My husband, JC or Castwell, and I kid each
other a lot - and we try not to take ourselves
too seriously. However, we have a little 'inside'
joke or phrase about fishing "Upstream and Dry."
It congers up a British looking guy, tweed jacket,
shirt and tie, plus fours, hip boots and one of
those neat pipes with the big crook in the
stem...very proper. He, of course, is fishing
a cane rod. Nice visual at least.
We both really do enjoy fishing dry flies - it's
terrific fun to see the trout take the fly. And
a large part of the game is to deliver the fly in
such a way that the trout takes it exactly the
same way as it took the previous natural. Just a
tip up of the head, open mouth and fly dropping
in makes the picture perfect.
You've no doubt heard the 'upstream and dry' story
before - it certainly isn't new. But I'll bet a
dry fly you don't know the origin.
In 1857 William Stewart published the Practical
Angler. His writing explained in detail the
what, how, when and where to fish. There were people
fishing upstream at the time, although downstream
was the more accepted method. He claimed "not more
than one in a hundred anglers fishes upstream with
The neat part is Stewart's reasoning for fishing upstream.
"The trout doesn't see the angler; there is a much
better chance of hooking the fish when the fish
rises above the angler; fishing upstream disturbs
the water less than fishing down, especially when
a fish is hooked, as it is then played through
water that has already been fished. Fish hooked
by fishing downstream are played through the water
the angler has not fished, and consequently, the
fish he hopes to catch are spooked by the fight
of the one hooked. Last, the angler can much
better adapt the action of his fly to imitate
the action of the natural insects when the cast
is made upstream - that is to say, a drag-free
drift is better achieved on the slack line that
results from the upstream cast."
Good grief! That was written 147 years ago!
Talk about nothing being "new."
That Stewart quote above is from A Concise
History of Fly Fishing by Glenn Law. JC
reviewed the book a while back - and it really is
Interestingly, the upstream and dry originally
was intended as a way to deceive the fish in
clear and or low water conditions. The "old"
downstream method was still considered the best
in muddy or high water!
Another little piece of trivia, wading in English
streams wasn't considered "proper" - but not for
the reasons you might expect. Boots which we
use now, hippers for example, hadn't been invented
yet! So wading when it was done, was done in one's
clothing. There are even some warnings to not stay
in the water so long as to have your legs turn
'moribund.' (It seems blue was acceptable however).
I really enjoy reading the old descriptions - and
realizing how far we have come in some respects,
while in others, we are going in circles.
For example, long rods - VERY long rods were used
hundreds of years ago. Those usually didn't have
a reel, or a line you could 'take up' at all, but
as time when on, the anglers of long ago were as
concerned as they are today about the casting of
the rod. How to obtain a longer cast, longer,
drag free drift - same game, different time.
The two-handed rod was the staple - and we've
come the complete circle back to it today.
I understand history doesn't light everyone's fire,
but it can be absolutely fascinating. Sometimes
actually knowing the connections between fly fishing
hundreds of years ago and where we are now can really
enhance your enjoyment and understanding of our sport.
It's like I've said before - we've all walked in the
shoes of every other fly fisher who ever lived.
Or maybe Flats Dude said it better in his column this
week: "Just think; when we are fishing, no matter if
you are standing in your cold-water stream, or you,
in your warm-water river, and me on my saltwater flat;
we are all connected physically by the water in which
It's the connection that counts! ~ DLB
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