Five ways to hold a fly rod.

There are a lot of different ways to hold a fly rod, and it really doesn’t matter which one you adopt, as long as it is the right one for you. Most have pros and cons, but your grip should be relaxed and soft, and allow you to feel and control the rod. Here are five common grips to try out.

Thumb on Top – basic

IMG_2721

The simple grip is how you might hold a golf club or a cricket bat with ypur strong hand. Hold the cork with the palm to the side of the grip and the thumb on top. When casting the thumb stays on top and points in the direction of the cast.

Pros: This grip is simple and it makes it harder to over flex the wrist in the direction of the cast.

Cons: If the wrist is allowed to flex sideways, it can cause the back cast to be hooked behind the angler (poor tracking). This grip has less feel than the Thumb on Top index finger variation, especially on the back cast, and can sometimes lead to an overly tight grip.

Thumb on Top – Index finger variation.

IMG_2723

This is my personal preference, it is a variation of the Thumb-on-top grip, with the index finger crooked and extended further up the grip.  It is on the opposite side of the grip as the thumb and level or with it, or slightly higher up higher the grip. The rod should be held and controlled with the thumb and forefinger. The thumb should feel the pressure of the forward cast, and the index finger the pressure of the back cast. The remaining fingers should be loosely and passively curled around the grip.

Pros: This makes it harder to over flex the wrist, with the benefit of giving more feel, and lends itself to a softer grip.

Cons: If the wrist is allowed to flex sideways, it can cause the back cast to be hooked behind the angler (poor tracking).

Finger on Top

top

This grip is made with the palm and index finger top of the grip, with index finger extended in the direction of the rod tip. This grip is more often used by small stream and light rod enthusiasts.

Pros: it can aid accuracy, in that the finger can be pointed at the target on the presentation cast.

Cons: A downside of this grip is that it is very easy to over flex the wrist on the forward cast, and introduces too much or badly timed rotation. It also can put a lot of pressure on the index finger tendon, especially with heavier rods.

V-Grip

IMG_2727

This grip is made with the palm almost on top of the rod, but slightly rotated towards the side, with the index finger crooked underneath the rod.

Pros: This grip also provides good feel between the index finger and the thumb. It also helps with a crisper rotation at the end of the forward and back cast as it is more natural to snap the wrist this way.

Cons: However it can be a problem for those who want to over use the wrist( over rotation) or use it at the wrong time (loss of tension mid cast).

3 Point grip

IMG_2724

Attributed to Jason Borger, this is a variation of the V-grip. In this variation the Index finger is extended along the side of the grip, and the rod is held between thumb and middle finger. The remaining two fingers are curled lightly around the grip. This grip can feel strange to start, but advocates will tell you this soon passes.

Pros: This grip offers similar benefits to the V-grip, with the index finger providing stabilization, preventing unwanted sideways wrist flexion. It also provides good feel between the second finger and the thumb. It also helps with a crisper rotation at the end of the forward and back cast as it is more natural to snap the wrist this way.

Cons: This grip can be a problem for those who want to over use the wrist (over rotation) or use the wrist at the wrong time (loss of tension mid cast).

Summing up:

Some grips will have benefits over others, but the most important grip is one that is comfortable, relaxed and soft. A white knuckled tight grip will hinder your movement and line control, as well as being very tiring. Soft relaxed hands will help you feel the rod and thus control the loop’s form and shape. You only need to hold the rod with just enough force so that it does not slip from your hands. Try them out, you might find a new grip you prefer.

How to Cast in Fly Fishing

Fishing flies generally don’t weigh much, usually they aren’t much more than a piece of fluff, so how can we cast this far enough and accurately enough to catch a fish ? Casting in fly fishing can seem a lot harder than it looks. But if you can understand the basic dynamics of what makes a good cast and how to spot a bad one, you are well on your way to learning this art.

Fly Casting

The aim of fly-casting is to cast a very light weight fly far enough and accurately enough to catch a fish. If you would like to learn about this fine art, read on and then why not book a lesson or two, or join us on one of introductory courses.

How does it work?

In regular fishing, you rely on the lure or sinker having some weight to enable you to cast far enough, and the more weight there is the further you can cast. In fly-casting, however, we have a virtually weightless fly and no sinker to cast with. So how do fly fishers cast so far?

Casting is achieved because of the special Fly Line that is used. In fly fishing we tie the fly to some thin nylon (leader), which in turn is tied to a special thick fly fishing line (Fly Line). The Fly Line actually has enough weight of its own to help us cast. The weight of the fly line is distributed along its length, and the more fly line we have out the more weight we have to work with, however there is some skill and timing required to cast it successfully. If the line is stretched in a straight line, it is easy to cast, but if the line is not fully straight, it is very difficult. More on this important topic later.

How far do you need to cast?

Current world record for fly-casting your typical stream rod is now around 40m (130ft) or more. Most anglers cannot consistently cast further than about 20m, yet they have no trouble catching fish. More than 95% of trout are caught within 10m, and in small streams even closer. So all this should be good news to the new fly angler; an accurate cast within 5 metres is all that is required on a stream, and on a lake 10 -15m is more than enough.

