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Though comparatively very few anglers have become dry-fly fishers, it is probable that a great many have given the floating lure a trial j but it is generally after many weary hours of fruitless casting on an un favourable fishing day, when everything else has proved of no avail, that they suddenly remember the existence of a little box of dry-flies stowed away

They proceed to put them to the test, having heard of their infallibility, but they are in the worst humour for fishing after long-continued disappointment, and they cast without care or interest. The result in all likelihood is further failure; the efficacy of the dry-fly is declared a myth, and its devotees are denounced as unmitigated exaggerators, or the equivalent in words of fewer syllables. They make a general deduction from one particular isolated case, but fail to see that, if they apply the same sort of reasoning to all their experiences of the day, they must conclude that the wet-fly, or the worm, or whatever lure happened to be in use, has absolutely no power to capture a trout.

Now the dry-fly on its trial should be used under conditions which seem to predict a successful issue, that is to say, at a time when trout are feeding on the surface. It is not fair to judge it by the response it elicits when the living fly is either absent or ignored. We do not estimate the worthiness of the trout by the fight it displays in December, or assess the value of the grayling from its April form; we do not decide that the wet-fly is a useless lure because it brings little sport in July. Accordingly we ask the beginner to post pone his attempt and withhold his opinion of the floating fly until the advent of an auspicious day.

Success with the dry-fly is not inevitable at all times; but on certain occasions it is, and often, very often, when the invitation to use it is far from clear, it may be truly astonishing. Even in some cases when used as a kind of forlorn hope, it has succeeded beyond the wildest expectations, and the lucky angler has been converted at a stroke into an enthusiastic dry-flyer ready to throw away his assortment of wet-flies and bait-tackles; but such a pleasant experience is given to few and deserved by none.

The dry-fly can and sometimes does prove very attractive, when fish are not rising or taking any form of food, for the very1 good and sufficient reason that, resembling as it does a living insect, and probably one, moreover, that is well known on the stream, it may arouse within a trout not any distrust but rather a desire to eat. However, such a reception cannot be depended upon in these circumstances, and therefore, as we earnestly desire the beginner to come to an honest and correct conclusion regarding his new lure, we hope he will select for the occasion of Ids first ventures the conditions already suggested.

Before he sets out he should prepare a cast according to the following plan, knotting the lengths of gut together by means of the valuable knot. Let us suppose that each strand of gut is sixteen inches long. Flight of these will be required, four of 4x, two of 3x, and one each of 2x and 1x; they should be care fully selected from the hank, round, smooth and without flaw, and put into slightly warmed water for at least an hour to soften. In making up the cast, the end of strand 4, where it is joined to strand 3, should be pulled out to about three inches, and then the knot drawn tight. This is the most convenient and satisfactory method of attaching a dropper-fly; not only is the fly easily, quickly, neatly, and securely fastened, but it stands out beautifully at right angles to the cast. The wet-fly fisher on loch and stream would do well to adept this method.

It will be apparent that we are recommending the beginner to fish two dry-flies on the cast, and this advice will be considered so very extraordinary in certain quarters that it is necessary to give reasons for daring to oppose recognised authority.

The reasons are as follows:

  1. As already explained in Chapter III, it requires a great effort on the part of the wet-fly fisher to reduce his three or four or more flies to a single unit at one fell swoop. Many Clyde and Tweed anglers still use a cast carrying as many as ten flies; it will be difficult to convert them to the dry-fly.
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  3. The cast has two points of suspension, and therefore the flies are not so readily dragged under the surface by the cast and line, when the latter begin to lose the power to float. The life of the fly is prolonged, and a willing trout is not deterred by unnatural behaviour of the fly.
  4. The cast falls more lightly and more horizontally on the water if it carries two flies. At least we imagine it does and, seeing that the hackles do tend to lessen the speed of descent, it is reason able to suppose that, by doubling their number, the fall will be rendered still more gradual. If the surmise is correct, surely the advantage is of value to anyone and especially to the beginner.
  5. In water ruffled by wind or current, it is sometimes difficult to discern a fly. If two are used, one may be easily seen, and then the other can be picked up at once. In dry-fly fishing it is most essential to watch the flies carefully.
  6. Often we have caught a trout on the tail fly, when there could be no doubt that the dropper- fly had previously passed over the fish. When both flies are alike in pattern, or even if they are different, and the first causes no alarm, then one is justified in concluding that the trout was interested by the first and therefore fell to the second, or alternatively that it imagined a hatch had taken place, and that it was time to get busy. The result might be the same if we were to use a single fly and cast it twice, but we would require also to know of the trout's existence and be sure of placing the fly on the right line. We assume, of course, that there is no rise to guide the cast.
  7. In practice we find - or perhaps it were better to say we think we find, for there is no certainty in fishing - that two flies are superior to one, when rising fish are not m evidence, and we are casting at a venture.

There are objections to the use of two flies:

  1. One fly may interfere with the other's free progress down the stream.
  2. One may catch up in weeds while a trout is being landed.

Neither of these accidents is possible in the pool or flat where we intend the beginner should make his early efforts. Weeds, eddies, and all difficulties will be assumed to be non-existent; but, after some expertness in the art of manipulating and delivering a floating fly is attained, he will not avoid such difficulties. He will expressly seek them, and he will find soon enough that in certain places one fly is better than two. He will remove the dropper-fly, but not necessarily the dependent gut, whenever he finds It advisable; for example, when he tries some tricky corner, and also when he seeks to accomplish the death of an uncommonly good specimen He does not require to be told that the prospects of victory are much enhanced if the attention is undivided.

