Posts Tagged ‘Small Flies’

Getting your Mojo Back.

February 9, 2013


An interesting little hypothesis:

It is an annoyingly common complaint I suppose, you set about doing something that you love for a living and then find that you don’t actually get to do too much of it as a result. Fly fishing guiding is no doubt one of those enterprises which on the surface provides the opportunity to immerse oneself in a passion and then at the end of the day turns out that you don’t have the time to enjoy it as much as perhaps you should.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I greatly enjoy teaching and guiding, I have had the opportunity of late to guide a good many novice anglers and to see the surprise and joy of catching their first fish on fly is worth any amount of struggle.


A young Jake Amaler, contemplates the complexities of the next run.

Plus I have a lovely office, surrounded by a wallpaper of gloriously majestic mountains, carpeted with cool clear mountain water and sporting a ceiling of bright blue sky in which the occasional fish eagle or perhaps a giant king fisher will show itself. It’s just that when the working week is over it is tricky to motivate oneself for the long drive back to the streams to enjoy them for one’s own personal pleasure. Plus at that point the clients have generally used up a heap of flies and I need to set at the vice in preparation once more, I just rarely seem to actually get to go fishing for my own pleasure for an entire day.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother day at the office  

As a result many of my very few casts over fish are hurried and pressurised once offs in demonstration to a client. I generally don’t fish when I guide so the opportunities are few and far between, generally at tricky fish which the clients offer up to me when they are tired, or perhaps simply recognise the difficulty is beyond them and figure they will “give the guide a shot”.


Luke Criticos puts the benefits of some on stream coaching to good effect.

All of that means that I am nowhere near as practised as I once was and never really “get into the groove” as it were. On top of that the clients are generally outfitted with slightly shorter leaders than I would use and larger flies because they struggle to see the tiny ones. Over time one gets used to this set up and then when I cast a fly with my own gear it lands further away than I expect, I have trouble picking up the tiny morsel in the current and being out of practise miss the strike. Or at least that is what I thought was happening.


Visiting Aussie angler with his first ever trout on fly.

So it turns out that recently I was coaching a lady angler on the rivers, it was a voluntary thing and as such I was unlimited by the commercial constraints of not fishing and shared the time on the water. With that I had the chance to hone my skills a little, make more casts than usual and get used to my own set up, the longer finer leader and the smaller flies and would you believe I didn’t miss a fish.


Have I got my Mojo Back?

I would love to imagine that I have “got my mojo back”, but I don’t think that is actually the whole picture. It seems to me that the smaller and better presented flies illicit a far less circumspect view from the trout. They take the patterns with more confidence, slower and more deliberately. The minute hooks are not as easily detected by the fish in a mouthful of water and as a result they hang on a tad longer. All of that makes it easier to time the strike correctly and allow the small hook to gain a significant purchase.

This is how I always used to fish, it’s just that over time, with so many novice anglers or at least less proficient ones I had got into the habit of fishing a little less finely and as a result was missing fish left right and centre. Fishing “properly” is more tricky, troublesome at times but it does work, I suppose that’s the point.  Back in the groove, with long fine tippets, measured presentations and smaller flies the game has changed back to the way it was.

GuideFlies 001

I prefer small sparse parachute patterns for much of my fishing.

I suspect that there may be a good many anglers out there who experience the same thing, perhaps for different reasons. But if you have become used to the larger flies, the shorter leaders and the generally “easy” way of fishing beware. The process can be deceiving, it still looks as though you are being successful, the fish will frequently rise to the large patterns, success seems but a hair’s breadth away but at the end of the day you find that you missed a lot more than you actually hooked. Changing down to smaller patterns, pushing the limits of your leader, in both length and diameter and settling into a focused rhythm might just see your success rates climb again, it has proven to be a valuable lesson. Perhaps now I really do need to find the time to get out there on the water again for my own pleasure.


Big Fish on Fine Tippets.

September 20, 2010

Small flies, fine tippets, big fish and broken reels.

I was recently invited to join a group at Fizantekraal Lodge in the Limietberg. The venue is stunning but the fishing in the ponds isn’t really my cup of tea most of the time and the main attraction was the opportunity to fish parts of the Kraalstroom River, a tightly overgrown crystal clear stream that runs through the property.

On the first day we fished sections of the stream, it was tricky stuff with trees enveloping the river and making casting extremely testing,  forcing us to resort to “bow and arrow” presentations a lot of the time and flipping both dry flies and weighted nymphs into the runs and plunge pools in search of fish. The fishing was thankfully quite reasonable and it was fun to experiment on these relatively naïve and seldom targeted small stream trout.