Getting started

We start with the line laid out in front of us in a nice straight line, holding the line in our other hand, or trapping it against the rod with our finger. We use the rod to pull the line and speed it up, and then when we have the line moving at maximum speed, we need to stop the rod in a short space.  When the rod slows and stops, the line keeps going, passes the rod tip, and forms a loop. This loop keeps travelling and straightens out behind us. When the line has straightened out (and before it falls to the ground), we reverse the process and pull the line in the other direction, speeding it up, then stop the rod to make the line go forward.

The loop is the shape the line makes as it moves through the air. As the curved front of the loop moves through the air, it leaves behind line attached to the rod (rod leg) and pulls the line attached to the fly (fly leg) through the air. As the loop unrolls, the rod leg gets longer and fly leg gets shorter, until the line straightens out completely. This is when we need to cast the line in the opposite direction. We can make many different shaped loops, however some loops are more effective than others are.

This casting forwards and backwards in the air is called false casting. False casting is used to lengthen how much line we have in the air, in preparation for the presentation cast. To false cast, we must have enough speed in the loop, so that we can let some loose line slip through our fingers and shoot out as the loop is travelling away from us.

The presentation cast is the final cast where we place the fly on the water. For the basic presentation cast we let the line straighten out above the water, and then land gently. This means that we do not disturb the water too much or scare the fish.

Basic casting Dynamics.

We use the rod to move the line, and we need to get it moving fast enough so it will carry the fly to our target. There are two main ways we can use the rod to move the line: like a giant lever (rotation) using our wrist or elbow, or moving it back and forth without rotation(translation).

Rotation: This is the natural way most people start to cast by using the wrist or elbow.  In doing so the rod rotates through an angle and the length of the rod multiples the movement of our hand. So much so that the rod tip (and hence the line) can be moved ten times faster than by our hand alone. This is the easiest way to speed up the line, except the rod tip will follow a convex curve (see diagram), which in turn creates wide-open inefficient loops, sometimes they are so wide that they are not really loops.

Bigloop

Translation: If we cast by moving our hand back and forth in a straight line, without flexing our wrist or elbow and rotating the rod (this is quite an unnatural movement), we can move the line only as fast as we can move our hands. This moves the rod tip in a straight line, and helps create narrower loops; however, it is requires a lot of effort to obtain enough speed for any respectable distance.

To make a great cast, you need to combine both movements.  If you look at videos (try YouTube) of great casters, you will see they use both rotation and translation in their casting stroke.  However, the amount and timing of each may vary between casters according to their unique style. You will also see that the wrist flex is generally kept to a minimum and the rotation occurs late in the stroke. If you watch in slow motion, you will see that their hands generally move in a straight line and manage to keep the rod tip moving in a straight line. This is helped in part by the fact a rod bends as force is applied to it, and unbends at the end of the rotation near the end of the stroke.

Loop shapes and casting efficiency

Our aim is to make smooth efficient loops that do not tangle. A good loop has smooth straight rod and fly legs parallel to each other. By keeping the legs of the loop parallel, we prevent tangles and knots forming in the leader. Knots (wind knots) in the leader are not caused by wind, but are caused by tailing loops. A tailing loop occurs when the loop legs cross over, which usually creates a knot in the leader.

tailingloop

We refer to the distance between the fly legs as the width of the loop. If the rod legs are close together, we call this a narrow loop and far apart, we call it a wide loop.

An efficient loop will be relatively narrow, with both the rod and fly legs smooth, straight and parallel to each other.

Narrowloop

Why is a narrow loop more efficient? Imagine you have a ping-pong ball and a small stone that weigh exactly the same. Which one can you throw further? The stone of course, but why?.

Air resistance: the stone will go further because it has much less air resistance than a ping pong ball. The air resistance will slow the ping-pong ball more than the stone; as the ping-pong ball moves forward it needs to push more air out of the way than the stone, so slows down much more quickly. It is the same with loops. A narrow loop has to push less air out of the way than a wide loop, so is more efficient.

How to cast efficient loops?

Some simple principles govern casting and making smooth straight narrow loops.
1. Smooth acceleration of the rod tip will keep the loops smooth.
2. For straight loops, we need to accelerate the line in a straight line. The rod tip pulls the line to speed it up, and the line will follow in the direction that the rod tip pulls. If the rod tip travels in a straight line, the line will travel in a straight line.
3. To form the loop, there needs to be a defined deceleration, a defined stop of the rod at the end of each stroke will achieve this.
4. Keep the line under tension and wait until the line is straight. The line needs to be straight and tight before a cast in the other direction is made. This means waiting for the loop to unroll and straighten between each false cast. The longer the line you are casting, the longer you must wait.

Common mistakes to avoid:

1. Not Waiting (Pausing) Long enough:   Not allowing the loop enough time to unroll before commencing the cast in the opposite direction. This leads to wasting a lot of the available casting arc.  The casters instinctive reaction to this loss of efficiency, is to add more power, which can then lead to tailing loops.
2. Too much rotation at wrist or elbow: leading to big wide loops and non-loops. Catching the ground behind or in front. (Rod tip following a concave curve)
3. Waving the rod. No acceleration or deceleration, just moving the rod at the same speed. Leads to lack of distance and open loops.
4. Too much force for a short stroke. If you try to use too much force, or hurry up a rod over a too-short stroke, the rod will bend too much and the rod tip will dip too much in the middle of the stroke leading to a concave rod tip path (see tailing loop diagram above). This always results in a tailing loop and knots in the leader.  This usually happens when we try to go for a bit more distance, especially on the presentation cast,
5. Weak back cast. If the back cast is weak, the line will not straighten out behind, leading to a loss of tension, and an ineffective forward cast.  This is because a lot of the forward cast is used to straighten out the line behind, and there is no weight to pull on.

