Posts Tagged ‘Guide Flies’

Fishing you a Merry Christmas

December 7, 2014

 

Win a copy of “GUIDE FLIES” eBook with a fun Christmas Quiz:

I thought given the festive season it was time to offer a few “Christmas Presents” and at the same time review some of the posts written over the past 12 months of blogging at “The Fishing Gene”.

So having now launched the downloadable version of “Guide Flies” I thought that the loyal readers were deserving of some reward for their diligence.

Below you will find a little quiz, based mostly, but not entirely, on past posts on “The Fishing Gene”, you can of course search for the answers on line and through the search function on the blog itself.

And your reward? Other than demonstrating your intimate knowledge of fly fishing and the pleasure of success you can use the answers to win yourself a downloadable pdf copy of “Guide Flies”.

Just click on the “SUBMIT” link at the bottom of this page and email me your answers.

 

GUIDE FLIES CHRISTMAS QUIZ:

#1: Which famous American angler was the Inventor of a series of high floating hair wing dry fly patterns including the Ausable, Royal and Blonde?

#2: Which well-known South African Angler and author writes the “The Spirit of Fly Fishing” Blog?

#3: What was the religious title of the inventor of the “Greenwell’s Glory”?

#4: Who is the inventor of the simple but amazing “Magic Tool” for tying with CDC

#5: What is the title of my first book on Fly Casting originally published by Struik Publishers?

#6: Which well-known Tasmanian Fishing Guide who visited SA and provided me with the information on the “Penny Knot”

#7: What is the name the classic streamer pattern, invented by Charles Langevin, one that you wouldn’t like slipped into your drink.

#8: What is the name of the exceptional fish sculptor who casts the bronze permit trophies for he Dell Brown Invitational Permit tournament?

#9: Who invented the CDC Hi-Vis Midge mentioned in one of the recent Fishing Gene Blogs

#10: How many bread rolls did we take on this year’s camp to the Orange River?

 

Just open up your email application with this SUBMIT link and send me your answers.

All answers must be supplied by 25th December 2014 to qualify .

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Guide Flies and other books by the author of this blog are available in printed, Compact Disc and eBook versions from a variety of fly fishing shops, on line retailers and Smashwords.

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Old School

March 18, 2014

CloeteOldSchool

The more things change the more they stay the same:

It is, perhaps, unnecessary that I should here dwell on the advantages  which a knowledge of fly dressing gives to the angler, since it is to be expected that they are already known and felt by those who read these lines. At the same time such a course seems natural, and  – with the reader’s pardon- its adoption gets me out of the difficulty of knowing how to open up my subject. Opening paragraph of “The Trout Fly Dressers Cabinet of Devices or How to Tie Flies for Trout and Grayling Fishing”, H G McClelland (the Athenian)

Not only do I totally agree with the words above in that, to my mind, a fly angler will never reach his or her true potential without dabbling in the dark arts of feather and fur constructions, but equally find that McClelland simply puts his case in such poetic style.

CloeteCover“The Trout Fly Dressers Cabinet of Devices aka How Tie Flies for Trout and Grayling”

I am looking over an ancient tome, the fifth edition of the above mentioned book which came into my possession over forty years ago and was published in 1921. Not only is the book delightful in and of itself but this particular copy is all the more special for the annotations inside both covers in the most elegant hand, written with perfection in pencilled copper plate , one presumes by a certain  EB Cloete who had inscribed his name and the date 1926 therein  in pen and ink.

On the inside cover a list of “Naval Members of the Fly-Fishers Club 1926″, then on the next page the addresses of :

CloeteNavalMembers

S & E.G Messeena “Importers of Foreign Birdskins, Feathers , quills and everything for fly tying”, 94 Upper Clapton Road, London E5.

Col. G Carnegy DSO. Libbear Barton, Shebbear, Highhampton, N. Devon

A.F Voelcher MD, FRGP. Langrord Hill Marhamchurch N.Cornwall.

The Fly-Fishers Club 36 Picadilly, with the additional information that entrance would set you back £3.3.0 (three guineas), and membership £4.4.0 (Four guineas) if you lived in Londong  and only £3.3.0 (Three guineas) if you were a country member.

One cannot avoid the impression that at this point fly fishing was very much viewed as an upper class sport, the references to Rear Admirals, Captains, Vice Admirals, Doctors and DSO’s without so much as a sniff of an Able Bodied Seaman tell a tale about the history of fly fishing and fly tying.

Then on the inside back cover in similarly beautifully crafted pencil annotations as to the cost of fly tying materials, including that you would have to pay the princely sum of one shilling and sixpence for a water rat (although one presumes not a live specimen.)CloeteMaterials

What is most interesting of all about this book from the angler’s if not the historian’s perspective is that the content discusses and perhaps battles with the very same things that fly tying books of a more modern age still struggle. The hooking properties of different shapes of hook, how to perform a whip finish, a discussion on the “Exact Immitation Theory” and even the construction of extended mayfly bodies (In this instance using turpentine and strips of unvulcanised indiarubber, one presumes such things were easily obtainable at the time).

