The most serviceable rod for all-round dry-fly fishing in burns, waters, livers, and lochs is one of ten feet. It should be light on the wrist, because much casting is necessary, somewhat stiff because it is required to lift a heavy line neatly off the water, to deliver a fly lightly and accurately to any desired spot in calm and gale alike, and to stand well up to a breeze. Provided that it answers these requirements, it may either be of greenheart or split-bamboo, and rods specially designed for the work are readily obtainable.
After the beginner has made an attempt with the rod he already possesses, and has satisfied himself that dry-fly fishing is both within his powers and capable of great results - these facts will be apparent after a very short trial - he should pro cure the best weapon his means will allow. It is a sound investment. Our own particular favourite is of built-bamboo, ten feet in length, and with it we have killed thousands of trout up to lb. in weight. It shows not a flaw, does not deviate to the extent of a millimetre from the straight path, and appears fit for many more years of service. We have never addressed one single angry word to it, though together we have spent many trying days and more very pleasant ones.
Any sort of reel will serve the purpose, provided that it is in good working order, ready to answer a strike with the minimum of delay. It is of considerable advantage to have one specially for dry-fly work, though not essential, and we can thoroughly recommend one about three inches in diameter of contracted pattern and well-filled with line. This enables one by reason of its quick- winding properties to get immediately in touch with a hooked fish.
It is absolutely necessary that the line be of waterproofed silk, and fashion decrees that it be tapered. In length it need not be more than thirty yards, and therefore to it should be spliced sufficient undressed line to fill the reel entirely. A satisfactory line is expensive, but with reason able care it will last for years. After use it should be taken off the reel, dried by exposure to the air, and then rubbed down with Cerolene. This preparation not only preserves it, but gives it other desirable properties which will be mentioned in due course. The weight of line must depend on the rod, but one which will generally give complete satisfaction is a double-tapered hue of medium weight, i.c.i. that is .02" at point, .04" in centre.
Gut and Casts
It has for some years been exceedingly difficult to procure gut of high quality, a fact which is extremely unfortunate, as such is of the utmost importance. We might manage to content our selves with other items of our fishing equipment being of inferior quality, but we could never persuade ourselves to go on loch or river, unless we were amply provided with good gut. Nothing irrigates the angler so much as the loss of a good trout caused by inferior gut, and therefore he should take particular pains to obtain it of the very highest class. On no account should he buy a cast, but should make his own; they are the most reliable, and their manufacture adds greatly to the joys of preparation for an expedition.
The dry-fly fisher will find most satisfaction in drawn gut, of which he will require five strengths, from 5x to 1x. From a supply sufficient for his needs he can make casts suitable for every purpose. All dry-fly casts should be tapered, as by this means accuracy in direction and delicacy of alighting, both highly desirable, are very materially assisted.
We should gladly acknowledge the source of our indebtedness; but we have been using the blood- knot for so many years that we have completely forgotten how it was introduced to us. Every angler to whom we have shown it has become enthusiastic over it, and adopted it to the exclusion of all others. We have seen a large company of anglers and boatmen squatting on an island of Loch Lomond all industriously engaged in practising the blood-knot; that was on a day of dead calm when it was more pleasant to be ashore among the trees than afloat under a merciless sun.
Read more about how to tie the blood-knot.
In making up a tapered cast with this or any other knot, it is obvious that no thickness should, be omitted, that is to say, for instance, 5x cannot be tied directly to 3x; the intermediate 4x must be included.
The length of cast we recommend is one approximately the same as the rod, a small difference n either direction being immaterial. We refer now to general requirements. In special circumstances, for example when it is necessary to project the fly into the teeth of a gale, a much shorter cast is an advantage, being much more easy to manage. The angler, having regard to certain parts of his own particular favourite river, can devote much time and study to the making of casts, experimenting with gradual and steep tapers, but he will find a cast made up as follows will usually satisfy all his wants. The lower half should be parallel, all of one thickness, viz., the finest the trout demand or his skill permits, while the other half should be made up from the other strengths.
Gut as sold nowadays is usually stained, and many are the different shades required to meet the demands of the fastidious angler. We prefer to have it only faintly stained, a kind of misty shade, and think more of it after it has been in use for a few hours. After alternate exposures to the water and sun, the stain disappears, and the gut, we imagine, acquires invisibility and consequently greater deadlines. When we settle down to attempt the downfall of some particularly good fish, we never put on a new cast, but one that has already several victories to its credit.
