That got their attention!
This article is not about ten ways to catch more trout. It is an article about how numbers get our attention.
Us flyfishermen are chilled. We are cool. We have been fishing for years. We don’t care how many we catch anymore. We are above that. Competition is so yesterday. We are far more noble than that. “So how big did you say that fish was….45cms?” and “let me see, what is that in inches”. “By the way what was the water temp?” ……….So you see, numbers DO matter. I knew it!
No matter how blasé we are, or how loosely we wear our buff, or how full the hip flask is, we measure things, and we record things. And we are just a little bit obsessed with it too. “How many kms did you guys go up the river?”. “Was it a cock fish or a hen fish?”; “So what size was that Caddis pattern, an 18?”
Do you see what I mean? We measure everything! I guess it is part of what I have heard called “The human condition”. You cannot escape it. How many days was the fishing trip? How many hours did it take to drive there?. How long is that fly rod? People want to know. It is important. Apparently. It must be. My most viewed blog post is one entitled “8 things to consider about sun gloves”. How random is that! I wonder if this one, with the number ten in it, will get 20% more views…..there I go again…measuring.
So, if we accept that we can’t escape measuring and recording, and that we are predisposed to it, to some degree at least, we had might as well decide on a few things to measure to satisfy that apparent craving. Then we can ditch the rest. So what will it be? What is important for a flyfisherman to measure?
Someone recently suggested that my top statistic is Kms walked per trout caught, and that a low number won’t do. I had to think about that. In some perverse way, I think they may be right. Its never good enough to park the car, jump out and catch a fish within sight of the sign or the road or the car. That is just not cricket. You must work for your fish!. Well, I don’t know about you but I must anyway.
Then there are inches and pounds. I have absolutely no idea how big a 45cm fish is, or a 1 Kg fish. Nada. Nothing. Blank. No idea. Sugar in kilograms. Irrigation pipes in centrimetres. Fish in pounds and inches. That is just how it is for me. If you tell me you got a “74” I will assume it to be a species of sea fish. If it is a “56”, I can only assume it is a close relative. I have no idea whether it would fit in your hand, your fridge, or your house.
I can picture a river Brown, and if it is over twelve inches, that means something to me, and it is important.
There you go. I said it. My buff just tightened around my neck. Not cool, but true. I need to know how big the fish was.
Then comes temperature. This is absolutely critical, for no reason whatsoever.
As a kid I read Joe Humphries on “fishing by degrees” in his book “Trout Tactics”. Temperature was clearly critical. I can’t remember why, (beyond the obvious one of a cool side-stream or spring in summer) but the chapter must have made an impression, because since 1981 every fishing day’s water temperature is measured and recorded. Air temperature too.
And fly size; plus weight of outfit used; leader X; sex of fish; kept or returned; Rainbow or Brown; hours fished; wind speed and direction; cloud cover; time fish caught; species hatching; flies used.
OK, I admit it: I am a goner. A head-case. I can’t help myself. I am chilled. I am cool. I am not competitive, I assure you. That buff is loose around my neck. But I must measure. It is an affliction!
I think you have it too. (even if you won’t admit to it)
I often find that a thermometer is a poor measure of temperature, in terms of our experience of the fishing day.
Leaving aside the wind chill factor, which we all know well, a thermometer reading tells very little about what it feels like to be out.
Just the other morning, it was 13 degrees when I got up. On a winter’s morning, that is a very high overnight temperature, and one that on the face of it, should have the global warming guys saying “You see!”.
But strangely it didn’t feel that warm at all. The thing is, that as the day developed, the light remained dull from some high cloud, and although we had no wind to speak of, a southerly front oozed over, and the daytime temperature never went over 16 degrees. It was a cool day.
Likewise a 29 degree day in May and one of 29 degrees in January are two entirely different things. I suppose in that example you could put it down to a difference in humidity and you would be right.
The guys at Accuweather have this “reelfeel” thing, which is quite useful. It’s accuracy is, and always will be, debatable, but the fact that they felt a need to come up with such a concept, means that I am not the only one who sees the limitation of the mercury. But I don’t believe that the guys have it waxed yet. For example, I have a thermometer out front of my house and one out back, that give different readings. The difference between the two will vary considerably on two consecutive days when the reelfeel temperature is the same. I can’t get my head around such an abstruse outcome, except to say that our experience of the weather is complex.
Us fishermen are quite obsessive about our weather readings, and we add to that the water temperature, clarity, flow, and other factors, in an attempt to solve our Trout riddles. However, as I look through my fishing log, the temperatures, cloud cover, wind details and the like are never enough, and there is always a sentence in my notes that adds a descriptor. That sentence often deals with the degree to which it was miserable , or dull, or bright. One of the key things in there is a description about the light.
If one thinks about it, a day varies from those clear crisp type of days after rain, to the hazy ones. And the clear bright days after snow in winter, seem that much more pellucid and bright than the ones in summer when we have had rain.
And if I had to make a great big generalisation, I would have to say that a cool bright day is one that gets the fish going. Remember that this might be a sunny or an overcast day, but there will be a clarity to the light. The opposite of that would have to be a brassy day.
I often survey a landscape and declare it brassy with an air of disgust, since I believe it doesn’t auger well for the fishing. PD and I have a common understanding of what constitutes a brassy day, and we label them as such with an irritated clucking. Its somewhat of a code that we have, and the others don’t get it. You could probably measure all this scientifically, but to do so would cut into time fishing or in the pub.
My wife asked me to define this brassy classification the other day. There was a veld fire nearby, and the sunlight had turned yellow. She asked if this qualified as a brassy day, and without hesitation I said no. The coppery light was localised because the fire was nearby. Then she started to ask about days when there are fires everywhere and it is coppery all over. That would just be a collection of localised fires. Would that make it a brassy day? I don’t remember what my answer was. I do know that within 15 minutes I had contradicted myself, and she had caught me out! But PD and I still know if it’s a brassy day, without really being able to define why. We continue to use it consistently as an excuse as to why we didn’t catch any fish. It’s particularly handy since no one can dispute it.
Other anglers have similar things going. I remember my friend Kevin, who despite owning a thermometer would dip his finger into the water with an air of unassailable authority, and declare it cold enough to fish a Mickey Finn. I will often pack up when a still evening is ruined by a cold Easterly wind, but apparently that should not put me off if the clouds are hanging on the hilltops.Guy used to stay out in the most miserable of weather blown in by a cold front from the South, provided there was a nasty drizzle , and return with an enormous thirst and tales of big fish allegedly landed. Sometimes these syllogisms are obscure and relate to things like a favourite hat left at home on a cloudy day.
The best one that comes to mind is the one relayed by Jim Read: Eddie Combes use to ask the late Hugh Huntley if he had shaved that morning , and if indeed he had, Eddie reckoned you had no chance at all of catching a Trout!