Posts Tagged ‘Comparant’

A Phone, a Net, an Eel and an Ant

February 13, 2019

A phone.... header

A Phone,a Net an Eel and an Ant

 

It was an odd day on the water, guiding an old client who had moved from Cape Town and now resides and fishes in the West Country on the streams of my home county. Andrew had learned to tie flies with us back in the days when we owned a fly fishing shop and ran tying sessions every Wednesday. That was decades back and it made me realize just how long I have been knocking around the fly fishing scene, hopefully positively influencing generations of fly anglers and fly tyers in that time.

Andrew Pieterse, a past resident of the Cape now based in the UK’s Westcountry

Now I was guiding someone who fishes “my home waters” on what used to be his home waters, a curiosity of sorts.

We aimed to hike high into the hills in the hope of more shade and cooler water, the rivers are low, it is mid-summer, the flows are slight and the clarity near crystal but for the slight tannin hue which never truly leaves these rivers. It is better to head out early, not that the trout care one jot about that, but it means missing the commuter traffic on the cloged highways of Cape Town , affords the time to stop for coffee and most importantly means that the hike is undertaken in cooler conditions and thus far more pleasant.

In the high mountains the valley sides provide shade and keep the water cooler.

Ours was the only car in the car park, being a week day that isn’t a rarity, the hordes of walkers that frequent the place on the weekends no doubt stuck in those long lines of vehicles we thankfully passed on the way out of town.

The weather was set to be a tad cooler than the past few days, there was a fairly stiff breeze, upstream at the start of the day at least, and not a fish moved when we arrived at the cave pool and the start of our beat.

This isn’t anything unusual, as much as it goes against common fly fishing wisdom, in these parts the fish wake up late and seem to rather like the sun, activity usually picks up once the sun breaches the high walls of the canyon and lights up the water. Whether this influences the fish directly or simply has effect on the insect life I am not sure. But you can certainly be on the water too early, a quirk of these streams.

As predicted the fish started to move once the sun got onto the water.
A first fish of the day on a small dry fly.

Once the sun was on the water, the activity, as predicted, picked up and Andrew was into his first fish in short order. We fiddled with the leader to get the set up just right, and to suit the prevailing conditions and once set proceeded upstream searching out fish.

My recent eye operation seems to be worth the money, not only do I no longer have to wear a contact lens in my left eye, but without the cataract that had invaded the lens my vision is better. I was spotting fish with ease and we spent virtually the entire day with me spotting fish and Andrew casting to them

As is so often the case, having not fished for several months over the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months Andrew was rusty , and what that generally means as that one mistimes the strike. Over and again he missed fish that we had carefully stalked, but he was doing well, raising far more fish than he scared. Just a case of not putting them in the net.

Spooky fish require that one uses all the cover you can get.

The fishing wasn’t on fire but we found fish in almost every run were we looked. Gradually the old skill sets returned, a bit of practice and Andrew was converting some of those strikes to landed fish, the ratio of misses to hits turning like the tide.

It was at this point that we found a net hanging in a tree, as though left their for a needy angler who might have forgotten his own. We resolved to bring it back with us on our return and try to locate the owner via the local fishing club’s Facebook page.

After a few more fish we found an iPhone, laying in a shallow run , I knew who it belonged to, a client had lost his on the stream just before Christmas and we had at that time been unable to locate it despite a determined search.

Slippery things fish

At this point we found ourselves in the position of targeting a large trout, holding and feeding quietly in the limited flows of a shallow corner run. He would look at the soft hackle which had provided most of our success for the day but wouldn’t commit to it. Two, three, four casts and each time he would tip his fins, inspect the fly and then apparently get the jitters and back off.   More than once we feared him spooked and then he would reappear in the shallow run, moving in time with the flows. The sort of liquid fluidity that marked him as a sizable fish, occasionally rising slowly with the languid flap of a tail that is a sure indicator of mass.

This CDC soft hackle has been tremendously effective but on this occasion the ant proved a better bet.

Now years back I would often use a diminutive ant pattern of my own design on “difficult fish”. It seems as though the fish have a “thing” for ants and it can turn the balance between caution and desire. So we affixed a size 18 “Comparant”, onto the 7x leader and Andrew cast again. This time something was different, from the moment the fly hit the water one could see the fish “lock onto it” In my mind I could virtually hear the “beep beep, lock on , target acquired” of some imaginary Top Gun soundtrack.

There was no doubt that this fish was going to eat that ant, but we had to wait for him to get to it. The fly drifted slowly around the bend, the fish tilted his fins and we held our breath waiting for the inevitable slow roll as he sipped it in. But all of a sudden the fish could wait no more; he accelerated and smashed that tiny fly as though he wanted to kill it. Andrew overreacted and missed the strike. The fish vanished.. An unsatisfactory end to a wonderfully intense and intimate encounter, and just one more fish that will haunt our dreams for years to come. But it did remind me to try the “ant trick” more often again. It can be a wonderful ploy to fool an “educated trout”.