If you would like to learn this fine art, why not book a lesson or two, or join us on one of Introductory Courses.

How do I hook them? – Dry Fly Fishing

How do I hook them (on the Dry) ? This was the question I faced the last time I had a raw beginner on the water. He had missed 4 strikes in a row. My Answer : “Easy, when the trout takes the fly, wait for the trout to close its mouth and turn down, and tighten the line with a smooth lift of the rod. Although in reality it is not that easy all the time. I have missed more than 4 in a row myself, and more recently than I might like to admit.

I like taking beginner’s fly-fishing; beginners ask fundamental questions, and in searching for a suitable explanation I am forced to think more deeply on topics I sometimes take for granted. Their questions often go to the core of understanding of fly-fishing.  Questions we probably should ask ourselves more often.

How do I hook them (on the Dry)  ? This was the question I faced the last time I had a beginner on the water. He had missed four strikes in a row.   My Answer: “Easy, when the trout takes the fly, wait for the trout to close its mouth and turn down, and tighten the line with a smooth lift of the rod.  Although in reality it is not that easy all the time.  I have missed more than four in a row myself, and more recently than I might like to admit.

This answer may seem to be an over simplification, but it is the essence of How To, and more importantly helps us understand why we aren’t hooking them as often as we might like. Whilst a missed strike is often attributed to factors beyond our control, it is mostly likely due to one or more mistakes, mistakes we all make to some degree.

Every trout take is different, and there are many things that can go wrong between a trout’s rise to the fly and a firmly hooked one.  Let us dissect my initial answer, examining all the things that can go wrong, and in so doing uncover what we can do to improve the odds. I will break into three:

  1. When the trout takes the fly,
  2. When the trout has closed its mouth and turned down
  3. Tighten the line with a smooth lift of the rod

When the trout takes the fly

Sometimes it does not.  It just looks like it did.  Watch the video below carefully, the first rise looks like a take but the fly was not taken.  I thought it was in real time and only on watching the video later, did I realise my mistake!

We expect a take, so to our brain, every rise or slash, is always a take, even when it is not.  Trout are not perfect, sometimes they just miss the fly, especially young trout.  When a fly drags at the last minute, the trout sometimes just misjudges the take.  Small trout, especially rainbows,  can not or do not take the fly in one go.  A high floating or large terrestrial can be too big for them to suck through the surface film.  Instead they can slash at it, porpoise on it, with the intention of drowning it, and then they come back and take it sub surface a few seconds later.

So what to do?

  • Watch carefully
  • Wait a little longer

Splashy rises are usually indicative of a small trout.  If I suspect small trout, I will wait a little longer before I lift.  If the clarity is good, and the angle of light favourable, sometimes you will see the miss.  Sometimes the fly bobs up almost immediately after a missed rise/slash, or sometimes you can see the fly has been submerged, and with luck, the trout will return and take it. Waiting  a little longer is a good strategy anyway, specially for big fish, (more on that later).

What about the second take?  Was it a miss, or a quick rejection? On waters where the trout see a lot of flies, and a lot of fisherman, and have been hooked before, they seem to be quick to reject a fly, and some days it can be seem almost impossible to hook them.

When the trout has closed its mouth and turned down

Typically, a trout sits just off the current, facing upstream, and watches for likely food drifting into view. When it sees an insect on the surface it rises up, still facing upstream, nose first, and drifts back and noses up under its prey.  Then mouth agape, it slurps down water and the fly, closes its mouth and swims back down.  If you tighten the line just as it has turned down, the hook should pull in to the corner of the trout’s mouth and find firm purchase.  If you wait too long, the trout will eject the fly, realising it is not food; on the other hand, if you tighten too quickly, the fly can be pulled from the trout’s open mouth.  When you have the luxury of seeing the trout rise and turn down, watch carefully and tighten as it does so, you will see its dorsal fin start to sink, or the tip of its tail break the surface.  Note: the bigger the trout, the slower this all happens, you really do have to relax and take your time.   I have missed too many of these bigger slow rises than I would like to admit; overcoming my impatience, is not easy.

However, in fast water, trout, especially rainbows, will smash, slash and grab.  They do not have much time to be fussy, or take the fly at leisure, so it all happens in a great hurry.  Setting the hook has to be a lot quicker in this situation, unless of course the take was not a take.

To make things more challenging, sometimes the trout has to swim across the current to take the fly; sometimes the trout swims downstream to follow the fly and then takes it facing downstream.  I have noticed that if the fly drags slightly there is a higher chance the trout will not take it straight away and is more likely to follow it down before taking if it, or refusing it instead. The more you can eliminate drag, the less this will happen. But  in the circumstances where you see the trout, take the fly sideways, watch to see where it turns, and strike in the opposite direction.  The downstream takes are one of the hardest to set the hook properly.  A fishing friend in New Zealand advises  trying to lift upwards as much as possible hoping to set the fly in the top lip: it works for him!