There is no part of the apparatus deserving of more attention than the hook on which the fly is dressed. If the angler wishes to catch trout, and refuses to be content with merely raising them to his fly, then he must give his careful attention to his hooks.
A dry-fly hook should be light and strong, tempered so that it will not break readily or bend to the weight of a heavy trout; it should have a wide gape so that it will hook and not only scrape the mouth of a fish; it should be long and very sharp a the point, and have great penetrating power; it should be straight and unsnecked in the wire so that it floats on an even keel; it must be eyed.
This question of hooks has received of late much consideration from tackle-makers, and now most of them stock a special type of hook for dry-fly work. The result is that the angler is now able to procure hooks which have many, if not all, the requirements mentioned above, and he should take care that he gets them.
The correct size of hook for each particular pattern of fly should also be obtained by the angler, and that can be determined at once by consulting the plate of artificial flies. We should like to specify the size exactly by number and name, but we cannot do so without mentioning the name of some maker or dealer. Our objection to doing so is that we might seem to be claiming for a hook a superiority that it does not possess; we have not tested ah makes, though we have tried many, and there may be a series better than any we have used. The guidance to size which the plate gives should prove sufficient.
Knot for Eyed Fly
It is quite unnecessary to cut the end of gut short, as it is inconspicuous amongst the tackle or between the wings of the fly.
The knot should be retied whenever the gut shows the least sign of wear.
It is necessary to anoint a fly with some preparation which will enable it to remain on the surface of the water. In olden days we used for the purpose, vaseline, paraffin, and even butter from the lunch sandwiches, when we chanced to leave both the former behind, but we now have much superior materials. Many years ago we were introduced to Natare, a mixture obtainable everywhere, we should imagine, and so perfectly has it always done its work that there is no need for us to try any other floating agent. It is possible that Floatane, Duxoyi, etc., have the same composition. Mucilin is also highly recommended.
Beginners frequently ask how often it is necessary to make an application of the agent. Those of the liquids mentioned above that we have used are very lasting in their effects, being in fact almost, if not wholly, permanent; but a good practice is to wash, dry, and re-anoint the fly immediately after it has made a capture. It should be noted, however, that at times an absolutely dry-fly is much more enticing than one which, though it still floats, is somewhat water-logged. It is well, therefore, to dry the fly thoroughly before offering it to a rising trout, and also when changing from one pool to another. Amadou is recommended for drying the fly, and after much trouble we procured some, but it is not one whit better than filter-paper. It is a very good plan to treat with Natare all dry-flies as soon as made, or received from the tackle-maker. They are then ready fur use at any moment.
The line must also be made to float, and to effect this we have always used Cerolene. Other preparations like Mueilin and Floataline may be equally good, but of them we have no experience. A dressing of Cerolene must be given fairly frequently in the course of a day; the angler will see plainly for himself when his line is calling for treatment.
Opinions are divided as to Whether or not the cast should be allowed to sink. After much experiment we have reached the conclusion that it should be rubbed down with Cerolene to within a foot of the fly or flies. A moment's consideration will show that, if any part of the line or cast is beneath the surface, the action of the rod in making the backward cast must pull the fly under. A few experiences of this kind must have a very injurious effect on the fly, loading it with water, neutralising the care expended on its construction, and very probably reducing its efficiency. It would appear, therefore, that the whole cast ought to float, but, whatever it may be to the trout, a floating cast is alarmingly conspicuous to the angler, who is apt to feel that it removes all possibility of success. Accordingly, we leave undressed the foot of gut next the fly. If a dropper-fly is used, then a length of gut on either side of it should be allowed to sink. The length of the water-trip undertaken by the fly is thus reduced very considerably, and at the same time the gut in the vicinity of the fly does not offend the eye. The arrangement is, of course, a compromise, but in practice it works so well that we have never felt inclined to hold it responsible for failures.
A line-greaser, such as is now procurable anywhere, is convenient both for carrying and applying the Cerolene; it is really an indispensable part of the equipment.
Creel, Landing Net, &c.
When the angler goes out fishing with the dry- fly, he is rather more likely to require a large creel or bag, and a strong, capacious landing-net than at other times; but he should content himself with his present possessions, until he discovers for himself that they are inadequate for his purpose or unworthy of the lure.
The subject of flies, being both large and important, will be dealt with in a subsequent chapter.