necessity the mass of that line changes on longer or shorter casts.

In fact the rod shouldn’t rotate around a pivot at all; the rod has two primary movements, a longitudinal movement, (as though the middle of the clock was moving horizontally, called STROKE) and a rotational movement (as though the rod was moving like a clock hand called ROTATION).

So in effect then, the “casting clock” (if one has to use that term) doesn’t have a fixed pivot, but rather that pivot moves “to and fro”.. as shown in Fig#2

FIG 3

 

Equally the stop/pause positions have to change as more or less bend is put into the rod during the cast.  In an overhead cast the more the rod bends the closer to the ground is the ideal imaginary straight rod tip path and as such the ideal stop/pause positions will vary in line with that maximum flex.To best understand that we need to define a few bits of terminology

“Arc” is the angular variation between the pause on the back cast and the pause on the forward cast.

“Stroke” is the linear movement of the hand or rod butt along an imaginary straight line within the arc during the cast.

“Effective Rod Length” is the apparent length of the rod once it is bent (flexed) during the cast. In other words when bent the rod effectively shorter and the tip lower to the ground, so the imaginary straight line path is also lower to the ground.

“Equivalent Rod Angle” is the angle at which an unflexed rod needs to be held to match the tip with an imaginary straight line along which the flexed rod will travel. Imagine, what angle would you have to hold the rod indoors to touch the ceiling. If the ceiling is your imaginary straight line then the angle of the rod to touch the ceiling is where you would pause the rod during a cast. The more the rod bends the lower the ceiling.

FIG 4

That all sounds rather complicated but hopefully we can clarify things.  In simple terms if the rod tip is going to follow a straight line path, which is what we want, then it must start the stroke (whilst unflexed) in a position that will correspond with the height above the ground of the rod when fully flexed during the cast.
It should stand to reason then that the less line out of the rod tip and the less bend (flex) in the rod during maximum load, the longer the effective rod length and the less acute the equivalent rod angle. Put another way, the more line out of the rod tip, the lower the pause point of the cast, the more acute the equivalent rod angle and the longer the actual stroke.

FIG 5

What does that all mean in terms of the “casting clock”?, It means that the clock cannot be right except for one specific length of line. (It is at least theoretically possible that the 10 to 2 angles will correspond to a particular degree of flex in the rod, but after that it cannot work). It is essential that the pause/stop points of your cast correspond with the effective rod length when it is bent and as such requires constant adjustment for different lengths of line. (Rod flex can also be affected by the make-up of the rod itself, the power/speed of the caster, wind direction, water hauling and more). You simply cannot obey these laws if you stick to ten o’clock and two o’clock and it is absolutely certain that you cannot make longer casts if you are stopping the rod in the positions advocated by the clock system. Watch any reasonably competent caster throwing a long line and it is certain that they will not be stopping the rod at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock.

A good cast contains both stroke (Translation) and Rotation.

A further illustration of the correct combination of stroke and rotation in a good cast is shown in the graphic below, notice that with stroke (translation) acceleration occurs over a longer distance, which means you get the same line speed with a lot less force. A key concept to good and easy casting.

Remedial action for clock casters:

If you have had the casting clock drummed into you and you are finding it tricky to get past your old habits, a few things to consider.

The most common problem for clock casters is that they throw wide loops. This is because if you simply rotate the rod around a fixed point, as suggested by the clock system, the rod tip will travel in a wide convex arc and throw a wide loop. Focus on the stroke aspects of your cast, add some linear movement of your hand, to and fro as you cast and watch what happens to the loops. Remember that the loop in the line will mirror exactly the movement of the rod tip.

The second most common problem amongst “clock casters” is that the moment they try to cast further than normal they end up with tailing loops. There are other reasons for tailing loops but if you learned the clock system and you find that you are throwing tailing loops as soon as you go for some distance or cast into the wind then it is a fair bet that you are not opening out your arc (changing the equivalent rod angle) to accommodate the additional weight of the line and the flex of the rod.  The incorrect position of the rod tip during the pause phase of your cast will not be lined up with the rod tip when bent and will cause the rod tip to get pulled down and then bounce back up during the cast, causing tailing loops and tangles.

Practice by watching your rod tip position during the pause. Do you change that position as you let out more line or leave it the same? If you aren’t opening out that casting arc and changing the position of your pause on both the forward and backward strokes then you are heading for trouble.

 

About the author:

Tim Rolston has fished three World Championships as a member of the South African National Fly Fishing Team. Both Captained and coached the SA Commonwealth Fly Fishing Teams. He was the first  South African to gain certification as an IFFF (International Federation of Fly Fishers) casting instructor  and is now the only IFFF certified Master Casting instructor in Africa. Tim runs group and individual casting instruction through his business “The Casting Clinic”. You can contact Tim via “The Casting Clinic” on thecastingclinic@iafrica.com to arrange individual or group casting tuition.

Prozac for the Soul

January 20, 2018

Streamside Meditation – Prozac for the soul.

