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Drag


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If the wet-fly fisher, who believes in fishing downstream, casts his flies across a pool of uniform flow, they float onwards for a time freely in answer to the current, but in course, as the cast becomes tight, their progress is checked, they begin to swing round, and finally they are directly in a straight line below him. If he repeats the cast with a dry-fly he will see the fly, after a short journey undertaken exactly as a living insect would perform it, turn aside from its path and at rapidly increasing pace plough across the surface of the water towards the centre of the pool. He will then understand what drag is and learn also how his wet-flies behave under water; he may even realise the cause of his frequent failures at midsummer.

Drag is the greatest trouble of the dry-fly fisher; but the problem of its avoidance is not unwelcome, for, necessitating as it does the exercise of thought, skill and ingenuity, it adds materially to the interest of days spent beside the waters. That being so, we shall not take away from him all his pleasure by solving all his difficulties; in other words, we make a virtue of necessity, for it is quite impossible for us to enumerate and examine all examples of drag; almost every day on the river a new problem is set us to solve, and often we devise new tactics in the hope of at last overcoming an old stager of a trout that dwells secure in some ungenerous corner. The examples we take are therefore to be considered as illustrative and the solutions as merely suggestive. We point out the difficulty and so enable the angler to perceive it, before he ruins his chance of sport by proceeding, as if none existed; we Indicate methods of surmounting it, but leave it to him to select that which most appeals to his particular style or to modify it in any way that his previous experience pronounces advisable.

Whenever the artificial fly leaves the course that a natural fly, unaffected by a breeze, would take, or has its pace influenced by some force other than the current, it is said to drag. This usually fatal effect can be produced (1) by the sinking of the line, (2) by the action of the wind on the line, (3) by the influence of the stream itself.

If the cast or tine begins to sink, it will gradually pull the fly along the surface and finally beneath it. This movement can be appreciable only in a dull, still pool or a loch and scarcely requires consideration, for it simply means that the line is calling for redressing. It may occur when the fly has been allowed to remain where cast for a comparatively long time, and that is occasionally a means of bringing up a trout in deep, calm water, but, when the effect of this little trick is being investigated, precautions should be taken to guard against the fly lagging.

Some anglers object to the trouble involved in drying and re-treating the line, possibly because the seriousness of the inattention has not been pointed out to them. Some have fished the dry-fly for years and have never floated cast or line. It was a long time before we could tolerate the sight of floating gut, but, having happily got over our aversion, we now know that more offers go un accepted by reason of the line being submerged than from any other cause.

Let us consider what happens in a pool devoid of current, when a good breeze is blowing. The natural fly, when it alights, does not remain stationary, though perhaps quiescent, but is wafted along before the wind, just as any floating body would be. An artificial fly is attached to a line, and the wind acts on the line, waving it about, with the result that the fly makes rapid and erratic changes of position. Trout accept the living insect but refuse the dragging imitation. On certain streams, trout are said to be rather suspicious of even a living fly that is not floating at rest in still water or freely down a current, but we have seen no instances of the kind. On the contrary, we have watched March Browns buffeted about by a strong wind, and seen the trout chasing them eagerly and throwing themselves upon them. But the artificial fly must not indulge in similar antics.

The action of the wind must be counteracted. Obviously the less line that is exposed to its action, the less will it be affected, but to reduce the length influenced the only device available is to lower the point of the rod. Unfortunately that involves a loss of striking power, but the handicap must be accepted as being the smaller of the two evils, and the angler must do his best to fix the hook by a sharp downstream strike or a quick raising of the rod.

We now proceed to the most important cause of drag, and that which necessitates the greatest study, viz., the stream itself. If the fly and any part of the floating cast or line are in currents of different strengths or of different directions, the fly will be retarded or accelerated hi its progress down the stream. The effect may take a long time to manifest itself, as in the type of water chosen for the beginner; but in little places here and there all over the river the fly may drag immediately it alights. Therefore the angler must study the methods of avoiding it, if he is not to remain con tent with easy casts and admit the finest trout beyond his powers.

In the diagrams which follow, variation in strength of current is indicated by variation in the distance between the lines, i.e., the closer together they are, the stronger is the current; the angler is easily recognisable; the trout is always heading upstream. As one fly is quite sufficiently difficult to manage in water of the description now to be discussed, and as the angler must now be an enthusiastic dry-river, seeing that he has advanced to this stage, the dropper should now be removed.

First, as it is one of the places most beloved by trout and therefore of surpassing Interest to the dry-fly fisher, we propose to consider the " hang " of the pool, that part at the tail where the water swells, before it breaks into the leap for the next pool.

Here the trout is in comparatively slow water, while between it and 1 the flow is very fast. If the usual cast is made direct to the trout from the usual distance, the fly will fall on smooth, slow water and the line on a rapid current. The consequence is that the fly as soon as it alights, is torn along the surface at the head of a fearful furrow, and the trout flees in terror to the deepest depths of the pool.

If a good upstream wind is blowing, the angler may wade forward - it is generally possible in such a place to do so - allow his line, shortened to the length of his rod, to stream out before him and dap the fly just in front of the trout. If the wind is downstream or too light to permit of dapping, he may move to 2 and make a horizontal cast partly across country, or he may from 3 try the effect of floating a fly down to the fish. One of these methods is sure to be better than either of the other two, and he must decide, after an examination of the particular place and consideration of the other conditions, e.g., direction of wind, depth of water, which it is. Care must be taken that as he moves to 2 or 3 he does not betray his presence to the trout.

