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Terminal Chancer

When two publishers turned James Gilbraith down, he showed them the finger, and published his book himself. 

Terminal chancer (1 of 2)

I am thankful that he (through his highly esteemed “Guild of Reason”) did that, because had he not done so, I would have been deprived some snortingly good laughs. These typically happened in public places like coffee shops, where other patrons looked at me sideways.

That would be fitting, since in his book, Gilbraith manages to touch on, and fittingly describe, many of those thoughts that we have, but  which we somehow don’t feel we can express publicly. It is no coincidence that this is the trait of many a comedian, and this little gem of a book is a comedy of note!

“Boo” as he is known, cleverly describes a single Salmon season, but does so in a way which gives you plenty of background, and lore, and build up to this point in his fishing life. He and his fishing buddy “Lamont” have an annual award, which is bestowed on whichever one of them manages to catch a Salmon while ducking some or other responsibility. The art of mastering sick days from work is key to their mischief, and these two average guys bring colour to life, by throwing themselves at the quest for Salmon. It is a deeply ingrained addiction that many of us identify with, but in this little book it is described like you have never read before.

Gilbraith is delightfully self deprecating and reckless and crude, as only the British can be. Moreover, he is not some snob, producing a catalogue of theory and advice. He merely has a good chuckle at himself, his mistakes, his blank days on his home water, and his frustrations. There are no high end exotic locations, and there is no name dropping. Almost all of his adventures take place on a good old common, “second rate” water: The river Ribble.

Add to that his outlandish descriptions and expressions, and you have a truly delightful tale. You will read it inside of two days, and be disappointed that it has come to and end so quickly.

Here’s hoping he writes again soon!

Buy here:

Terminal Chancer: Silver seasons, Atlantic Salmon by James Gilbraith           2014, 170 pages, Published in Great Britain by The Guild of Reason.                                ISBN 978-0-9930771-0-4

Or here:

Amazon & Kindle

Good Indications : Indicators , depth, and the fly zone

I often read about “hanging a fly under an indicator”. I don’t get it. If the fly is hanging, it must be heavy, and if the indicator is holding it up, it must be HUGE. Maybe its just a turn of phrase. I did however try casting a thingamabobber the other day. That would hold a fly up. It was the smallest one you could get.

strike indicators (1 of 1)

It was like trying to throw one of those practice golf balls. It made a lot of noise, and went nowhere. When it did land it was with a great big PLOP. No thanks.

I like my indicators small. PD says you need binoculars to see them, and that it kinda defeats the object. He is right.  I know that because I am using the New Zealand strike indicator tool and system, and I don’t put enough yarn, so it doesn’t wedge on the leader, and instead slides up and down. “Short and stubby” I keep telling myself.

Strike indicators

 

Put more yarn, but still trim it short enough that PD will shake his head. Then it will be delicate for presentation purposes.

If you are struggling to see it, try using two contrasting colours, like chartreuse and orange. I find that works a treat after mid day when it gets silvery on the water. That is when the orange comes into its own.

strike indicators (6 of 8)strike indicators (1 of 8)

If the indicator is sinking, even though you have pre-treated it with “waterwhisp” and greased it heavily, then consider that maybe the fly is pulling it under.

Rather than lowering yourself to a thingamabobber, try moving it further up the leader. In this way your fly will be banging along the bottom, and all that the indicator will be supporting is the tippet.

strike indicators (8 of 8)

Remember that a light tippet will generate less resistance in the current, and that a drag free drift will be further cause for the indicator to stay on top.

Of course depth varies all the time, so if you are not changing the position of your indicator all the time, you will be getting this formula wrong on just about every drift. I move mine at just about every change in the water type. In other words when I go from a tail-out to a deep pool, or from a pool to a rapid, to pocket water.  This is why the latest indicators are such a great thing:  you can move them with ease, and so long as you use enough yarn, they stick where you put them! I also find that by having to consider where the indicator should be, it causes you to focus on the water depth. I estimate the depth in a run, set the indicator position, and fish it. Then I wade on up through that run, and get to see how deep the water really was. This goes into that computer they call my head, and with a bit of luck, I get better at estimating depth.  When the fish are hugging the bottom, as they so often are, guessing that depth right is an important part of fish catching.

Perhaps a more important part of fish catching, is not focusing on the strike indicator alone. That is more difficult than it sounds. Typically after a day on the river, I fall asleep with the rhythmical images of the same strike indicator floating back at me time and time again.

Game Pass  (3 of 5)

If that dream occupies most of your night, you may need to shake out of this bad habit, like I need to.  I think it was Tom Sutcliffe who wrote about trying to watch the fly (or the fly’s zone) and the indicator simultaneously. It is a lot like looking through a microscope with one eye, and keeping the other one open to do the sketch. Guys who did Biology at school might remember being taught that skill. In the “fly zone” you are looking for movement of any kind. An opening mouth, a darting shadow, a ripping tippet. It could be anything. If it is subtle you might not strike. If it is definite, you will. If it is subtle, but the indicator moves in a subtle way too, you will likely strike into a fish that you might otherwise have missed. This is all a bit like those dual garden beams of mine, that require a signal from both sensors before triggering. This avoids birds. We don’t want birds either. We want fish. And if your dream is of the indicator drifting undisturbed towards you every time, then you haven’t been catching fish, have you!

The Duckfly Hog Hopper

hog hopper (1 of 1)-2

I discovered this pattern just recently in an excellent video by Davie McPhail.