CloeteDiagramsExtended

Further on the subject of extended body flies (in McClelland’s case referred to as detached bodies), he notes that many anglers had reported lack of success with such flies but commented that given that most anglers only experiment when things are slow the reliability of the subjective assessment is to be questioned. McClelland put it as such “….the trials are, as a rule, most desultory; accorded perhaps, under unfavourable conditions – “when things are slack”, as the saying is – and not so much to make a test as to excuse a condemnation.. (of detached body flies) “

So how many of us are perhaps guilty of exactly the same, only testing flies when things are slow, condemning patterns and fishing concepts primarily because we want to find evidence of their ineffectiveness? I am certainly of the opinion that any fool can change flies when things are not working out, but those blessed with a truely enquiring mind may very well change things when they are catching fish.

The book is a delight, elegantly written in wonderful , if rather “stiff upper lipish”, prose,  but the discussions, concepts and thoughts are much the same as for the modern angler and fly dresser. We still discuss, argue, pontificate and experiment with the exact same things as did McClelland’s generation, although one suspects probably spend just a little less time waxing moustaches, calling for one’s batman and shouting “Tally Ho”.. .

Delightfully the book also contains “advertisements” for other angling publications, which appear quaintly naive compared to the machinations of the modern marketing machine:

CloeteAdverts

Advertisements for other fly fishing related books

CloeteGazetteAdvert for the “Fishing Gazette” in which McClelland wrote under the pseuodymn “The Athenian”

One can find a complete archive copy of this book to read on the link:

https://archive.org/details/troutflydressers00mccliala

Thankfully today we have far greater flexibility in terms of our fishing, you don’t need to be a Rear Admiral or make the honours list to crack a bit of water, or at least not everywhere, and we better recognise than we used to that all of us struggle with the same concepts, the same disappointments of lost fish and the queries about hook design that come with that. The same battles to better understand the nature of trout and their food. Although fly fishermen now hail from all sectors of the community, and have at their disposal, modern materials, macro photography and even electronic books,  I suppose it is simply a case that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” and there really is very little truly new in fly tying.

So in many ways my latest book “Guide Flies” is really only a continuation of a theme that has occupied fly anglers since the very first time some Macedonian ripped a bit of red wool from a neighbour’s nickers to manufacture an artifical fly. That said you may very well enjoy reading the book and it has the advantages over McClelland’s tome of being available in full colour on paper and in electronic format. (One has to wonder what “The Athenian” would have made of that).

Guide Flies Front CoverYou can order a copy of Guide Flies from www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

The “C” Word

March 6, 2014

TheCwordHead

The C-Word: CONFIDENCE.

I have been tying a lot of flies recently, mostly with a forthcoming trip in mind. The trip will take me back to waters I haven’t fished in four decades and as a result I have been researching more than a little on hatches, fly patterns and all things related.

I like tying flies and I like going on a trip with boxes full of newly minted patterns to cater, one hopes, for any eventuality, it is all part of the process. But it does strike me that when you look at all the different fly patterns out there  one would have to consider the possibility the trout would pretty much eat anything at some point in time. One has to ask the question if it is possible to tie a fly that is so poor that a fish wouldn’t eat it.

Given the numbers of artificials  one could be forgiven for imagining that you could be wrong all the time or equally that there is no wrong and the fish will eat whatever you have tied on the line if properly presented.

AdamsDry

So what to do if you are on some strange water without too much of a clue? The answer to my mind is to fish something generic that could be “all things to all fish”. I can’t be alone in this thought process, the propensity of Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Pheasant Tails, Adams Dries and Elk Hair Caddis patterns in everyone’s fly boxes around the world suggests that we all come back to a similar solution to the problem. You pick something that is a reasonable facsimile, a pattern in which you have confidence and then fish it with care, because confidence in fly fishing really is the ultimate “C-Word”, it matters not one jot if your mate likes this fly or that fly, this wing or that wing, if you don’t have confidence in it the darned thing won’t work for you.

My mate Mike regularly fishes, amongst his team of three flies on a lake, an olive soft hackle pattern, and more to the point catches fish on it. I have used the darned thing, casting it for hours, hooking fish on the other patterns on a three fly rig without a single sniff from a trout to that fly. It just doesn’t work for me and the more it doesn’t work the less confidence I have in it, and the less confidence I have in it the more it doesn’t work.

PTNNew

As a general rule when tying flies, if I am not excited about the prospect of fishing them as they come off the vice they go into the recycling jar. The recycling jar nominally allows me to cut off the dressing and reuse the hook, in reality most of the flies go to other anglers, school kids with limited budgets and such who might appreciate them. The rub is they will probably catch fish on the things, but if the fly doesn’t excite me coming off the vice it isn’t going to get used and will sit quietly rusting away in the corner of a flybox until it is eventually turfed out to make space for something more useable and less tarnished.

HaresEar

We are all different, for some a precise imitation begets confidence, for me most of the time at least, delicacy of the fly gives me faith that it will work, delicacy in a dry fly and movement in a subsurface pattern. I could very well be the only fly angler alive who has no confidence  in Woolly Buggers, I strongly dislike them, I really do. I don’t understand what they are supposed to be and so I don’t understand how to fish them. Actually I think that here at home they mostly get taken by the fish because they think that the fly is a dragonfly nymph, but then I would as soon tie on a dragonfly nymph pattern, in which I have a great deal of faith. Other anglers with a different viewpoint see the woolly bugger as the catch all “everything to all trout” kind of fly and do well with it. For me the Velcro Brushed Hare’s ear nymph is probably about as near to a universal subsurface pattern as any, the shaggier the construction the better.