However having walked up parts of the river to a section that seemed to be devoid of fish for some reason I headed back to the lodge to join the other guests for lunch. The route taking me right past the stocked ponds which hold fish anywhere from 1 kilogram up to 3 plus. They are relatively small impoundments but the fish are only stocked at a rate to replace those taken by visitors and as a consequence things aren’t always quite as easy as one might imagine. The fish have seen it all , or so you may think, and can prove difficult and spooky in the clear water.

As I was walking past one of the ponds I saw a large fish cruising and despite the fact that I was rigged up for the river with a #18 parachute dry fly and 7X tippet I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to have a cast.  The fish lazily deviated slightly from his previous path, hovered under the tiny dry for a few moments and then inhaled it with confidence.  That was where the fun started, to date it was by far the largest fish I had tackled on such fine gear and I had to be exceptionally careful to let the line spin off the reel each time the fish ran, jumped or shook its head. To be honest I had little real expectation of landing it, but after a spirited and lengthy battle he was netted. The fish weighed in at approximately 2.5 Kilograms, a very large fish to be taking on 7X tippet material and a tiny fly.

Fizantakraal Lodge.

After lunch and a little more thought it struck me that the one thing that these fish don’t see from most anglers is a tiny dry fly and they would on occasion rise to naturals as there were good midge and mayfly hatches on these ponds.  So I headed out to see if I might repeat the process with another fish and sure enough the same result, a solid take an exceptionally spirited fight and a fish of just over two kilos in the net. I seemed to really be on to something and proceeded to experiment more and more, the gambit worked like a treat although the fish did prove to be very tippet shy and even that fine nylon needed to be degreased and sunk below the surface to avoid a lot of refusals.

The Author with one of the tiny parachute patterns that proved so effective. Yes that is 7X tippet !!

By the end of the weekend I must have taken well over twenty five fish using these tiny dry flies and fine nylon, fished on a Stealth Deep Red 8’4” 3wt rod. I actually only broke off on three fish the entire time and trust me that wasn’t because they didn’t put up a battle. The largest fish which jumped feet in the air on several occasions was estimated at well over three kilos and I lost him after he took me well into the backing, dislodged the pawl on my CFO reel due to the speed of the runs and finally snagged me in some sunken bushes. One more fish also ran me into the bushes and pulled the hook out. The final breakoff was from a tiddler which had entered the dams from the stream, a fish of no more than eight inches. This fish took the fly just as I was pulling in to re-cast and without the shock absorption of a soft rod to protect it the tippet broke like cotton.

This tiny Olive Parachute proved particularly effective.

The whole exercise proved to be extremely interesting and I think that the key points were these:

Firstly that it is in fact entirely possible to land such large fish on such light gear with more than a modicum of success, to be frank I didn’t think that it could be done with any regularity  until I tried it.

Secondly that even in a stocked pond environment it proved to me that the fish, as with their natural stream cousins,  are more than a little susceptible to a well presented small fly and it proved to be a truly winning tactic despite the fact that it was really discovered by accident.

Thirdly it was obvious that one really needs to develop what cricketers refer to as “Soft Hands”, that is the ability to play a fish carefully, pulling hard when you can but ready at a moment’s notice to let go when the need arises. I think that this is a skill that takes time to develop and I know a lot of anglers don’t like to fish so fine even on the river where the maximum size of the fish is probably twenty inches or so.  Although this was really pushing the envelope I do fish this fine nylon regularly if not indeed most of the time. I suspect that the more one uses such light tackle the more one gets used to it and compensates, which is a great advantage when called upon to fish light  as one still maintains ones confidence.

Finally the role of the rod is critical and again reinforces my view that many rods are far too stiff, perhaps offering some advantage to distance casting but failing to protect light tippets when a fish is hooked. This to me it is essential, that a rod, and particularly a light stream rod, provides functionality for casting, controlling the drift and protecting the tippet when one hooks a fish. It proved quite amazing how much pressure one could put on a fish with such light tippet so long as the tip was there to protect against sudden resistance from the fish.

It has long been my position that sharp small hooks actually hook fish better than larger ones and it was interesting that with the size of these trout  the hook ups were frequently in the bony jaws of these fish and yet the hooks penetrated and held, often being quite resistant to removal. Given the limited pressure one could apply on the strike due to the light tippet this provides more evidence still at how effective sharpening hooks and removing the barbs can be.

I know that I shall have a lot more confidence fishing 7X tippet on the rivers in the future and have another tactic to try on stillwaters when the opportunity presents itself.

Courtesy of Inkawazi Flyfishing Safaris: This post is brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Safaris, Cape Town’s premier full service trout guiding suppliers, in the interests of better fishing.

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