So what to do. The canonical teaching method for timing the strike to the rise is to wait for a count of three, or to say “god-save-the queen” and then tighten.  This is appropriate for a slow take of a brown on a quiet pool, but not for a feisty rainbow’s slashing take in fast water. My best advice is:

  • Cast accurately, if you can see the trout, it won’t have to move far
  • Eliminate drag, even micro drag, and you will get more upstream takes which are easy to time
  • Watch the take, try to time the lift, when the trout has turned away
  • Base the timing on the speed of the take :
    • slow water = slow takes = late lift,
    • fast water =  fast take = lift sooner
  • Base timing on size of trout
    • Big trout, wait longer, then lift
    • Small trout,  the take might be fast but it might be a miss, let your sub conscious decide -> slow or quick

Tighten the line

Beginners often do not realise a trout has taken their fly, or, if they do, it takes a moment or two to sink in.  So it is not unusual for them to not lift the rod at all, especially if they are waiting to ‘feel’ the bite.

Once past this initial surprise, the main reason anglers do not tighten the line correctly, is that there is too much slack between the fly and their rod.  Each little bit of slack line between the rod and the fly adds to the delay between the lift of the rod, and the line tightening to set the hook.  If the slack is poorly and inconsistently managed, it creates an unpredictable delay between lift and set, and probably one of the biggest sources of frustration with hook setting.

If there is too much slack, and the rod is lifted correctly, the line will never tighten enough to set the hook.  The usual response to this is to rip the rod up as fast as possible to get rid of this slack, which often rips the fly out of the trouts mouth, and can even lead to breaking the tippet, or even worse a rod (oh yes, I have done it !).

What to do?:

  • Manage the line at the same speed of the natural drift of the fly.

When you get it right, there will be a J curve in the line from the tip of the rod to the surface of the water. If it is too fast the fly will create a wake, if too slow, loops of line will  gather below the rod tip and drift down stream.  If the fly is drifting in a slow current, strip slowly, if in a fast current strip fast.  A quick check on the slack at the rod tip can help calibrate your speed.  I like to imagine that I am stripping the line at the same speed as the fly/water, this helps me watch the fly and not the slack at my rod tip.  If fishing at an angle across the current, point the rod at the fly and follow it down stream as you strip. When the take comes, the relaxed lift of the rod will move the fly a few inches, and the hook will set (most of the time). The following sequence demonstrates these principles.

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Summary

If you are having trouble setting the hook,  first and foremost get your line management under control and eliminate slack. Without this, timing the strike will just be a gamble, and more often a losing one.  Take careful note of the water speed; remember the lift matches the take, which matches the speed of the water (mostly). Next watch carefully and when you see the trout has taken and turned (use your imagination as well as your eyes) and make a relaxed lift of the rod, enough to move the fly a few inches.  More often than not, it should result in the thrill of the solid weight of a nice fish.

Oh yeah, let me know how you go !

Autumn treat. A fishing report.

With Easter falling quite early this year, we planned a trip to the mountains for a short break. Autumn arrives in March and it can be a tricky time of year. As summer wanes the terrestrial numbers diminish, but the Autumn mayflies often are yet to appear. The water is low and clear and the trout cautious and less numerous and are not actively feeding in numbers. We were expecting typical cool Autumn days, but we were fortunate to catch a some un-seasonal almost summer-like weather.

Arriving early Friday morning our plan was to enjoy at least one day’s fishing on a small mountain stream, before the regular Easter campers arrived late that day.  As we checked in to our accommodation, we discovered, according to our host Graham, the stream had recently seen quite a lot of traffic.  Apparently it had been fishing well and good sized fish caught.

As we geared up, hoping that the angler numbers had been exaggerated, but the size of the fish had not.  The sun was already beginning to warm up as walked along the bank and there were hoppers aplenty leaping left and right to avoid being crunched by our wading boots. We hoped this augured well, as we had already tied on hopper patterns.

We took it in turns to fish a short stretch at a time.  The first few looked promising, but yielded nothing.  As I rounded the third bend, I saw a rise in a back eddy beneath a low hanging branch against the far bank.  I snuck into position staying low, measured out some line, and watched and waited.  There was another swirl.  I flicked out a back cast  and snagged the tip of a bush behind me.  Cursing I crawled back and retrieved my fly. I returned and anxiously waited, another swirl. Phew! I made my cast.  The hopper sailed beneath the branch and plopped down on the edge of the back eddy.  It drifted deliciously along the seam, right by the fading ring of the rise, untouched.  Then,  just as the fly was about to drag and I about to recast, the water shimmered unnaturally and in a shaft of light a spotted flank gleamed below the surface.  It followed, then was lost in a shadow, and the fly dragged and sank.  But before I could move there was a spotted flash again as the trout turned where the fly had disappeared, so I lifted and the line came tight. My 3wt bent deeply, and water erupted as the trout felt the pull of the hook. The brief tug of war ended a few minutes later with a “good sized” trout resting in my submerged net.

We found a few more of these stunning browns, but none made it to the net , and they did provide some excitement: like plopping my hopper heavily on a long grass lined glide and seeing a bow wave rise on the glassy surface, and accelerate towards it from 15 feet up stream.  A big head surfacing and engulfing the hopper,  waiting for the tell-tale swirl to signal the fish turning away.  Lifting and feeling the weight of a good fish put a deep bend in my rod only to have the hook pull on the first heavy head shake.