There is one event made not impossible by the use of two flies, neither calamitous nor objection able, but hi every way glorious, viz. a double capture, and we sincerely hope that such fortune comes to the dry-fly fisher on his first day. We have had that thrilling experience dozens of times, and every time it comes we are as delighted as with the first; it can never become stale, for the issue is uncertain, until the pair of beauties lie side by side high up the gravel. So fine a bit of sport we refuse to make impossible, and when ever we encounter an easy flat we affix again the dropper-fly to the cast, if perchance we have just previously been poking about cunning nooks of the stream.

Now the angler who is after fish and nothing else does not want to capture two trout simultaneously; it would mean for him loss of time and opportunity during a good rise. But he, who desires sport: above all, will welcome the hooking of a double and enjoy himself to the full, even though he lose one or both in the landing.

The beginner's lesson is being rather long delayed by discussions which he may not clearly under stand, but we hope that he will yet appreciate these digressions.

Let us imagine the day all that could be desired - a fine day in May, with sunshine and cloud, a cool upstream breeze, conditions which suggest the probability of a good hatch of duns occurring from time to time and causing the trout to be lively. He should pass on up the river, neglecting even tempting places and ignoring rising trout - it is only for one day that he is asked to undergo such hardships - until he arrives at a flat of moderate depth, varying from one to three feet, having a nice gentle current well spread over it and a sparkling stream at the head. Perhaps if he knows his river really well, he can go to such a place without delay or much consideration. We are stipulating the easiest of conditions: but such places are easy to find. We could name dozens of such flats on both Clyde and Tweed; but it is unnecessary, for those who fish these rivers will think of them at once, and those who know them not would not benefit by the list.

In a damper he should have his cast ready for work; but, before he begins operations, he should first determine the species of fly on the water. He should wade quietly out, at a part he does not intend to fish, and intercept one or more of the flies floating down. If trout are rising, he will be rather unwilling to do this, being more eager to fish than to catch flies, but the process will occupy but a few minutes, and the confidence it will give him to know that he is using a fly the nearest approach to the natural insect he can find in his box will stand him in good stead. Confidence in his tackle is the best part of his whole equipment. Of course, it he has much experience, he may be able to name the fly correctly after a single glance from a distance, but sometimes the expert requires to make a close examination. Doubt will not enter his mind, if he really knows the species of fly.

He should now put up his rod, rub down from five to ten yards of his line with Cerolene, tie tin his cast, and to it attach two flies bearing as close a resemblance as possible to the insect he has just captured. The flies should be fixed by means of the simple but very reliable knot described and illustrated on page 51, dipped in Nature, and dried with filter- paper. A drop of this liquid or a little of the line-dressing should be taken between the finger and thumb of the left hand and applied to the whole cast excepting a foot on each side of the dropper and a similar length at the tail. Nature must not be allowed to touch the line, as it has a solvent effect on the waterproof dressing.

Everything being now in order, he should enter the water quietly about the middle of the flat, where will be a good wave caused by the wind blowing against the current, and when knee-deep turn to face upstream. We cannot tell him the correct length of line to use because that varies with the individual. He should pull off about a yard at a time from the reel, make a false cast in the air when the slack line will run out, and continue to do this tin till he has the length with which he has been accustomed to do his finest casting with the wet-fly.

He must not on any account dip the point of the rod in the water and give it a sudden jerk to get out the line. This is a trick practised by hosts of anglers; but it is none the less a most unnecessary proceeding at any time, and fatal when dry-fly fishing, because it removes most effectively the benefits conferred by the dressing applied to the line.

He is now ready to begin casting the dry-fly, and first and foremost he must remember not to rim directly at the surface, but at an imaginary point a yard vertically above the water. It is very difficult to avoid making this mistake, especially when a trout happens to rise just within casting distance. Everyone knows it is wrong, but many omit to remember the fact at the right moment and, just as the golfer must tell himself to keep his eye on the ball while making his stroke, so the angler must advise himself not to aim at the water or the rise.

By so doing he allows the parachute-like wings or the soft spreading hackle of his flies time to act, and they lower the lures softly to the water. Lightly they will touch, and their most natural appearance, as they float onwards, bobbing to every wavelet, is sure to delight him, and make him feel that success in the shape of an answering rise cannot be long delayed. The first casts should be made straight upstream, the flies allowed to float not more than a yard before they are lifted off, and, after a false cast in the air to throw the water off them, they should be replaced with as much care as he can command. It is highly dangerous to allow them to float farther after an up stream cast - in actual practice t is quite unnecessary - because when he lifts preparatory to the next venture he may, if the flies are too near him, succeed in hooking himself.

It is quite possible that he has heard that, for every cast that is laid on the water, at least a dozen must be made in the air, in order to ensure the flies being thoroughly dry. He may even have seen dry-fly fishers practising these graceful evolutions with the rod and line. These are the timid anglers, terrified to catch a trout, and therefore they reduce the possibility of such a catastrophe to the vanishing point; it is only after they have gained the requisite courage that they venture to put the fly on the water. One false cast is all the fly requires, and even that can be dispensed with, if the angler is in a hurry.

Very soon the beginner will begin to feel that he is picking his flies off the water and laying them on again. He may now vary matters somewhat by casting at various angles to the current, even straight across it. When doing so he may allow the flies to float much farther than before, with out endangering his person, and he is sure to observe that after going a certain distance they are retarded or accelerated in their progress by the line. He is being introduced to an elementary form of " drag " which is the greatest difficulty the dry-fly angler has to contend with, but the successful circumvention of which gives him one of his greatest pleasures.

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