If the angler casts as in Fig. 1, the current will act upon the line, carrying it downstream, and sweeping the fly at great speed away from the point where it fell; Fig. 2 shows the probable position of the line and fly after a second or two, and it will be observed also that the trout has vanished.

Let us suppose, however, that this fatal cast has not been made. The angler has then several alternatives from which to choose. He may try a cast such as is shown in Fig. 3. On paper, and to those who have not tried it or seen it done, it may appear an impossible sort of affair; but it can be executed, only after considerable practice certainly, by holding the rod horizontally across to the left and switching the fly upstream. He should by all means try it. for ability to do it well is a valuable possession on such an occasion as this, and on others also; unless he overcasts, there is no harm done. The concave curve on the line has to be removed before the fly begins to drag and, if luck attends, it will reach its objective without arousing suspicion.

He may prefer to try the much easier cast shown in Fig. 4. He moves upstream and, with a longer line than required for the distance, makes the usual cast; but as the fly comes forward, he checks the movement of the rod momentarily and then lowers it to its accustomed position. Possibly this cast is more easily accomplished when one desires to do something else; many a time, when the angler endeavours to deliver a nice straight line, he casts one beautifully adapted for such a situation. The line does not extend itself fully, but lies in a snaky wriggle across the surface, and it has to float a considerable distance before it can exert any influence upon the fly.

The favourite solution when possible may be that shown in Fig. 5. The angler walks down to the. tail of the pool, wades across to the other bank, and tries the effect of a cast up and across stream. The trout may, however, be rather close to the bank to be an easy conquest. When all other casts appear foredoomed to failure, he should endeavour to place the fly, from any position he likes, straight to the trout's nose; that is to say, lie should make drag impossible by giving it no time to develop because the fly has no journey to perform; it has already arrived at its destination and often it receives a hearty welcome and sometimes, of course, a cold reception.

We have still to examine a case in which the fly is retarded m its course. The diagrams illustrate a bend of the river where the fast flow is along one bank, the remainder of the water bring relatively quiet and gentle. The angler who casts direct to the trout, as in Fig. 1, will find that his slowly moving line keeps back his fly, which is dragged into the slack water, as in Fig. 2.

What he should have done was to move up as in Fig. 3, and try the underhand cast or switch across to the opposite bank. The line falls in a convex curve, and therefore the fly moves freely for a considerable lime. We rather like1 this cast, finding it highly successful, but we do not move up all at once; we proceed gradually upstream, casting all the time, estimating the distance and strength required. As an alternative, the angler may select the method of Fig. 4. which is simply a repetition of the switch from left to right shown in Fig. 3 of the previous set of diagrams, but in this case the cast is made from the opposite bank.

In all cases where the angler anticipates that drag will occur, he should consider carefully whether success would not be likely to follow an attempt to dap a fly either from the water or from some point on the bank.

Though we have not gone into the problem of drag very deeply, yet we have tried to suggest means of avoiding it, and therefore it may surprise some to know that we at times endeavour to cause it. The River Clyde, which, we hasten to say for the benefit of those who are so unfortunate as not to know its magnificent attractions, is inhabited by a race of highly educated trout, Is characterised in its highest reaches by stretches of water, such as are shown m the diagram opposite.

The water is deep and of smooth flow, the angler's bank is low and gravelly, while the opposite bank along which the trout lie and rise with infinite gentleness, is high and grassy. Many a time, m such a place, we have floated a fly perfectly over a trout and received a flat refusal. Accidentally, we admit, we once discovered that these annoying trout, which delighted In ignoring our best efforts, were attracted by a dragging fly.

Our method is to cast a wriggly line, so that the fly falls a yard, or sometimes mere, above the trout, allow it to float down straightening out its coils, until the fly is just on the point of dragging, and then to push the rod forward. The fly at once skips across the surface, and the trout snaps at it, making no mistake in aim and securely booking itself. We can otter no explanation, unless it be that the trout imagines that the fly is making a desperate effort to escape. We always try first to float the fly correctly down., and if that fails we repeat the cast as described; we have killed dozens of trout in that way, none heavier than 3/4lb., but many of them half-pounders; and other anglers, who can believe that thin, is no fishy story, may care to try their luck with such curious tactics.


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Pictures for Drag

Casting to a trout in the Hang of a pool
Casting to a trout in the Hang of a pool >>>>
A straight cast across a fast stream
A straight cast across a fast stream >>>>
The effect of the previous cast
The effect of the previous cast >>>>
The back handed cast from the right bank
The back handed cast from the right bank >>>>
A slack cast across a fast current
A slack cast across a fast current >>>>
Cast avoiding the fast current
Cast avoiding the fast current >>>>
A straight cast on a fast current
A straight cast on a fast current >>>>
The effect of the previous cast
The effect of the previous cast >>>>
The underhand switch from the right bank
The underhand switch from the right bank >>>>
The back-handed cast from the left bank
The back-handed cast from the left bank >>>>
To produce drag
To produce drag >>>>

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