We fished on to early afternoon, and while the catching proved a little slower than hoped, it was nonetheless rewarding with a handful of healthy browns making it back to the stream after a brief rest in the net.  We returned to camp to reflect on the day and enjoy the sunset across the valley.

The next day we tried our luck on nearby streams, dodging the Easter campers. Unfortunately all places we fished bore the fresh boot marks of yesterday’s anglers, but whilst there were no greedy smash and grabs, with persistent well placed casts we still managed to coax the odd trout to reluctantly take the dry fly.  Of those few takes we  felt the weight of fewer than half, and landed perhaps half of those again, nonetheless we really enjoyed messing about on the river surrounded by the amber clad landscape that seems to glow in the Autumn light.

 

 

 

Six flies: all you need for small streams.

Six flies is all you need for small stream fishing. However, there must be a million of flies you could choose from, and most fly fishers have vests bursting with boxes and boxes of them. However, ask any angler which flies they use regularly, they will probably name six flies or less. Those six will differ between anglers, due to personal preference, and local insect life, but it will be no more than six. They’ll also tell you that sometimes (<2%) , they need something special: hence the extra boxes.

This post is aimed at answering a question posed to me by one of the attendees at a recent introductory course. They wanted to know more about fly selection.  How many flies did they need ? Which ones ? When to use them?

How many flies?

Six flies is all you need for small stream fishing. However, there must be a million of flies you could choose from, and most fly fishers have vests bursting with boxes and boxes of them. However, ask any angler which flies they use regularly, they will probably name six flies or less. Those six will differ between anglers, due to personal preference, and local insect life, but it will be no more than six. They’ll also tell you that sometimes (<2%) , they need something special: hence the extra boxes.

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Which six?

The six you need will vary depending on which water you fish and the food that is available there.  The six I selected are ideal for our small streams in Victoria Australia, and they cover the majority of common insects found in trout streams.  They are not the only possible selection, just my current favourites; I could easily swap each one for another fly, and still cover most situations.

Size and Colour

Trout in small streams trout are ambush predators, they sit in a slow current where they can watch what drifts towards them on the current.  If something takes their fancy, they will swing out and suck it in as it goes past.  Trout brains aren’t too complicated, they make a food/not food decision, which they base on the size, colour and behaviour of the passing morsel.  If the trout brain says food, it will take the fly, and we have a good chance of hooking it.

Now all we need to know now is what are the trout eating, when are they eating it, and which fly matches size and colour. (How to make the fly behave correctly is a big topic that deserves its own post.)

What do trout eat?

In small streams, trout are opportunistic feeders and mostly eat insects that live in, or fall on, the water. Some float, some sink, some swim.  The following insects form the major part of a trout’s diet in and around the streams of Victoria.

  • Mayflies – adults and larvae (Emphemeroptera),
  • Caddis flies – adults and Larvae (Trichoptera),
  • Beetles (Coleoptera)
  • Termites (Isoptera Termitoidae)
  • Grasshoppers (Orthoptera)

Mayflies and Caddis are available all year round, especially the larvae (often called nymphs) that live under rocks in the stream bed.  Some estimates suggest that these nymphs form 70-80% of a trout’s diet.  At certain times of the year, the larvae undergo a mass metamorphosis, leaving the water to become flying adults to mate and continue the cycle of life.  During this mass metamorphosis (often called a hatch), the trout become keyed into these insects and will eat them to the exclusion of all others.

Grasshoppers  live in grasslands and paddocks and in the summer months, are in abundance. It is not uncommon for the trout to sit under overhanging grassy banks  waiting for the plop of a hapless fallen hopper to signal meal time.

Termites usually appear on mass on thundery evenings, with swarms of them flying low overhead.  You will see many trout devouring these nutritious morsels, if you wait by a slow pool on a humid evening.

Beetles inhabit the forests and pastures surrounding our streams, and appear in numbers in Summer, especially in December.  Many fall accidentally in the stream, to be come a meal for a waiting trout.

When?

The table below outlines which months the various insects are on the menu for our finny friends.

Month Insects (sub-surface) Insects (surface)
September N c, m
October N b, C, M, t
November b, N b, C, M, T
December B, n B, C, h, M, T
January B, n B, C, H, M, T
February b, n b, C, H, M, t
March  N b, C, h, M
April N b, c, M
May  N c, m
June  N

Letter legend (lower case = insect available, upper case = insect abundant) 

Letter Insect Class
n, N Nymphs (caddis and mayfly)
b, B Beetles
c, C Caddis moths(adult)
h, H Hoppers (grass)
m, M Mayfly (adults)
t, T Termites

The following table lists some common flies that match these insects, some of which appear in the slideshow images:

Insect Flies (Wet) Flies (Dry)
Beetle Brown nymph, Wet beetle, Black and Peacock Humpy, Royal Wulff, Stimulator, Foam Beetle
Caddis Hare and Copper, Stick Caddis, Brown nymph Deer/Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulator, Yellow Sally.
Hopper N/A Foam Hopper, Dave’s Hopper, Knobby Hopper, Stimulator, Madame X.
Mayfly Brown nymph, Black Nymph, Olive Nymph, Copper John, Soft hackle flies (var), Wee Wet flies (var) Shaving Brush, Grey Wulff, Adams, Orange Spinner, Black Spinner, Klinkhamer, Parachute Emerger, Monkey Bum, March Brown.
Termite Brown Nymph, Black Nymph Black Ant, Termite, Parachute Spinner (black, brown, grey),

Conclusion:

Mostly you need to match size and colour. Most things trout eat are small and brown or small and black.

