I’m enjoying learning to fish again, I had forgotten just how frustrating bloody trout can be. You have great success one day and think you have them sussed out, go the next day and they refuse to cooperate. Bastards. At the moment I get most fish on sedged dries. Not one fly is consistent though, catch two fish and that’s it, they won’t look at that fly again on that day. Change fly and chances are I will get another couple, often in consecutive casts, then nothing again, until I put a new fly on. At some point they wise up and stop taking a moving fly and may fall for a static one, but not too often. Ok, let’s go sub surface, and here is where the problem starts. What are they feeding on? There is no hatch going on, that I can see. They are feeding on something, I just can’t work out what. This may sound like a bit of a whinge, it’s not meant to be one, I am actually enjoying trying to work out what they are after. I have been quite successful so far, I haven’t blanked, yet. That’s not the point though, I really would like to get a better hang on what they are feeding on. I’m not the only one who is mystified, thank goodness, I would hate to be the only gay in the village! I tied up some lures from my early days, Black Lure, Whisky Fly, some Matukas in various colours, Muddlers and took some poppers I tied up for Asp on Balaton a few years ago. Right, you buggers, cop some of this. The Muddlers and poppers showed some promise, exciting bow waves, long chases, but no takes. The sum total was one fish to a Whisky and one to a Black Lure. Back to head scratching.
Knots, four turns Mike, four, said Will. And as simple as that the problem is solved, Thanks Will. I have also found a knot, or loop really, that I now use for buzzers so they hang in a more natural way and I am convinced it’s caught me fish that I otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s a busy time with shed building and stuff, I retire soon and need a proper man cave so I can disappear from under Heathers feet now and then, so tying flies is not on at the moment but I am looking forward to working out what those bloody fish are eating and tying something to take them on.
So, what do you get when you fall in love? (Again, with fly fishing). You get bloody moths, or more specifically you discover that any natural material not sealed properly has been devoured. I have skeletons where I use to have wings, my seals fur has been consumed and my squirrels tails are just bone. Whole capes have been decimated. It’s that time of year where I am spending ages trying to find out what the fish are feeding on. I suppose I could take the short cut and kill the first fish and spoon it but I really don’t want to so, as it’s been many years since I have fished regularly, I am a bit flummoxed. I suspect it’s time to dust off some old books and do a bit of studying. Anyway, I decided to tie some flies I think may be effective. Having an unexpected day off and it’s pouring down and blowing hard, so fishing really isn’t an option, I decide to tie some flies and discovered the carnage. Luckily all my Whitings capes were sealed but most of my Indian and Chinese capes, or what’s left of them, have been consigned to the dustbin, no big loss really, just annoying. Seals fur is another matter though, it’s all gone and I will have to restock sometime. I found one pheasant tail just about usable for ptn’s and daddy bodies but my hares mask is dust so no grhe’s for a while until I get it replaced. Of course, before I buy any new material I am going to have to go through all my stuff and root out the anything suspect. We have a spare freezer at the moment and I will chuck it all in there for a week or two and see how they like that.
The Big Question is, what are the bloody fish taking. They have been cruising around, just showing a dorsal and top of the tail obviously taking something just subsurface. They rarely take off the top. Buzzers you are all shouting, and it’s true I have caught several on them, but not consistently. In fact I rarely catch on the same fly more than twice at the moment. Six fish and four different flies yesterday, for instance. I’m not seeing a hatch going on but they are on something. They will chase though, so I have tied some old fashioned lures to see if I can provoke them.
Re the knots I have talked about before. Mark Surtees insists that the uni knot and the grinner are the same knot, they are not, or at least the way I tie them they are not. I tried his uni knot and guess what? The first fish I hooked pinged the knot. Back to the blood knot, which hasn’t let me down so far, so long as I give it a really good pull after tying it. I have had the odd one slip when testing it so I always double check now. The grinner/uni always appears to lock down nicely but breaks at the knot when I strike into a fish. Yes, I do wet it as it beds down.
I’m writing this here because by the time I get permission to put this on the BFCC web site the moment will have gone. I can always move it over later.
