Casting - as a beginner page 2
Upstream casting over rising fish is half-way towards dry fly fishing, and forms a very great advance on the elementary style you have hitherto tried. One fish struck and hooked above you will soon give more pleasure than three which attach themselves below stream. Besides this the upstreamers are as a race considerably better in size. Half and three-quarter pounders will be taken in lieu of medium sized herrings. Facing up stream as all trout do they see no arm-waving angler above them nor do they shy suspiciously as at a fly travelling far slower than the current. Their standpoint shows them a drowned fly travelling at normal pace downstream, and, not detecting the gut attachment, they rise and swallow it. Another obvious advantage the fly when struck is not pulled nut of their mouths but is probably jerked against the corner of the jaw where it takes a firm hold. And lastly the angler is below the fish, able to pull him or rather guide him down with the current instead of having the stream adding its weight to the trout's struggles. How well indeed do large grayling appreciate this advantage, running downstream and setting their broad back fin athwart the fast running water until the angler has to hurry after them with an almost slack line or else risk the break which inevitably follows should a strand of 3 x gut be taken through a bed of weed by an experienced two pounder.
For rivers which in Spring seldom run quite clear and which make their way through red earth or rich loam, receiving at intervals the contents of ditches by the side of ploughed fields, upstream wet fly fishing is probably the most deadly form of angling - leaving worms and minnows out of the question - but in the chalk streams of Hampshire and Wilts where the water runs over a grey-white bottom and is often as clear as Apollinaris, and not unlike it in brilliant sparkle, the dry fly process leaves any other far behind. To the question of the novice ' What is dry fly fishing, and how does it differ from any other kind of angling"? the answer is simple. In the first place it consists of trying to induce a particular fish already noticed as having risen at surface flies to be deceived into taking an artificial which floats over him, sitting as it were upon the water ready to fly away again just as Jive ones are accustomed to do.
In a chalk stream moreover, owing to the clearness of the water and often the absence of cover, it is a matter of some difficulty to approach near enough to the fish - of course from below him--to be able to make the cast without his detecting the movement of arm or rod, and without any unseemly splash of the gut. It is therefore of the greatest importance, sometimes even a sine qua non, that the fly should be placed lightly in the exact position about a foot or two above him at the first cast.
To do this means that the distance must be judged to a nicety, wind or no wind, and the cast be made with neatness and precision, so that the little fly whether hackled or winged pitches upon the water and floats down in full view of the angler as well as of the fish. As soon as it passes over the rise, and is not taken, it is whipped off the surface and dried or kept dry by false casts made in the air two or three times. This ensures its floating; in which process it can be aided by having its wings and hackle slightly water proofed by a soupçon of odourless paraffin oil, or failing that of vaseline. Even a pinch of one's fingers upon the dry fly after rubbing them through one's hair will assist should nothing else be handy.
As many good fish will at certain times of the day any year, only take live floating flies - indeed the most knowing of them nowadays will only take live floating struggling flies - and will allow all sunken or semi-sunker. food to pass, it follows that the man who can imitate the live insect by placing an artificial Iv so as to actually sit upon the water and can throw it so that it floats down without drag at just the natural pace of the current will succeed in deceiving a fish where other devices have tailed.
It is as a rule not wise, however neatly one nay cast, to throw more than three times over a trout. If he takes no notice the best plans to waif and watch him feed again. During this time the pattern of the fly can be quickly changed; and if this change takes the form of a smaller fly so much the better.
One of the great pleasures, and distinctions, of this method is that the angler sees the whole process. Often he sees the dim outline of the fish in the water, and often making his cast can watch the fly alight and see the actual movement of the trout as it rises to seize it. The fly disappears, and as the fish turns down after taking it the strike is made by slightly lifting the rod. Then follows the great reward; or the extreme disappointment of a check, a struggle and the sickening sensation of a slack line almost hitting you in the face, sometimes with the hook intact, sometimes with barb gone, and sometimes with gut severed at the eye, having been worn thin by frequent casting, or frayed by contact with weed on the waters in front or the meadows behind.