The six flies I recommend for our local streams are :

  • a brown nymph,
  • a bead head brown nymph,
  • a Royal Wulff,
  • a Stimulator,
  • a parachute black spinner, and
  • a small deer hair caddis.

With these flies I can be confident I’ll be able to fool any feeding trout on my favourite small streams. As for the other 999,995 flies we all need, you can work that out on your own!

Feel free to leave your six favourite flies in the comments section.

Knots: the power of three.

There are hundreds of fishing knots out there, just do a google search and see. But how many do you really need to know?

There are hundreds of fishing knots out there, just do a google search and see. But how many do you really need to know?

Keep it simple and reliable: You really only need three knots when out fly-fishing.

Why only three?

There are three types of knots you need:

  1. To tie your tippet to the fly
  2. To tie your tippet to the leader (or repair your leader)
  3. To attach your leader to fly line.

Which three?

The three that have served me best over the years are:

  1. Clinch Knot – to tie tippet to fly
  2. Double blood knot – to connect tippet to leader
  3. Perfection Loop – for loop-to-loop leader to fly line connection.

Clinch Knot

This has to be the easiest knot to tie, and the first fishing knot I ever learned.   I use it to tie tippet to fly, or adding a dropper to the bend of a fly. The image below comes from: The Little Red Fishing Knot Book/Hemlock Printers Ltd. 2003

clinch

Do not forget to wet the knot (saliva works well), before tightening the knot. This prevents the heat from friction weakening the line when it is tightened.


Blood Knot

I use this knot for joining sections of tippet to leader, and for tying my own leaders. It is very strong when tied well. The following image can be found at the www.101knots.com web site. A useful resource for other knots.

How-to-Tie-a-Blood-Knot

 

Perfection Loop

The perfection loop , allegedly earns its name from the fact the loop remains inline with the leader, whereas other loops tend to stick out at an angle.  This knot is actually a bowline, a non-slip loop that has been used by sailors for years. The method for tying the loop below is my favourite way for tying it at the end of your leader. The following image can be found at the www.101knots.com web site. A useful resource for other knots.

How-to-Tie-a-Perfection-Loop

In conclusion:

There are other knots that you can learn for these applications, and you will find plenty of information via google.  It will include the virtues of one knot against another, which is more reliable, which has the best strength, etc. etc. (Some you could consider include: improved clinch knot, davy knot, lefty’s loop, surgeons loop, overhand loop.)  In my experience most knots are fairly close in strength if tied well. Any knot tied poorly will be weak.

You only need three knots you can rely on to not fail at the critical moment. To be reliable and strong, you need to tie them well, anywhere, in all conditions,  quickly and easily.  So decide on your three and  practice, practice, practice.

 

Tying a simple hopper

Over the next few weeks, the hopper numbers will explode, and the trout will feast, so last night I restocked my fly boxes.

Last weekend, as we waded the field of long grass to reach the stream, swarms of juvenile hoppers leapt left and right to avoid being crushed underfoot.  You can guess what we tried fishing first.

In my fly box , I had a solitary tan foam hopper left from last season (I had a quick look for more before I left home, but couldn’t find the reserves).  The trout rose eagerly to this pattern throughout the afternoon, until an errant back cast left it dangling forlornly out of reach on a dead branch.

The tan hopper matched the natural in size and colour but couldn’t find another in any fly-box, only a few green ones of the same pattern. Unfortunately they were not as effective, and were difficult to see on the shadowed water. So last night I restocked my fly boxes and  I took a few photos to give you an idea of the tying sequence.

 

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I am no great tier, as you will see from the photos, but be encouraged, they are pretty easy to tie, and the fish don’t seem to mind the rough edges. Give it a go!.

Over the next few weeks, the hopper numbers will explode, and the trout will feast.

If you are a bit lazy, and would like some, you can contact me and I may be able to tie a you a few to order!

Fly lines for Twigging

There are so many different fly lines out there it can be a bit daunting choosing one to match your rod and the style of casting.  A quick google search returned more than fifty different choices for a three weight floating lines.

What is the ideal fly line for small stream fishing (Twigging)?

Ask this question and you will get a lot of well-intentioned, but often misinformed advice.  There are so many different fly lines out there it can be a bit daunting choosing one to match your rod and the style of casting.  Especially with textures, colours, coatings and the plethora of complicated tapers offered by manufacturers.  A quick search on the internet gave me about fifty different choices for a three weight floating line from three of the main fly line companies. It is confusing, and therefore not surprising that many end up with a poor line choice for this type of fishing.

My advice for small stream fishing line choice is:

Type of line: Double taper (DT) line with a front taper of about 7 – 9 feet.