CzechNymph

So how much of it is about the fly? I am convinced that much of the time not a great deal at all. But your confidence in the fly, well that is a different matter entirely.  It isn’t simply mystical, if you are confident you cast more carefully, retrieve with purpose, maintain concentration, fish slower, move more carefully. In short your fishing style changes when you are confident and confidence can be the most elusive of on the water emotions.

There is however an oddity to this discussion, a fly which has never worked for you previously, a fly in which your faith is extremely limited can become a favourite almost instantly should it prove successful, even only once.

On the streams we mostly fish with one fly at a time, so it takes some commitment to make a radical change to the fly pattern, away from those in which one has untold confidence. On a lake and bobbing about in a boat we generally fish three flies and so the trauma of testing a previously none productive pattern isn’t quite as great.  Then when that fly takes fish your confidence builds and before you know it you have a “new favourite”.

I like to carry a lot of flies, probably too many to be honest but the confidence that it gives me to know that I could cover almost any eventuality gives me confidence, even though 80% of the flies rarely see the light of day, never mind approach becoming intentionally damp.

ElkHairCaddis

In various parts of the world different things seem to be valued as confidence builders, the hot spot in a Czech nymph is paramount for some people, the inclusion of real jungle cock in a pattern is another obvious affectation the lack of which will cause some anglers to simply pack up and go home. I personally have less confidence in parachute dry flies with bright fluorescent posts because I am convinced that they result in more refusals from the better fish, other anglers cast them with alacrity. There are fly tyers who will dye and blend their own mixtures of furs and feathers because they are seeking a specific colour and have remarkable blind faith in such and I have had one client in a past life who wouldn’t fish an Invicta but that it had a red tail instead of the traditional yellow one of Golden Pheasant Crest. There are those who consider that a damselfly nymph imitation should have red eyes despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that real damsels are kitted out with similarly bright opthalmics. It is all a bit odd and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense except for the fact that if you are confident you fish better and if you fish better you catch more.

One of my favoured patterns on our local streams is an absolutely minute brassie, a fly so lacking in physical presence that I generally don’t tell the clients that I have tied it onto the tippet. If they see the fly before they catch a fish they have no confidence in it at all, so I wait until we get a hook up and then say something along the lines of “do you want to see what that fish ate?”, something generally then followed by gasps of surprise from the angler.

Confidence isn’t easily obtained but there are certain criteria for most of us which help nail down this ephemeral emotion. Preparation leads to confidence, having lots of flies, practising knots, carrying spare leaders, having waterproof (as opposed to leaking) waders, being able to cast well, knowing the water, fishing a lot, reading a great deal.. all those things lead to a state of relative confidence and that will in turn catch you as many fish as all the fancy and complicated accoutrements, which the tackle industry might care to throw at you.

In the end I suspect that is why many of us, and probably all of the best anglers tie their own flies, it may not be that their own flies are better than any others, but they do give confidence and that is a good enough reason for all the slaving over a hot vice.

If you are a neophyte fly tyer you will probably start out, as indeed did I, with a lack of confidence in your own flies, but in time that will change and the commercial ones will lack the allure they once held.

Here are a couple of great resources if you want to start tying flies, tie better flies or perhaps gain confidence in tying and fishing them.

Essential Fly Tying Techniques: A eBook on critical tying techniques which will help you tie more effective and durable patterns.

EFTT

See inside the book:

Download from Inkwaziflyfishing

Download from Smashwords

Order on disc

Order on disc from outside of South Africa

Guide Flies: A book and eBook available currently on disc and in printed format covering the flies that give me the most confidence. How to tie simple, durable and effective flies that really work.

GuideFliesCover

See inside the book:

Order a copy on compact disc.(South African Clients)

Order a copy of the softcover version (South African Clients)

Order either from outside of South Africa

As always feedback in the form of comments is most welcome, what flies bring you confidence? Are you as happy with a commercially fashioned pattern as ones of your own manufacture? Have fun out there and remember that if you have confidence then half the battle is already won.

Thoughts on selectivity.

March 3, 2014

SelectivityHead

Thoughts on selectivity:

Much is made of a trout’s selective feeding in a great many angling publications, in fact it comes up so frequently that one would have to imagine that it is a fact, and if not fact at least commonly accepted wisdom based on subjective observation. Certainly although I don’t fish alkaline waters with strong hatches of insect I most definitely have seen fish apparently eat nothing else but flying ants for example, or become seemingly fixated on egg laying spinners that are hovering just above the surface. So selective feeding must be the thing right?

Well to play Devil’s advocate I have also just finished looking through (I am not sure that one could call it reading) a book by Jerry Hubka and Rick Takahashi called “Modern Midges”, published by Headwater Books. There are over a thousand midge patterns in there, all displayed in glorious Technicolor. A thousand different patterns of every possible interpretation of midges, from larvae to emergers, pupae to drowned cripples and to be honest half of the time I am struggling to see the difference between one and another, I have to question if the trout could. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a fascinating book.  Equally if the trout did when eating midges really require only one of the patterns in that book our failure rates on the water would be staggering. You couldn’t carry a thousand different patterns even if you wanted to and even supposing that you could find the one you wanted when necessary. That would particularly be the case when you consider that you might have to carry similar numbers of caddis flies, mayflies, stoneflies etc etc. So therefore by deduction selective feeding by trout can’t be true can it?