You tube video by Davie McPhail

I liked it instantly.  It ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is light and springy. It could be one of several things: A cranefly, a small hopper, a half hatched cripple, a hatching midge, and just about anything else your imagination can muster. Exactly what you want in a searching pattern.

The  one in the video is on a #12. That is rather big for me, unless it is the hopper you have chosen from the list above, so I tied my first ones on a #16. To start with I made a beginner’s mistake by trying to put on similar quantities of material to that evident in the video. The result was an overdressed fly:

Hog Hopper (2 of 2)

Notice how it looks bulky, and lacks that sparse, buggy, springy feel that one should be after? 

The smaller one is better off with a single CDC feather , and just a sprinkling of deer hair fibres. I think I could even trim the dressing more than I have done in the picture at the top of this page.  Take a look at McPhail’s one again:

Duckfly Hog Hopper

The colour combinations that you could try are endless. I put a spotter post of yarn on one, and left the wing off another.

hog hopper (5 of 8)hog hopper (7 of 8)

hog hopper (1 of 1)-3

I contemplated converting it to a parachute pattern. But just as you can’t have bacon on everything, I realised I was bastardising the pattern beyond what was reasonable, and I reverted to something closer to the original.

This one is tied on a klinkhamer style hook, and with longer more gangly legs, so that it is somewhat more of a cranefly:

hog hopper (4 of 8)

If you have a look at “Sedgehog” patterns, and the “Duckfly” (an Irish midge pattern), you will see where this pattern came from. To Davie McPhail:  hats off to you! I think you have a winner here.

I read somewhere that creativity is the art of putting existing ideas together, that no one has ever thought to put together before.  This pattern is a truly creative one. I look forward to putting it over some fish.

On the water with older folk

I have a few good fishing pals  who are older than I am. I really enjoy fishing with them.

Jem (1 of 1)

I have never been able to put my finger on why that is. In mulling over why that might be, these two conversations come to mind:

A friend of mine recently returned from a family holiday. It was one of those extended family things where each family within the greater gathering takes a bungalow, and then you get together for meals to argue and create family politics. You know the set up. Anyway, he and his wife were placed with some of the older folk. That is to say, my pal is the right side of fifty, and the “older folk”  with whom they shared a bungalow are the wrong side of seventy.

His comment on the whole arrangement was “What a pleasure!”. There was banter, but no barbed remarks. There was enthusiasm but no real competition. There was passion but no agenda. No one was practicing one-upmanship, and no one was judging. You had achieved what you had achieved in your life and it didn’t matter. What mattered was that you were there, and you were living in the moment.

“Rustig” I think he said.  (An Afrikaans expression meaning Relaxed, At peace)

IMG_1892

  I totally got it.

Then Roy  wrote me this last week:  

My January copy of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying arrived yesterday.  There is an letter from an Irishman complimenting a recent article about flyfishing being good for your health.  The chap continues refering to a very good friend and fishing companion (also an Irishman), who travels alone from his home in Long Island, New York every year to fish his beloved Liffey with his mate.  The chap, Tommie O’Shea is 91 years old, “a dry fly fisherman, a Tricos and Caenis master and an expert entomologist, impatient to reach the river and reluctant to leave it, and always keen to ‘draw first blood’”.  The letter goes on to say “on our outings we each had our share of fish on#20, #22 flies and 0.12mm to 0.10mm leaders”.   He continues saying it is commendable to mentor young fishermen, but don’t ignore the elderly fishermen.  Keep them company, bring them fishing, or in this time of “fast everything”, take the time to visit them and listen to them”.  He concludes “May we all spend a lot of time fishing and turn the head of wild beauties at 91 and more.”  Wonderful, it gives us a lot to look forward to.

Roy, incidentally is on the RIGHT side of seventy

  Be right backBriarmains (1 of 24)

So, unless your flyfishing is some highly driven affair, in which you must know more, go further, stay out longer, and catch more; and in which you cannot bring yourself to drop a few of those: go fishing with some of the older guys.

They may be much older, in which case you will be taking them fishing as an act of kindness. Or they may be just a little older, in which case they are just a pal who happens to be older than you. Either way, get your head right. Listen more than you speak. Develop an understanding of where their fly-fishing has come from, and why they do what they do. Explore what they know, and quiz them about tactics, tackle and methods. Look at the similarity of the developments long ago with all the new fangled stuff you see on facebook nowadays and ask yourself how much of it really is new.

But more than that perhaps you will re-evaluate what it is about your fishing that is really important. I suspect that you might be prompted to consider that the older guy’s tackle is less complicated. I wouldn’t mind betting he carries fewer flies. He will still sometimes catch more fish than you.

Briarmains (22 of 24)

When he catches fewer fish, you might notice that it matters less to him than it mattered to you. And when he caught fewer fish I bet he was still enthralled by the day. Lunchtime might have been as enjoyable as the fishing itself.

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Lunchtime is when friendships are deepened. Its when you think about your fly-fishing relative to what your mates have tried. It is where new ideas are born, in the glow of conversation and in mixing your ideas, with those of others. When those lunch pals have been around a little longer, they have an intrinsic wisdom. They have tried some things, and can tell you if they worked or did not. They will instantly identify an idea of yours that has not been tried and is worth giving a bash.

If you fish and interact with an experienced flyfisherman over a day on the water together,  you may multiply your hours spent on the water with him, with all of his hours that went before.

Such is the value of that day in my book.

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