April 17th, 2006

Looking Back
By James Castwell

Sometimes I forget. Forget that you have not spent as many hours on stream as I have. Ok, some of you have, but there are many who have not. I actually feel I should apologize to you for my attitude somehow. Maybe that is part of why we fly fishers are called snooty and elite and stuff. Maybe it is because we (I) have forgotten how it is for you to be excited over some of the little things some of us take for granted.

I guess I am writing this mostly for you new fellows or those just getting into fly fishing. You may still fish some with a spinning rod, troll for things that need trolling for and in general fish with whatever method it takes to get fish. Neat, I sure don't have any problem with that. I have done all of that and actually would still do it if it was the better method. But let me give you an example of something I do not even pay any attention to any more. I just do what needs doing.

Let's take leaders for an example. I remember using a section of mono tied from the fly line to the fly. For the flies I was using it worked great, and still will for some applications. You may be at that stage in fly fishing right now. Please do not get upset with some who are trying to encourage you to spend three or four bucks for a 'tapered leader.' They really have your best interests in mind. For what you are doing right now though mono is probably fine.

It's when you want to expand your methods the problems will arise. The mono will not lay out a dry fly worth a poop. The thick, (compared to the nice slim end of a tapered leader) will make a dry fly plop down and even maybe sink. It is thick enough to be seen more by a fish and may cause refusals too. Lots of good reasons to step up to a tapered leader if you are going to try new things in fly fishing. Presentation can be important at times.

But, if you are going to just sling big bass bugs, hey, back to the old mono, it will get the job done. However all sorts of variables can enter the situation. Tippet material is one of them. It's the section of non-tapered straight mono that you tie onto the end of a tapered leader. Confused now? If not you should be. These things are just part of what fly fishing is about. Learning the mechanics of it. Discovering the many ways something can be done. How perhaps to do it better, smoother, faster, farther quieter, quicker; best. Oh, you tie on about eighteen inches of tippet, sometimes five feet of it, to the end of your leader for at least a dozen or so reasons.

At this point I guess you are not yet using tapered leaders and do not see any reason and you are right. You are very happy just thinking about fishing and of how you are going to get out there. That you will have the right fly, that you will not make the same mistakes you made last time, that you will use what you learned and put it to good use this time, that you will get the job done and will feel pleased with yourself at your success. That is of course, until you get back from the next trip and vow to never make those mistakes again.

Back to leaders. Someday you will consider tying your own. I mean it, making them for yourself out of sections of mono (special good stuff you will discover) so you can have exactly the right leader and save a lot of money by making them yourself. This is a big time in a fly fishers life. A plateau of sorts. A little like tying your own flies. But, I am not even going to mention that here.

The day will come to when you give that up too because it is not novel anymore, you get lazy, most of yours didn't work very well, your knots came apart, they did not save you big bucks, the knots caught on grass or moss when you retrieved them and you lost the fish of a lifetime when one of the knots got caught on a stick and the fish got off. (To those still tying your own. Keep at it; it's great fun.) See how much there is to leaders? But wait, there's more.

These things can be made of all types of stuff. I can't begin to list them but, mono, fluorocarbon, and 97 different mixtures of the two just for starters. Do you want yours to be abrasion resistant, non-stretchy, really stretchy, invisible, disappear in deep water, strong, stiff, limp or what? Still not convinced? How long should your leader be? And how long should the tippet be? And what the heck is a furled leader, a poly leader, a gut leader, a braided one or a saltwater one or a freshwater one?

Just look. I have written a whole column on leaders and for the most part only asked questions. No real answers, but that is the way fly fishing is. There are always many more questions than answers. And just when you think you have the answer, someone will come up with a new question.

So, welcome to fly fishing. Get excited at each and every step along the way. There is no right and wrong to any of it. There may be some things that most will agree seem to work better and let's hope you discover them in your travels. The important thing is to keep on the road. Stick with it. It is great fun and will pay you grand rewards over the rest of your lifetime.

Looking back; it did for me.. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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