As we sat mourning our loss a huge eel swam downstream, as thick as my wrist and probably a metre or more long. I don’t think that I have ever seen an eel here before. He rolled over the boulders and seemed to flow with the current as he passed us. Eventually slipping over a small waterfall and into the pool below. Perhaps heading downstream for a hot date in the Sargasso Sea?

We fished on for a while and then it was time to undertake the long trek back out to the car, an interesting day of targeted sight fishing to spooky trout in clear water. Those people in the commuter traffic missed out on a great day.

 

Author’s note: The “Comparant” is a simple winged ant pattern, designed specifically to be both imitative and visible. The crucial element in the author’s opinion is that it has nothing obscuring the slim waist which seems to be a clear trigger to fish in identifying ants.  Many commercial patterns , being over dressed and hackled lose this critical trigger and seem less effective as a result. The Comparant is one of numerous simple and effective flies featured in “Guide Flies” a book available in various formats from the “Inkwazi Flyfishing” book shop or downloadable from Smashwords.

Guide Flies CoverGuide Flies features, text, graphics and video content, discussing both the logic behind the various patterns and how to tie them. Simple and Durable Flies that catch fish.

Going Micro

December 1, 2010

Things are still getting going with the season on the streams and there has been that (possibly) fortuitous influx of brownies, which are keeping many of our hopes alive because without the life long education that the stream born rainbows have received to be honest the brownies are still a little naïve.

So right now larger flies still work pretty much Ok and although you are likely to be getting refusals from some of the “bows” the brownies will frequently make an error of judgment. But summer is coming the late rains have added a flush to the system but pretty soon you are going to be reaching for that 7 or 8X tippet and the micro patterns.

Whilst it has taken a few years for their general acceptance it isn’t uncommon for one to find even neophyte anglers on the streams with tiny patterns and fine tippets, it has become accepted pretty much that small is often better when the going gets tough. Of course a quick glimpse at the size of the actual bugs on the river will confirm that much of what the trout eat is pretty tiny and it makes sense to copy that, at least the size if not the pattern. The fish have wised up to the idea that if something appears to be too good to be true then it probably is and I would have to say that most of the better fish that I have caught come on tiny dries or nymphs, particularly in lower water conditions.

So what patterns are likely to be effective and how can you best fish them?

My top producing micro patterns include:


The parachute micro caddis, these flies arrive in great numbers, last a long time on the water and definitely fall into the drink on a regular basis. In fact I am not sure that the hatch is that important, it is the residual caddis flies wandering about the rocks which provide a regular food source. They come in two primary colours, tan and black and you should carry patterns of both although the black one is a favourite.

Micro Spun Dun.


Spun duns manufactured out of deer hair can only be tied so small , after that they become problematic but a switch to using CDC or poly yarn as a wing will allow you to tied these flies down to minute sizes without much trouble or indeed expense. A favourite being the blue winged olives which can be readily manufactured with dun or gray poly yarn and olive thread bodies.

The Compar-ant.


Using similar methods to the spun dun techniques, this is a remarkably visible fly for a micro pattern and fish just love ants. Whilst falls of flying ants aren’t common they do produce superb fishing with almost every trout in the river “on the top”. Even when they are not about in numbers the fish will target them and you can frequently break the spell of a tricky fish by using an ant.

Sunk Patterns:

Fishing micro patterns sub surface is probably even more effective, if only because when reduced to micro tactics it is generally a result of  the water being low and clear and the fish  being particularly troublesome to tempt. The fishing of patterns sub surface not only sinks the leader or tippet but also often seems to tempt the trout more easily, they just seem more accepting of subsurface flies some how.

The brassie:


This is a giant amongst the micro flies and serves as my number one micro nymph pattern when the going is tough. I have switched to this fly after a refusal to a dry and ended up tempting the fish more times than I care to remember. It is simple to tie, sinks like a brick on fine tippet and is one of the few fast sinking nymphs that can be easily cast on the ultra-light tackle that we tend to use on the streams. I carry them in both tailed “mayfly nymph” versions and tailless “Midge” versions.

The drowned midge:


Another tiny pattern which could in fact represent any number of drowned bugs or emergers or stillborn flies. Tied with either a thread or wire body this pattern offers a bit more movement than the brassie and will frequently illicit a response when other flies fail.

Fishing micro flies:

For the dries I generally fish them alone on a fine 7  or 8X tippet, but if you are battling to see them then you can fish them in tandem behind another pattern that is a bit more visible. You will find that it is more difficult to get drag free drifts with two flies but it is better  than missing the take entirely and takes to microscopic dries are frequently pretty subtle so knowing exactly where the fly is can be a huge boon.

For the sunken patterns again I usually fish them with a dry fly indicator, a size 18 parachute will easily support these tiny subsurface flies, there is no need for a giant indicator pattern.

When targeting a visible fish one can forego the indicator dry but the trick then is to watch the fish and not the fly. If the fish makes a sudden turn to eat subsurface a strike will usually find your pattern firmly stuck in the scissors of the trout. No matter that you thought that the nymph was some way off, it is tricky if not impossible to actually guess exactly where the fly is under water and better to tighten on any distinct feeding movement of the fish.