I have recently been reading an excellent and newly released book , “Lost Connections” Uncovering the real causes of anxiety and depression-and the unexpected solutions.  (Johann Hari, Bloomsbury Circus, Jan 18)

I won’t go into the details, although that may come in time. What I can do is recommend it to you, whether you think you have ever been anxious and depressed or not. Because it isn’t just about that, it is about considering how our environment and the things that we accept as “normal” in society are most likely making many of us sick.

There were however a number of things in the book which really struck a chord with me, and some of them I think may well say something about why we fish and indeed why we should fish.

Firstly it turns out that there are only two primary motivations that drive us to do anything. What the author terms “Extrinsic or Intrinsic motivation”.

Extrinsic motivation is doing things to get stuff. The science shows that “getting stuff” as a result of your efforts doesn’t provide any long lasting psychological benefit in terms of a sense of well being.  This isn’t some opinion piece, it is backed up by real scientific study. Working like a dog to get that new car will give you a transient boost, but it won’t last. It could even ultimately increase your anxiety when you have to find money for the insurance and worry about scratching the paintwork. And anyway, if you have been seriously infected with society’s extrinsic values, your pleasure will diminish the moment your neighbour gets his bigger and newer model.

On the other hand, “Intrinsic motivation” proved to show sustained results in terms of people’s sense of well being.

My understanding of intrinsic motivation is that it relates to the stuff that you do or achieve simply because you want to, reading a book, writing a letter,  painting a picture, climbing a mountain , going fishing or just standing on a lawn casting a fly line.

Essentially then, something which is worthwhile for the simple sake of doing it, and without material goals or specific payoffs.  Think in terms of children playing, they do this simply for the joy of doing it. Joy it turns out is a word that you don’t hear too much these days and one has to wonder why that should be. Perhaps it is simply because people don’t experience it, a sad but likely truth.

I think that we all recognize at some point that there are (hopefully) things in our lives that are like that. For most people reading this blog almost certainly one of those things is going fishing, (oddly it turns out that for me, writing this blog is exactly the same thing). Most of us don’t expect to get anything out of it. We don’t kill or eat the fish and on the best days it doesn’t even matter if we don’t catch any fish.

I would put it to you that going fishing is a wonderfully intrinsically satisfying pursuit that we all do for little reason other than we like doing it, and we all know inside ourselves that it is good for us. Those who question the validity of our chosen passion, usually with that universal query “what’s the point if you don’t eat the fish” are caught up in societal acceptance of the importance of extrinsic goals. For them there has to be a payoff, a reward, a trophy prize at the end of any endeavor.

I suspect that anglers in general, and to my mind fly anglers in particular, have come to realize that it is the very fact that we don’t take anything which makes it worthwhile. We have discovered for ourselves what Johann Hari has highlighted, doing things we like doing, for little reason other than the fact that we like doing them is actually very very good for our sense of well being. In fact the science suggests that it can have a material effect on our real physical health.

It turns out there are a number of other similar factors which influence how you feel. One of the positive ones is meditation. My limited understanding of meditation is essentially that you clear your mind of all the clutter and I think we all recognize that happens to us when we are fishing.

A negative factor is the effect of unwanted input, mostly advertising, which infects most of our waking hours. The constant chatter that says you aren’t good enough without this, that you can be more successful, more sexy, more admired, less inadequate if you swallow this pill, buy this car, use this cream. In our normal lives, and ever more so with the advent of social media, we are bombarded with messages that try to highlight our flaws and inadequacies in an attempt to sell us more stuff.

If you look at it, most advertising has a negative message, even something apparently as innocuous as the Photo Shopped front cover of a magazine essentially suggests that you are flawed. That your skin isn’t perfect, your waistline too full, your hair lacking luster or perhaps your partner isn’t up to scratch. Even adverts that don’t look like adverts are there to make you feel less than. None of us is immune to it. It is equally pretty obvious that this background chatter doesn’t exist on a trout stream.

 

Finally, another finding, highlighted in this book is the benefit you can gain by “reconnecting to nature” to simply be in a natural space, to breath in its beauty, balance, and connectedness to everything else. Again, that is something that simply “happens” when you are out on the water.

So when you are fishing, you are already doing a lot of the things that are recommended in this book in terms of benefiting your mental and physical wellness, and that is before you factor in the advantages of exercise and clean air. Who would have known?

You are in pursuit of joy, for little reason than it is good for you, you have stilled your mind, or at least focused it sufficiently that you are at peace. You are in direct touch with nature and generally in a large enough space that your ego becomes minimalized by the sheer scale of things. Turns out that there is a lot of scientific evidence that what you do when you go fishing is tremendously good for you.

I can’t tell you how many friends and clients report to me that the time that they spend fishing is the ONLY time that they are not worrying about something else. Work, relationships, money, mortgages, children, and such which tend to clog our minds and cloud our judgement.

I know of a friend from my past, whose wife would make him sandwiches and send him fishing when he was showing signs of being stressed out.  She recognized that he was a happier, healthier person having spent a day on the water and no doubt a nicer person to be around too.

Many of us instinctively understand this to be true, but for some reason it is all too easy to allow the extrinsic motivations that drive modern society to encroach on our reasoning and we find ourselves “Putting off going fishing” for “something more important”. What this book suggests in fairly scientific terms is that, there isn’t much that is rightfully more important.  In fact I think that the next time someone asks me “What’s the point of going fishing” I am going to tell them “The point is that it is very good for me”. What better explanation does one need?

