Flytrek Australia

1. USING WHITE or HI-VIZ-WINGED FLIES

Sometimes when fishing in fast water it can become difficult or downright impossible to see your fly, which is bad news because you'll likley miss the take. Especially when you're facing the sun, it becomes hard to differentiate between your fly and white foam or the millions of sparkling reflections of the sun. A fly tied with a prominent wing post of white material is much easier to spot and keep your eye on.

But not just white - I use fluorescent chartreuse, yellow, hot pink or red as sighter posts on my flies, depending upon which pattern I try to make it fit in with the normal colour scheme.

 

 2. STRETCHING FLY LINES

You arrive at the stream and see a fish rising. You quickly get into position and strip off some line to begin casting. The line shoots out and lays on the water - and looks like a partly-coiled spring, the cold water causing it to quickly contract into coils and bends. The fish rises to your dry fly but suddenly refuses it and drops to the bottom.

This is a very common malaise encountered by fly fishermen. It's caused by - quite simply - not enough fishing!

The line hasn't been off the reel in 2, 3 or even 4 weeks, even longer, and because it's amde of a plastic that forms a memory, it adopts the shape of the reel spool it's been stored on.

But all is not lost there is a very simple remedy for line memory.

On arrival at your fishing venue, simply attach the end of your fly line to any solid object like a fence post or a bullbar or towbar on your car. Walk backwards allowing the line to come off the reel until the whole line is out past the rod tip.

Now wrap several turns of the backing around your hand and slowly step backwards, stretching the line. You will be amazed at how much stretch there is in a typical 30m fly line, up to 2 metres.

Hold it stretched for a few minutes, then release the coils from your hand and allow the line to drop to the grass. All the memory coils will be gone, your line now laying almost perfectly straight on the ground.

If you have time, and especially if the sun is out, leave it on the ground for at least 15 minutes, then wind it back onto the reel. When you lay out your first cast for the day, it should lay out on the water in a beautifully straight line with no horrid coils,.

EXTRA TIP:    Some years ago at home, I built a line-straightening shelf onto my side fence, consisting of 6 lengths of 150x25 treated pine boards end-to-end, supported by 50x25 treated pine cleats nailed to the fenceposts, holding the shelf at a slight outward downhill angle, around 10 degrees, to allow water to run off. At each end is a row of 6 galvanised 75mm nails set about 15mm apart.

After any prolonged period of guiding or especially fly schools, I lay out all the lines that were used and use clips to hold the ends to the nails at one end and stretch each line about 1.5m, then slip the leader loop over the nail at the far end.

I leave them out for at least a full day before giving them all a soak in warm water with a dash of dishwashing detergent to get rid of all the dirt and grime accumulated on them before winding them back onto the reels, which brings us to my next tip ....

 

 3.  WASHING and CLEANING FLY LINES

If you've ever fished very early in the season or after a heavy rain event, you'll have experienced dirty water. In fact you don't need to do that to attract dirt, algae, silt and other matter to your fly lines.

If you've ever put your head underwater in what appears to be clear, clean water, you'll notice one thing - it's nowhwere as clear and clean as it looks from above.

This is the natural state of any river, to have all kinds of organic particulate matter suspended in the water column, from surface to the bottom.

Most of the time, the first you'll notice anything wrong is when your normally-bouyant floating line doesn't float so well anymore. This is the time you need to give it a good clean. In fact this is a chore that every fly fisher needs to perform at the start of every fishing season, and at least a couple more times before the season ends.

What to do:  Firstly, fill a laundry trough or kitchen sink or large plastic basin with warm (not hot) water, and dissolve a squirt of dishwashing detergent in it.

Now strip off all the fly lines that you want to clean, laying them in large coils in the water. Let them soak for at least an hour - I leave it for at least 2hrs - giving them a gentle swish around to help dislodge the grime. You will be surprised at just how much gunk is left on the bottom of the sink if you've not done this before or for a whole season.

