[Editor’s note: From time to time, we like to look back at the literature of fly fishing to see how anglers viewed the sport we love. Here’s a fun passage from The Complete Science of Fly Fishing and Spinning (1920) by Fred G. Shaw, which I discovered via Midcurrent today.]
AXIOMS, NOTES, AND THEORIES
Hints to the Student
Experience and common—sense are the most valuable guides when actually fishing. No two days are alike, and at each step the fisherman will most likely be confronted with an absolutely new combination of circumstances. This is perhaps one of the greatest charms of dry fly fishing. To read is good, because it shows from the personal knowledge of others that no two experiences of the same writer are absolutely alike, and no hard-and-fast axioms of fishing lore can invariably be followed. The attendant circumstances should guide the immediate actions of the moment.
There are, however, certain truths and axioms which occur to me and which the beginner might do well to remember; they may perhaps be tinged with a personal colour, for they are the results of my own fishing experience.
The fisherman should always remember that nothing succeeds like success, and if he believes in the fly he is using he is more likely to be successful than if he is doubtful as to its virtues. The suggestion that the fly he is using must be the best assists him while fishing. I can even imagine a day’s salmon fishing to be interesting from start to finish in spite of the fact that no salmon have come at the fly, if the fisherman himself believes that his fly is the only one that will kill at the time.
It really means that the suggestion of infallibility aids the fisherman in that continuation of attention which is so necessary to the purpose in hand, i.e., to attract the attention of the fish. I think myself that there is no fly like my own “Fancy,” and while a certain amount of optimism may be allowed because of the success I have attained with it, at the back of my brain I know full well that some at least of its success is due to the suggestion of its infallibility.
The beginner, he who has been badly taught, or the self- taught man who may have acquired bad habits, fails to understand why his friend catches readily and easily fish after fish, during a long day, while he secures but a few, if any.
The skilful fly fisherman, who can take every rising fish within his reach, seldom attributes his success or his friend’s failure to the real cause, which is, the certain and immediate skilfulness or unskilfulness of each cast.
The dry fly fisherman, for instance, has, as a rule, only one opportunity at each fish, and it is with him that the making or marring of that chance rests. Each initial cast for a trout possesses a greater or less difficulty, and his success will depend on the immediate and skilful manner in which he takes advantage of the opportunity.
The most essential portion of the dry fly fisherman’s art, and the most difficult to acquire, is the power to place at once and with certainty the right fly, delicately and accurately, over his fish.
Among the many factors which contribute to the happi- ness of any day’s fishing, the killing of the fish is an incident which ranks least.
The best fisherman in my opinion is he who nets most fish, and who kills or injures the least.
There can be no harm in filling one’s creel if its contents are employed in “pleasuring some poor body” as Izaak Walton has it, but to effect the depletion of a trout stream for no other purpose than that of proving one’s skill, and to toil during the day under a creel loaded with those beautiful fish in order to establish our own prowess on our return to our fishing quarters, is a vanity which calm consideration should soon permit us to conquer.
A fisherman’s day may be considered to be one on which trout are difficult to capture. A duffer’s day may be considered to be one on which the fish are superlatively easy to capture.
It should always be remembered that the killing of a two or three year old fish puts an end to the most valuable and interesting period of its life.
Always be charitable; never discredit a reputed trout stream because you have been unlucky on one or two occasions. “No fish in the river” is a rash statement to advance, because, after one or two visits, no fish have been caught, or possibly seen. A futile visit to a stream and a hasty opinion thus formed may be regretted. I remember, by the kindly courtesy of a French landowner in Normandy, taking a day on his stream, in which he told me were many trout. I had been doing well all the week, but on this day I had the poorest luck, and, therefore, hastily concluded that the stream was almost barren of trout. Consequently, on one memorable day on which the May-fly was dominant, instead of going with a friend who was fishing this stream, I went farther and fared worse, and found, on meeting my friend in the evening, that he had enjoyed a glorious day’s trouting. I still regret losing that excellent day, and consider that, as regards any water, first impressions are not always the soundest.
The golden hours of a trout fisherman’s experience will be from l0 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It is during their first rise, i.e., during the period when they first come on the feed on any day, that most trout will probably be taken. You may miss this rise!
As the big fish rise most frequently in a slow and dignified manner, their rise is generally of a less disturbing character than that of a young, eager and voracious youngster. The splash made by a big fish may be less, but the wave will probably be bigger; nevertheless to the unobservant or inexperienced fisherman the difference is not easily discernible. The musical, sucking noise of the big fish, when feeding at night on surface food, is unmistakable.