I have often joked, when people ask me about going fishing, that it is “cheaper than therapy”, now I know that not only is it cheaper, there’s a very good chance that it is more effective too.

I have always known that most fly anglers are pretty smart, but who would have thought that we have discovered an “anti-depressant” , that has no known side effects, works better than anything the pharmaceutical giants can come up with, is for most of us, readily available and highly effective?

 

Books from the author of this blog are available for download from Smashwords

 

 

Get out of Jail

January 14, 2018

 aka: “The roll cast pick up”

This is one of the most versatile and useful casts you will ever learn to make, not perhaps technically a cast in itself but a very useful skill to master.

So what is a roll cast pick up? Or perhaps we should start with “what is a roll cast”.

All too often people attempting roll casts end up with the line lying in a bit of a puddle and I think that the error is in the understanding of the “roll” part of the description. Sure the line “rolls out” but the casting stroke shouldn’t be one of rotational acceleration. It should, as with all good casts be one of more straight line “translational acceleration combined with rod rotation at the end”.  Actually, the forward part of a good roll cast, from the angler’s perspective should be identical to a normal forward stroke in an overhead cast.  Bear in mind though, that you are only accelerating the little bit of line that is behind the rod, so it requires a different amount of acceleration, for my money, the longer the better. Getting the maximum amount of line in the “D” loop and extending the stroke for as long as possible aid good roll casting to a considerable degree.

So a roll cast is one in which the line is drawn back behind the rod tip to form a “D” shaped loop, (the vertical leg of the “D” being the rod). Then the forward stroke is the same as a normal forward cast, it is worth noting that with a roll cast, the distinct stop at the end of the forward stroke is perhaps even more important than with a standard overhead cast.

Roll casting has a serious drawback though, you can’t change direction and without modification you would simply keep placing the flies back in the same spot.  It also isn’t great for dry fly work, because of course the fly tends to stay damp without the drying effects of overhead casts and false casts. So why bother to learn to roll cast?

Firstly, the roll cast is the basis for the dynamic roll, switch cast and the entire family of Spey casts, you might think that you will never need those but even if you aren’t going to use Spey casts another great reason for perfecting your roll cast is that it has a wonderfully useful cousin, called the “roll cast pick up” and that is useful to almost every kind of fishing you might imagine.

Roll Cast PIck Up Animated

The roll cast pick up is essentially the same as a straightforward roll cast, but that the casting angle is set much higher to aerialize the line prior to the back cast.

The roll cast pick up is a cast which uses the exact same methodology as a roll cast, but as one can vary the vertical direction of a standard cast you can do the same with a roll cast. That is you can roll cast down into the water (not a great idea), or you can roll cast upwards into the sky.

A roll cast upwards provides one with a lot of benefits and multiple uses in all kinds of fishing.

#1: Long leader dry fly or Euro-nymphing fishing.
A problem frequently faced with these styles is that the leader runs back inside the rod guides before the drift is complete. To avoid that, most anglers will lift the rod to take up slack as the flies progress downstream towards them, instead of drawing in more line. That’s good but it leaves one in a very poor position to start the next cast. (Remember that all casting instructors will tell you to keep the rod tip down so as to eliminate slack at the start of the next cast).

Trapped in this position after fishing out the drift, it is very difficult to make an effective cast

 

It is almost impossible to make a good cast starting with the rod tip high, and yet long leader styles often leave the angler in this position.  However if you use the high rod tip to create a “D” loop, just as though you were going to make a roll cast, and then roll cast upwards, you end up with the line in the air, in front of you and ready for a back cast.  Eliminating slack and putting yourself already in a great position for the next cast. It doesn’t hurt that this is a very efficient cast not requiring multiple strokes and thus putting your flies back in the water, where the fish are, far more efficiently.

#2: Heavy nymphs, sink tips, bulky saltwater flies.
With a standard pick up when fishing outfits as outlined above, you are forced to drag well sunk flies, leaders, or bulky flies out of the water, using up a great deal of energy and creating, all too often a lot of disturbance on the water.  If however you make a roll cast pick up, the motion of the line pulls the flies, and/or leader, nearly vertically out of the water. This minimizes energy loss and surface disturbance.

#3: Light lines and stiffer rods

Much as with example #1, pulling in too much line with faster actioned rods makes it very difficult for most anglers to “get the cast going again”.  If instead you take up slack with the rod tip during the latter part of the retrieve you can keep more line (and thus mass) outside the rod tip. With a roll cast pick up then you are immediately casting a more suitable weight of line, reducing false casting and maximizing efficiency.

#4: Strong wind from behind.

Most anglers will tell you that they prefer to fish with the wind behind them, often not the best choice because you are casting into the wind on your back cast and most people’s back cast is weaker than their forward stroke. However the commonly accepted principle of casting with wind is that you cast “downwards” into the breeze and “upwards” with the breeze. That makes a lot of sense, because the upward cast with the breeze is aided by the wind. Flying out like a kite if you will.

We know that, based on the 180° rule, that to make a forward cast low into the wind, you need to make the back cast “high” with the wind, and vice versa.

