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Casting - as a beginner

Troubles ok a Dry Fly Cast - The Perversity of Trout - Two Evenings' Experience.
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The actual muscular or mechanical action of casting a line with a fly attached admits of no explanation by mere words. As Mr. Herbert Spencer occupied several pages before acquiring the polysyllabic satisfaction of his definition of ' Life,' humbler individuals prone to the use of a single word when a cast goes wrong, may be forgiven if they avoid defining the process. It can only be acquired by practice and vastly improved by watching a good man at work while really fishing. To practice with a line upon a lawn is of course a good plan at first, keeping the elbow fairly close to one's side and using the forearm and wrist until by the knack of a slight but almost imperceptible jerk and pause the line flies forward and backward in the air without falling down at one's feet or becoming entangled with the top joint.

By the river's bank it all becomes more difficult and there is no denying that the perpetual hitching up in grass, branches, or brambles forms a somewhat wearying drudgery which every beginner has to go through and finally conquer. How well we all know that distracting moment when, after getting out the exact length of line required to reach the rising fish, the fly is caught by the neck of a malignant buttercup far back in the meadow behind, or perhaps worse, by a small bramble which is absolutely hanging over the fish. How often in such positions have we crept back and carefully decapitated with scissors every flower or leaf which seemed likely to prove an obstacle, or crawled forward ventre a terre and chin in nettles with creel and landing net swinging round under our knees, to free the fly from its place over a trout's nose. Talk of an angler's patience, why the exasperation of such moments is without equal. If a cow treads on your top joint you have something to address your remarks to and you can blame your own carelessness for leaving your rod on the grass. Or if a bat takes your best fly at a time when you can scarcely see to thread on another. But the puff of wind which springs up actually after your correct cast is made and wafts your fly into the aforesaid bramble does not stop to listen. It has moved upstream with the fish and leaves you with your perspiration and expletives.

But what is the bright side of the picture and how well is the game worth the candle if the whole scheme works successfully and the fly is taken? How disguise is then thrown to the winds as with line running off the reel one is free at length to stand up and play the man instead of the snake, as well as - perhaps - play the fish right into the landing net?

One of the most effective casts to use, especially for a trout rising under one's own bank, is where the rod is held almost parallel to the water and the fly is thrown as it were slightly upward instead of downward and is consequently able to pitch so softly that the odds are much in favour of its being mistaken for a real insect. In water but little fished- I have had no experience - a trout even if be pays no attention to the fly may at any rate not be seriously alarmed, and he may possibly be tempted with another pattern; but very different is his behaviour on club or open waters. Far too often the very sight of an artificial fly makes him shun all further thought of dessert. He slips away and sulks in a secluded drawing room half a fathom down among the weeds. In such a case it becomes obvious folly to continue casting at the spot. Nothing but a long rest is likely to cure him. Note the spot for another hour - or another day - and move along.

On certain warm evenings trout appear to be possessed of almost unnatural cunning, rendering it doubtful whether it is any use continuing to cast for them. I would like to describe two evenings spent by a large but still weir pool on the 29th and 30th of June. The river was low and practically no water ran over the fir trunks which, laid side by side, formed the slope over which the river when full rushed with plenty of red or white foam. The pool itself was just about forty yards square so that every bit of it could be reached from one side or the other. Under the escarpment of fir poles the quiet bottle-green water was perhaps five or six feet deep shelving gradually away to a shallowing and shingly beach. As this beach was due west of the weir, anyone fishing in the evening enjoyed or rather endured the disadvantage of having the setting sun or its warm afterglow behind him, and I could not but remember how seldom any good fish were taken by anglers in that position. The day had been one of cloudless sunshine, a faint southerly wind and the air full of insect life.