Until proved otherwise I think the BFCC is unique in Europe and, possibly, the world. I am not saying other countries don’t have casting clubs but we are quite possibly the only one that travels to the people rather than expecting them to travel to us in a centralised location. We travel, at our own expense, to several parts of the county. It’s still early in our season but so far we have been to Devon, North Wales and Kent, with more events still to come in other parts of the country (and we are always on the lookout for suitable venues in some regions we have not covered). We not only offer competition in various disciplines but also offer tuition as part of each event. It was always tuition added on to the competitive day but recently it seems to have switched around and we get more coming for tuition than competition. As I get passed my competitive era I find this slightly alarming. Where are the competitive casters? We, apparently, have a GB, or possibly English, Welsh and Scots casting team(s) who are supposedly going to the world championships. Not one of them, as far as I know, has cast in any BFCC event in the last two or three years. I find that very odd. If I was preparing to represent my country I would not only be practicing ( which I assume they are) I would also be wanting to get in as much competitive practice as possible as well and I would make sure I got to a few BFCC events to get that practice. There is just no substitute to actually competing against others. Hells teeth, if I was good enough to cast for my country I would go along just to take some of the records, I mean they must be easy, just ripe for the picking. A mere 130 something for the five weight and a piddling 140 plus for the seven, a piece of piss for a caster of world championship class surely. I appreciate that some of our rules do not conform to world championship disciplines but if there was enough interest I am sure we could do something about that, if necessary. Personally I really don’t see a need because casting is casting after all, and, it’s our records under our rules that you should be trying to beat, and be getting competition practice while you are at it.
Thats it, rant over. Come and have a go if you think your hard enough.
Now I am back fishing regularly I have other things to think about than casting. Things like, why aren’t I catching fish? Or, why do my knots fail? Stuff like that. Knots are a bone of contention, for years I used a grinner for everything but they started to be unreliable for some reason. I put it down to old tippet material so binned the lot and bought new but the breakages still happened so I have temporarily turned to the good old blood knot, it has reduced the number of breakages but I am still not fully happy with it. The main weakness with the grinner was the tippet to leader knot, that was where 90% of my breakages were, I now use tippet rings and blood knot both sides. I need (don’t we all) to have confidence in my knots, I tend to play fish hard. Anyway I now spend time on the internet looking for alternatives to try out.
On the why aren’t I catching fish front, it’s that time of year when the fish are just cruising around taking something, I assume buzzers, just under the surface, and bloody frustrating they were becoming. If I fished buzzers they were ignored or I might pick up the odd one on an amber nymph, but nothing consistent. I eventually found the answer by mistake. I put on a fly I use for fishing deep, it’s taken the vast majority of the fish I have caught this year. I felt it tick something on the delivery cast and didn’t see the plop of it landing, I thought I had broken it off and started a fast figure of eight retrieve to check it and suddenly found myself connected to a 3lb rainbow. Result. I has three more in quick succession in the time I had before I had to pack up. That last one was best, it was as far as I could cast and took it within a couple of seconds of the fly landing. I get a real buzz from hooking a fish at long range, there is something special in seeing a flash of silver over 80′ away and knowing you are attached to it.
So, what excuse this time for not posting anything for ages? Well, several as it happens, but I wont bore you with the details.
Last year I decided that I was going to return to the fishing scene after I realised I had hardly wet a line in anger for years. Unfortunately events overtook me and it got postponed but this year I joined a syndicate to a six acre lake and have caught more fish in the last six weeks than I have caught in the last six years, a lot more probably. Its so nice not to have to pay for a day ticket and feel you have to stay there to either get your monies worth or catch enough fish to feel satisfied (or blank and go home grumpy). I mainly just snatch two or three hours or get up early and fish until lunch time. There was a big fish kill last year so the water was restocked which meant the new fish were suicidal early season and it was easy to get the ten fish (released) limit but they are getting a bit wiser now, thank goodness, and the fishing is getting more challenging. There are some big fish in there, rainbows and brownies to well into double figures, so I will make it my job to work out how to target them.
On the casting scene things are ticking along. The IFFF now have a program to create certified assessors called the Casting Instructor Certification Program (CICP), and not before time, some will say. I am part of the program and its really altered the way I approach assessing. However, and there is always an ‘however’ with the IFFF, things don’t run smoothly. We have to do certain things to, firstly, qualify to assess CCI and then do more certain things to qualify to assess MCI. The opportunity to be in a situation to do the full list of requirements is limited in Europe. If I had the money I could go to Poland or Italy or Sweden or wherever to do the final couple of tasks to complete my tasks that would allow me to assess MCI ( I am qualified for CCI) but that is not going to happen for various reasons, a, the cost and b, one of the reasons I said I wouldn’t bore you with. Some of the best assessors I have worked with are in the same boat so I can see a log jam of assessments coming up in Europe sometime quite soon.