Making a high initial back cast, when the wind is into your face is easy, because the line is coming off the water and thus the 180° rule confirms that your initial back cast MUST then be upwards.  But what if the situation is reversed?  Standard logic is that you cast upwards behind you and then let the line fall, rotating the rod at the same time, to position yourself so as to launch a forward cast with an upward trajectory. The problem here is that with anything like a serious amount of wind coming from behind you, you can’t “wait”. If you do the line is going to pile up in the air, stopped in its tracks by the gale.

Now what if you could start your backcast on a horizontal or better yet downward angle, wouldn’t that be a huge advantage? Well you can if you use a roll cast pick up. Roll cast upwards into the air, the wind from behind will assist that even with a less than perfect roll cast. With the line up in the air in front of you and you can now blast a powerful downward sloping stroke into the breeze on your back cast and without waiting, launch your upward slanted forward cast which now wind assisted will sail out for miles..  Easy when you think about it.

#5: Change of direction

Although there are a lot of ways to make change of direction casts, moderate changes of direction, up to perhaps 45°, can be very easily achieved using a roll cast pick up. Roll cast pick up with the forward stroke angled half way towards the new target and make the forward cast at the new target. By splitting the change of direction into two strokes it will be more efficient than trying to do so with standard overhead casting.

#6: Striking

If one uses the rod tip to control slack in the latter part of the drift, as per #1 and #3 not only do you end up in a poor position to commence a standard overhead cast, but you are also in a poor position to strike should you get a take right at the end of the drift. Amazingly you can generate sufficient striking power to hook a fish by making a roll cast pick up. Don’t forget that the roll cast pick up will “lift the flies” near vertical, which will frequently result in a very positive hook up.

Roll Cast Hook Set

#7: Obstacles

Perhaps not that common, but it does happen that a standard pick up would result in your flies hanging up in intervening obstacles which you cast over to get to your fish. A roll cast pick up, takes the flies out of the water pretty much where they are, without need of dragging them down into the risky tree trunk or weed-bed that is in the way.  This is a particularly common issue when fishing in stillwaters with a weedbed around the edges in the shallows. Instead of having to clean the weed off the fly on each retrieve you can simply avoid hooking the weed in the first place.

By the way, the roll cast pick up, (preferably after letting more line out into a large “D” loop), will unhook your fly from obstacles in front of you fairly efficiently too. So you can get free of the snag without spooking your fish.

I am sure there are more uses for this amazingly useful casting stroke, one that all too many anglers haven’t heard of or haven’t considered. But for all the fancy casting that one can play with, the roll cast pick up is an astoundingly practical one and worthy of mastery for all anglers.  It doesn’t matter if you fish fresh or salt, big flies or small, stillwaters or streams, this is a cast that can improve your efficiency, aid you in the wind, avoid obstacles and make casting those weighted streamers a lot more pleasant.

 

 

 

 

The End of the Road

January 29, 2017

endoftheroadhead-fw

If you follow the road out of Cape Town and travel north for long enough, if you wind your way over mountain passes that make your head swim and your brakes smoke. If you wend your way past dam walls and dirt roads, ox carts and donkeys. If you push on, heading higher into the hills and back in time you eventually come to the end of the road, literally. From here on in it’s donkey tracks only, remote Basotho villages, and shanks’pony. As a reward you look down on the crystal waters of the Bokong River, one of the two primary feeders of the massive Katse Dam , the pride and joy of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

basothoA Basothu man in traditional hat and blanket rides his pony along the path above the Bokong River

It so happens that in constructing this dam indigenous yellow fish were trapped behind the concrete barrier of the dam wall and now, isolated as they are, the fish travel up the Bokong River to spawn during the summer months. Thousands, or tens of thousands of these hard fighting fish migrate upwards into the remotest reaches of the Bokong River, swimming past the Makhangoa Community Fishing Camp, our home for the past five days.

timyellowfishIndigenous Yellowfish, our target, and the what brought us this far. The chance to catch these wonderful fish in clear water and on dry fly.

It makes for something of an odd journey, miles and miles of straight road heading out of Cape Town and through the arid expanse of the Karoo. As one puts in the miles and the hours eventually the vegetation changes, you reach the summer rain fall areas to the north and semi desert gives way to verdant cattle pastures and then mile upon mile of sunflowers and corn.

sunflowersSunflower fields as we drive the last sections of straight road before hitting the border.

Having spent in the region of twelve hours driving virtually in a straight line one reaches the final outpost of the Republic of South Africa at Ficksburg, paradoxically at present a town without water, which is odd because we were hoping to be heading towards water, and some pretty special water at that.
From Ficksburg, and having enjoyed a breakfast of toasted sandwiches and some of the best fries on the planet, we crossed the border and within a matter of a few hundred metres leapt back in time.

deloreanIf you want to head back in time, perhaps a Toyota 4×4 is a better bet than the DeLorean.

