Fishing Rod Decoration

Fishing Words

I don't have that many fishing books, perhaps a hundred or so, perhaps a few more, I've never really counted. Some of them I have not read; unwanted presents from well meaning relatives but some I have read many times. They never disappoint and real favourites are tattooed with notes, underlinings, highlights and margin scribbles, sacrilege to the bibliophile but a quick way to find old friends that constantly delight. I do so admire those who conjure with words. Here are extracts from some of my favourites.

Fishing Words

By Graham Waterton

In casting, has technology affected technique?

- By Graham Waterton

This extract comes from The Practical Angler written by W C Stewart in 1857. It's sub title is The Art of Trout-Fishing More Particularly Applied To Clear Water. This little book was The Fifty Shades of whatnot of it's day. It really hit a spot having two further editions reprinted in its first year and no fewer than 15 reprints, the last in 1942!

What's interesting here is the basic description of the overhead ... pick it up and put it down ... cast and is as relevant today as it was then, except for one thing.

'When the line is thoroughly soaked, take the rod in your right hand, raise it with sufficient force to make the line go to its full length behind, and then pausing for a moment till it has done so, with a circular motion of the wrist and arm urge the rod forward, rapidly at first, but gradually lessening the speed, so that when it stops no recoil of the point will take place. Care must be taken not to urge the flies forward till they have gone the full length behind, or you will be apt to crack them off.'

So what hasn't changed? He uses the word 'sufficient'. Quite right, a good cast uses the right application of power; enough to aerialise the line and effect turnover, no more no less. He also recognises timing. He knows that the line should go ' to its full length behind'. Urging it forward, as he puts it, too early can cause 'cracking'. As we know, too late and gravity takes over. So far so good.

What sounds odd is his description of 'rapidly at first, but gradually lessening the speed'. These days we look for constant and smooth acceleration to a stop; start slowly-finish fast ... the opposite sentiment to his, though he recognised the need for a stop.

Why is this? My guess is that he was casting with a very soft, through action, probably cane or greenheart rod. By modern standards, a heavy and floppy stick.  A positive stop would, as he suggests, create 'recoil' or bounce and the wagging tip would send waves down the the rod and line. His soft decelerating stop would see the rod recover with less oscillations and a smoother delivery and turnover. Modern rods with smooth and almost instant recovery, allow a more positive stop and with a shorter casting arc, create tighter loops.

So over 150 years ago WC Stewart got the best out of rod of the day but he still understood at least a couple of the five essentials.

I bet his loops were as wide as the Channel Tunnel.

Spey Casting 'The Highest Art of All'?

- By Graham Waterton

In 1895 GM Kelson wrote a major work called The Salmon Fly. A large part was on the fly itself but a significant part was on fly fishing for salmon more generally. On Spey casting he says;

'The achievement of the much coveted Spey(cast), the highest art of all, is endowed with an irresistible fascination peculiar to itself...Men who are practically conversant with all the circumstances which render the cast necessary, and with all the various ways of making it, are so far removed from the struggling rank and file as to frequently meet with the highest success on pools which, to, others, are positively unfishable'

This was written with double handed rods on the larger salmon rivers in mind but it has become increasingly widely recognised that spey casting for smaller double handed rods and single handed rods adds a new dimension to every branch of flyfishing. The fisherman with only an overhead cast in the armoury is seriously under gunned on virtually all rivers. Kelson go it right. I have to confess I have not read the whole book but I must, if nothing else, to find out if it is all written in that wonderfully pompous style.

Absolutely no swooshing. Not then, not now.

- By Graham Waterton

Francis Francis, the son of very unimaginative parents, wrote in 1867 some very wise words;

' ... never use more strength or vigour in making a cast than is absolutely necessary ... for all beyond ... positively defeats the end the fisher has in view'

' ... let him study, not how much noise he can make by swooshing his rod through the air, but whether he cannot avoid making any at all'

' ... all that force and noise is not only superfluous ... and that without it he would cast an infinitely better line ...'

So he said in A Book of Angling, spot on Francis.

You really can cast great distances with little effort. Concentrating on technique, not only improves distance and presentation but reduces fatigue and Thursday morning aching shoulder, wrist, elbow and back syndrome. Not surprising that our Francis worked this out as he was probably waving 17ft of greenheart but amazing that most casters today with 14ft of carbon, haven't.

Expert. Definition: Ex ... has been. Spert ... drip under pressure

- By Graham Waterton

John Gierach had been fishing the South Platte during an evening midge rise. He trims his leader, puts on a size 4 buck tail streamer and catches a large brown. He goes on to describe:

'Not long after that a rather well known fly-fishing expert said this could not be done, that one could not catch trout by fishing a streamer through a midge hatch. I counted myself lucky that I wasn't an expert and therefore didn't know that.'

The moral of this is to listen to the expert advice, absorb, thank them politely and then go and do what you feel is right. Fish have a habit of making a fool of all of us. It's sometimes very satisfying to follow the traditional path and succeed but sometimes it's more satisfying to ignore the trad view, apply your own logic and succeed. In fact he had tried for the fish for a while with tiny midges but figured that fish as large as this one are often cannibal and hunt in the dark. Could it resist a early midnight feast? It didn't. Follow your own logic.

Another little Gierach nugget:

'The first boil was unbelievably large. In most waters you'd assume it was a full grown beaver, but not here. Here there were no beavers, probably because the trout had eaten them all.'

Both quotes come from The View From Rat Lake and like all his books, a good read. If you don't find a lot to smile about when reading Gierach, you're a miserable git.

On the beauty of the tight loop

- By Graham Waterton

Many have tried to describe the aesthetic pleasures of fly casting. This by Thomas McGuane in The Longest Silence where in 1966 he sees the precocious talent of the 13 year old Steve Rajeff cast at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club

' ... and he casts with a common elegance - a high, slow backcast, perfect timing, and a forecast that straightens with precision. He seems to overpower very slightly so that the line turns over and hangs an instant in the air to let the leader touch first. He regulates the width of the loop in his line to the inch and at will. When a headwind comes up, he tightens the loop into a perfectly formed, almost beveled, little wind cheater. It is quite beautiful.'

Lovely words and McGuane recognises one of the real practical benefits of tight loops ... casting into a wind.

If you don't know this little gem of a book, please read it ... I have many times and it never ceases to please.

More from McGuane to come ...