Now drain off the soapy water and refill the sink with warm water to rinse off the residue. Do this at least twice. Now pull each line through a clean dry cloth. If you find there is still dirt coming off onto the cloth, repeat the whole process. When done and satisfied the lines are clean, give each one a light coating of line floatant and wind back onto the reels.

The next time you cast your line out you will see a big difference in how well they float.

And make sure you hang a reminder somewhere so that you don't forget this important chore every season.

 

 4.  HANDLING AND RELEASING OF FISH

This is one subject that can quickly become the proverbial 'can of worms' - current concerns for animal welfare are usually well-founded, and today's fly fisherman needs to be mindful, not only of community standards, but of their own role in protecting the fish species that form the basis of our pursuit.

I've been spruiking proper and considerate handling of fish for nearly 4 decades, long before it became the subject of the day, teaching it in my fly schools since 1989 and educating my guiding clients along the way.

We've all seen lots of those classic photos and videos where the successful angler proudly lifts his or her live catch from the water or net to display it for the camera, often for multiple photos. It was once the case that this only occurred for those fish of above average size and worth a few photos, but more lately the advent of both social media, phone cameras and digital cameras has caused a massive increase not only in the number of photos taken of each of these fish, but now it seems that every single fish is photographed.

This in turn has caused, albeit unintentionally, a corresponding increase in the number of fish that, while they appear to swim away none the worse for the experience, actually die a short time later.

I see innumerable instances where the fish caught is of a size which does not warrant photographic immortalising yet is still subjected to the ordeal of being badly held and handled plus kept out of the water for far too long.

 

SO HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?

Well that is currently under hot debate, but after reading about something called OXYGEN EQUILIBRIUM in 1991, my mind was quickly and firmly made up - as soon as I lift a fish from the water, I take a breath. As soon as that breath begins to expire, back the fish goes. We're only talking maybe 10 seconds at most, and that's still too long. 5 seconds is about right. Zero seconds is even better!

But how do you photograph a fish in 0 seconds? Simple. You don't!

You don't need to, and shouldn't, photograph every fish you catch - doing so is just perpetuating the current scoreboard mentality that is the result of people posting photos of every single fish they catch onto Facebook or other social media. If that's you, you need to change that. Don't do it.

Okay, assuming you've swallowed all that, here's how I handle and release fish.

 

Example 1: You just caught a Rainbow Trout that's about 20cm long. Clearly undersize and needs to be returned unharmed to its habitat.    

1. Don't net it - it's not of a size that needs a net. Netting just becomes another unnecessary handling. 

2: Just use your forceps to grip the hook/fly and twist it out without even taking the fish out of the water.                                                                                                                                                  3: Job done. Survival rate: 100%

 

Example 2: You just caught a Brown Trout that's worth a photo - nice work!   

1: You have 2 choices - employ your forceps and release it without a photo, or handle the fish carefully so as not to cause any physical harm while holding it for 5 seconds maximum to be photographed.  

2: Net the fish      

3: Grasp the fish by cradling it with one hand beneath the pectoral fins without grabbing it tightly, and grabbing it firmlybut not tightly around the root of the tail. This technique causes no injury.  

4: As soon as the cameraman gives the ok, lift the fish from the water. He/she should be able to get at least 2 good photos in 5 seconds.          

5: Now return the fish to the water, and if you need another photo, wait at least 10 seconds before lifting it out again.

6: That's it, job done!   Survival rate - 95-100%.

 

 5. KNOT LUBRICATING

Most fishermen learn sooner or later to moisten their knots with a little saliva - it serves as a lubricant on the monofilament which would otherwise sustain heat damage (friction burn) generated in the tightening of the knot. This heat damage can weaken the line considerably, delivering a well-below average knot strength, and consequently, lost fish and flies.

So don't forget to add some saliva to your knots before tightening - spit is not only free, it's 'Green'!

PS: saliva spread along the tippet and/or leader also acts as a sinking agent, enabling the line to penetrate the meniscus (surface film) and sink more quickly.


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