Doc Brown’s modified DeLorean time machine couldn’t transport you back into the middle ages as quickly as a trip across the Lesotho border, and as the road winds on the calendar spins backwards to a simpler age of basic agrarian living. Up to this point progress is swift, but once one hits the winding roads of “The Mountain Kingdom” it is snail’s pace from here on in. Those luxurious straight highways of the Free State give way to the most tortuous mountain passes and the 130km to Katse take nearly four hours of nerve wracking and brake smoking driving.

passThe top of the Mafika Lisiu Pass and close to the source of the Bokong River

Winding up, and then back down, the Mafika Lisiu pass, over a high point of some 3090 meters above sea level one eventually crosses one of the arms of the massive Katse Dam before once again heading uphill past Lejone and Thaba Tseka before passing downstream of the massive wall of the dam itself.

It is but a short hop now before even the vaguest trappings of modern western living are left far behind. The yellow striped taxis are no more and even the ox carts are less frequently seen as the roads become too narrow for their use. You won’t find a shop here, or a garage,
From here on in. as the tarred road gives way to dirt, vehicular transport becomes a rarity and donkeys and horses hold sway.

camppanoramaPanoramic view of the Makhangoa community camp.

A final thirty odd kilometres of winding gravel and one reaches the Makhangoa Community Camp, perched majestically atop a spur above the Boking River. Down in that river are thousands of yellowfish, migrating upstream and given over to eating terrestrial insects to sustain themselves during their journey.

They are what we have driven all this way to find, hard fighting, bright coloured indigenous fish willing to cleave the clear waters to take a well presented dry fly.

We were at the end of the road, but our journey had only just begun.

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This Blog is brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris. www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za Cape Town’s best full service fly fishing guiding operation.

Catch and Release

September 2, 2016

CARHead

Trevor Sithole, a very bright young lad from the most rural of environments in Natal, recently posed a question on social media about catch and release. Essentially asking for advice about how to respond to people who question the logic of capturing a fish only to let it go, you know the thing “why catch it if you aren’t going to kill it?”

I am sure we have all faced variations of this question in our angling lives and some of us might still be battling with that very same conundrum within our own minds.

Trevor comes from a tribal background , deeply rooted in animal husbandry, having grown up in Thendela in the Kamberg. A place were communal values still hold sway, where the elders enjoy both respect and influence, an environment where the spirit of “Ubuntu” (Human Kindness) combined with a level of understanding and respect for the powers of both the natural and supernatural drive behaviours and social structures.

CARThendelaImage courtesy of Thendela Fly Fishing www.thendelaflyfishing.co.za

Trevor’s people live to a large degree in harmony with nature. Certainly they harness it, control it to some extent, breed cattle selectively to get the results that they want but despite most lacking a formal western education, or perhaps because they lack that western view, they see themselves as part of the natural world not apart from it. It is incredible how important that space after the  “a” can prove to be..  That all got me to thinking, “why would we go to the trouble of catching a fish only to release it?”

CAR4

Let me say that my views weren’t always along the same lines, there was a time where I pursued trout with worms and spinners, by fair means and foul. Where any fish of “legal size” was dispatched to be enjoyed later with brown bread and butter. My thinking has however changed over the years.

I can recall a “postscript” in the book “The Trout and the Fly” by Goddard and Clarke on the subject of “barbless hooks” and thinking “ what a couple of tossers”. (I have to confess I am a little embarrassed to recall those thoughts, but they are part of my history none the less.)

I can still see in vivid detail the very first sizeable trout that I released, the monumental psychic struggle to give up my bragging rights not to mention supper. This all well before the advent of waterproof digital cameras and social media. Equally at a time where such actions weren’t mandated by regulation.  I put that fish in and out of the water half a dozen times before I managed, finally, to release my grip and in that moment life changed. Watching my prize swim free was suddenly worth giving up any thoughts of lunch. To me, watching that fish swim away was the most amazing thing to experience; it looked far better finning in the crystal clear water than it ever would have in a frying pan. From that day on I have rarely killed a trout and never one from a breeding stream.

CAR5

Fishing is probably unique in that it is the only field sport where the demise of one’s quarry isn’t assured. Once you have captured your fish you now find yourself in, the perhaps unenviable position, of tremendous authority. You now have the power of life or death literally in your hands. You have the influence of the Gods, the Thumbs up, Thumbs down , life or death paradox of the Roman games and with such power comes undoubtedly tremendous responsibility.

Just because, as human beings, we have the power to destroy something, doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of consideration as to whether or not we should. The majority of fly anglers can’t claim that they “need” the fish for food, the price of the average fly line would keep you knee deep in sushi for the better part of a year.
Outside of the medical professions, and the occasional homicidal and sociopathic dictator, anglers are some of the few who genuinely get to hold the choice of life or death over another being within their grasp, and it is a power that really needs to be considered very carefully.

CAR2

It is perhaps equally a metaphor for much else that we humans do to our planet, our technological advances have given us massive power over our domain. We can drill holes into the very floor of our home to extract oil and gas, we can rape the seas of all life and dangerously we convince ourselves that we can protect each other from the consequences. We imagine that we can kill all the fish in the sea and then make up for the loss of food by genetically engineering other sources. With such power comes great responsibility and one has to wonder if most of us behave as responsibly as we should.