Two virtually diametrically opposed viewpoints based on the observation of either the fish, the angler or both. There are arguments that the trout are selective not because they are smart but because they are dumb and become preoccupied, there are those who believe the fish have such a discerning pallet that they will pick only one bug out of the drift. Which is right? Is either school missing the point?

Well let me say that I personally believe that all fish are feeding selectively all the time, the question isn’t about whether they are or are not being selective, it is more a case of how selective. They are simply being more or less selective than each other.

As a further adjunct to the equation, we tend to think of selectivity as being a “fly pattern” issue, but I would put it to you that much selectivity is a “Presentation issue”. The trout on my local streams will for the most part eat any reasonably small and dead drifting fly pattern, but no matter the fly, if that delicately feathered tid-bit should twitch in the current they won’t take it. Hell they won’t even take a real fly that twitches in the breeze. Here the fish are more “selective” in terms of presentation than they are in terms of pattern. I would venture more selective in terms of fly size than fly pattern too for that matter.

So my current views go along the lines of this:

Every trout you encounter is somewhere along a line of selectivity where at one end they will eat anything from Bananas to drowned Elephants (i.e. virtually none) and on the other they will only take a size 16 pale morning dun emerger pattern on a curved hook with silver rib and a genetic hackle of medium dun cock hackle, (equally virtually none).

SelectivityLineIt seems apparent to my way of thinking that pattern selectivity is going to be primarily a function of the prevalence of a particular insect or stage of insect at any given time. Such that selectivity itself is going to become more apparent as the density of the hatch, spinner fall or whatever increases. Even then though one might expect a distribution amongst the population of fish that some will be ultra selective and some not as picky, it is a normal Gaussian distribution found in all things in nature.

The propensity for such “selective” feeding is equally likely to be enhanced on waters which are rich, alkaline and produce regular opportunities to feed on specific occurrences of high density food availability, in effect the fish can “select” not to feed at all during periods of low food availability, something that fish in less nutrient rich waters probably cannot to do.

SelectivityCurvesYou can see larger versions of all these graphics by simply clicking on them.

One might well posture that the pattern selectivity curve would move more towards the right in the attached graphic when certain insects were prevalent and move to the left when the hatch was over or there was no hatch in the first place.

Selectivity Curve Animated

One would expect the selectivity curve to move to the right when there is a prevalence of specific insects available to the fish and to the left when there is no hatch on.

However I would equally add that “selectivity” is generally viewed as a function of the close copying of the prevalent insect or stage of insect at the time, and has given rise to the notion of the “imitation versus presentation” schools of thought as though they were mutually exclusive. To my mind selectivity combines both at the same time, a trout may well not select a fly because of its presentation but it most certainly can and will “deselect” a pattern that behaves inappropriately, here I am mostly thinking of dragging and unnatural movement of the fly. More so on waters which see good amounts of angling pressure and that sensitivity to presentation is all the more prevalent on catch and release water.

Then again there are other parts to the presentation situation, for example the presentation depth, were it the case that the fish were feeding on a specific and concentrated food source occurring at a specific depth it would make sense that presentation of the artificial occur at that depth such that perhaps the successful fly pattern is effective more due to its sinking properties than its actual construction. Much the same would hold true of presenting a floating fly in the drift where the naturals are occurring as opposed to the back eddies where they are not.

So whilst “pattern selectivity” is most likely a function of specific food availability so “presentation selectivity” could be expected to be more closely linked to angling pressure. Thus with increased angling pressure (particularly associated with catch and release fishing) one would expect the sensitivity of the fish to move to the right in the attached graphic and to the left in remote and unfished waters. This is something that is pretty much accepted as the rule for most anglers. It is probably why some have a tendency to cough up large quantities of cash to get to remote and unfished spots, very simply the fishing would be expected to be easier.

Presentation Selectivity

Presentation Selectivity is more a function of angling pressure and enhanced on catch and release waters.

To me, “selectivity” isn’t really a singular concept of close imitation of specific bugs, that is only part of it. Fish may well be selective in terms of “what they eat”, “the behaviour of what they eat”, “the position in terms of depth or location of what they eat” and perhaps a good deal more. When considering selectivity one needs to look at the overall picture. There are various pressures on the fish to be “more or less selective” based on food availability, angling pressure, quite possibly a lot else,  and in some instances one pressure will tend to outweigh another. So for example:

On a relatively infertile stream where large hatches are not the norm but where there is considerable angling pressure and catch and release fishing one might well expect fish to be highly sensitive to presentation but far less so in terms of pattern.

On waters where regular significant hatches occur the bias would tend to be towards pattern itself.

I think that this dynamic is best seen as a variable quadrant of behaviour under the influence of different “selectivity pressures”.