Weight: Start with the designated Line Weight for your rod and adjust according to your preference for that rod. (Between -1 and +1 line weights of the rod’s designated weight)

Note: this is specific to small stream fishing, and some will disagree with this, but please read on to understand the reasoning behind this advice.

Rainbow171116

The needs of twigging and the first 15- 20ft. of the line. 

When I say twigging, I mean fly fishing small streams with small rods of 7 to 8ft in length, using lines in the 2 to 4 weight range.  When fly-fishing these small waters we need to cast accurately in confined spaces at a range of only 10 – 30 ft., hence the most important aspect of our fly line is the weight of the first 15 -20 feet. WHY? Taking rod and leader length in to consideration, the line length used when twigging could be as little as a few feet, and perhaps as much as twenty, but very rarely more.  Therefore, we need the first 15 -20 feet, the effective line length, to have sufficient weight to comfortably load the rod.  This is where the front taper design is extremely important.

Taper Design and effective line weight

The majority of fly lines in the market are of a Weight Forward (WF) design.  They are designed to facilitate long casts (90ft+), and are great for Salt Water and lake fishing where distance can be of importance, but for twigging this design is superfluous.  The front section of a WF line, the head, is usually 25 – 40 feet in length and carries most of the lines total weight.  The remaining 40 – 60 ft. is running line, which is much thinner and lighter the head section which facilitates making longer casts.  Long casts are rarely needed for small stream fishing.

Double Taper lines have the same thickness for the majority of their length and taper at each end.   They are reversible; when one end wears out you can turn it round and use the other. (So your DT will last twice as long as a WF of the same make and model).

The first 20 ft of a DT and a WF fly lines are identical.

The taper of the line affects the weight distribution of the line. When you look at the front 20 feet of WF and DT lines of the same make, model and line weight, generally they are identical, with identical taper, taper length and material; hence identical in weight.  Therefore, for small stream fishing whether the line is a WF or DT will have no impact on the loading of the rod. See the example below of the Cortland 444 line:

DTCortland444

WFCortland444

Source: http://www.cortlandline.com

What does make a difference, however, is the length and shape of the front taper of the line.  This can differ widely from model to model and make to make.

So how does the front taper length effect the weight of the first 20 feet of line?

According to the AFTMA fly line rating system, the first thirty feet of all fly lines of the same weight class must weigh the same, e.g. 3 weight lines must weigh 100 grains, 4 weights 120 grains.  Despite this, manufacturers play around with the taper of the line, and hence the weight distribution, to change the way a line casts.  A short taper puts more weight towards the fly end, a long taper, puts more weight back towards the middle of the line.

Take these two true to 3 weight lines : a level line and a continuous (long) tapered line.  Long continuous tapered lines surfaced in the 1930’s, developed for Spey casting long distances with ease, with majority of the weight closer to the middle of the line. Typically the taper continues for the first 30 feet of line or more.   The first 30ft of both these lines weigh the same: 100 grains. See the chart below, at 30 feet the lines intersect at 100 grains.  However, the respective weights of the first 15 feet, the part we most use for twigging, are very different.  The first 15 feet of the level line weighs twice as much as the continuous taper, and as such would load the rod more.  In between the two is a classic line with a 7.5 ft. front taper.

30ftGrainweight

Why do lines taper?

Tapering from thick to thin, helps the transfer of energy smoothly from line to leader.

It is very difficult to control the turn-over and presentation with a level line, as the difference between line and leader is too abrubt.   Historically most lines DT and WF have had front tapers of 7 – 9 feet.  I suspect this is because 7 – 8ft is about right for turning over the weight of an average trout fly on a 9-foot leader and making a gentle presentation.

The longer the front taper, the more gentle the turn over, however, it can be difficult to turn over heavy flies and you can’t do much to compensate if the taper is too long for your heavy flies.  You can shorten your leader somewhat, but, if the line taper is too long, you may end up with a leader that is too short to fish effectively!

Long Front Tapers too light to load rod at close range:

Long tapers (20 ft. or more) are not suited to the short casting for twigging, and are much better suited for long roll casts, or presenting flies delicately at a distance of 35 ft. or more.  Long roll casts need more weight closer to the rod tip to turn over the great length of line.

LongTaperImpact

The chart above compares a standard 7.5 ft front taper, with a current long front taper designs. based on true to weight lines.

You can see that for casts up to 30ft, long tapers are seriously underweight:

  1. A 3wt line (DT or WF) with a standard 7 – 9 front taper, will load a rod better than a 3wt line with a long taper (>13 ft.)
  2. A 21 ft taper 3wt will load the rod less than 1Wt. standard 7.5 ft front taper for casts up to 25 ft. This is serious underlining.
  3. A 13ft front taper 3wt loads the rod less than a 2 wt, but a little more than a 1 wt. About 1.5wt under.

Front Taper: 7-9 ft. is ideal.

Historically, front tapers of 7 – 9 foot were very common and have worked well. They turn over a 9-foot leader and a big fly with ease, and present a smaller fly with delicacy.

Comparing the weight distribution of lines with a 7.5 ft. and 8.5 ft. front tapers to various other current fly line tapers shows that the 7-9 ft gives a good balance midway between the extremes.  The chart below demonstrates this; it maps out the weight distribution of a variety of fly lines on the market today, showing cumulative weight of line as you increase the length used for fishing.