Going back to Trevor’s apparently naïve query it turns out that the question isn’t quite as simple as it first appears. All creatures, given the opportunity to breed hold within them the very matrix of survival. They represent the seeds of future generations and something that the tribesmen of Thendela understand, which sadly most modern westerners don’t, is that a living animal with breeding potential holds within it the power of compound interest. That a bull left unslaughtered can produce more of its kind, that when nurtured instead of exploited the natural world can provide for us almost endlessly. Indeed it has done so for tens of thousands of years.

CAR1

Were a herdsman to kill all his stock he could potentially have a fine feast, but of course the very next day he would be poor. So it is with fish, if you kill a fish , not only do you deprive everyone else of that fish but equally of its potential. You steal the existence of that fish’s progeny not just from other anglers but from future anglers, from your children and grandchildren. And of course you end a blood line that has evolved over millennia. In effect, just like the herdsman who has a feast and becomes poorer as a result. When you kill a fish you make all anglers poorer, indeed you make the very planet poorer.

It is nice to imagine that, what we consider to be, more primitive people, live harmoniously with nature in some utopian fairyland, understanding that they are part of the whole, that over exploitation will see their own demise. It is simple to think of these people as foolish or naïve, failing to take more than they need in fear of upsetting some imagined deity. To dream that the Salmon People of North America don’t take too many salmon in case the salmon spirits cease to visit their home rivers. To think that the Yanomami tribesmen of the Amazon basin view the forest as their nurturing mother, seeking constantly to avoid offending her.. It is a nice notion, and to a point true, but equally they don’t have the power to exploit. They don’t have the technology to catch or kill more than their share and are therefore not obliged to exercise the same restraint which seems all too lacking in modern westernised society.

CAR3

In reality then, it is our very advancement which brings with it greater responsibility, with our technology, our cars, our freezers. With our carbon rods and fine nylon tippets, our chemically sharpened hooks and hi tech plastic lines, we have enhanced our effectiveness to the point where we are able to do real damage. Add to that our numbers and one quickly realises that it would only require that each angler took one fish to decimate a population.

All of that is too much for a conversation in a pub or on a river bank, so I have found that when asked “why don’t you eat the fish you catch?” I generally just say “I don’t kill them for religious reasons”.. Remarkably everyone seems to be quite happy to accept that as an answer.. If I told them it was for the future of the planet they would more than likely laugh their heads off.

In the end, the argument for releasing the fish that you catch is the same as it should be for much else. Humans have the power of life or death over great swathes of our natural heritage. We have the technology and numbers to rape the oceans, to fracture the foundations of our home in search of gas, to chop and burn and drill and slaughter to our hearts content. We have the power to kill and destroy, to consume and exhaust all manner of natural resources. But as I said to Trevor: “Having the ability to do something doesn’t mean that one should do it, and certainly doesn’t absolve one of the responsibilities that come with such power.”

Basically I don’t kill the fish I catch because I choose not to, and that’s about the best answer I can come up with.

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money”.

“If you like flowers you cut them and put them in a vase, if you love flowers you leave them in the garden and water them daily”.

“With great power comes great responsibility”.

 

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 Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing. Cape Town’s #1 full service fly fishing guiding operation.

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A touch of OCD

July 4, 2016

OCDHead

To the fly tyer, there are few things quite as exciting or for that matter daunting as the arrival of a new, and as yet empty, fly box. On the one hand it is a clean pallet, an empty canvas on which to exercise one’s own creative spirit. On the other, it is a mildly offensive empty space: the truly obsessive fly tyer finds empty space almost as upsetting as the slightly damp mishmash of left over and used flies that tend to populate fly boxes as the season progresses.  What was once a lovingly fashioned and orderly array of neatly manufactured imitations degenerates over time into a haphazard collection of mangled wings, bitten off tippet and dare I suggest even a hint of rust? A woefully inadequate selection of the battle scarred and unwanted. Perhaps that is the real reason behind having a closed season on the streams. Nominally structured to provide the trout respite from our attentions, but perhaps more pragmatically offering time for anglers to sort out both themselves and their gear.

Such is the way of things at the present, the cold fronts of winter have finally pushed north over the southern tip of the African continent, frigid conditions with rain and snow assail the mountains, the rivers are in flood and there is little left to occupy us other than stillwater trouting or perhaps the occasional trip north to tackle the flows of the Orange River and it’s healthy populations of hard fighting yellowfish.

Winter is a time to batten down the hatches, search for those annoying leaks in the roof and perhaps tie some flies. My heart rarely skips an excited beat at the prospect of exploring the damp and dusty vacuum that is my home’s roof space and thus it has been to the tying bench that I have turned my attentions. With few prospects of actually wetting a line and with the rain lashing against the windows it is hard to find the focus to tie size 20 parachute patterns that I know won’t see the light of day for months to come.  There is however at least some prospect of hitting a lake in relatively near future, and staring at an empty fly box with stillwater trout on my mind I decided to tie up some midge pupae (Buzzer) patterns.