SelectivityQuadrant

There is an additional, well documented and interesting variation in a situation such as “Duffers fortnight” on the chalk streams of England, where the prevalence of Ephemera Danica adults, combined with their large size (and consequently high calorie value) seem to cause the fish to  give into the pressure of making the most of the food source over a short duration such that presentation selectivity pretty much disappears, even pattern selectivity can become less pronounced simply as a result of the need to make the most of a highly nutritious food source that is only available for a very short period of time. It is as though despite the high food density and the expectation of pattern selectivity the sheer value of the feeding opportunity makes the fish “throw caution to the wind”.

So when considering “selective trout” one should perhaps look at a wide number of variables, which may well include the presentation side of the equation. “Imitation and presentation” are then both parts of the same discussion, both linked to some form of selective behaviour on the part of the fish and they cannot simply be broken into two different approaches, but rather seen as a continuum of variable factors and responses which provide a near infinite variety of situations and fish behaviours.

SignatureCompendium3

PLEASE NOTE: I NOW HAVE A NEW BOOK AVAILABLE ON DISC AND IN PAPERBACK FORMAT:
GUIDE FLIES COMBINES TEXT, GRAPHICS AND VIDEO (YES EVEN WITH THE PRINTED COPY) TO DEMONSTRATE WAYS OF TYING SIMPLE, DURABLE AND EFFECTIVE FLIES THAT CATCH FISH. ORDER OR ENQUIRE ON THE LINK GUIDE FLIES EMAIL

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A New Arrival

February 28, 2014

NewArrival

Well would you know it, I have a new baby.  It has taken the better part of two or more years to get to this point, people might think that in-vitro fertilization is a long and troublesome process but with no real motivation towards fatherhood and with a natural human longing to leave something behind on my demise, I decided to produce a book, Ok another book so I should have known what I was getting into, but I never realised that the birthing process would make the gestation of the African Elephant seem like quick trip to the shops.

GuideFliesBabyPramMy New “Baby”. . 🙂

In hindsight simple conception, even fertilization in a small glass tube might have proven less troublesome, had I managed to skip the glass tube bit it could have been a heap more fun too for that matter. If I had simply required some lasting acknowledgement of my existence I could have chosen to go with the now almost universal tagging option. Got hold of a spray can and scribbled my name in relative permanence on a variety of train carriages or roadside brickwork. It seems to work well for people like Banksy but then again it isn’t really that permanent and has the added disadvantage of being, to my mind at least, eminently anti-social, destructive and not really worthy of the epithet of “art”. It would however have had the allure of speed.

Graffiti
I suppose I could have simply opted for a spray can to achieve some level of immortality.

One might imagine that having done this previously in print and electronic formats, with publishers and without, well it would all be a piece of cake wouldn’t it?

Alas writing a book isn’t the hardest thing on the planet, it is all the other stuff that goes with it that proves to be the troublesome part, particularly if you have perfectionist tendencies and are pedantic about things like graphics and video content. Yes there was a hiccup right there, having produced eBooks with video content previously (and probably a world first when it comes to fly tying tomes) I found myself rather backed into a corner, some people expressed their dissatisfaction with reading off a screen, wanting to hold and flip the pages, fold down the corners and all that goes with a “proper book” but then again they didn’t really want to miss out on the video bits. So this book includes a CD of video clips that you can read on your computer.

Having produced “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” in electronic format I ventured to produce this publication in similar vein, with a little more anecdotal information on the fishing and thought processes that go into the flies that I fish and use in my work. Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish, is what it says on the cover.

GuideFliesCover
It says “Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish” on the cover.

Once the decision is made the challenges come thick and fast, to go with photographs, easy in this digital age, or stay with the somewhat retro graphics option. Firstly I like graphic drawings, they have more feel to them somehow compared to photographs, more to the point in a graphic you can clearly demonstrate the exact position of a single turn of thread and other such detail lacking in a photo, it is no mistake that authors such as Oliver Edwards used graphics in his exceptional “Oliver Edwards Fly Tyers Masterclass”.

Fig21Fig5I like graphics over photo’s and that seemed a good enough reason for all the work.

Trouble is that I am not an artist, certainly not with pen and ink anyway so digital graphics had to be the way forward, just that there is a steep learning curve if you want to do something as odd as try to draw peacock herl on a computer screen or convey the ethereal delicacy of a CDC plume. Some feathers had to be constructed fibre by fibre in painfully slow attention to detail. How on earth does one “draw” marabou, or crystal chenille? In the end it all proved to be good entertainment, if frustrating at times.

Fig55 Fig50Drawing things like marabou and crystal chenille posed something of a problem.

Still that was all going well, I found myself a publisher in the form or Barbara Mueller at “New Voices Publishers” and Barbara proved to be a real asset, she, as the name of her business would suggest, specialises in assisting authors to self publish. Having been down the spectacularly unrewarding process of publishing a book with a recognised major publisher in the past I didn’t wish to follow that route again. It is galling in the extreme to see a book that you created with your own blood, sweat and tears sold where the government makes more money from the tax on it than the author gets from the sale.

WealthWarningThere were many further hurdles, how to set up a system where someone might purchase the book? It is remarkably tricky and the banks, despite their constant advertising for “entrepreneurial clients” actually close the shutters just as soon as you say the words “self-employed”. In the process it has necessitated rebuilding my website, learning some basic HTML code and more. I am not sure that it is entirely solved but it is mostly solved.