One bizarre aspect of the program is that a set of casting definitions has been somehow been shoe horned in and they are the same set that were rejected a few years ago. The definitions have strayed away from a basic overhead cast/ roll cast/ spey cast to things which are either add ons to teach, faults to cure or stylistic. The upshot of this is that, as an assessor, I am going to have to shy away from asking any questions that might give me an answer I disagree with but would have to accept because its been defined by the powers that be.
Perhaps I should just stick to fishing
I have had a bit of a dramatic time. We had a fire at home just before Christmas, no structural damage or injuries but the whole upstairs was badly smoke damaged. We spent Christmas in an hotel which wasn’t as a relaxing experience as I had imagined. We lived in the hotel for nearly two months until we found a house to let temporarily while the builders got on with the repairs. Apart from anything else it has meant that we have had a couple of times when we had no internet, which is a great excuse to pretend you haven’t received an email or had the connection to reply, even if you had. No more excuses though, we moved back in to our house just before Easter and we had the phone and internet back on Monday.
As you can imagine the last thing on my mind has been fly fishing or fly casting. Well, almost. I certainly haven’t picked up a rod for about four months but the endless hours rubbing down, and painting, the lounge proved to be an ideal time for the mind to try and distract itself from the tedium. Things pop in, get mulled over, and almost instantly forgotten but, the one thing that has stuck in my mind is the expression ‘the exception that proves the rule’. Really? can someone explain that to me? Because the more I look at it or think about it the less sense it makes. On any fly fishing/casting forum I can pretty much guarantee that the exception is generally the excuse for some people to prove the rule must be wrong then, the exception proves it. Perhaps I’m an exception, if so, what does that prove? Anyway, rules are meant to be broken, it’s a very exceptional rule that isn’t. What is an exception? it’s a stand alone event. How can something that happens infrequently or only in certain circumstances prove that the rules regarding something that happens frequently are correct? A conundrum.
The moral of the story is, don’t have a fire and have to spend endless hours with either sandpaper or a paintbrush. Take up fly casting, it’s far less thought provoking.
The thing about being out of circulation is that you can clear your mind. After a while you stop continually thinking about all the questions and debates, the contradictions and arguments. Sometimes this let’s idle thoughts trundle though your head and very occasionally one will take your fancy and you can fly with it. For instance, the other day I was pondering what makes a fly cast work and, in my mind, it’s just three things. You acquire the line, you accelerate the line and you launch the loop. I suppose I should say launch the line but I am still fixated on creating an efficient loop so it’s the loop I launch, not the line. Let’s look at each one.
We acquire the line; for arguments sake we are already false casting, we have launched an efficient loop and we are waiting for it to straighten. There are a few ways to acquire the line. Visually, we see the line straighten and, with practice, we start the next stroke. Also visually, we glance up the length of the rod and as the line straightens we see the tip of the rod bend slightly back in the direction the line is moving, and we start the next stroke. By feel, some are lucky and are sensitive enough to feel the ‘heavy’ of the Line straightening, and start the next stroke.
You accelerate the line; the first part of the acceleration is a bit like letting the clutch out, you start quite slowly and accelerate progressively. Of course, with practice you can let the clutch out more quickly and accelerate faster and still be smooth and fluid but you always avoid the snatchy, wham bam acceleration that gives you wheel spin, you want traction in the form of a smoothly acquired line.
Finally, we put the brakes on and launch the loop. During the acceleration we have bent the rod, now we have to let the rod do the only thing it can do on it’s own, straighten. Of course the rod will straighten any way once we start to decelerate but for the most efficient use of the rod straightening we need to stop the rod hand abruptly, and in the right place, to focus the unbending in the direction of the cast and fire the loop off the rod tip. Brake too early and the rod tip will straighten in a slightly upwards direction and, possibly, throw you a nice tail. Brake late and the rod tip will straighten in a slightly downwards direction and throw you a wide(r than you want) loop. Not braking hard enough will also make your loops wider and less efficient because you have dissipated some of the benefits of the unbending rod.
Of course there is nothing new in what I have written, it’s all in the Five Essentials, but maybe, just maybe, I may have given you a slightly different perspective on how to use them more effectively.