BlackDentalFloss

I don’t fish a lot of midge pupae really, although I do rather like to catch fish on them. For one thing, compared to a blob or a booby I like to imagine that the trout actually think that my imitation is real food. It is a matter of some degree of self-delusion that one prefers to think that one“tricked” the fish through one’s carefully strategized machinations rather than simply having annoyed the poor beast sufficiently to illicit a strike.  Such delusions are of import to me; how I catch a fish is almost as critical to my psychological well-being as actually catching one. I far prefer fishing dry flies over wets, imitative patterns over lures, slow retrieves over stripping in streamers,  floating lines over fast sinkers but this midge pupae thing might have got a little out of hand.

OrangeHotSpot

According to numerous authors and scientific studies, stillwater trout eat more midge pupae than anything else, so I suppose that one can’t really have too many copies.  I have even had some modicum of success using such flies, notably winning a hard fought competition session where many other anglers went home with dry nets, but as said, I don’t fish them that often. In these parts midge pupae are nowhere near as popular as they are in the reservoirs of the UK.

So there I sat, winter chill in the air, my breath steaming  in the glow of my fly tying lamp, the quite drip drip of that unattended hole in my roof adding staccato background noise; staring at an empty fly box with the previously mentioned mixed emotions of excitement and dread, contemplating my next move.

OCD Cartoon

Image courtesy of toonpool.com

That’s where the OCD kicked in: the fly box in question sported a foam insert and 168 slots designed to embrace my newly fashioned offerings. 168 slots, why the hell would I ever need 168 midge pupae? It is all well and good knowing that “stillwater trout eat more midge pupae than anything else”, but over a gross of the darned things, is that even remotely reasonable?  The first dozen or so where classic red buzzers, sporting neat little mylar wingbuds and two tufts of poly yarn to imitate, or more specifically exaggerate, the breathing filaments of the real McCoy.

Those I tied on straight hooks, midge pupae in real life aren’t always curved, and during hatching actually lie quite straight. Then I repeated the same pattern on curved hooks. That took care of two rows of slots, only 12 more rows to go. Trouble was, now I was committed. I suppose rather like a climber aiming to summit a particular peak, you tell yourself that the goal is in sight and that you will progress one step at a time. In my case more one slot or one row at a time.
So tied some more in claret, claret has been a good colour for me in the past, particularly when fishing in the UK during my youth. In fact they at least do have claret midges come off the water in the UK, I am not all together sure that such things even exist on what are now my home waters. It didn’t matter, I liked the colour and it took care of another row of slots, what with curved and straight versions, some with mylar wing buds, some with dental floss.

ClaretDentalFloss

Ah.. dental floss,  that was a worthwhile experiment, an easy way to create prominent wing buds and the breathing filaments all in one go. Neat trick I thought as I waywardly contemplated that if I wished, I could even whip out a couple of patterns that were, at least nominally, “ spearmint flavoured”. You can see that I was beginning to lose my mind at this point and there was still more than half a box of lonely foam slots to go.

BaitHook

I experimented then with a few patterns tied not on standard curved hooks but on “English Bait  Hooks”, those looked pretty neat, although perhaps larger than any real midge that might inhabit my local lakes. Still another row of 14 slots taken care of and I was inexorably progressing towards my goal of a full box of flies. By now however, the process was rapidly moving away from the practical goal of providing suitable imitations, should I actually get onto the water, and heading down the mental cul de sac of obsession. Those final slots, lying fallow for the present taunted me and I was determined not to be beaten.

ClaretStraight

This weekend I finally girded up my loins for a last ditch effort to mix my metaphors and leap the final hurdle.  The last row of 14 lonely foam slots, filled with newly fashioned gleaming sparkle pupae imitations.

Chances are that I could manage on the water quite happily without a single midge pupa, my collection of smaller nymphs, Diawl Bachs and such would likely cover any significant hatches.  Most of our stillwater fishing is during winter, and much of that time the fish are more occupied with mating than feeding. Frequently they are more likely to attack a bright lure, fished to annoy them, than they are to ignore their hormonal urges and intercept a diminutive , albeit carefully fashioned, upside down question mark. I mean would you disengage from athletic coitus to grab a peanut?

Project168

Maybe it has been an exercise in futility after all, but it has kept me pleasantly occupied, and provided a level of satisfaction on completion. More’s the point, my fly tying of these patterns  has improved, and just knowing that I have such a selection of weapons in my armoury will provide a level of confidence when on the water.  I was once asked “why do you carry so many flies? – David slew Goliath with only three small stones”… to which I replied “Yes David might have only used three stones but he had a desert full to choose from”.. So yes having lots of flies does provide me with a level of confidence, which is important, and anyway you never know: I might even catch a trout on one of them.

168BuzzersAll done, 168 midge pupae imitations, a full box with no gaps and the OCD can take a break for a while.

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Casting Accuracy

May 17, 2016

AccuracyHead

“It isn’t so much a matter of feet but of inches”.. wise words from a client on a local stream, trying to land a fly across a current seam, between two boulders and under a tree so as to get a six inch drift, drag free and close enough to a feeding fish to illicit a take.

All too often we consider fly casting in terms of distance, and that is no bad thing, but there is another part to casting effectively , what perhaps golfers would refer to as your “short game”.

Most stream fishing requires casts of only moderate distance but frequently demands unprecedented accuracy combined with delicacy. To achieve that there are a few things that anglers need to understand, much of which goes against the normally accepted wisdom of fly fishing.