PayFastLogoThe book “Guide Flies” has been completed in eBook format for some time but now finally the glossy printed, page turning, corner folding, paper textured “real book” is available. Not only that but it comes with its own compact disc containing video clips of every fly in the book so even if you prefer to do your bedtime reading with nothing more electronic than a decent lamp you can still check out the tying processes on screen next time you return to the computer. I suppose it really is the best of both worlds when you get right down to it.

“Guide Flies” boasts some 150 pages, 60 odd full colour graphics, detailed descriptions of the flies, the tying process and perhaps as importantly the thought process behind their development. The CD has 25 video clips of fly tying covering everything from the torque of thread on a parachute dry to the ultra-durable “Super Glue Whip Finish” and effective fly patterns to cope with almost every trout fishing eventuality from stillwater to spring creeks.

GuideFliesBookandCD

It has been a labour of love, a learning curve of stupendous gradient but I am well pleased with the result, in the end I suppose that “the proof of the pudding will be in the eating”, if not yours hopefully the trout’s..

If you would like to obtain a copy of my book in either paper or electronic format you can do so in a variety of ways:

Email me your request on rolston@iafrica.com

Purchase on line from my website at www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za/bookshop.html

Purchase from Netbooks on line at www.netbooks.co.za

Purchase from a fly fishing outlet http://urban-fly-fisher.com/ or www.streamx.co.za and hopefully more in due course.

Damsels

Soft Hackles and Freestone Streams

November 16, 2013

SoftHackleHead

For a long time now I have been pondering what it must be like to be a small insect hatching out on a freestone stream. I know that insects are smarter or at least appear smarter than we might think. Mayflies for example manage to all hatch at the same time so that they can find a dance partner for the big shindig over the nearby trees. Given that they only have a literally ephemeral window in which to find a mate the timing is uncannily precise.

It is equally well recognised that they all fly upstream before mating or laying eggs to avoid their species gradually slipping down into the sea over the course of millennia. There are even those who postulate that the nymphs prefer days with upstream breezes, on which to hatch out, to assist with the process. Nobody seems to have a hypothesis as to how they might know which way the wind is blowing, or indeed for that matter what the hell wind is in the first place so perhaps I am wrong. But I find it hard to imagine that a good many of the bugs that hatch out on our streams don’t go over a miniature waterfall at the very point of their emergence.

It seems unlikely to me that they might predict what hazards await them, and a misjudgement in terms of position could easily see them getting washed over a metaphorical Niagara  (the term seems appropriate when compared to the size of the average insect) only moments after they surface.

In my wilder moments of cerebral waywardness I imagine what it might be like to jump in to a raging Niagara River a few hundred metres above the drop and try to remove all your clothing before being sucked over the edge. In effect isn’t that precisely what a hatching aquatic insect has to manage as it escapes the clutches of both the stream and its nymphal shuck? One missed trick and the party is over. Sadly I fear that a good few don’t make it and end up in the wash cycle, bad for the insects perhaps but I can’t help but think good for the fish and therefore quite possibly good for us anglers.

AnnieEdsonTaylorAnnie Edson Taylor was in fact the first person to ever survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel

For all the trouble we put into slaving at a hot vice lashing together minutely detailed imitations of mayfly duns, caddisflies and such I suspect that some of that effort is wasted and have long harboured the notion that much of the time we might do better to imitate those unfortunate ephemerids which inadvertently do the metaphorical “over the falls in a barrel” trick.

As predators trout surely must hone in on an easy meal, they seem to already show a predilection for food items that can’t easily escape. I think of the hoppers, the ants, the beetles, the stillborn duns which get trapped in the sticky surface film and which we as anglers at least imagine the trout will target because they represent easy pickings. Surely drowned bugs must provide even easier options when available?

Soft Hackle FliesSoft Hackle Flies do a great job of imitating drowned bugs of all descriptions

It isn’t new thinking but then again it equally isn’t something that I have overly focused on either, that is until recently when the trout were being particularly tricky on a local stream. They weren’t overly keen to commit to a number of high floating artificials, either large or small and so we tied on some tiny (#20) soft hackle midge patterns behind small but visible dry flies. (The “midges were impossible to see so the dry flies offered a clue as to their whereabouts on the water and an indication of a subsurface take when one occurred). I use the term “midge” but in reality these CDC soft hackle flies could well represent anything that has drowned and taken a bit of a beating in the tumbling currents; I don’t suspect that the trout require a Latin name attached to a bug to decide to consume it.

CDC MidgeThis simple CDC Soft Hackle fly accounted for dozens of fish on a recent trip to the streams.

Anyway the upshot was that we “hammered em”, near every fish that we targeted with a decent drift ate the sunk or semi-sunk pattern. To suggest that these flies were lacking in complexity would be a serious understatement, the term “ludicrously simple” would still imply a level of engineering entirely lacking in their design, but they worked and they worked phenomenally well.

Sylvester Nemes (The Soft Hackled Fly Addict-1981 Stackpole Books) was a huge advocate of Soft Hackle Flies and of course there has been plenty of parallel evolution of similar patterns, it can’t be a mistake that they more often than not grew out of the experiments of anglers fishing freestone rivers.