I used to envy my Son, he is a proper writer, he even makes a living writing. But now I’m not so sure. I used to really enjoy writing, then one day I ran out of things to write about. Not just for a few hours, days or weeks, but for months and months. I still did things, but didn’t feel the urge to write about it. I have been all over the UK with the BFCC, been to Spain and Germany doing fly casting stuff. A few weeks ago I enjoyed several days in Northumberland at an IFFF event, which I enjoyed immensely, and I have been instructing occasionally. It’s not as if I have dropped out of the scene altogether, I am involved as much, one way or another, as I ever was. What I don’t do any more is participate in forums. It’s not that I want to stop learning any more but what goes round comes around and when I see it coming round for the third or forth time I think why bother? Been there, done that and have a shed full of Tee-shirts, baseball caps etc, to prove it. I get far more out of meeting and talking to other instructors than I can get off a forum these days. Of course, I don’t know about you, but, I over the years I have built up a mental picture about how fly casting works. At one time this picture was being continually repainted but now a days the picture only gets the occasional re touch or a bit added here and there because the picture, generally, works for me. More importantly, it seems to work with the people I help learn to cast a fly. Very recently I had a complete beginner come to me in the morning and he went, on his own, and caught a fish in the afternoon. He came back to me the following weekend and learned to double haul and put the fly out to over 85′ and went fishing again after the lesson. He hasn’t let me know if he caught a fish or not but in all probability he will be back next weekend expecting me to show him how to cast 100′. When he does that I will stop taking his money because he will be teaching me. I can hear some of you saying why didn’t you take him fishing? Because I hate guiding is why. The expectation, mine and my clients, is too stressful for me. I am overjoyed when they catch a fish, suicidal when they don’t. I don’t need that sort of pressure. I instruct for fun (and money) but guiding isn’t fun, it’s very unfunny in fact. I take my hat off to anyone who does it. Talking of taking my hat off. I have always wanted to see a double handed assessment. I have heard how difficult it is and wanted to see for myself. I was given the opportunity at the IFFF event in Bellingham recently and now understand what the fuss is about. That is one arduous test. One more doff of the hat to Brian McGlashan for organising the very well run event. There, that wasn’t so difficult was it. The moving finger wrote. What it writ may not be earthshattering or meaningful but at least it got to the end.
The sun is shining, the wind has died down to a zephyr, birds are singing. Perhaps it’s time to come out of hibernation. I have been taking a bit of a back seat for the last few months but things are on the move again. I might have moved a bit sooner but every time I peeked a look it was raining or blowing a gale, or, more usually, both together. In the last twenty four hours, for instance, we have had storm force winds, hail, thunder and torrential rain. The cricket field at the bottom of my garden could now be turned into a paddy field, dog walking is now bog walking and my garden resembles the Somme. Every cloud has a silver lining as I now have a beautiful lake I can practice speys and jump rolls on only 100yds away. We are the lucky ones, at least we don’t have water lapping over the door step. I feels so sorry for those that have been flooded, some for over two months. I really can’t imagine the despair they must be feeling. All it’s cost me is a few postponed casting lessons, it’s cost them everything.
The BFCC roadshow will soon be back on the road with a small group of us traveling down to Devon for the South West Fly Fair at Roadford where we will be demonstrating and instructing so if you have forgotten which end of the rod to hold come down and let us remind you. The venue looks great on Google earth (PL160RL). Let’s hope the weather plays nice for a change.
I will also be going to the EWF show in Germany at the end of March to kick start my IFFF year. This is held in a spectacular location and well worth a visit. By the way Lasse, please bring my rod!.
Ok, not a lot about casting but this is the first post for months and I just wanted to let you know I was still alive. It’s a strange thing but once you stop posting regularly it’s difficult to start up again but I will do my best.
Why does the loop have the ability to pull the rod leg and allow us to shoot line? As I understand it the line decelerates as it goes around the loop but as it gets to the bottom of the loop it comes to a sudden stop as it runs into the rod leg which is a bit like you hitting the brakes in your car and you surge forward only when it comes to the loop this braking effect becomes a continuous chain effect until either the line turns over or momentum is lost in the fly leg which destabilizes the loop and the cast collapses. The breaking effect would be greater in a narrow loop than in a wide loop because the deceleration around the loop face is faster because it has less distance to do it in so the braking effect and therefore the pulling power will be stronger. When shooting line the braking effect must be reduced somewhat although it will still be fast relative to the speed of the fly leg.
There is obviously tension in the loop face or else or would collapse and it seems to me that tension will be greatest where the breaking effect is strongest, the bottom of the loop. And, there is sufficient tension all around the loop that if we pullback for any reason that pullback is transferred all around the loop, pulls on the fly leg and adds directly to line speed in exactly the same way that hauling adds directly to line speed. The loop has to speed up as a consequence because, apart from drag forms, it is the servant of line speed rather than the other way round.