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Objection answered


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Though the advantages of the dry-fly have been known to many for a considerable number of years, the science and the art of dry-fly fishing make progress at a pace which seems amazingly slow to those who have discovered how infinitely superior at certain times the lure is to all others.

Its merits have not been jealously kept secret. Anglers do not conceal their discoveries from their fellows, or refrain from discussing with them their experiences and theories. On the contrary, the glories of the sport have been frequently extolled and gracefully described. The reason for the slow advance lies elsewhere. The general conservatism of anglers will undoubtedly have had some retarding effect; but it is certainly not alone, responsible.

The fact is that some of those, who have done their best to make the virtues of the floating fly widely known, have not succeeded, because they have contrived to surround the whole subject with an atmosphere of mystery, and have appeared to look down upon the unconverted. Moreover, they give the impression that the June is of limited application, instead of which there is none which enjoys a longer effective season, or can be profitably employed on a greater variety of waters. Many misconceptions still exist, and these we endeavour to remove.

Frequently ii is objected against the dry-fly that its use is confined to a few streams smooth flowing and of crystal clearness in the South of England. There can be no greater fallacy; but it persists, in spite of numerous attempts to eradicate it. What has been declared is to the effect that on such streams the dry-fly is the only lure worth using, from which the only logical inference is that it will be extremely good on less difficult waters. If it is deadly on the chalk-stream inhabited by heavy, wary, well-fed trout, it should be effective everywhere, and it is Wherever a natural fly will float, wherever a trout can lie, there also will a dry-fly sail, and entice fish to their doom.

By means of the floating fly we have killed trout, not one or two specimens, stupid or tired of life, but fine creels of wary fish, not diminutive, ignorant fingerlings, but grandest trout of highly desirable dimensions on all sorts of waters throughout Scot land; e.g. on the Clyde from Carstairs to the head waters of Daer and Potrail, on Tweed from St. Boswells to Talla, on the lochs of Islay and Bure, on reservoirs and ornamental ponds, on the brawling Stanhope Water, on the sluggish Balvaig, on Loch Dochart, Loch Voil, and Loch Lubnaig, on the smallest of burns, on the rivers of Fifeshire, in wild, rocky Glen Shee and Stratliardle, on Loch Leven itself, in fact, everywhere that we have gone in. pursuit of the trout.

Another objection sometimes raised is that the practice is attended with enormous expense, that it involves the purchase 01 a special rod, reel and line, gut and flies. It is certainly true that the dry-fly angler becomes so much enamoured of his art, that he cannot know contentment until he has every thing in keeping with it and worthy of it. Dry-fly fishing does not require these things; it deserves them.

Any rod will serve for a beginning, but if it chance to be a light single-handed weapon, the initial attempts will be more enjoyable, and proficiency w ill not be long delayed. Special flies are not even necessary. Almost any wet-fly river pattern will kill a trout, if it is made to float by being oiled or touched with vaseline. The fly-fisher's present possessions can be made to serve, and will be sufficient to convince him that a dry-fly is a more fascinating lure than any he has previously used. The acquisition of more suitable appliances will follow inevitably, and all expenditure will be cheer fully incurred.

Again, the objector says that the art is difficult to acquire and necessitates years of practice. He dismisses the suggestion that he should try dry-fly fishing with. "It is far too scientific for me." We do not advise anyone on his first expedition to the river to attempt the capture of a trout by means of a floating fly; such a thing world strike us as some what ridiculous. The angler must go through an apprenticeship, a long course of clear-water worm- fishing, so that he may learn something of the haunts of trout, their favourite lies in burns and rivers, practise the art of self-concealment, and acquire experience in bringing a captive to the net or bank; following this would come some wet-fly fishing in spring time, when he would learn to cast a fly lightly on the water, answer a rising trout, and at the same time obtain some knowledge of the various species of flies and their seasons.

In time he will be in a position to advance to the higher branches of angling, and only after he has arrived at this state should he think of dry-fly fishing. He will have much expert knowledge of trout and their ways; all he now requires consists of further information regarding flies and a little instruction in the art of manipulating a floating artificial.

Many another has said, " I am too old to learn it." If he is old in fishing experience, he would learn in the minimum of time. If he is young in experience and old in years, the answer would not have been given, for the question would not have been asked.

Those who already fish the wet-fly upstream have almost nothing to learn; if they will simply oil their flies, they are dry-fly fishers. Those who still believe in fishing downstream with the fly, have only to turn their eyes to the hills and arrange that the trout, they desire to catch, sees a fly before it sees an angler. There is nothing mysterious or difficult in dry-fly fishing to those who have practised the more elementary methods of angling.

Perhaps the chief objection to the dry-fly is one seldom expressed or admitted. It is difficult to break away from long-established custom, and the wet-fly angler, before he can adopt the dry-fly, is called upon to relinquish two habits deeply rooted within him by the practice, of many years. He is required to float his flies and to reduce the number on his cast.

The former change is probably viewed with comparative equanimity; but the latter entails a departure which seems to presage disaster. He fishes the loch with a cast of four flies, while on the river he may be accustomed to use even more, and to reduce their number appears to him as equivalent to a sacrifice of chances. This is a difficulty we quite appreciate. Many a day on the loch every fly of the quartette will score its share of points; in fact, sometimes the honours may be equally divided. One may be excused for concluding that, had one of the flies been absent, the total catch on such a day would have been only 75 per cent, of what it was, and it is impossible to determine whether the deduction is correct or not.

The greater the number of flits on a cast, the larger may be the area of water searched, and consequently more trout will have an opportunity of seeing them. This is obviously the case when the cast is delivered across the; stream: but it is equally apparent that, for the majority of casts on a loch, and for one directly upstream on a liver, ten flies will search no greater area than one.