GrainwtVar

Things to note for twigging casts up to 30ft (15 feet of line + rod + leader):

A 3 wt. line with a 5 foot front taper, loads a rod similarly to a 4 wt. with a 7.5ft taper : Changing the front taper by a few feet can have the same or more effect as changing a line weight by one class.

1wt up and 1wt down, on a standard 7.5 foot front taper gives a good range of weights to suit different rods and casters, without going to specialty tapers.

Line weight choice: Consider your preferred casting style and rod choice.

To enjoy casting we want a line that will load our rod comfortably, with not too much weight that we lose control, nor too little weight that we lose feel.  We are looking for ‘just right’ weight. ‘Just right’ weight depends on both rod design and the angler’s preferred casting stroke.

Some anglers prefer a longer slower casting stroke; others prefer a shorter and quicker one. (I prefer a shorter quicker casting stroke when fishing the small streams, as it affords me tighter loops – but that is a whole other article.)

Different rods suit different styles: Generally modern carbon fibre rods are faster and lighter. Whilst fibreglass and cane rods tend to be slower and heavier.  The former are more suited to the ‘short and quick’ school, and the latter to ‘longer and slower’ movement.

All rods are rated for casting true to weight fly lines, and will work well with them, but may not suit every caster.  To adjust the feel you can try using a different line weight: add more weight will in general bend the rod more, and require a longer / slower casting stroke, conversely less weight will bend the rod less and require a shorter faster casting stroke.

Taking into account our preferred style and preferred rod, the right line will be the one that has the right weight to give it the right feel for you. This could be anywhere between 1 weight lower and 1 weight higher than rod’s rated line weight, and will be different for different anglers.


Conclusion: what is the best line for small stream fishing?

Type of line: Choose a double taper line with a front taper of about 7 – 8 feet.

7- 9 ft. front taper, is preferred as it will load the rod better at a short range, yet still control presentations for average leader lengths. For more delicate presentations you can always go with a longer leader (a foot or do will make a big difference).

Double Taper: In twigging, you only fish short, less than 30 ft. and when the business end wears out, turn it round on your reel, and you have 30 fresh new feet of line.  A WF of the same taper is fine, you will just need to replace it twice as often.

Start with the Rod’s designated Line Weight and adjust according to your preference for that rod.

-1wt will tighten up the rod action,

+1 weight will give a fuller load feel on your rod and if you wish to fish heavy nymphs, give more control)


Post Script: we now have a great line for twigging for sale here: Fly Lines

Early Season Rewards – Sep 2017

The rewards of early season, are great, but the fishing isn’t easy.

Unlike the past few years, the streams are higher and colder, meaning the trout are not looking up yet.  The insects are waiting for the warmer weather before venturing out, and the trout are aware: they are still operating on gentlemen’s hours, 11 – 3pm , or 10 – 2pm now that daylight savings has started.  Those that are feeding , are not yet out in numbers, most being tucked up in under the banks and snags, with only the odd fish out in the open actively feeding.

The one’s under the bank can sometimes be tempted out with a juicy looking worm pattern, a big nymph or a swung wet – a style of fishing that is out of fashion.  I like little wets with colour, flash or movement.

 

October is now upon us, and the mayflies and caddis will soon be hatching in numbers, and the fish starting to look up.  Reports are already starting to trickle in about the odd fish taking of the top.  I have been fishing the nymph mostly, but had the odd chance on a small royal wulff.   I am eally  looking forward to the months ahead when I can fish the whole day with just a dry fly; my favourite addiction.

Tight lines !

A simple nymphing set-up

Early season and the snow melt has my favourite mountain streams running hard and clear. It is still too cool for insects, and the trout aren’t really looking up for a feed.  They are lying deep, or hard against the undercut banks, keeping out of the heavy currents, but close enough to snack on all of the sub-aquatic nymphs caught in the heavy spring flows.

The fly fisher who persists with a dry-fly on these waters will eventually catch the odd trout, however the main game at this time of the year is the weighted nymph.  I prefer to keep things simple, and opt for a well weighted nymph below an indicator.

Recently whilst fishing with another angler, I was reminded how quick and easy the system I favour is to set-up and adjust while fishing.  They were faffing about with a gadget, tiny pieces of tube, bits of fluff and floatant for about ten minutes. In the same time, I rigged my rod, added the indicator, made a few casts and caught the first fish!

IMG_7407


How does it work?

Since I tie my own tapered leaders, I have handy knots spaced at 3, 4, 5, and 6 feet in depth. These act as handy stoppers for my indicators. This gives me plenty of choices for depth.

I use pre-treated bright yarn as my indicator, with a sliding loop to loop connection. This yarn comes pre-treated, and is highly water-resistant. The photos below show how to attach them. And how to move them.

One piece of yarn will easily support brass or small tungsten bead head nymphs, and two pieces will hold up the larger tungsten bead heads.  If you want to step it up, and use double heavy nymphs, you can use the same approach with big Tongariro style indicators.


Try for yourself

If you are sick of messing about with gadgets and floatant, and want to spend more time  time fishing, try it for yourself!

If you can’t be bothered making your own, or you aren’t confident in your knots, I have pre-tied nymph leaders, including 3 pieces of pre-treated yarn for sale in the store under leaders

 

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