A very common experience of these who have riot learned to throw well or who cannot disguise their movements while casting is to find that they have 'put the fish down.' Something has caught his eye, or aroused his suspicions - perhaps a friend from below running up stream and calling out the news - and his form, or his furrow, can be detected as he moves away.
Or if in deeper water he merely drops under the nearest weed bed, and ceases all surface feeding. In either case it is no good continuing to cast.
A man thoroughly bitten by dry fly fishing - a purist in fact - never throws on chance; indeed he does not throw over a fish he sees or knows to inhabit a certain spot. He looks out for a rising fish and casts for it alone - sometimes devotes an hour to it, and generally ends by pricking, hooking, or getting it.
Without attempting to belittle wet fly fishing, clear water worming, or spinning a minnow, all of which require just as much art, science and practice as throwing a dry fly - and which m addition demand a far superior knowledge of the habits of fish at all different seasons - this latter process appeals to me, and many, as by far the most pleasurable.
Occasionally, it is the only way of catching trout or grayling in club waters. When executed well over a feeding fish it more often succeeds than fails to deceive him; and, should the strike be equally well judged and everything hold until his weight is felt in the net as he is lifted well over the bank and dumped on the grass, the cup of satisfaction is filled to the brim with no after taste of fluke or unfairness. One more advantage can be cited, that as a rule one can make an accurate guess of the size of a rising fish and so devote time, energy and skill to one worth basketing.
A dry fly man on rivers where pounders ere rare is more likely to have one in his creel than any down stream angler, or than his fellows who fish wet, unless they have great experience of the water, like that acquired by residents after a dozen seasons. He often captures trout or grayling from close under his own bank, perhaps in quite shallow water, which the less guarded approach of the wet fly fisherman might scare into its holt. And lastly occasionally - notably on a hot July afternoon when good fish are midging under bushes in sluggish water - will bring back a basket of half-a-dozen fine trout when other rods have declared that the fish will take nothing.
There is the reverse I know: the dry fly man, as he describes himself, sage, sour, and superior - with nothing in his creel-highly critical of all other methods but his own, almost tharking goodness that he has caught nothing, sitting alongside a genial angler who says be prefers a wet fly and produces two brace of trout whose tastes had sympathised with his own.
Approach the water.
The Approach - The Rise - A Trout's Power of Vision - An Old Hand - A Youthful Experience.
That trout have eyes "all the better to see you with," like the wolf in Red Riding Hood, is a fact which non-anglers either disregard or are in utter ignorance of, Take the average man out for a stroll along a river bank, either alone or with the girl of his weekly choice, and watch his behaviour on meeting a fisherman. He has perhaps never seen a fish taken or. a fly and having time to spare, whether the girl has or not, and feeling a certain amount of interest in sport he naturally thinks he would not only like to see the thing done, but determines that, being on the free list, he may also as well be in the front row of the stalls on this his first night.
He accordingly sidles up alongside the rivet bank some half-dozen yards above the angler - the girl is standing on oosey ground and indoor shoes, comfortably out of view of the stage - so that he may be exactly parallel to the rise which she has been sharp enough to detect.
As the fly reaches the water, provided the misguided 'rod ' essays one or more throws before the fish is permanently put down - he peers forward so as to miss nothing, and after the cast is made and the line reeled in he regards the angler with something akin to disgust at not continuing to throw. He sees him spike the rod, and considers that slow tilling of a pipe as a selfish and unfriendly act. Perhaps he imparts the information that ' it was a fish he is sure,' or perhaps he strides off as much as to say ' I shouldn't grudge letting you see me catch a trout if our positions were reversed.'
Now for the matter from the angler's standpoint. He has waited for twenty minutes watching a certain fish - a good one he thinks, rising occasionally and shyly below a clump of celery weed. He has made a short detour in the meadow so as to get well below him. He has approached the edge of the water on his knees and gradually crouched into position as though he were a housebreaker peering into a dining room window. He has measured the distance and already made a cautious cast or two, one of which the fish half rose at.