I am quite sure that most would hold such flies as imitations of nymphs, emergers or stillborn duns, but perhaps much of the time they simply represent the drowned and hapless hatchlings that don’t make it.
Similar flies have been invented and reinvented throughout the annals of fly fishing’s history, Clyde Style Flies, Tummel Style Flies, Northcountry Spiders, Softhackles and all of similar ilk came mostly from anglers fishing rough streams whereas the Halfordian and Catskill style dries are mostly the inventions of those angling over softer currents.  Back in time it was always suggested that the need for crisply delicate dry flies on chalk streams and spring creeks was an indication of the greater intelligence and selectivity of the trout that inhabit such waters. Perhaps though the trout in freestone streams aren’t quite as thick as some angling snobs would have us believe. Eating drowned bugs on a rough stream would seem to be a pretty smart strategy if you ask me.

Festival 2Gerrit Redpath releases another trout taken on the minute soft hackle flies we were fishing.

So I would suggest that if you fish on freestone rivers, particularly those with boulder strewn pocket water, having a few highly suggestive and simplistic fly patterns that you can fish in the film wouldn’t be a bad shout.  I like nice neat crisp flies, I love artistic interpretation with fur and feather, hell I even try to tie my softhackles with architectural symmetry but there are times when I wonder if perhaps stamping them into the mud a few times before casting wouldn’t prove to be “just the ticket”.

Festival 1Eating drowned bugs on a freestone stream is a smart strategy for the trout.

A quote: Most fly-dressers fail to make really good flies because they put too much stuff on the hook rather than too little. Many of them, and this applies especially to the producers of London flies, have no knowledge of the living insect of which they are presumed to be making something of an imitation.(The soft hackled Fly Addict)

Drowned bugs are food and I am pretty sure that they are food that trout like if only for their ease of capture, it would seem foolish not to copy such morsels when on the stream, at least some of the time. Plus of course similar flies do a good job of imitating any number of other bugs from cripples to spent spinners, they are easy to tie and highly versatile in terms of their application on the water.

The CDC soft hackle is one of many simple and effective flies featured in the author’s newly released “Guide Flies” eBook. The book will be available in print shortly and is currently available on Compact Disc (includes text, graphics and embedded video clips on tying all the flies)

Guide Flies Front Cover

Available directly from the author
R199 including postage in South Africa
R250 (approx$25) to international clients postage included.

Enquire or place an order HERE

Guide Flies

December 7, 2011

Things have been busy of late and that means that other than a lot of additional shopping, sandwich making, car servicing and such there is the perennial issue of having the right flies. If you are a social angler not being able to match the hatch or fool the fish is simply a matter of annoyance but if you are a guide it represents a most serious professional faux pas. I have to admit that I did once forget to take the rods with us in the car but I pride myself on finding a solution to finicky fish even if I have to chop up a pattern on the river to make it work.

Flies of course wear out, they get lost, hooked in bank-side herbage, caught in client’s socks and clothing and even simply fall out of one’s hat or fly box. In short they have a limited lifespan. With windy conditions, a bushy stream and an impatient and unskilled client their longevity is only marginally better than that of an unstable sub-atomic particle. More than a few give up their brief lives without ever having been presented near to a fish. I figure that if flies had feelings they would undoubtedly feel disappointed, perhaps even insulted by the way they are discarded with gay abandon. Trouble is, as one of my favoured writers, John Geirach, points out, to be of any use at all flies must be “thoughtlessly expendible” and that is pretty much it.

With all of the above then – there is the necessity to match the hatch, carry plenty of patterns, replace those lost and worn out and still have flies that are sufficiently efficacious to satisfy both discerning trout and fussy clients. One then has one’s work cut out work that frequently requires long hours at a hot vice in the wee hours of the morning.

Guides want their clients to catch fish and we want them to catch fish on the flies that we supply and recommend, but we don’t want to be spending an hour constructing a pattern that as likely as not will end up in a bridge support before it gets wet.

Guide flies are therefore a little different to standard shop bought patterns. Firstly I would venture that they are generally “more” and at least “as” effective. Secondly they are carefully geared to the likely requirements on specific waters with which the guide is intimately attuned. As far as possible they are equally durable, inexpensive and quick to manufacture and most of the time it is a huge advantage if they are also highly visible. People with sufficient time and financial resources to utilize guides are rarely blessed with 20:20 vision any longer, mind you neither are most of us aged, bent and arthritic guides either. For the client to miss a take is forgivable, the same doesn’t apply to the guide, so visible flies are a professional necessity.

So it comes to pass that I have been in need of churning out more than a few patterns of late and I thought that I might share a couple with you. You don’t need to be a guide to benefit from them and indeed anyone can make use of these invaluable patterns and adapt them to their own requirements.

