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Instructions page 2


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As a matter of fact, every angler, no matter what his special predilection as to lure may be, has many of his efforts rendered failures by this same trouble; but in their ease its existence; is seldom suspected, as its effect s not so clearly manifested on other lures as it is on a floating fly. " Drag," and the methods of overcoming it, will be discussed after the elementary principles of dry-fly fishing have been mastered.

It will be remarkable if, by the time the feat of laying a fly neatly and delicately on the water has been fairly satisfactorily accomplished, not a single rise has resulted. If, however, that should be so, there need be no despair or doubt regarding the virtues of the new lure, for such a thing should not be expected if, as is assumed, the trout are not rising, though he will certainly feel surprised that his life like fly riding the stream so naturally should not have elicited some attention.

He should now return to the bank, dry and oil his flies, dry and re-anoint his line, and wait for the mysterious appearance of a sub-imago, the precursor of the next hatch. Sooner or later, very soon on such a day as this, it will arrive, to be followed immediately by dozens more of the same species, whose presence will at once arouse the trout hi to energetic action, and heart y rises will be the outcome.

Out again into midstream he should go, lengthening line on the way, and now he may be so eager to cover a rising trout that he will forget, the in junction not to aim at the surface of the water. If a fish breaks water up in front of him, he will, ii he is like most other anglers, pull off a yard or two of line and throw over it. The cast will be clumsily done, and probably the line will fall heavily where the tail fly should have alighted softly. The first effect of a rise is to make the angler lengthen line. It is rather curious, but very common. He does not consider whether he can cover the trout with the length of hue already out; he takes it for granted that, because it is a rise, it must be far away. He should try first with a false cast whether it is within his distance, and he will find very often that it is; if not, he should step forward a yard or two preferably to handicapping himself with a line he cannot fully command.

Another point to note is that the boil made by a rising trout travels downstream, and there fore, if the fly is cast for the rise and not for the trout, it will fall short of the fateful place. If the fish cannot be attended to at once, its position should be marked by some object on the bank; it may be rather far off for immediate investigation.

Now the beginner will want to know how he should attempt to cover a rising fish. Some authorities will advise him to place his fly a yard or more beyond the trout and allow it to float freely down wards without any movement of the rod. This may serve in some waters; but in the rivers and streams of Southern Scotland, which are fished every day in the season by many accomplished anglers, the trout are inordinately gut-shy. There fore we advise that the tail fly be placed not more than a foot beyond the trout, and that only in streamy water; in calm, current less water it should be placed as neatly as possible exactly on the rise.

Owing to the suspicion with which these trout view even the finest of gut, the cast should not be made, except in a few instances, straight upstream; instead it should be delivered up at an angle of 45 to the current, when of course little gut will traverse the field of vision of the trout, and none at all will pass over it. An upstream cast is necessary or advisable when the trout is lying in very fast water, either at the neck of a pool or under the angler's own bank, in a narrow, curving corner, or wherever obstacles prevent a cast across.

There are three matters arising out of these considerations that call for explanation. We advise the beginner to make his first practice casts with the dry-fly straight upstream, and then tell him that such a cast is to be resorted to only on exceptional occasions. In the first place he is practising, not fishing, but a more important point is that a cast directly upstream, though not a good raising cast, is a grand hooking cast, that is to say, only a few trout will be raised, but of these few a large proportion will be hooked. He is, therefore, not likely to be subjected to many disappointments in the shape of unaccepted offers; but on the other hand might easily make a capture, an event highly desirable at the initiation stages.

The second matter requiring elucidation concerns the statement that trout, which are much sought after, become very suspicious of, and are readily alarmed by, floating gut. In apparent contra diction we have related that a trout may accept the tail-fly after allowing the dropper-fly to pass by untouched. We would not expect such a thing to happen in quiet water of gentle flow, but we know it to be quite common in streamy broken water in which, it is natural to expect, the gut will not be conspicuous, and that is, from necessity, the type, of water into which our flies are most frequently cast.

Thirdly, it will be obvious that, though two flies adorn the cast, aim is always taken with the tail-fly. Theoretically the dropper should not be present, but anglers are not infallible and, as we have good reason to know, frequently overestimate the distance of a rising trout. The dropper-fly very often succeeds in correcting such a mistake. Moreover, in our Scottish streams, trout are numerous and in certain bodies of water are congregated close together. A fish may be observed rising; but it is not by any means the only fish within a circle (if a yard in radius; there are plenty more near it ready to take a fly when the chance comes, and one of them may succumb to the dropper.

Meanwhile the pupil has been industriously casting, gradually working his way up the flat, but taking care, however, not to move forward n the act of delivering the flies. He should keep his line waving in the air while he takes a step or two, and only after corning to rest again at a new position should he make a cast. Obviously, if he acts other wise, the line will not be so tight from rod to fly as it might be and must be, f offers are to have their most welcome ending.

He is certain to have discovered that his flies will not always oblige him by falling and floating right side up after the manner of a living insect. It is customary to say that they do not float with wings cocked, which is perhaps a more picturesque way of phrasing it but which is correct only if the fly happens to be a copy of one of the Ephemeridae. A cast high in air, as already recommended, will usually result in the fly alighting as intended, and an under hand cast will almost always succeed in laying it down correctly. To execute this cast the rod should be held out horizontally across the stream, the line flicked sharply backwards and then brought for ward, but the rod should not be allowed to pass farther upstream than the angler. It is an easy cast to acquire, useful for the purpose mentioned and also in any shallow water, rippling or still, where a trout may readily catch a glimpse of a waving rod; but accuracy in direction with this cast is attained only after much practice.