Do not press in fly casting. Use the least possible force in order to achieve your best cast.
If it be possible always keep a taut line after a fish is hooked.
Play your fish from the reel if possible.
Keep your rod well up when playing the fish.
A constant and delicate strain on the line secures a lightly hooked trout, which otherwise would be lost.
Always remember that in very weedy water it is better to let a trout go up-stream into the tail of a bunch of weeds than to pull him down-stream, and let him get sideways into the thick of such a danger. A fish which may seem hopelessly entangled in weeds and brushwood may with patience and nerve be ultimately creeled.
When about to net or gaff your fish, use your reel as little as possible.
Your man, your rod, your reel, and yourself, should be as still as a heron at that critical moment.
Look to the point of your trout and salmon hook frequently, and always carry a small file in case the point becomes blunted.
Avoid casting directly over a trout if possible, but get your fly above and within range of the trout’s vision as soon as possible after one has risen.
In the ordinary run of a stream when a trout is seen rising, so long as a fly floats into the circle which bounds its upward vision, and so long as the line does not immediately bisect the circle when fishing upstream, the angler may rest assured that he has done all he can do when he casts to a spot immediately above the circle of the rising fish. If immediately below your fish the line can be thrown in a curve, so that while the fly alights immediately above your trout, the line will curl over to the right or left of the trout’s position. As the cast falls on and breaks the surface of the water, it will be visible to the trout, but it is not so likely to scare the fish as if it had fallen immediately over its head.
Run your dry fly line through your grease pad at least twice during the day’s fishing — but only when the line is dry—once before you start, and once after the pause for luncheon—take off any superfluous grease by running the line through your handkerchief or any dry rag.
If too much grease be put on the line, it hinders its easy running through the rings of the rod.
Keep the point of your rod down when fishing.
The less slack line there is between your rod point and the fly, the better will be your strike and the greater your command over the fish you hook.
Posted: 03 Jan 2012 10:16 AM PST
We posted a show a few weeks ago on how to stock your dry-fly box. We had a lot of requests for the same for nymphs. What do you think of Tom’s list? Did we miss any?
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Just sitting here thinking about the year gone by and thought I would show you how up and down my home waters have been lately, as they have been all year.
Here’s also a wish for a very Happy New Year filled with many hours of FLYTYING and catching TROUT.
The first US felt ban was proposed for Alaska in 2009 and, after several modifications, a statewide ban on the use of felt for recreational fishing will take effect on the 1st of January. This regulation, implemented administratively by the Alaska Board of Fisheries, has been planned for a couple of years so there should be no surprise for anglers or retailers. Meanwhile, most of the press stories about the ban are very supportive. Read More
Alaska joins Vermont and Maryland as states with bans already in place. As we reported last month, Missouri will have a ban on selected cold water fisheries before their season opening. With legislative sessions scheduled to begin across the country in January, it is likely that we will see additional bans debated and perhaps adopted.
With bans spreading it would seem logical that consumers would be looking to purchase non-felt boots. However, the opposite seems to be the case as reports indicate high demand for felt soled boots.
Felt bans are one of the hottest topics among anglers and we continue to provide a comprehensive accounting of all felt ban proposals in the US at
Posted: 20 Dec 2011 05:40 AM PST
[Editor’s Note: Here’s a post by Orvis product developer Tim Daughton from last January. Since our readership is so much larger now than it was then, I figured that those of you who have joined the blog in recent months could benefit from Tim’s excellent insights.]
The advent of breathable waders a couple of decades ago has helped to make the majority of our wader-adorned fishing experiences much more enjoyable. Gone are the days of vulcanized rubber and neoprene waders that were effectively like fishing in a really heavy-duty trash bag—waterproof but uncomfortable. However, wearing incorrect layers under your breathable waders can result in a similar experience, even with today’s high-tech breathable fabrics. By wearing the correct types of garments under your waders, you can stay warm and comfortable through out the day and ensure you stay on the water longer.
Let me start by dispelling one common myth. Breathable doesn’t mean air-conditioned. You will sweat in breathable waders, and not all of this sweat is going to “breathe” out of your waders. This is especially true if your fishing adventure includes any strenuous activity, like hiking, or you naturally sweat abundantly. So what happens to the sweat that is left in your waders? That is where proper layering becomes an important factor. Not only do the correct garments help to insulate, which is very important, but they also serve to manage excess moisture that can and will accumulate inside your waders. Improper fabrics in your layering system can contribute to making you cold, clammy and just basically uncomfortable.