He has rested that trout a few minutes and is just about to throw again, when he is suddenly made aware of an intrusive man standing above him and approaching at full height to the very margin of the rushes. The trout must already have seen him and bolted under the weed with an appetite for surface food thoroughly sated and a fright that may last an hour. The angler, disgusted and disappointed, makes a despairing cast at the spot and reels up his line resignedly, mentally wondering how any man with eyes in his head can he so wanting in discernment as to suppose that the fish cannot see also.
I remember two sharp looking boys playing this trick to me on the Itchen, and as they looked keen and intelligent and might be about the bank every day I tried to put the matter clearly before them. ' Have you boys ever trapped birds'? 'Yes,' they had, indeed they had. ' Well, if you had a sieve trap and one of you stood twenty yards off with a long string in your hand to pull it with, would you ' - looking at the other boy - ' go and stand right up alongside the sieve to see the birds go under it '? ' Noo, he wouldn't, he knew better than that.' 'Then you may be quite sure that these trout have just as good eyes as birds, and you have spoilt all my chance of catching that, fish this morning.' They took it well and seemed decently sorry. Anyhow they never resented it by stone throwing.
It can never be waste of time to approach the bank cautiously, more particularly if the rod has to be put together, which may mean a quiet quarter-of-an-hour very useful for observation, from a point some yards back in the meadow; To stand on a grassy knoll, or to sit on an overhanging stile at the extreme edge of the water with arms necessarily waving as one threads the line through the rings of the spiked rod - or still worse with one's shadow extending in the form of a moving black bogey right across the stream, is of course to proclaim aloud to all the trout of over six inches that their enemy has appeared and is about to distribute his barbed confetti for their patronage.
To start fishing after such a beginning by steadily walking up stream, tramping perhaps heavily through the rushes and making the boggy and fibrous bank tremble, as it will do for some feet ahead, and to throw at intervals on the chuck and chance it principle, is to raise the hue and cry twenty yards afield for a mile at a time.
And yet how many of us have done this, and how many hundreds more will continue to do it; and then after a trudge of four miles occupying six hours along a stretch of good water, will return home with semi-blistered palm and aching heart to show two little nerring-like trout, deficient probably in sight and intelligence, which are just over the limit.
At the station, or the hotel, such a man will meet - we all have met - a middle-aged taciturn angler who was at that time sitting moodily watching the water from ten yards back in the bracken. ' It has been a wretched day ' we remark with assumed cheerfulness, ' the fish will take nothing. I have only got two, and my friend has hardly had a touch. Have you done anything '? ' Just look at this.' The moody man had opened his creel and lifts out number one. ' About three- quarters,' he grunts. Number two follows. ' A trifle over,' he continues; 'that,' referring to number three, ' I hope is a pounder.' Several more of eight, nine, and ten ounces and last but one a thick dark fellow with the scar of a heron's bill on his side ' that's my best, one pound seven do you think? just six brace.'
Where did he get them? - oh just in the large meadow below the weir. Any marvellous fly unknown to hotel visitors? ' No- -small blue quill and red upright.' And, he might have added, if he had wanted to be sarcastic, ' an intelligent approach to the water.'
The excited feeling of wanting to get to work at once is natural and excusable. The only objection to it is that it does not pay. By taking the precaution of putting up your rod leisurely in some position where, without showing yourself you can obtain a fair view upstream, especially of the bend close under your own bank, you may begin the day or the evening well, rising hooking and landing a tidy fish within the first quarter hour and by so doing may put your eye, hand, and temperament into that state of good form which is so suitable for catching more fish. A contrary state of mind is fatal. I mean when one begins badly and becomes careless and almost testy gradually tending toward Charles Keene's purple faced gentleman who cast his fly book into the river for the infernal fish to choose a pattern for themselves.
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