The angler, however, argues that one pattern may be refused and another prove acceptable, or one may awake sufficient interest in a trout to make it take the next. He, therefore, provides a fair variety, ties to his cast as many flies as he can conveniently manipulate, and works hard believing that he has ensured for himself the maximum of sport. His reasoning is sound and sensible, and, if tie applies these principles to the loch, his basket will be as good as the conditions, his luck, and his skill permit; but if he extends them to the river he is guilty of ignoring the introduction of a factor which will upset his calculations.

Let him consider for a moment whether it is not possible that one fly may interfere with another, and so completely deprive it of all attractiveness, for that is what may very readily happen in a river. One member of a team may be caught up in an eddy and, if that happens, it will either retard or hasten unnaturally the progress of the rest; the result is that a willing trout rushing open-mouthed upon its doom swerves aside in alarm. Such things may, if unseen, remain unsuspected; but they are nevertheless the means of snatching away many a triumph. There is not the slightest doubt that the wet-fly fisher on the river would vastly benefit by limiting himself to one or two flies; on the loch, in the absence of currents and eddies, the need for reduction does not exist.

The great authorities on dry-fly fishing recommend the use of only one fly, or perhaps it were more correct to say that, not realising this very serious matter, viz. the reduction in the number of flies, they take it for granted that not. more than one will be used. Only in some parts of small waters and exceptional places in the larger rivers is it: really essential so to restrict oneself. In the great majority of the pools and streams, there is no objection to the use of two flies, unless it be when the downfall of some individual trout of large size and wide reputation is being attempted. Then, of course, it is advisable to have all attention concentrated on one particular spot. In due course we shall endeavour to adduce reasons for thus advising contrary to recognised authority; but rot the least of these is that the use of two flies on the cast helps the angler to pass safely over the transition period between the wet-fly and the dry.

We should not have any compunctions about using three dry-flies at once. We have done so, but we find it impossible to keep more than two under observation at the same time, and carefully watched they must be, if a rise is to have its desired end. None can say how or when the fly will disappear, and, unless the eye sees and marks its going, the wrist cannot be prepared to respond.

None can prove to the beginner in the art of dry- fly fishing, but he will prove for himself at his initial attempt, that, instead of subtracting from his chances of sport, the use of one or at most two flies will greatly increase them. On this point one cannot hope to convince another; but it is easy to convince oneself.

It has been said, and truly said, that the dry-fly is a splendid lure on calm bright days, when the loch and pool are smooth as glass. A great many anglers, who should have had more sense, have misinterpreted that statement, and taken it to mean that only under such conditions is the dry fly profit able. We are continually meeting anglers who are under this impression, the floating fly, immediately it is mentioned, calls up visions of conditions which do not generally inspire hope; it is associated in the minds of very many with cloudless, windless skies, unruffled pools, and quivering atmosphere. The misconception is unfortunate, inexcusable per haps, but certainly very common. It is not our desire to claim more for the dry-fly than it deserves; but without doubt it is a killing lure on all waters and at all times when trout are taking flies from the surface or would be willing to take them if they were there.

The fact that the weather is breezy or calm, bright or dull, wet or dry, in no way affects the deadliness of the dry-fly. We prefer a good breeze to a calm and, unless it is very strong, care not whether it is up or down stream; we imagine that then the trout are in better humour. On the loch we are happy, when the fish are rising well in a dead calm; but the advent of a ripple or a wave does not by any means signify that the cast must be replaced by one bearing the customary four wet-flies. If the flies hatch and the trout rise, the dry-fly will continue to satisfy. Nothing can be more dreary than the loch when it is absolutely unruffled by wind and undimpled by rising fish. Angling with any lure is then supreme weariness; but we would rather in such circumstances fish the wet-fly than the dry, because it gives us more work to do, and also because we find that a deeply-sunk lure drawn jerkily towards the surface has great attractions.

Some rivers are declared to be dry-fly waters, while others are designated wet-fly waters. That is another example of the mass of amazing nonsense connected with fishing, for "t simply means that those, who so speak, say that on some streams fully matured flies are produced from nothing, a remark able example of spontaneous generation, and that on others they are developed gradually through several stages from the ovum, a process sometimes occupying two and three years. Wherever there are aquatic flies, there must have been larvae and nymphs and, wherever the latter occur, there will in time the former arrive, provided that no accident supervenes. As trout feed on flies in all their stages in all streams, therefore lures representing immature forms and lures resembling perfect insects can be used with great hope of success everywhere that flies and trout are found. Any river is a dry-fly water when the trout are rising to take flies from the surface, and the same river is a wet-fly water when the trout are feeding on nymphs.

In brawling Highland streams, where for long stretches the water is foaming white, tortured by rocks into innumerable cascades, we have used the floating fly, and with it have taken many dozens of trout from the tiny pockets. To fish completely fifty yards of such a reach takes up fully an hour zigzagging backwards and forwards across the stream, searching every little corner of smooth surface, for every step has to be carefully chosen. Of course the dry-fly is entirely unnecessary in such water. The wet-fly proved quite as effective a lure, or at any rate it answered perfectly well; but we used the dry-fly at times merely to prove to our own satisfaction that it is not confined to any particular type of water.

The Balvaig is in certain parts so slow that it is well-nigh impossible to detect any current in it, and we have had good sport on it with both wet and dry flies. On the Clyde immediately below Elvanfoot there is a long diversified stretch which the angler would at once declare to be absolutely ideal water for the use of the worm and creeper, and so it is; but it likewise has afforded us some of the best and most interesting dry-fly fishing that we have experienced.

We have attempted to persuade the angler that, there are no objections to the dry-fly as a lure; but there s one - it is not our intention to deal with it - viz., that, its use becomes general, the few trout remaining in our rivers will abstain from flies altogether.


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