After waiting until eight o'clock to see the arrival of the inevitable angler at this enviable period of the day and finding to my immense relief that he had been attracted elsewhere, I determined to risk a slippery tall and to get on to the sloping weir itself, take position on the shiny larch trunks, and await the evening rise. With no one watching it was not difficult and I managed to find an insecure seathold behind a clump of dock leaves and jetsam in which a dipper's brood had been hatched. Seated there with a background of the sloping weir and dark trees I could reach fully half, and that the deeper half, of the pool into which little runnels of gurgling water found their way under the fir logs. Choosing a hackled blue upright the shape, size, and side-bend of which satisfied in every way I watched the water intently.

At about 8.15 the rise began, one - two - three fish, nice quiet pooly rises which promised all things. Selecting a fish which had three times taken down something from the same square inch of water I made a cast and never did a fly pitch more softly in the intended spot. It was untouched and it floated slowly down over the place where fish number two had just risen. This process was repeated quietly, and all the time both these and a full dozen of other fish were rising in the same determined manner, yet not one of them would even see the blue upright. I changed the fly to winged olive, smaller pattern, and again made some thirty casts. I changed again: without avail. The last train went by in the distance (8.45) and still not a touch. Then without rhyme or reason I was taken; a severe prick, tug - and gone. After that the rise continued for another twenty minutes and yet not a touch. I tell you it was maddening. No jumping out of water or bulging but, a steady suck down each moment by good fish who seemed to have lost their heads with gnawing hunger. It was like being the victim of a nightmare.

Soon after nine the fish rose less; but still they continued at intervals - real lumpers for that water - literally asking to be hooked - and yet not a touch of any fly 1 offered them! With back half paralysed by cashing in this uncomfortable position and with grasp well nigh gone, I staggered up, got back to the bank and again tried in the growing darkness to secure one - only one to take home. But no, not even a sedge or a governor -would they look at, so with angry heart, empty creel and damp séant I tramped the three weary miles home never to fish again.

Well, as we know, time heals all that, and the next day at teatime I was at the village inn half-a-mile from the aforesaid weir pool, putting together the maligned rod and the execrated line and affixing thereto the same accursed blue upright which had done such execution in distracting trout the evening before. Tea, Devonshire cream and a new mixture of tobacco had somehow combined to make the sight of the river palatable, and laughing at my feat of the previous evening I was even able to bear the sight of the green water viewed from the bridge parapet upon which on such a night as this promised to be, had the vicar of that old-world parish laid out exactly a year before glistening in the early June moonlight four trout each one over the full pound caught - with two others of smaller size- -while sauntering hatless up the meadow below the weir, clad in dinner suit and evening shoes. His plan was to throw a dry fly left-handed over a low fringe of nasty bushes which nearly every other angler passed by with a reminiscence of flies and entire casts caught up on horrible spiky branches overhanging the deeper water.

I stayed by the bridge for a long time thinking of the fish that had been lost under (he red roots of those bushes, waiting both for the sun to set behind the high ground to the westward, and also to see if the last train brought any other angler. A friend came who had formed one in a small fisherman's knot at the Club that morning when I had described my catalogue of failure to which they listened with unappreciated attention. He was going a mile up the water, not even passing the weir pool, so that he would not interfere with me or my plans. At a little before 8 I decided after much vacillation to again climb on to the weir and this time to try the still stretch above it. There is always something very comfortable in finding oneself able to work from a lower level than the water and before long a promising fish rose close under the red cliff.

Owing to trailing ivy and upstanding foxgloves leaving as little space as they could through which to make a cast, it became a matter of creaking and crawling on a slimy edge board to get into a possible position, but the end rewarded the means for he took the blue upright without demur, behaved most sportingly, and was eventually netted after a final splash on the surface - a three-quarter pounder. Apparently this disturbed all others, for not another rise took place even under the overhanging bushes where the natives of the deep pool might know themselves to be safe from feathered steel. So much so that I began to look below me at the weir pool which was so alive with rings the previous evening. There the fish began just as they had before, two especially rising in the same positions.

