Saturday, January 21, 2012
I tied a few flies this week for the first time since the laboriously assembled clinger nymph I did a sequence for back in October. And they're not for me either! It seems that over the last few years I have become less and less inclined to engage with fly fishing over the winter months, possessing neither the time nor inclination to shuffle about in freezing cold water searching for bottom hugging grayling.....and a visit to a stocked small stillwater over Christmas reminded me why I left that particular scene behind many years ago. Even fly tying fails to inspire me much when the days are short - I'm so out of practice that the prospect of starting up again seems a bit daunting.
I did catch a few hours along the Ribble last week, in glorious, crisp winter conditions. It was a pleasure to be out in the fresh air, and a pleasure to witness one or two signs that winter, if not exactly on it's last legs, has certainly entered it's final act. Despite the chill, there was a certain thin warmth in the sun's direct gaze that just isn't present before the solstice. I felt it most after midday when seemingly in response to the melting hoar frost, a few large dark olives began to emerge; and underneath the far bank of a long slow glide, a couple of grayling rose sporadically to intercept them. Unfortunately the mere act of slowly edging across the belly deep water to reach a casting position was enough to send them packing. No matter, it was an encouraging sign - a precursor of spring. Later in the woods, I saw that the shoots of wild garlic were breaking through the wet ground, already a full inch high. What will the coming season bring I wonder?
The brief grayling session got me thinking: the unexpected opportunity to attach a tapered leader to my line reminded me how little I enjoy tossing heavy bugs around for longer than a few minutes, and how for me these days, a whole third of the year can pass without my extending a proper fly line. I realised that one of the aspects that I enjoy most about fly fishing is the actually deployment of the fly line, the act of casting itself. Not that I am particularly gifted in this department (in fact I would go so far as to say my casting is decidedly agricultural), but that's not to say I don't enjoy the quiet whisper of the line through the air and the rare satisfaction which comes with getting things right occasionally. I've come to the conclusion the primary reason I can't fall in love with Czech style nymphing techniques, is that it just doesn't involve fly fishing - casting - in the conventional sense; a theory backed up by the fact that when I went through a spell of experimenting with braid nymphing techniques, I may have had tremendous success in a fish-catching sense, but I hated it all the more for the fact that the tip of my fly line was further than ever from seeing the light of day.
Which leaves me a problem. Being an angler who likes to keep abreast of contemporary developments in the fly fishing world, I realise it's high time I 'got with the programme' and embraced the current trend for ultra long leader (leader to hand) techniques. A development I have resisted stubbornly for the last couple of seasons. Slowly but surely the compelling arguments offered by the likes of Jeremy Lucas have got under my skin to the point where I have started scanning the catalogues for a rod in the 10-11' #3 class. Indeed Jeremy has been very helpful in assisting my induction into this refinement of our beautiful sport and I fully expect to be out there this spring, long rod in hand, delivering a dry fly attached to nothing but 14m of tapered braid and copolymer.
I can see that the presentational possibilities are exciting, but a part of me worries that I will find jettisoning the fly line too painful and yearn to revert back to more traditional techniques. And what of an 11' rod in a pokey corner beneath a bush - will I need to start taking two rods to the river with me? Will the benefit of vastly reduced drag with the leader to hand method mean that I become hugely out of practice with the slack line techniques needed with conventional fly line, leaving me the poorer for it? I have a host of unanswered questions which I intend to address over the coming months. I will keep you posted here. First I need to save up for a rod of length and line rating which together just didn't exist a few years ago. That in itself will be interesting - just what does an 11' #3 handle like I wonder?
For those of you whose interest in leader to hand techniques has been piqued by recent magazine articles and developments on the international scene, then the website below will be of interest. I can recommend a visit.