So what should you wear? I’ll break it down into three basic temperature ranges and provide a detailed list of the type of garments that you should consider wearing. You may already own some of these garments if you hunt, ski, hike, or do any other outdoor activity in a wide range of temperature conditions. There is one common element throughout all these systems—no cotton! Most of us wear cotton every day and enjoy the overall comfort. However, under waders, cotton garments will work against you, as they are highly hydrophilic (water-loving) and have no insulative value when wet. Try and avoid cotton at all cost, especially in cold conditions.
Late Fall/Winter/Early Spring
During the coldest part of the year, temperatures will generally range between 0 and 40 degrees, depending on your specific geographic region. There are two major priorities—keeping warm and staying completely dry, which aids tremendously in keeping warm.
Feet—An important thing to remember is that the neoprene booties on your breathable waders don’t breathe at all, and feet usually sweat a lot. In cold temperatures, this excess sweat will do its best to make your feet damp and cold, driving you back to the warmth of your vehicle much earlier than anticipated. Therefore, you’ll need a two-sock system. Start with a 100% synthetic “liner” or lightweight sock, usually constructed of a poly/nylon blend with some spandex for a comfortable fit. These socks will help to ensure that any moisture generated is wicked away from the skin. Over this sock goes a midweight or heavyweight insulatiing wool/nylon blended sock for warmth. Keep in mind that you don’t want to create too much bulk that results in your wading boots being too tight. When this happens, you effectively cut of the blood supply to your feet, and they will get cold no matter what you wear. If you fish often in the winter, consider purchasing another pair of wading boots in a larger size to accommodate the added bulk or use a bootfoot wader.
Body—The same principle applies here as with the feet. Start with a midweight layer that is extremely efficient at moving moisture away from the skin. Synthetics and wool/synthetic blends are great choices. The next layer is your insulating layer, and fleece is your best option. Midweight or heavyweight fleece pants or a suit will fit the bill for this task. In extreme cold, I have been known to wear two fleece layers, but you have to consider how your waders are going to fit with all that bulk.
Everyone’s internal thermostat is different, so their layering needs may be
photo by Time Wade
Temperatures will range from near freezing to a very comfortable 65+ degrees, so flexibility and layering is the key. Staying warm is still an issue, but the warmer temps make moisture management a higher priority.
Feet—The two-sock system is still ideal, but as temperatures warm it may be unnecessary. A single, good synthetic wool-blend heavyweight or midweight sock may be more than enough to keep your feet warm and dry during this transitional season.
Body—Moisture management will become more of an issue as temperatures increase, but you will still need to make sure you have enough insulation. A lightweight synthetic or wool/synthetic blend is a great base layer and will effectively manage the potential increase in perspiration. A fleece pant is a perfect choice as a thermal layer. Many of these pants incorporate a certain amount of stretch material to help achieve a better fit and offer unrestricted movement and flexibility. I have never called it quits for the day because I was too warm, so be prepared during this unpredictable but productive part of the fishing season.
Summertime requires good moisture management, especially when you need
photo by Sandy Hays
Temperatures will range from 70 to 100, so moisture management is the top priority. But don’t neglect the insulation component, especially if your favorite haunts happen to be on tailwater fisheries where water temperatures are often in the 40s.
Feet—A good all synthetic or blended lightweight sock is a perfect choice. The temptation during this time of year is to throw your waders on over the cotton socks you wear on a normal day, a guaranteed way to have wet and uncomfortable feet. The same wading boots that fit perfect in winter may now feel loose and sloppy; you may consider having a second pair for warm weather fishing.
Body—A lightweight synthetic base layer is the perfect warm-weather layer. Wear alone or as a first layer on cooler days, as it will wick moisture away from the skin and dry fast to keep you comfortable. Many offer some level of antimicrobial treatment to eliminate odor and bacteria growth, which can be a factor in hot, humid conditions and on multiple-day trips. Avoid the temptation to put on waders over jeans or chinos, as the cotton fibers will act as a sponge and soak up all your perspiration. In some cases, this could produce enough moisture to give the impression that your waders are leaking.
These are some very basic guidelines to help you get started in determining what to wear under your waders. Your own personal comfort level and internal thermostat will help to fine-tune this to meet your expectations.