"Why don't you take up Fly-fishing?"
Now, that's a simple enough question isn't it? No hidden traps
to fall into. No. Just a simple and straightforward question.
Ah well. How gullible we humans are.
Over the years I have come to realise that the question should
have been. "Why on earth have you taken up Fly fishing?"
I was introduced to the art, sport, game, confidence trick, call
it what you will by an old friend (and she still is) many years
ago. Having broken my neck in 1953 and being somewhat hampered
in the rapid movement department, she thought that the pursuit of
the trout would keep me out of trouble and be good for my soul.
(Friends come in many guises!). Her thinking was that many 'expert'
anglers can be seen casting from the kneeling position - so, if they
could do it kneeling down I could do it sitting down. It's difficult
to argue with a genteel old lady who knows 'she is right'. I wouldn't
dare. As it has turned out, my disability has been of no consequence
in my 'pursuit of the trout'. But . . .
Yes, there's always a 'but.'
First of all one requires a rod, a reel and a line. At this point
the would be fisherman is an innocent at large. A rod? Well a rod
is a rod, isn't it? How wonderfully naive.
The world is suddenly filled with words like fast action, slow action,
spinning, carbon, cane, glass fibre, long, short, single handed, double
handed. And as for lines, well . . . A veritable Pandora's box
opens up before you know it.
What happened to the willow pole I used as a boy? There's that
So . . . you get a rod, reel and line.
In spite of all the manufacturers advertisements it usually turns out
to be the cheapest that you can find. At today's prices it's probably
all you can afford anyway.
Now the fun begins. You learn to cast.
It is at this stage in the proceedings that you encounter that rarely
acknowledged, but increasingly common, freak of nature - the moving
tree. Don't let anyone tell you that they don't exist, they do.
The Dodo and Great Auk may be extinct, but moving trees aren't.
I've encountered them on many occasions. You choose a nice open
place. In all directions, stretching to the distant horizon there
is nothing but a flat, empty landscape. You cast. There's a tug
on the line from behind you. You turn to find your fly caught
high in the branches of the sixty foot oak tree which quietly
moved into position whilst your attention was elsewhere. If it
isn't a tree it will be a single stalk of grass - with the strength
of tensile steel. They are all capable of rapid and silent movement.
Yep, you've all met them.
"Keep that back cast up!" Is the oft heard shout.
Oh come on. Aren't we trying to cast to a fish in FRONT of us?
What's all this back cast nonsense. Don't 'they' realise that
it's all you can do to get the line out in front - where if your
memory serves you correctly - the fish are? That's where they are.
You take no notice - and end up wrapped in coils of line.
You soon learn.
Eventually the day dawns when fired with a wonderful - if misplaced -
confidence you set forth on your own for a day's fishing. Still the
When Izaak Walton wrote 'The Compleat Angler,' he may not have had
you in mind, but you are going to give it your best shot.
Right then, what have we got?
A bottle of Scotch. A twelve year old single Malt if possible. A
glass to drink it from or, if you are lucky and have a maiden Aunt,
a set of those folding steel cup things in a leather case. You got
them for Christmas six years ago. A folding chair to sit on while
you drink the aforementioned Scotch. A plastic box full of
sandwiches - various. A Swiss army knife - that you can't open
without breaking your finger nails - but you ought to take it just
in case. A spare pair of socks. Two hats, one waterproof, the
other a sort of purplish woolly thing. - the maiden Aunt again.
Short waterproof boots. A wading staff - a friend at the club
said you should have one with you. Always comes in handy.
A golfing umbrella - yellow and orange panels. A waterproof coat.
A big woolly jumper. Another bottle of Scotch - in case you meet
some friends from the office. A book on river flies. The next
door neighbours dog. Yours didn't want to come and anyway your
neighbour's was asleep on the back seat of the car. Oh, and a
landing net a reel and a rod. Oh yes, and a box of flies.
Beautiful brightly coloured specimens with names like 'Hairy Mary,'
'Matuka,' 'Grouse and Scarlet.' They really do look good. A
present from the family.
"It's Dry fly upstream only here, Sir." The Keeper's welcome is
friendly enough, but aren't all flies dry? Can't remember seeing
a wet one anywhere - except the ones which land in your glass of
beer just before you drink it.
"Dry flies are the ones which float . . . sir." It's that smile.
Not exactly a patting you on the head smile, but pretty close.
And did you notice that "sir," it's different now.
I thought they all floated.
He examines your eagerly proffered fly box.
"No sir. No. These are all Salmon flies and streamers."
That sort of ends any real contribution you can make to
"This is what you want." Between two gnarled brown fingers he holds
a tiny hook with some even tinier feather things on it.
"A number sixteen Blue Winged Olive."
But eventually you learn all the jargon - realize that most flies
are made to catch fishermen not fish, as are most of the gadgets,
but you still buy 'em. Because it's fun to hang them in your hat
or from your fishing jacket. And your neighbours can see that
you're a fisherman.
You become inexorably and inexplicably - hooked.
You join that band of individuals - The fisherman. A man close
You see it all. The mountains, hills and valleys. They are your domain.
The rain, thunder, lightening. The mud, the mosquitoes, the . . . it's
You begin to wonder at the anachronism that you now subscribe to.
How a day's intense concentration on placing your fly in the right
place can be a most relaxing pastime! Concentrate like that at work
all day and you go home exhausted.
Take the dog for a walk on a wet and windy evening? Not if you can
avoid it. Yet the fisherman is a martyr to the weather. He will
withstand conditions that lunar astronauts would flinch at.
The 'hatch' will start any minute now . . .
"You should have been here yesterday, Sir. Fish rising all over the river."
"Just after you packed up last night, Sir. The river was alive - fish everywhere."
The naive optimism is still there, possibly coloured by age with a
tinge of cynicism, but there is no doubt that one day you will catch
the 'big one.'
If only you had the right equipment.
What's the material that those new rods are made of? Texi-flexi spiral
wound carbongraphite high modulus resin bonded light weight fibres.
Whole rod only weighs 5 grams.
Yeah. That must be the answer. With a rod like that you could cast
farther (all day) and more accurately. Be able to present a smaller
fly on a lighter line. Oh yes that's the rod. It'll solve all your
problems. While you're in the shop it would probably be a good idea
to get one of those new reels that weigh less than a quarter ounce.
And a line. A wasp waist double taper fluorescent black high floater.
Now you're ready.
You've got a rod, a reel and a line . . .Hmmmmph.
And you are still an innocent at large.
That's why you took up fishing!
You never learn. ~ Mike Pratt