Fishing Micro Patterns with a sighter dry fly.

You can click on the above diagram to see an enlarged version.

So as the water levels drop you will be faced with more sight fishing opportunities and at the same time probably more trouble getting the fish to eat bigger flies. Moving to the micro patterns is of course only one of a variety of options but it is definintely one that should be part of your armoury.

When the going gets tough, the tough go micro, at least some of the time.

Have fun out there.

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There is is, a quick low down on fishing tiny flies, it takes some getting used to, faith has a lot to do with it but time has taught me that the trouble it takes to get used to fishing small can pay handsome dividends come the low waters of summer.

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Comparant Magic

April 20, 2010

My mother told me that “little things amuse little minds” which means then that I must have a somewhat  stunted cerebral ability because little things, or more specifically, “little flies” provide me with a good deal of amusement, well if not amusement at least entertainment. On occasion they also provide a modicum of success on the tricky waters of the Limietberg as well.

Take this past Sunday when I was privileged to guide Eton Price on a trip to the river. The day was glorious, a “Champagne Day”, one of those pre-winter dawns of clear blue skies and light winds which make autumn such a wonderful time to be out and about in the wilds of the Western Cape.

The sort of day when it all seems too good and one wonders if there isn’t some celestial payback coming for being afforded such and opportunity.

That payback seemed to be in the form of an approaching cold front, there was no sign of it in the skies, at least to my uneducated meteorological mind but the fish were having none of it. The numbers of fish moving as the sun hit the water, usually a switch that turns them on and gets them out in the current feeding hard was very limited.

Although we saw a few fish they were not there in numbers and the ones that were in range had a nasty tendency to “do a runner” before a line was cast and opportunities were limited. Eton spent some considerable time fishing over a really good fish that was feeding mostly in the surface film, ignoring our offerings despite fly changes and eventually did eat a nymph, but after so many casts the take came as something of a surprise and the chance was lost.

It was a struggle to be sure, not a lot of targets and those which were out and about on the fin were being particularly “ornery” making for few chances and limited ones at that, not the easiest introduction to Western Cape streams.  Mind you at the back end of the season in low water and after nearly eight months of consistent catch and release fishing this is a tough place to play. School fees are in order and minor mistakes and poor presentation cost a lot.

Eventually after consistently searching for feeding trout we broke the duck but it was hard going and we certainly spooked more of those target fish than we hooked, not that surprising but what was making it particularly tricky was that the opportunities were so few and far between that it was difficult to establish a rhythm or to “get one’s eye in”.

However we persevered, or more particularly Eton did, I was just shouting instructions and trying to spot the odd fish, when we came to a long still pool half way up our designated beat. This pool, like so many others on the stream when the water is still low, held good numbers of trout. In fact embarrassingly good numbers given that we couldn’t get near them, probably thirty fish in our sights with no chance of fooling one in the clear water.

There was however some hope, the fish in this particular run do on occasion make forays into the slightly flowing currents at the top of the pool to feed and eventually we spotted a fish lying on the far side in a small current lane, feeding sporadically and at least in sufficiently wrinkled water to offer some chance of a cast without scaring the living daylights out of the fish.

By now though we had become a little cagey ourselves and before the cast was made the leader was lengthened to ludicrous proportion, the tippet fined down to a good amount  of 7X  and degreased whilst  the fly exchanged for a tiny size 20 comparant pattern. The fish had proven very tricky to date and the ant is a secret weapon that will sometimes overcome piscatorial shyness, it seems that trout simply love ants, enough on occasion for them to give way to their dietary preferences without heed of the consequences and the hope was that this would be enough to get this fish to make a mistake.

The first cast landed a fraction short but then it was a long throw with an ultralight outfit and as said one of my “famous” stupidly long leaders. The second presentation was right on the money, the tiny fly just visible in the flow at such a range. Without hesitation the fish dropped back and sipped in the tiny black and white Judas with total confidence. Eton held his nerve to strike lake, an essential element of hooking fish on such tiny patterns and the fight was on. The cooler water had obviously energized the fish, there being a little more oxygen available in the cold water and eventually the it came to the net. Not a massive trout perhaps but more than decent and well deserved on what had been a hard day.

The ant pattern is a dreadfully simple one, focused on providing the fish with the classical “two segment” profile that seems to trigger a response to ant patterns and a poly yarn wing that allows the angler to be able to track the tiny fly on the surface.

As said it wasn’t a huge trout but it was a classic, one of those fish that will live on in memory, not for its girth but for the difficulty of deceiving it, the requirement of a quality presentation and the right fly on a particularly tough day. A fish, where I will be able in times to come,to simply close my eyes and see him, finning in the current and inhaling that fly.

In the end that is what makes fishing worthwhile for me, not the numbers of the fish or the size of them but those glorious moments when the dedication , the hard work, the practice and the accumulation of understanding of fish come together to achieve success.

“I just love it when a plan comes together”.. Well done to Eton on his first foray onto our tricky waters, it isn’t always that tough but just in case it is well worth keeping a few of those tiny ants in the corner of your fly box, they can despite their size sometimes save the day.