The Key Patterns I like to carry are:

Elk Hair Caddis 

Once you get the hang of them Elk Hairs are pretty simple to tie, bleached or light hair makes them pretty visible and they not only make for great caddis flies but are respectable “bugs” covering any number of terrestrials, they will even fool more than a few Mayfly feeders much of the time. They have the added advantage of being one of the few patterns that are sufficiently aerodynamic to be easily forced into a stiff breeze when the need arises and equally act well as high floating indicator patterns when nymphing with a two fly rig. If there is a disadvantage it is that they are not that durable and require a palmered body hackle which if you are using genetics can be wasteful. On the smaller sizes you don’t really need body hackle at all and brushed out dubbing bodies will suffice. On the larger ones one can frequently use oversized hackle and trim them without ill effect. Either way they are patterns that you can’t really go without. Details of how to tie Elk Hair Caddis Flies can be found in my eBook “Essential Fly Tying Techniques

Parachute Mayflies:

I carry virtually no “standard” or “Catskill” ties at all in my boxes, the parachutes have major advantages in terms of presentation, they always land the right way up, are easily spotted on the water even in small sizes and require less hackle to make them float. They can therefore be tied more sparsely than Catskill ties which provides in my opinion better imitation and improved economics. My standard parachute pattern is the BSP “Bog Standard Parachute”. The flies vary in only size and colour, but their manufacture is identical. Again this is a major advantage in production tying, once you get in the groove you can churn out effective patterns at a rate of a dozen an hour or more. The key issues for me are that the BSP’s don’t use any dubbing, they sport bodies of thread only. Thread colours are easily and cheaply obtainable in such variety that you can match near anything that you may encounter and for our streams the slim bodies better match the anorexic forms of most of our naturals. We don’t have fat mayflies for much of the time, simple as that. There is a post on this blog “Bog Standard Parachutes” which gives step by step instructions. Also there are two parachute patterns detailed in my “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” eBook demonstrating the various techniques of tying in the post and performing a “super glue whip finish”. (the SGWF is a boon to guide flies, it does an amazing job of increasing durability and speed of tying, most flies get lost before they get broken)

Parachute Caddis Patterns:

It is odd really that the Elk Hair Caddis is such an effective pattern, on our waters we don’t have a single natural caddis fly that would grow larger than a size 18 and most are considerably smaller. Small and micro flies require trimming down compared to their more robust brethren and the goose biot micro caddis is the perfect example. It is tied with exactly the same technique, thread body, post and hackle as the small BSP’s just that it sports neat little biot wings. As a guide fly it is superb because you can always pull the wings off and have a reasonable midge or mayfly pattern. It lacks tails of course but sometimes it will work if you are stuck.

Spun Duns:

I have written about variations of spun duns on this blog previously, in fact in the article “No Hackles” you can find a link to tying a pretty complicated goose biot spun dun. Most of mine are however once more simple in the extreme. Split tails (a twist of complexity to be sure but even guides have been known to give in to vanity and they just look nice). Thread bodies (again that ease of matching various colour variations) and a collar of semi-spun deer hair. These are superb mayfly patterns and have the major guiding advantages of being quick to tie, easy to see, floatability and near ludicrously economic. They can further be trimmed on stream to produce spinner patterns, floating nymphs, cripples and emergers if the need arises.

Drowned Midges:

These patterns are actually drowned anything, although originally designed to copy net winged midges they do a great job of covering cripples, stillborns, drowned duns, midges and even spinners and are so simple to manufacture that there is no excuse not to have dozens of them. Simple brushed dubbed thorax to imitate legs and movement and hackle point wings, added more from vanity than necessity. They aren’t visible patterns and generally get fished in tandem in much the same way one would a nymph, but they are effective. Detailed instructions in graphic and video format for this pattern are part of my eBook “Essential Fly Tying Techniques”

The Brassie:

If there ever was a quintessential “Guide Fly” then the brassie has to be it, simple, quick and inexpensive to tie, durable and deadly. It is my “go to nymph” when the fish are being difficult. We don’t have a lot of serious hatches and the fish rarely get the luxury of honing in on specific sub-aquatic forms. The brassie does a great job of covering tiny caddis larvae, baetis mayfly nymphs, black fly larva and more, plus it has that “certain Je ne sais quoi” that lures fish the world over. Tying the brassie is covered in “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” eBook, available from http://www.inkwaziflyfishing.co.za

Pheasant Tail Nymph:

In case I feel the need for something a tad more complicated the Pheasant Tail nymph covers more sub aquatic life, a universal pattern effective everywhere. Sporting on occasion a tungsten bead and always with my favoured peacock herl thorax for that added touch of sparkle. Another killer pattern in various guises. The PTN breaks one of the guide fly rules, it does lack slightly on the durability front, but wrapping the pheasant tail over a bed of thread moistened with head cement will provide additional longevity. The PTN is also covered in detail in “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” eBook.

The Compar-ant:

This has to be one of the simplest patterns of all, I don’t use it frequently but when you need an ant then you need one badly. Flying ants have the ability to hook fish into selective feeding more than any other natural on our streams. The fish simply love them and you can sometimes break a hatch with an ant if you can’t copy the actual hatching fly. Trout will deviate from established feeding patterns to take ants and they represent a great trick to have up one’s sleeve. The Compar-ant is made entirely of synthetic materials, a poly-yarn wing and superfine dubbing body, has a superb and uncomplicated profile which I think better imitates the key segmentation of the real insect. It is well established that the thin waste and distinct thorax and gaster of the ant act as a trigger to the fish, one doesn’t want to mask it.

All the above flies can be varied in terms of size and colour to suit, with a few colour and size variations in each of the above you will still be carrying hundreds of flies, but they won’t take long to manufacture or replace, they will catch you fish almost anywhere that you go and you won’t break into a cold sweat of panic if you lose one in a tree.

Guide Flies are essentially simple and quick to tie, inexpensive, durable and effective. You need to be able to whip them out by the dozen but still fish them with confidence.

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