Also it is very probable that he will be startled by a sharp report, whenever he removes his dies from the water preparatory to making a cast. This phenomenon denotes that he is rather energetic with the backward cast, that in the process he is pulling his flies beneath the surface and then plucking them out, and it probably also means that the line and cast are crying out for another dressing of the floating agent.

If his movements have been quiet and deliberate, and his casts fairly satisfactory, it will be surprising if the reward of a rise is still delayed. If all goes well, a rise is certain, and a fight with a goodly trout w ill end in him netting the first victim to the floating fly. He is sure to admit that the capture has afforded greater satisfaction than it would have given, had the lure been one to which he has been long accustomed. That is largely because the fly, the rise, and the strike are all visible; but, in addition, the trout is almost certain to be a good one for the river, far better than the average that falls to the ordinary wet-fly.

A capture, however, presupposes a rise, an almost certain event even at an early stage, and also a successful attempt at a strike, a much less certain occurrence. Frequently, far more frequently than we really care to admit, a trout hooks itself. This statement may be unpopular, as it takes away from the angler a great part of the: satisfaction he feels; but, however unpleasant, it is nevertheless true. We are unwilling to believe it, but we must, as the evidence is so conclusive. Anyone who cares to withhold his hand when out dry-fly fishing will soon be convinced that it is often unnecessary to assist a trout in securing a fly, but just as surely he will learn that a fish, as soon as it takes the artificial Into its mouth, is aware of the unreality and that it has the faculty of expelling at once the fly which has not been forced securely over the barb by the movement, complicated or simple as the case may be, of the trout as it regains its station. Therefore, because it is sometimes necessary, it is always advisable to strike.

To give clear and explicit instructions on the art of striking is beyond our powers. It seems to us that directions must depend on the individual, his rod, length of line, and the offering trout, that is to say, on many factors all very different and all highly important. A trout rises, the eye sees, the hand acts, the line tightens, the fly responds; many things have to take place and the time required for an answer to each stimulus varies throughout the sequence; if there is delay at any point, the final response must likewise be retarded.

One angler may generally carry through the sequence more quickly than another but even he will not invariably complete it in the same time, because his form changes, winds do not blow always at the same pace and belly out the line to the same extent, the rising trout is not always the same distance away, the fly does not float at a constant rate. It takes a long time for the motion of the wrist to be communicated to the fly, and the time varies with the time, place, trout, and the conditions.

We have fished on Loch Leven and many other lochs, sharing the boat with many friends, and we have noted the rise to the other rod, marked the strike, and waited for the coming of its effect; it was slow. We have asked that the same be done for us, and we, who considered ourselves quick on the strike, learned that we were not. It may surprise some who do not know it to hear that the first action of the strike as usually made is to lower the point of the rod; that adds appreciably to the time taken.

Then there is the trout itself. It may be heavy or light, lazy or agile, hungry or well-fed, slow or quick, and it may rise in many different ways. We have been recommended to count six slowly and then strike. If we carried out that advice on Loch Dochart, we should usually be striving to hit a trout that was anything up to fifty yards away from the fly that had deceived it. We suspect that those who so advise us are in the habit of fishing for trout which rise slowly to intercept a fly and roll lazily over it. We know trout of that kind, and we hook them by lifting the rod slowly until the line is tight, commencing the movement as soon as we see the rise. We are well acquainted with trout which are so agile that, unless the line is straight all through and unless we strike as quickly as we possibly can, we are bound to miss them. Many of these we have hooked by the tail, and that shows that we were rather slow and the trout not quick enough.

We fish all kinds of water, sluggish and swift, running and still, inhabited by trout varying in weight from quarter of a pound up to more than three pounds, and exhibiting all the variety that the race is capable of, and we know that instructions of a definite nature cannot be given. We might attempt a rule, but it would have so many exceptions that the rule would be lost. Each rise must be treated on its merits, and that demands a lightning decision, often wrong perhaps, but some times right and frequently very lucky. In flowing water we endeavour to strike as quickly as possible any trout that appears under a pound in weight; with heavier fish the whole action is more gentle. In still water we may have to respond at once or wait for the trout, everything depends on the way it comes at the fly. As a rule, heavy fish are more leisurely than small ones, but even a salmon can snatch so suddenly that it cannot be answered in time, unless the line is stretched taut down-stream, when reply is unnecessary.

Other anglers may find these methods useless; our quickest action may be to them slow and so each must for himself solve the problem of striking.

In dry-fly fishing the rod should be held in striking position, viz. about 45 to the vertical, and all striking should be done from the reel. It is easier to regulate a reel than it is to apply just the right pressure with a finger to a line.

While the angler must find out for himself whether he is too quick or too slow on the strike, and be able to come to a decision on the spur of the moment regarding any particular fish, he must remember that, when fishing with the dry-fly, he often knows when to expect a rise. This simple fact is equivalent to a gain in speed and must be taken into account.

Many people seem to imagine that " quick " and " forceful " are convertible terms. A strike should never be forceful; it must be gentle although quick, and the reel should give at most but one protesting click or two. Some like to hear the reel sing out its wild cheering notes to the hills around, and glorious music it is when accompanied by a wild headlong rush for liberty. Then it is not only sweet but safe, because it starts more softly. Even a smoothly running reel has some inertia which must be overcome, and that may not be done if the call is too sudden; hence the strike must be administered gently.

Our pupil has now received so many instructions and listened to so much discussion that he must be able to cast a floating fly, raise a trout, and strike it correctly. Of course he has long known how to land it. When the fish has been duly admired and laid to rest in the creel, the fly should be washed to remove any blood or slime that may be adhering to it, and dried. It may be oiled again, but that should not be really necessary. Time should be taken to examine the flies in case they require to be re-tied to the gut, and the wings should be adjusted or stroked into position.

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