Firstly you need to use a longer leader, quite possibly a LOT longer and if a long leader and accuracy seem an oxymoronic combination to you I would suggest that you read on.

Line speed:

It should be obvious to anyone with much experience that accuracy requires line speed, a fly line flipped out in a wide loop is at the mercy of the wind, won’t get in under trees or penetrate a downstream gale and results in the fly floating down well after the fly line has landed.

So the goal is to have tight rapidly propagating loops produced by a straight rod tip path, (remember that the shape of the loop, in particular the top leg of the loop is entirely determined by the rod tip path), and a rapid rotation to produce rod tip speed. For the most part that goes for all casting but for a few specific exceptions.

Once you are able to cast nice fast, tight loops the next “problem” is that fast tight loops are liable to have the fly crash into the surface perhaps sinking the fly and scaring the fish. This is where the long leader comes into play. Ever wondered why a fly line is tapered? Getting thinner and thinner towards the front end. It is to burn off energy, bleed away all that casting energy that you created such that the fly will land gently, but the taper in the line is not sufficient on its own to slow things down enough. Try casting a fly line without a leader on it and see how much the tip of the line “kicks” over at the end of the cast. This is residual energy that hasn’t been burned off as the cast comes to an end.

Long leaders

A long tapered leader then assists in burning off excess energy such that in an ideal world the fly runs out of steam just as the loop turns over.

If I were to offer you five hundred bucks if you could cast a fly into a tea cup ten metres away and then say that you could choose a set up with a 9’ leader or a 15’ leader which would you choose?

Most would pick the 9’ option believing it to offer better accuracy, but to be sure of hitting the cup you would have to generate a lot of line speed and with a 9’ leader the fly would almost certainly bounce out of the cup.

The alternative option with the shorter leader , which is in fact what most anglers do when fishing, is to aim high and “hope” that the fly will miraculously float down into the cup. The traditional “land like thistledown” presentation. Useless in all but windless conditions and not the best way to approach things.

The smart money would be on the longer leader where the energy of a fast accurate cast would burn off just as the fly arrived inches above the cup and it would fall in, winning you the money in the process.

In essence, the better you cast, the tighter the loops and the more energy you impart into the line, not only CAN the leader be longer, in fact it MUST be longer.

(as an aside, this is the reason that I detest furled leaders, furled leaders preserve casting energy, the antithesis of what I believe you want. Certainly if you are a poor caster they may make casting seem easier, but I assure you that you would be better off to practice your casting and ditch the furled terminal tackle).

So you have now got the perfect loop sorted out, you are generating massive amounts of line speed and are using a long leader to burn off all that excess energy such that the fly lands softly after all. There is still one very important step that you have to take, you have to change the angles of your cast.

What happens most often on the river when casting against the wind is that anglers perceive that they are unable to turn the leader over. Frequently this is not the case, the leader is turning over just fine but it is blowing back in your face because it ran out of energy too high above the water. What you need to do is aim at the water (or only fractionally above it).. Most don’t do this because if they do the fly hits the surface like a brick and that is because the energy didn’t burn off in time.(The leader is too short)

Cast High

Often in an attempt to “aim at the water” then the caster breaks the 180° rule. Making a near horizontal back cast and bringing the rod down along the ideal casting angle on the forward cast, resulting in a wide loop, the line hitting the water before the fly and no accuracy or line speed.Break180

The answer to getting more accurate is to aim at your target, not above it and to burn off the energy just as the fly arrives. To aim at the target you have to change your casting angles. The 180° rule states that the line should follow a 180°path. If your back cast is low or sags down your forward cast will either be high or have a very poorly formed wide loop.

Take a look at the diagram below to perhaps make this more clear.

Angles

 

In essence then, it is your back cast which determines the forward casting angle, back cast along the ideal line between target and rod tip. For close targets this means a back-cast that, to most people, looks ludicrously high above your head.

To summarize then, if you want pinpoint accuracy and delicate presentation you should:

  • Adjust your back-cast angle in line with the target, higher for closer fish and more horizontal for far ones.
  • Lengthen your leader to insure that all the energy is burned off at the completion of the cast.
  • Maintain the 180°rule at all times
  • Maximize line speed, do not modify your cast or loop shape to try to achieve delicate presentation. Delicate presentation is the leader’s job NOT yours.
  • Have the fly turn over only inches above the target.

The best way to practice is to have some targets on the lawn, a bit of wool in replacement of the fly and play with the angles. To start with you will no doubt find that the closer targets are the hardest to hit. Adjust your angles and all of a sudden those close ones will be easy.

One final note: as the targets (fish) get further away and the angles get shallower so also you will be casting longer lines and the rod will be bending more. So you will not only need to adjust the angles but also the stroke length of your cast or you are going to get tailing loops.

Stroke-accuracy

Get out there and play on the lawn, it will improve your fishing.

Tim Rolston is an IFFF (International Federation of Fly Fishers) Certified Casting Instructor and runs both Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris , a guiding operation based in Cape Town South Africa and “The Casting Clinic” offering individual and group fly casting tuition to both beginners and experienced anglers. You can contact The Casting Clinic by email, just click on the logo below.

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