Fly-Fishing Tackle for Catching Trout
The core of the fly-fisher’s outfit is the rod, and the rod must be chosen with its purpose in view — that is to say, the sort of water to be fished and the weight and size of line to be lifted. Broadly speaking, a 2.7 m (9 ft) trout rod will do everything an angler wants.
Rod and line must be selected together. If you already possess a rod then take it to the shop when you buy your line. A new system of identification marks, now adopted by the Association of Fishing Tackle Makers, no longer makes this precaution as necessary as was hitherto the case, but it is still worth doing.
The new method of standardizing fly-lines and ‘fitting’ them to rods rests on the sound fundamental principle that the only thing that matters, as regards casting, is the weight of the line. Today, fly-lines are made of silk, Terylene, nylon, or plastic; they may be level, forward-taper, or double-taper, and they may be devised to sink, to float, or to be ‘neutral’. Each of these factors influences the weight of the working part of the line beyond the rod tip, a length of between 8 and 10 yds. Should this piece of line be of incorrect weight to suit the rod then poor casting is the inevitable result.
In future new fly-rods should carry the symbol t followed by a number between 1 and 12. For example 4 means that the rod will handle a line which weighs between 114 and 126 grains per 9 m (10 yds) of working portion. The ideal weight of line for such a rod would be about 8 grams.
The angler therefore can select a rod, check the symbol on the butt, and buy a line bearing the corresponding symbol. The line may be of any type of material so long as the symbol and number indicate that it is of suitable weight.
Fly rods are now made of either split-cane, fibre-glass, or graphite otherwise known as carbon-fibre. Fibre-glass is the least expensive and makes a good trout-rod, steel is powerful and long-lasting. The material of the future is undoubtedly carbon-fibre or graphite. It is exceptionally light and powerful. At the moment it is also very costly.
Essentially, the weight and length of a rod depend on where and how the angler intends to fish. Small- to moderate-sized rivers argue light work for the rod and comparatively short casting distances, but bigger rivers and many reservoirs demand a rod stout enough to punch a longish line across high winds.
Some anglers seem to prefer a stout rod no matter where they fish. A 2.90 m (9+ ft) rod weighing a little over 150 g (6 oz) is heavy enough for most reservoirs and big rivers. A light rod of this type can be wielded all day without fatigue.
The common belief that long rods increase the distance one can cast is a misconception. A tubular glass rod 2.5 m (81 ft) long makes a good long-casting tool.
Personally, I find that a 2.80 m (9 ft) 5 oz rod made of split-cane is suited for most trout fishing and for sea-trout in smaller rivers. On reservoirs and larger rivers a 2.85 m (91 ft) rod gives a better command of the water and has enough backbone to play big fish.
Self-floating fly-lines, which require no greasing and have a tough, smooth dressing, cast well and shoot beautifully. For reservoirs and medium-sized rivers the self-floating line is hard to beat, especially when there is a trace of summer scum on the water. It is useful foras well as for dry, provided one isn’t scraping the bottom.
Smoothly dressed sinking lines are equally useful for fishing slow and deep in early spring. These take the place of the heavy ungreased lines which used to be the usual choice of wet-fly fishers.
Silk lines of the Kingfisher type are lovely to handle and to fish with, although they do suffer from clinging in the rod rings after greasing. Silk, however, being almost neutral in specific gravity can be fished more easily at varying depths than can lines which are either positive sinkers or positive floaters.
For trouting, we like a double-tapered No. 2 dressed silk line on one reel and a No. 3 self-floating (Air Cel Supreme) line on another. These two, on the rods mentioned, have proved adequate on rivers as diverse as the Towy and Usk as well as Blagdon and Chew Lakes. Reservoir anglers especially use sink-tips in which the body of the line floats and only the last ten feet sinks. Still-water men also use shooting heads. With these, 9 m (10 yds) or so of heavy, tapered line is aerialized, taking out up to thirty yards of heavy nylon attached to it for long casting.
Leaders or ‘Casts’
Gut is now obsolete and has been superseded by synthetics. Ordinary nylon monofil is not of much use for fly-leaders, since it is too limp, tangles easily, and quickly ties itself into wind-knots, but hard nylon is now being directly imported from the USA and makes a first-class leader. It is a tough, stiff nylon with small elasticity.
Many anglers still prefer continuous taper leaders. I use these excellent leaders frequently and it is hard to suggest further improvement.
Some anglers are finicky about the colour of leaders. Colour in itself matters little but any form of staining that helps prevent glitter is useful. A dull brown or dark grey is as good as anything.
A 7.5 cm (3 ins) reel for a 2.7 m (9 ft) rod and a 8.5 cm (3+ ins) reel for a 2.85 m (9+ ft) rod is about right. A narrow drum, adjustable check, and closely machined parts are desirable. A black or matt finish is much better than highly polished aluminium. Some reels seem designed to catch the eye on show-stands and would certainly throw off flashes at every cast when fishing.
Terylene or plaited nylon is the modern backing line, these materials having superseded the old-time flax and silk, both of which rotted. The backing line, of course, goes on the reel before the. Use as much backing line as the reel will carry in comfort. Terylene of 4.75 kg (11 lb) is about right. In reservoirs, 90 m (100 yds) of backing plus the reel line allow a safe margin where fish run big.
A list of accessories useful to the trout fisherman includes :
Bag or creel
Book or wallet for leaders
Large plastic bags for fish
Bottle of detergent for de-greasing leaders
Bodkin for unpicking knots
Artery forceps for removing hooks
‘Priest’ for killing fish quickly
A hank of string
Sooner or later the angler will need each of these and they take up little space.
Most trout fishers use studded thigh-waders which are easy to slip on and off. Clothing should include a thick sweater for use under the fishing-jacket in cold weather.
Fishing-jackets should have a high collar, well-flapped pockets, and windproof sleeves. I like a type made by Barbours which has a removable hood zipped into an inner pocket for use in heavy rain. Fishing-jackets should be capacious enough to fit over one’s ordinary tweed jacket and must be long enough to hang well down over the wader tops. This sort of outfit will resist heavy rain for hours on end. Fishing waistcoats are particularly good for use in warm weather. Multitudinous pockets house fly-boxes, priests, grease, etc. Most include a waterproof, cleanable pocket for fish.
Some sort of neck-cloth is desirable and there is nothing better than a silk square folded narrow and wound tight.
A pair of fishing-gloves is far from being a luxury. Fingerless gloves with nylon string palms and water-resisting wool backs are well worth acquiring. There is nothing worse than cold hands — unless it be cold feet.
Many anglers use polarized glasses, and some form of eye-protection is certainly needed when fishing sheets of open water in bright weather. Ordinary dark-glasses fitted with side-shields are my choice.