Slipping down to my old place it took but little time to make a cast for the first and as though by magic this was taker, at once by something heavy. He hooked himself almost as he plunged down and kindly made away to the shallow water instead of collecting his thoughts and running under the fir poles with the line or the cast round an occasional rusty nail. Backwards and forwards he went boring down to the bottom, feeling on the long line as though he must be a two pound peal. After exhausting himself nobly among the stones he came lamblike to the net and proved my best of the month (i lb. 3 oz.) This was evidently my No. 1 of the yestereve. Before completing his laying out in a wrapping of dockleaf, No. 2 was more than ready, swallowed the same fly as though it were a jujube - far down its gullet as it proved - and after a vicious kicking on the top of the water where it was held hard joined its companion in the creel.

During the ensuing half-hour nine or ten trout took that fly, mostly between 8 and 14 ounces, and of these all but two were landed, one escaping after a quivering jump and the other breaking me, fortunately only the gut point, under the fir logs. After that I tied on the first fly that came to hand and it received due attention. Whether, mistaking my sex, Natumque furens quid femina possit, they feared she would come the next day and dynamite the pool, as Cingalese blasters do in Ceylon, can never be known, but anyhow they made ravenous amends. When reaching home I had nine fish the best seven of which weighed 5 lbs. 9 oz., by far my best basket for the season on that river. Latitude, longitude, temperature, season, time, wind, cast, fly, identity and position of angler, state of water in colour and volume, all were precisely similar on these two evenings, yet the results were accurately as described.

Down stream – Up stream – Dry fly.

Let us suppose the time is Easter, which embraces the entire month of April. It is not too late for downstream fishing, and should you not as yet have learnt to throw a fly upstream well, it may be your only alternative, particularly if the water be rather full and coloured. Even for downstream fishing it is best to use a tapered cast as far less likely to tangle, while the old-fashioned flies tied on gut will save you trouble and perhaps be more effective. To give yourself every encouragement fish as far as you can with the wind behind you, so that the least effort is necessary for switching the flies on to the water. You have put on say a red-upright tail fly and an iron- blue as a dropper, both plain hackle. Cast them well out at right angles to the bank or slightly down stream and allow the current to carry them round in a semi-circle until they come almost to rest under your own bank. If the stream is fairly fast and you feel a tug hold the rod steady, and nine times out of ten the fish will hook himself. Some anglers say strike, so if you like adopt both plans alternately and judge for yourself.

Probably like most people who take up fly fishing and who are keen to become more or less proficient at it, you will soon discard this method altogether excepting when season, wind or water renders it the only way of filling a basket. That the down stream style will fill a basket on certain days is undeniable, and thirty years ago it was in general use. Fortunately for the stock of trout in many rivers they only come to the downstream lure for a few weeks n early spring with that wonderful freedom which old-fashioned anglers love to recount. 1 have seen a three days' take of ninety fish fall to one rod in March, more than half of which were dark little eely things of four or six ounces which should never have been killed. On such lays as these it is probable that nearly every fish that saw the flies tried for them and one can quite credit tales of three being taken on a cast. Two will occur at times, in which case secure the end fish first, as the fellow on the dropper can still be played from the net it if he proves lively, whereas should the dropper fish be in the net, the end one can at once get a sharp pull on taut gut and manage his own release.

If after a day or two of down streaming the water fines and the wind drops, or still better gives place to sharp showers and sunny intervals, change your tactics and fish up stream casting up-and-across and be ready to stride at any rise or suspicion of a movement near your fly. The dropper is very likely to account for a yellow half-pounder, and great will be your joy at your first experience of a fish caught n this method. You will feel that you have had a far greater hand in the capture than in merely holding the rod while the stream trails the fly along for you. Needless to say the amount of casting is trebled as you cannot afford to allow the flies to remain long on the water. Thrown above you either on to rain-dappled stretches of quiet water or into sparkling runs and stickles they travel towards you at a brisk rate, and you cannot allow them to get too close or the line becomes unmanageable to raise, being too slack to respond to the lifting action of the rod.

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